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On the side of a hill in the deep forest green, tracing a sparrow on snow-crested ground,
blankets and bedclothes the child of the mountain sleeps unaware of the clarion call.
On the side of a hill, a sprinkling of leaves washes the grave with silvery tears,
a soldier cleans and polishes a gun.
War bellows, blazing in scarlet battalions, generals order their soldiers to kill
and to fight for a cause they've long ago forgotten

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Submissions going snicker-snack.

After consideration "Scrimshaw Man" is off to Jabberwocky. The choice was made by both prior reputation and reading period closings (Jabberwocky closes tomorrow). Good luck little poem.

Now it's time to gyre and gimble in the wabe. My borogoves are all mimsy and the mome raths are outside outgrabing the squirrels.

Writing Saturday

Finished up the new frame to War Stories. Kept to the same word count. The story is now a little stronger, a little darker. Now it's off to the editor to see if he likes it better.

One of the by products of coming up with my rejection statistics is it forced me to get my paperwork in order. Everything is in its place now.

Now on to other things.

25 Things

I was tagged by Mer over on Facebook, and I figured I'd post the list here as well. So without much fanfare, here's twenty-five random things about me.

1) I'm left handed, just like the President, but I have a clear memory of my Grandmother telling my Mom she should break my left hand so I would become right handed.

2) Speaking of the President, I see by an ad to the right (on facebook) that his IQ is 130 (I think I'd want to see some proof of that, because it appears higher to me). And here I was hoping for a President with an IQ higher than mine (let's just say Mensa membership isn't a problem, but I need another time obligation like I need a... a... wait, I have a simile...)

3) At Confusion there was a table discussion about how we are like we were in high school. I didn't participate because I'm very not like how I was in high school. There's been too many epiphanies (some of them very hard ones to deal with) since then.

4) I sometimes feel so incredibly happy with all the cool friends I have that I'm speechless (no, this isn't a suck-up either, if you catch me smiling like an idiot while hanging around with friends it's a 50/50 as to if I've just cracked a mental joke with myself or I'm reveling in this feeling).

5) I sometimes have delusions of grandeur about my writing. These last just long enough until I reread something I wrote a year ago and remember I felt the same way about that piece of crap.

6) I used to play guitar. I still have my classical and hollow-body electric although I don't play them hardly at all. I've forgotten more songs than I remember. I'd like to take lessons again, but only with an instructor who can teach me how to play like Stevie Ray Vaughn or Leo Kottke.

7) I over think purchases more than $20 (except for necessary items like groceries). The more expensive the item the more research I do on it. When I purchased my last car I had a stack of papers about an inch thick (before the brochures). With the water tank it was at least a half inch.

8) I love weather. I once stood beneath a funnel cloud looking into the middle of the swirl (the funnel wasn't on the ground, obviously). It's still one of my favorite memories.

9) I miss living by the ocean (grew up in Jersey). There's a small part of me that feels its swell and call.

10) I wish I was more adventurous. I mean I do things that take me out of my comfort zone, but I'm not one to sell everything and move to the South of France. Sometimes I wish I was that way,

11) Inside, secretly, I'm still 18 years old. No, really, I had gray hair back then too (not as much). But sometimes when I look in the mirror I wonder who this old guy is staring back at me.

12) I have arguments with myself. Okay, well, I have them with other people who just don't happen to be with me at the time (and with good reason).

13) I wish I could listen to more current music. And it kills me a little to know that the music I went dancing to is now "classic rock." It was new then.

14) I really wish I had taken fencing in college instead of archery which was an easy A.

15) I know how to dance the hustle (and the macarena).

16) I once defended playing the lottery as an investment strategy using all those good business terms I learned working in management consulting (started off with "low entry, extremely high risk, ultra high yield"). And yes, it impressed the guy who was spouting about how the lottery was just a tax on people who didn't understand statistics. Then I made fun of two investments he made and how he had lost more than I had played on the lottery since coming to my new job (this was for an office pool). Yeah, don't piss on my parade if you don't want me using all those IQ points against you.

17) I've been so close to death so many times it doesn't bother me anymore (although I don't do stupid things). I once passed out from dehydration and my last though as my muscles went rigid and I lost control of everything was, "Huhn, so this is what it's like."

18) Music can make me cry.

19) The best food in the world is Wendy's fries, dead, after 3am, dipped in dead chilli. (dead meaning past the time we can sell it).

20) Speaking of Wendy's (my first paycheck job when I was 16). Best. Interview. Evar! Summer of my freshman year in college I interviewed for a summer job (the old store I was working at didn't have an opening) at a new Wendy's (would open in July). The store manager was someone whom I worked with at the old place. There were 300 applications for grillman (it was another recession). When I walked in, Greg, the store manager, looked up and then looked at the other two managers doing the interviews and said, "We have our dayshift grillman." The only question was when I could start. then we spend 15 minutes (interview time) catching up.

21) I don't really understand much of the SPAM headlines I get. The Russian viagra ones for instance. Some of them seem, I don't know, painful. I don't know about you, but I don't want sex like that.

22) Slasher movies don't affect me. They're actually boring and predictable. I sometimes wonder what that says about me.

23) I once interviewed to be a designer at Victoria Secrets (the Limited in Columbus, Ohio). You'll never look at fashion the same way after an experience like that (didn't get the job, BTW).

24) My taste in wine is greater than my budget. I once had hundred year old port (as a "make good" at a partner event). Amazing. Also had some very good Pinot Noir ($60+ bottles - family friend with more money than I'll ever see). Delicious. Can't afford either (the port went for $200 a very small glass).

25) I yell at the TV. Especially if I've turned it to Fox News for some reason.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Doctor, doctor, gave me the news...

Yeah, I know, I've heard it all. It's the bad loans and massive defaults, unscrupulous idiots that rated high risk securities as AAA, houses of cards, blah blah blah.

Guess what's really dragging the economy down? Nope, but energy costs come in a close second. It's the cost of health care. Seriously.

Okay, well, so we're having open enrollment and I'm a bit touchy about it. We have had two raises in the past year. The first one in August finally caught us all up to the health care increase we saw in January 2008 ($10 a week). We just had another $10 raise, but since I wanted a plan with something lower than $10,000 deductible (yes, also a split $20/$50 copay for Primary Care/Specialist visit) it's going to cost me about $18 more per week. So I'm looking at an effective paycut of $8 a week over last year for (roughly, with some of the provisions it's actually a little less) the same coverage.

We're also changing providers (starting this Sunday, guess who doesn't have a card yet... everybody in the shop). So this also had me asking my health care providers about the insurance plans. See, for the company we're going with (which, strangely enough I own stock in) my providers don't accept some of their plans (I think we're good). And here's the kicker, most health care plans negotiate "fair and reasonable rates" with those who provide the services (you know, the doctors). The doctors haven't seen an increase in those fees for fifteen years (yeah, shocked, shocked I was to hear...). So all those "increased costs of medical care" you keep hearing about, yeah, it isn't going to the doctors. We also now have four tiers of drug coverage and copay. Four. Remember when it was one, and then they split it to two (generics and brand name)? Four.

In the future, when I rant and rave about this, you'll know why I root for a sweeping overhaul in how we pay for health care. Also, why I'm a big proponent of a government managed system. Failing that, I'll take something like Germany or Switzerland. Health care is sucking business dry. Just imaging if we could fix that cost how much that would help out economy and employment numbers (remember the last major union contract fights, and the on going ones, are all about health care costs and who is going to pay them). And there still would be costs, heck, right now I pay more for my portion of heath care than I do in FICA, so no, increasing my taxes by 200% wouldn't be that big a deal. In fact, I would be better off. And if that's all it cost, my employer could do a whole lot more with the money they saved.

I know people like to dis Canada for their health system and the wait times. Truth is that if it's an emergency, you get right in. And we have waits here in the US. Make an appointment with a new doctor. No, really, I'll wait. (insert elevator music here) Did you get an appointment earlier than three months from now? Didn't think so. I know people in real pain, who have specialists they've seen (including having surgery) who also have to wait over a month for an appointment.

So this year I'll be selling most of that stock. It's already worth half of what it was worth last year. I didn't pay for it (stock allowance when a mutual went public). But if I'm going to lobby heavily for government health care, it's going to be worthless.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I'll show you mine...

Okay, so here's the stats.

Time spent:
• 3.5 years of farting around
• 8.5 years of getting serious

Stories/Poems (finished to the point of feeling they're ready for publication):
• 4 trunked stories
• 3 stories in submission
• 4 stories needing rewrites
• 4 poems

Rejections:
• 66 rejections to date (2 trunked stories were not tracked, I'm guessing an additional 10+ rejections on top of the 66)

Bragging Rights:
• 1 acceptance
• 3 Finalist placing in the Writers of the Future Contest
• 2 Honorable Mentions in the Writers of the Future Contest

The Long and Winding Road

The inestimable Jay Lake is collecting how many rejections you've had before the first sale. If you haven't made a sale he's also soliciting that information. If you made a sale with your first short story submission (chokes back visceral response to shout "Bastard!" with a John Cleese as Basil Fawlty kind of enthusiasm), he also wants to know that (as well as how many rejections you've received since then).

It's pretty good information reading the comments. Also it's good to see many authors saying "I had these many before my first pro sale, and these many to dat afterward." That was one of the side comments that either came up in the Short Story Panel or in the conversation afterward that once you have a sale, there's no baptism complete with descending dove that means you'll only sell stories from then on. In fact, you'll pretty much be rejected for sometime afterward. Heck, just look at Jay. He's somewhat a BNA now, and he has a 50% rejection rate for his short stories.

I'll need to go home and count before posting mine (looks longingly over at the "bragging rights" column. Sigh).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rejection Fortune Cookie

Strange Horizons sends word they're passing on "Scrimshaw Man." The letter, while not specific, doesn't have the feel of a form letter, so we're going to put that into the awesome stack. On to find the next market for it.

In the mean time, when I first read the letter my immediate response was "Damn that curse of the Brown Cow." Yes, the fortune cookie is already plaguing me. I guess I'm going to need to research salt over the shoulders, turning widdershins, and spitting in the eye of fate, or whatever it is.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Happy Year of the Brown Cow

My fortune from last night's dinner?

"Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."

I couldn't make that up. Oh, I have a feeling it's going to be a disappointing year. Stupid Brown Cow.

Monday, January 26, 2009

We've got a wave in the air, radar love

The other panel I was on at Confusion was "Big Brother Is Watching You." There were plenty of things I wanted to say that we didn't have time. One of the last questions moderator Karl Schroeder asked was what did we think was the most severe threat in the future. Panelist star, Cory Doctorow said the interconnectedness of database, and I agree, but I think this ship has already sailed.

Total Information Awareness wasn't creating new database structures or data generation, it was about taking existing commercial databases and linking them. From those links they would be able to use data mining technology and pattern searching to generate profiles that would help them "find terrorists" (admirable, but there was no mechanism for dumping unrelated data, or to correct false positives, or to have oversight to make sure this data wasn't being used for non-terrorism criminal cases - and we all now are reminded of just how trustworthy our government functionaries can be by sharing prurient phone calls in the NSA and using terrorism as a ruse to spy on political activities, mostly dissent groups and the continuing problems with the TSA Travel Watch List).

However, attempting to halt this technology is like putting your finger in the dike. As evidenced by the article linked above, even though there is a law against the TIA, its work continues in different guises. Just like nuclear technology, that genie is out and fighting it is a rear-guard action.

My answer was RFID. Right now its implementation is limited, and we should fight hard to keep it that way. With current technology, RFID can hold enough digits to tag every single product manufactured. Not like a product's UPC which denotes the individual type (and SKU or price point) of a product, RFID can mark every single item with a unique code.

Seem innocuous? It's already been suspected as being used for espionage. See, you can put those readers everywhere. The RFID chips are so small they could be concealed anywhere and in almost anything. RFID is current technology, it's off the shelf. It's faster, cheaper, less processor intensive, and could be implemented right now unlike other technologies (cheaper than CCTV with face recognition software). Now, lets say you had lots of RFID antennas, like at all commercial and office building exits to protect from theft. Then, if you could link them all together, like London's CCTV network, and tie in the purchasing database, you could track the movements of anybody you wanted. Cheaply. In real time. With a high probability of accuracy. Add in autonomous computer tracking and you can start populating a new database so you can "look for suspicious activity" offline. No longer would prosecutors need to ask where you were on the night of the 21st. They would have the data.

RFID is more of a problem than cellphone GPS, as that is a voluntary action to get such a phone (as well as bluetooth enabled phones, if you have one you have locked in the devices that you use, right, excluding other devices?). As an aside, even if you turn off the function, there are ways around that exclusion. As the Jack Nicholson as the Joker said, "You may already have purchased (an RFID enabled product)." You won't have a choice soon. Now is the time to stop it.

I met you before the fall of Rome

At Confusion this year I was on a panel talking about The Short Story. It was a great panel moderated by Jim Hines. With Mer Haskel, William Jones, and Cat Rambo as fellow panelist I was speaking way above my pay grade. The audience was attentive, polite and asked a lot of good questions. Really, nobody asked the "agent question." That's a pleasant step-up.

One question that usually comes up, and it did this time as well, is the question on originality. So let us tackle that one first.

Okay, off the bat, it's all been done before. No, really. If you're not seeing this it's merely because you either aren't reading enough or not able to dice out structures (plot, story, characters, etc) from the whole. Don't worry, this is something you can learn how to do. It's a reductionist kind of thinking, there are thousands of classes out there that can help. This is being able to see the trees from the forest. That doesn't mean you can't do something fresh. You should be, because the editors have read it all before.

How do you make something fresh? I'm glad you asked, Grasshopper. There are basically four ways to become "original" or "creative."

1) Tell the story in your (or the character's) voice. The first is the easiest (at its basic level) and something we're already doing or should be doing. Do I need to find examples of this?

2) Closely related to #1 is to update/set the story in a different time/place. Stories, plots and characters are all products of their time. Shakespeare is often the victim of these changes and you can find a large percentage of his catalog updated and told for different times (Hamlet told as a WWII fable, West Side Story is essentially Romeo and Juliet, etc). Or just refresh the language usage (now it's fashionable to not emphasis the iambic pentameter rhythm of the dialog). A subcategory of this is to change the set up of the story. Neil Gaiman does an excellent rip on Snow White called "Snow, Glass, Apples" and is told from the mother's POV (see #5), making Snow an undead creature like a witch/vampire, and the Prince as a necrophiliac. Sounds horrible but it really is a good story.

3) The Mash-up. Taking two stories and flinging them at each other to see what happens. This is actually very effective when you can do it well. Sometimes it just dies, though. One major example of this that I can think of is The Princess Bride. (BTW, I love the new cover design of the DVD. It's just fabulous. Don't know what I'm talking about? Go to the store, grab the DVD, and then turn it upside down.) The frame part of the story (Grandfather telling his grandson a story showing his love) is a stock premise, the book/play within a book/play. The story he tells is a mash-up of Hind Horn and Sleeping Beauty (the second half of the story, after Beauty marries Charming and goes to live at his castle). Now, some character substitution happens (see #2 - the Ogre mother-in-law is played by the Prince himself, and the Woodsman is split between Fezzik, Inigo, and Vizzini), and some other stories are mixed in, but that's the basic plot line.

Since I'm talking about it, usually the token of love in Hind Horn is listed as either a diamond or pearl ring (among other things, in The Princess Bride it's the phrase, "As you wish") more than likely the original was an opal which can lose it's brilliance and luster.

4) Change the POV in the story. Gregory Maguire has practically made a career out of this. Cinderella is also a favorite of this technique, usually portraying Cindy in an unfavorable light.

While I gave my examples in the form of fairy tales, because it's a literary tradition I've been studying lately, you can find this in all genres and mainstream literature. In conclusion, there is one basic story, "there's this character and something happens." Everything else is just being wordy.

The Definition of Insanity

To my conservative leaders of government,

Are you insane? You policy is broken. Instead of learning from the failures of the past years, adjusting, and moving forward, or listening to some of your own standard bearers and reforming as the party of "new ideas" you've decided to go another way. Just like some slow witted American Tourists when confronted with someone who doesn't understand English you figure you're just not talking slowly or loudly enough.

Good times, tax cuts. Bad times, tax cuts. Even worse times, tax cuts. Economic catastrophe, tax cuts. Um, need a new plan here.

Also, we've tried two stimulus plans your way. Now you wish to criticize the new plan for being too long term, saying your mantra slower and louder, "put money in people's pockets now!" See, if we had done the first stimulus the way the liberal side wanted to at the beginning, that you also considered to be too slow, we would already be in the building phase. Instead our economy continues to go down the crapper. If we had structured the stimulus plan this past summer around the philosophy of growing jobs, we would be signing contracts for those projects right now.

So now that some adults have figured out that doing the same thing, tax cuts and rebates, isn't going to miraculously work. Instead we need to have a program with long term goals, plans, and benefits. Like we should have done the first time.

You have a problem with giving money directly to States? You're criticizing this as the party of local control, the party that forced many programs down to the states, the "federal government doesn't know how to spend the money for these programs let's have the states decide" party? Do you have enough neck braces for the whip lash you're giving your caucus?

Hypocrisy much?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The rumors of my demise...

... have been somewhat less than accurate.

Sorry about going stealth there, didn't exactly plan that. Nothing bad happened, just ran out of time, and then didn't have access to wifi or internet access at the hotel (normally there's free wifi in the lobby, but I just couldn't get connected and didn't have much time to work it out).

And this con I didn't have nearly enough time. The two panels I was on went okay, I think I need to write posts about each with examples and extra things I wish I could have said. There were lots of scheduling conflicts and then spent time jabbing with people I missed panels I wanted to see. Stayed up way too late each night, only to get up early. My room was next to the elevators and across from two party rooms, so, yeah, not much sleep. My conversation and personality was less than spectacular, IMHO, this year. Sorry about that everybody. Lots of bad news the last two weeks (work, etc).

Also, the night before the con the little kitty found out just how fun an empty bath tub can be. Thud, scamper, mew, lather, rinse, repeat. She ain't the sharpest crayon in the box, you know. Vivian (the mama) is still recovering from her spaying on Friday and trying to avoid Cleo who for a while didn't quite recognize her Mama's need to be left alone.

So, hi you all. Will need to spend time catching up with you all. Will also need to spend time writing. Here's hoping this economy is starting to turn. And how many of you still get that secret smile when you hear the phrase, "Today, President Obama..."? I still do.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Writerly Writing Updatery

Was hoping to go into the weekend with some good news (hope springs eternal!), but it doesn't look like that will happen. It is to sigh ::melodramatic falling on a fainting couch, back of hand to forehead::

Instead I'll have to be my gruffy, old self. BWAHAhahaha.

The weather looks like it's going to be another cold, cold weekend. Fabulous. Last year on the way back, I ended a cell phone call with, "Whoops, car is freezing over, gotta go." ::click:: Hopefully it won't be that bad. I'll need to remember to ask for the late checkout this year (that certainly helped last year).

Also this weekend is the writing group. I have a lot of stuff to read and critique, and not a lot of time to get it done in. Hopefully I'll be able to get one read through done, and then do markups and comments off the cuff during the meeting. I'm going to play this by ear, though, as I haven't had a weekend that we had nothing to do and I'm feeling it. So if the batteries are as low as I expect they might be, I'm just going home.

In other writing news, on the recommendation of Mur Lafferty of I Should Be Writing, I checked out Grammar Girl's podcast. So far I'm enjoying all the back issues. And, as you know Bob, I can always use more tips on grammar. They're short, less than 10 minutes, and always to the point. Which is good, with my, you know... oh look, shiny.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Crypto Confusion

This weekend is the fun and wonderful Confusion Convention in warm, sunny Detroit. Usually for me, Confusion is like a relaxicon. I sit around, catch up with people, jaw, drink, crack jokes, and in general hob-nob with my fellow wizards. Or something like that.

I can't say how much I like Confusion. I've met a lot of people there (the Kletcha Klutch, senior editors, very cool authors, fans of all types), and had interesting experiences (like having a drink with Patrick Nielsen Hayden, he's such a presence light bends around him, but in a good way, Jim Frenkel who is no slouch either and is a raconteur par excellence, Paul Melko who has coolness down to an art and is wickedly intelligent and witty, and Dave Kletcha who carries himself very well, thank you, not to mention the costumes for the masquerade, one of which included not much more than electrical tape).

This year they're putting me to work. I think I'm on the junior panelist track as I only have two panels. Hopefully they won't make me sit at the short table. But if you're in the mood, in Detroit, and in the convention you can see me spew bull wisdom on the topics of The Short Story (Saturday, Noon) and Big Brother is Watching You! In both cases I'm again out of my weight class. For the exploration of the short story I'll share the table with Jim Hines as moderator, Cat Rambo, William Jones, and Merrie Haskell. Yeah, feel up to that, punk? But that's not the end of it, for the Big Brother panel I'm on with Karl Schroeder as moderator, Cory Doctorow, David Rozian, and Catherine Shaffer. Sometimes you need to jump into the deep end and see if you sink. I just hope I don't stumble and face plant as I sit down at the table or end up giggling like a maniac. Both of these will take some research and I'll have notes, just need to remember to pack them this time.

So say hi if you're there. I don't bite. Not hard anyway. John Scalzi will also be around as a fan this year (and if you've never had a chance to talk with him in person you're missing an experience). Dr. Phil will also be there so I get to meet him in person. This is a very accessible convention, most especially if you check out the bar and walk around. Don't be shy, just say hi to people. They're all friendly.

Monday, January 19, 2009

It'll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls

On a ship at sea: a tempestuous noise

Tomorrow at noon the world will change. A bright new dawn. The sun won't stop in it's course, the veil in the temple won't be sundered, cancer won't be suddenly cured, your internet connection won't be faster, and McDonald's hamburgers won't be any more healthy to eat. But the world we step into will be different that the world we woke to (well, most of us).

The end of a world is also coming. Once the threshold of a paradigm is crossed, it can never be re-crossed, it can only be lost. History is a harsh mistress.

And everything will look normal. Except I expect to see more smiles tomorrow than I did today. And that is a start.

What has taken nearly a decade to destroy, will take almost as long to rebuild. It will take a lot of work. My sleeves are already rolled up, how about yours?

"Come senators, congressmen please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway, don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside and it is ragin'."
-Bob Dylan

O brave new world that has such people in't!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity

A little early, but because blogging at work is verboten (at least for the moment), happy 200th birthday Edgar Allen Poe (January 19, 1809)

Ghosts appear and fade away

Spending the afternoon relaxing. After shoveling out the driveway this morning, I think we deserve it. That doesn't mean we're not doing anything.

Catching up with some blogs and feeding my head by watching reruns of The Story of India. There's hundreds of things being shown that aren't explained (fortunately with what little I know I'm able to understand some things, like offering milk to the stone, which is only explained that this has been going on for over a thousand years since the time of Raja Raja, not what is exactly going on).

Which is strangely somewhat synchronistic as I've had the line "from far-flung Cathay" in my head all today. Cathay is now known as China. I know it's a quote from a book, but my google-fu is failing me.

Still writing, trying not to stress myself out about it. Although applications for Viable Paradise are now open. What I'm writing will hopefully be my application pieces, or at least one of them will be.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Butterflies, Nymphs and Diamonds, oh my.

Where did Steve spend his Saturday? Why he was here. Bright shiny and sparkly things filled the new gallery. And as with every trip to the Cleveland Museum, I learned something. Sometimes it's how appallingly ignorant the art historians are once they get out of their area of expertise (there was a Hercules Heracles incident and the need to correct the impression of little chil'en who were being taught wrong - hint, before the "arrival" of Zeus in the Hellenistic Period it was Heracles who was Hera's consort/champion/child, the name meaning "Glory of Hera" - yeah, I know way too much sometimes- and a Buddhist philosophy moment where I just smiled and let it pass).

This time, however, I found out that I really like the jewelry of René Lalique. I knew Lalique from his glasswork, which was later in his life, and was not exceptionally impressed (and this exhibit has many examples, however they also had some of the boxes his glassware bottle came in and they were fabulous). I knew it was Lalique who created the term Art Nouveau (after his shop in Paris - again, too much knowledge sometimes), but I had never seen his jewelry (google image search) that he created at the beginning of his career. They were amazing, even more so if you know that he didn't come from an artistic family, unlike Tiffany, Cartier and Fabergé, his contemporaries and competitors. There was a bat neckless (wow), a broach with an ivory nymph with batlike jeweled wings (holy crap), and a hair comb made of horn carved into the likeness of two swallows nesting with a gold twig and ruby (I think) berries (fabulous). He also not only did clasps and broaches in the shape of exquisite butterflies, like the rest of them, but also moths and cicadas. And did I mention the purse which had clasps shaped like open mouthed snakeheads? Big ones too.

Other show highlight include aluminum as a precious metal (used to lighten a headpiece), a Cartier knock-off of a Fabergé egg given to the Tsar as a gift from Paris that had a carved aquamarine stone in the shape of a pillow including the requisit sags and depressions to hold the egg on a pedestal, and some amazing "incomplete" pieces (junk left over in their shops at the time of their deaths). Also finding out that, yes, they did use some machines in their work, especially to help with repetitive tasks (like engravings equally space to be enameled).

So, a fun (but expensive) time was had. Hope your Saturdays were just as good.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Here where the wind done blown

Steve's going to be scarce around these here internets, the sheriff has done come down.

New policy at work; no streaming, no recreational browsing, basically no fun allowed. They seem to think we're all hogging up the bandwidth.

And as you may remember, Robert, my home connection isn't the best (and that's being polite) and it's dial-up. Which the egregiously overcharge for to begin with. DSL rates are what other companies where charging back in 1995. Basically, it's about the same as satellite DSL speed connection. And I'd rather go that way because I think the local company is less than a third tier provider. Yeah, the trace-routes are just horrendous.

So I'll be looking into some tools that might help.

How I'm going to keep up with the news is another matter.

The other news is that the economy keeps hitting harder. Not only are we on a no OT policy, we're not on alternate 4 day weeks (40 then 32 hours). For our department we have the benefit (?) of having a recent retirement, so our labor pay is down enough to make it 9 out of 10 instead of 4 out of 5. Unfortunately unlike the previous experiment with the scheduling, I don't see a swing back to previous levels of business soon. But it's better than some (we're trying to figure out if a competitor closed their doors).

So I'm back to having my brain go to sleep while I'm waiting for plates. Maybe I'll try that writing in short segments again for something more than little pieces.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What I want to be when I grow up

Considering the weight of that last post (sorry, it was poisoning me, I had to let go) I figured I needed a lighter post.

This isn't it.

Well, no, okay, maybe it is. When I was younger in high school and writing articles for the newspaper which were never published I had this dream of being my generation's Timothy Leary. Or something like that. Someone that would help shape a world for good or bad.

Then I went to college and I realized just what an idiotic idea that was. See, what I really wanted to do was be my generation's Robin Williams. I wanted to make them laugh. Really hard. Pee yourself kinds of laughing. I wanted people to to suddenly remember a line of mine three weeks later and fall down laughing.

So on PBS they have a special called "Make 'em Laugh." It's a six part exploration of comedians and the American comedic form. I highly recommend it. As you may remember, Robert, I did make the argument that studying stand up comedians is great way to learn dialog. It still is a great way. This show won't help you though. However it does do some good deconstruction and explanation.

But, see, what I really want to do is direct.

You Spin Me Right Around

I'm sitting here watching Jim Lear's interview of Dick Cheney.

Wow.

Just fargin' wow.

Dear Mr. Vice President, you sir are a complete hack. Your logical constructions do not impede air flow let alone hold water. I feel very sorry for those who follow you, as you are providing them a disservice. How you were able to control Haliburton, with the inability to see reality, is simply astounding. My guess is many people were happy to see you take time to pursue politics (1996 and 2000 election where you became VP).

What comes to me is that you're a very scared man, one that lacks the courage to make the "tough decisions" as you like to call them. Instead you made the "safe decisions" instead of ponying up. The world is a dangerous place, your party did everything possible in the 90's to gut our ability to respond. Now you're attempting to put plastic caps in the electrical plugs of the world. And in doing so you disemboweled the very honor and integrity that you think you still have, and that you believe the country still has.

Your argument of "you know things we don't" no longer is viable. You don't. Sorry, many of us know enough and retain enough skills to know you're bluffing. At least your tells are less visible than the Presidents, but they're still there (the lowered head, the cheshire grin and peering over glasses).

Your devotion to ideology is hampering your ability to see clearly. You might want to get some news from some other source than Fox (as per your visiting instructions).

The hundreds of ghosts that haunted you from your initial dealings with Saddam Hussein have been replaced by the legions of ghosts. I know you believe that these ghosts are better or more tolerable than if there had been another attack on US soil (see my previous comments about the attack on our embassy in Yemen). Understand, sir, that many of us know exactly why there hasn't been another attack in the continental US, that it is very expensive to launch operations here, that many "activists" become disenchanted when they experience our culture as deep cover operatives, and the good law enforcement we had (note, this means that you're "enhanced methods" by the superlegal processes you instilled or the new powers given by the Patriot Act were not responsible here, just good old fashion police observation in normal circumstances, not intelligence).

You have no shame for in one breath taking credit (for the administration) having economic and job growth during 2003-2004 and then state that you have nothing to do with the economic situation we currently find ourselves. The self-deception of those remarks are, quite frankly, the window into your soul. You take no responsibility for yourself and your actions believing that all that you can go is good. This is a psychosis.

And just for your information, waterboarding is torture. We have prosecuted other countries nationals for such activities as crimes against humanity. Our old field manual forbid it as torture. We train our own service men to resist it as a part of our anti-torture/interrogation training. We have admitted, and I believe you have as well, to waterboarding some of the terrorists. You can not claim we have not tortured. It's prima facie. Of course to admit to this would be to admit error, as well as committing war crimes, and you don't have the courage to own up to it.

My wish for you, Mr. Vice President, is that in your retirement you realize the truth of your administration's actions and come to terms for your own peace of mind. That you are some how able to find forgiveness for your actions.

Unfortunately for the rest of us we will continue to deal with the destruction of our country's reputation, economy, politics, business, projection of power, and life in general that your administration and ideology (I hesitate to call it politics as it seems to be more of a religion for you than a philosophy) has inflicted on the rest of us. It will take generations to heal these rifts.

Oh, and just in general, yes you did just say that there were ties between Saddam and al Qaeda and that al Qaeda is no longer relevant. This in the face that every other national intelligence estimate, internal and independent analysis, and review of the reports contradict these statements. So for all your proponents who say "you never said that," I just heard you. And it was clear.

You are delusional. That you were entrusted to power is a severe blot on our history.

Just one of those things

So, as you know, Bob-a-looees, I'm reading the 2008 Years Best Fantasy and Horror (Datlow, Grant, Link, et al.). Last night I came to one of those stories. The stories that make you want to throw the book at the wall. The wall that mocks you by standing so tall. The tall tale... can you tell I'm doing this for effect, yeah, this is what every other paragraph was like.

And, let's say, the main character gets a cheese sandwich as a late dinner. You don't need to tell me all the three cheeses it was made of, what the provenance of the bread is, and the chief's name. Unless it's important to the story, it wasn't. Really, too much inconsequential detail that adds nothing to the story.

It was one of those stories where you think, "Hell, I'm writing better than this."

And I have to admit. After a few paragraphs I was ready to skip, but I thought maybe all that detail was for a purpose. Maybe the author was driving at something. Halfway through I was ready to toss it. Three-quarters through I jumped to the end to see if all this detail I was hauling up the mountain was going to pay off.

It didn't.

And this was another damn novella length piece.

It could have been at least half the length. I had to stop myself from getting the red pen out.

Random thoughts on character names or A rose by any other name would probably be a tomato

(Cross posted on Genre Bender)

Okay, first up the latest name I need to use somewhere, Jerico Higgenbottom.

No, really, isn't that a cool name? And both the first and last name are real people's names, they just don't appear together (or at least I haven't seen them together).

Secondly, I was once asked where I got the name of a certain character (the person asking had the same unusual last name, and given the "rightness" of the first name I'm sure they knew someone with that name). The last name was Waterdown, and it first came to me as an homage to Richard Adams' Watership Down, but there's also a Waterdown just down the road from Niagara Falls, which I've visited a few times so I'm sure I saw a road sign for it. Plus the name had a nice staid feeling about it, a plumpness and security I wanted to use in the story.

Thirdly, I've had characters that stubbornly refuse to cooperate unless I find their "true name" ("true names" in case you don't know, have immense power in fairy and sympathetic magic). Once while writing a story I changed a secondary character's name for story purposes, and that character took their little red ball and went home. Until I changed it back and then they started helping again. Having the character's name correctly doesn't stop me from writing a story, but it certainly helps having the right name. Currently the love interest in a story I'm writing only has a "working name" (like a "working title"). The name just doesn't fit her. Right now she's not on stage, yet. I know by the time she is I'll need to know her name.

But that doesn't help us in finding names, which is what authors normally get asked about. Well, I have several strategies.

First off is knowing a whole bunch of very diverse people. From them you can find names of cousins, other friends you don't know, mothers, brothers, etc. Now, you shouldn't lift a name wholesale, that would be wrong unless you're intentionally making a Tuckerization. However you can extrapolate from what you know of your friends to make appropriate choices for family types and economic backgrounds.

Another strategy is to use the numerous Baby Names lists (just Google "Baby Names"). These lists are especially helpful if you're trying to find an unusual name, one that has a certain meaning, or one that fits an ethno-type you wish to portray. What they normally won't help you with is family names (although you can fake it) or relevancy (such as not many teens carry the name Ethel these days). If you know lots of people you can mitigate that issue by induction.

Still another way is to haunt graveyards. This is especially good if you're writing a period piece and you have access to graves (hmm, I mean a grave site you can visit) from that general time period. Tombstones and markers are also good for other things that concern writing, especially if you know a little symbolism and the "language of the graves." There's an author with the name Storm Constantine. I've always loved it and wished I could use it, but it seemed to iconic. Until I discovered that name on a grave in Painesville, Ohio (late 1800's).

I have another way, but it's not going to help you all that much. For my day job I plate at least a hundred business cards a week. They are a constant stream of source material (and humor) for both names and business titles. My most favorite title, and one that I need to use somewhere is "Senior Unexploded Ordinance Technician." Really, somebody has that job. But I guess this is just saying that keeping your ears open and knowing a lot of people always helps in choosing names.

There's also the phone book. It's chock full of names and can definitely help choose a name to evoke regionalism in your story. Names do tend to cluster regionally (and by economics and ethnicity). I doubt very much I would use the name Eustice for someone from the Yukon.

Finally there are tons of considerations to take into account when choosing a character's name. Fit is one, does the name fit the character. If you have a Vietnamese-American Tai-bo master named, "Shakira" I think you're going to have to explain that one. The opposite of this (or a concern for me at least) is to shy away from the "morality play name," like Prudence, Handsome, Charity, Peace, names that match a character's role or personality type directly. Also there's the timeliness and appropriateness. You're not going to have a modern day twenty-something named Ebenezer Escrutias or a late Renaissance power player named Phodaddy Big. At least not without a lot of explanation.

Names also come with baggage. An Ebenezer is going to be considered a Scrooge unless you quickly discourage that. Names portray history and lineage. So choosing a name needs to be done carefully.

All that said, usually the first name that pops to mind for a character, just like using the first word that comes to mind for a sentence, it usually is the best. Trust your instincts. Much of our culture is so deeply ingrained in our consciousness that you'll "feel" the correctness of names.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Story Bone

There's this gas station I pass every day on my commute to work. It's a big named gas station owned by a British company, and one that is huge with something like 20 some odd pumps. There, of course, is the associated convenience store with fast food that serves subs and a coffee shop side. There's also a car wash over on the side.

At least once in every two weeks the place is closed, yellow caution tape strapped across all the entrances. Now, it's not closed more than a day (usually a few hours), but it's really strange. The station is in a high volume area (right off the highway in a high traffic area next to a McDs) so being closed for even a few hours is taking a big chunk o' change out the owners pocket. So I keep wondering just why it keeps closing so often. Robbery, can't find people to work, EPA regulations, just what could it be?

Now, one thing to know about this station is that it wasn't always this big. It used to only have 8 pumps and a smaller store. But about a year and a half ago, they moved the small cemetery that was next door (it had been filled for a long time) and expanded the station.

The station never had this problem when it was smaller.

So for my sake, teach me to take one day at a time

To answer some questions, yes I'm writing things. The past few nights I've been working, but only lightly. I've only written about 500-1000 new words, but have been rearranging some old words. I'm not back into the groove yet, but hope to pick up a thread soon. Might have to skip things. And there's other ideas floating in that I think also need to be handled. So this year looks like it's going to be very confusing and wondrous. Who knows what it'll see.

I feel like I'm holding my breath, and I don't know what for.

Someone sent me a story to critique. I didn't ask for it, but I feel an obligation. hint to new writers, don't send manuscripts for review that aren't asked for (that is, get an agreement before sending the story). This one will be slow slogging.

In other writing news I'm reading the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror (Datlow, Link, Grant, et al). I'm skipping a lot of stories. Some that are written well, and I've given them a chance, but one too many "here's a hint of what this story might be about" without getting to the story and I'm skipping to the next on. Really, foreshadowing, it's an amazing thing. Way to many writers too in love with their own words. Now, this may seem like the pot calling the kettle black here, but I get to the story quickly (or I think I do).

There was one story, not a bad story at all, but you're halfway through it before you get to the fantasy part. Considering it was almost novella length (which it seems that most of the stories are on the long-esh side) this isn't a good thing in my book (and there really wasn't any reason to hide it and it could, IMHO, have been brought up front). I did read that one all the way through, the ending wasn't worth it (again IMHO). Decent, but too much fiddling on the edges. A nice action sequence (when we get there), in fact the opener of the action seemed a bit abrupt given the luxurious pace we took to get there. And the final thing, which I just realized, is the story "just happens" to the POV. Okay, he's changed his view of the world at the end, but it was from an epiphany, not from any hard work on his part.

With A History of Lightning one of the repeated critiques was to bring more of the story forward, which I did. Not enough to ruin the main action sequence, but enough to let you know that one of the major characters wasn't exactly as he seemed in other's company. With the new frame of War Stories you get up front (within the first 100 words) that Bobby isn't all together anymore and Fenny isn't as innocent as he claims. And I do that with one sentence.

I almost skipped Jeffrey Ford's The Drowned Life, but fortunately went back and gave it another try (that was mostly because the language was way up there, it was very beautiful). I'm glad I did. He was a bit heavy handed with some imagery, and I'm still pondering others, but at the end I think it was a good story. Given how much I still love Boatman's Holiday, I think my expectations weren't in line for this one.

So there it is. Still writing, no major progress to report. Just slugging away at it day by day.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Joe Reduxs and might not re-duck

So now Joe the Plumber is working for a conservative website. Wait, he's a conservative? Could have knocked me over with a feather. And that conservative website is so happy with him they're sending him to Gaza to cover the war.

You know, the non-jounralist who probably doesn't have any combat experience. His friends are sending him into a combat zone. As Dr. Zoidberg said, "With friends like this, who needs anemones?"

I wonder how well those journalist credentials from a website will work?

Personally I love some of the interviews he's given about it. You know, like how, as a Christian, he knows God will protect him, so he doesn't really need a bullet proof vest. And then there's the one about not being a real journalist but being an expert in media bias, because, you know, that'll help him so much covering a war zone.

Sometimes watching those episodes of Nature on PBS, I find myself routing for the lions. Go lions, go.

Anybody else see a Darwin Awards recipient in the making?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

"supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting"

I think I'm finished with the new frame. Looked over the hard copy and only found a few things that needed changing. Either I'm getting better at this, or the new frame totally sucks and I don't know anything from shinola. All that remains to be seen is if I should be proactive or wait. Total word count, 4986.

The Last Great Conservative Experiment

It seems the Fed isn't any better with tracking their money than any other government office in the past eight years. All that money for the TARP that the Fed gave to banks, well, we're not sure just how those banks are using that money. You know, after they promised to use the funds to help secure "illiquid assets" and help homeowners. Then Benny Boy Bernanke decided the money would be better spent giving it directly to banks with no oversight or direction.

You might also remember the pallets of shrink wrapped bills we shipped to Iraq. You know, the money we couldn't even have a sign out sheet for and went "unaccountable."

Hey, Republicans, aren't you supposed to be the party of "fiscal discipline" (okay, well I guess since you took a budget surplus and quickly turned it to the largest deficit I should be surprised, I'll wait while you all shout "9-11" - you know, that excuse is getting old) and the "anti-government waste" people?

But then it hits me. Why did they give the money directly to the banks? In some cases they supposedly "forced" it on them. I mean, this money was supposed to help turn around the economy by helping the credit flow. The Fed outsourced the recovery.

That's right. Along with all the other functions of government, the conservatives felt that "the market would know better on how to fix the market." So, instead of having their own plan, you know, like buying up the "troubled assets" that were dragging the credit market to a halt, they figured "the market" would have a better plan.

You know, except they never do.

And on that thought, there's also a lot of asking economists why they didn't warn us what was coming. Many of them dodge and then say that they all bought into "the self-regulating market" myth. And then obviously that didn't work. I beg to differ. Strongly. This is how a "self-regulating market" works.

Many business people like to make analogies to biology, because you know, business is so like biology. Or at least their misunderstanding of the biology survey courses they needed to take for their BBA (bachelor of business arts, MBAs don't need that extraneous coursework crap). See, they never learned how Mother Nature self-regulates. Many people say that MN likes to keep things in balance. And for the most part, that is true. What they don 't tell you is how MN keeps things in balance. See, biological systems swing toward unbalance because of latency and lag issues. Then something bad happens. Populations crash. Hard. Like a wildebeast population expands because their are fewer lions and lots of fresh grazing. Those furry ruminants then destroy the local ecosystem by over-browsing. And the population of lions grows because, hey there's all these wildebeasts just waiting to be lunch. Then the wildebeast population gets over hunted, because they can only push out so many more. The ecosystem also starts starving them. Think it's done. Oh no. See the zebras then have a hard time because there isn't enough browsing. And then, because the grasses don't come back right away, the zebras crash as well. And then there's all these lions and no wildebeasts and zebras to munch on. Their population crashes. Which then leads to a perfect opportunity for the wildebeast population to regrow and overgraze, because there aren't so many zebras and lions and plenty of fresh grazing.

Sounds like a boom-bust cycle? Yeah, it does. A self-regulating system. Go figure. Point for an externally regulated system. You know, unless you want to be some lion's lunch or a starving lion. Or the grass. Poor grass.

Another Round in the On-Going "Industry Must Innovate" Saga

Via S. Andrew Swann over at Genrewonk we have a link to Dear Author and an article about the doom of book publishing. Okay, well it's more a "change or die" article.

There are a few pieces I disagree with with the author, such as POD machines in stores (the cost per piece is much higher than even an offset printed book with quantity), but there is plenty I do agree with. I suggest if you're in this writing business thing you give it a read. Lots of good advice backed up with examples from other entertainment industries.

Snow is here, wish you were deep.

Winter came a callin'. We've got about 6-8 inches out there as of this morning, and it's still coming down. We're under a winter weather advisory until 1am tomorrow morning and we're expecting another 8 inches today. So to all my NE Ohio friends, I hope you're keep warm and dry and that your exits are all cleared of snow.

This morning I had to go to a meeting (yeah for local governance!) and it was a mess out there. We have two state highways that run through our village, both are the responsibility of the State to clear (we get tons of calls every year). It's actually illegal for us to plow those roads (the parking spots along the side are our responsibility). The highways were dangerous this morning at 8:30. And when I left the meeting at 10:30 they were still dangerous. This "lack of salt" thing is getting crazy.

Anyway, spending the day inside catching up with chores and paperwork (I have two reports to write this week, yeah for local governance). Tried to get some pictures of the cats being especially cute, but once I got the camera out, they stopped their antics and just looked at me. Sigh.

We've already cleared the drive once today (right after the meetings). I have a feeling we'll have to do it at least twice again today. I have a 50 foot drive, two cars wide. And I use shovels. No snow blower. And I haven't seen the plowing gods all day (we sometimes get a free plow from friends - yeah friends!). We'll also have to feed the birds a few times today as they're voracious little beasties.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Cat Blogging Fridays

Okay, no pictures, but just wanted to give you some updates. Vivian (the mom) really wants to go outside. Until she's fixed, that's going to be a "No." We also had a good petting session today. When they first came she just wanted to play with the string we had them chase. Lately she's been letting Cleo play mostly, but Vivian wants more attention. She also is begging for food every time we go into the kitchen.

Cleo is using her leg more. Sometimes she doesn't limp all that much. When she runs, though, it's still the three legged hop. And just a few minutes ago, she came up on the couch and sniffed around. She even laid down next to me for a second. Considering there's still times that she just runs away from us, or scoots out from our trying to pet her, that's a pretty good step.

Have Shovel, Will Work

So there's been a lot of criticism for the "shovel ready" projects. There's a gaggle of naybobs who are talking about how there aren't any such projects, how they all are road projects, how it'll just be wasted money, and we'll be building bridges to nowhere.

Bull.

Here's a concrete example. In my village we have three projects we submitted for consideration. The requirements for submitting to the block grant (I think we're going as a county-wide thing) are that:

a) Engineering needs to be done (as in finished and ready to go, as of Dec 31, 2008),

b) Isn't frivolous (as in showing a demonstrable need), and

c) Have readily available materials (hint to everybody, asphalt isn't all that plentiful these days, especially in the Northern States).

So, what are our projects?

1) Improved storm water drainage system, as in rehauling the whole system in our village (we had planned to get a grant to do phase 1 - of probably 5 to 7 - this summer). This involves ripping out the old hodpodge installations and install new pipe that's arrange according to an overall plan (that has growth planned in). This is a huge project.

2) Resurfacing of several streets. We have had a list for three years now of the same roads. We've just never been able to find the money. There are three roads, four cul-de-sacs, and our hall parking lot that need resurfacing (or maybe this year some need repaving, which is more intensive and costly). All of these are at a critical stage (we expect out parking lot to disintegrate this summer).

3) A new garage building to house our Street Department and include garage space for the Police Department. Our current structure is barely standing up. We expect the next good wind that hits it just right will knock it down. We don't have nearly enough room to house all the equipment (it's distributed around the Village). And the new building will include a bathroom. The current one the guys use doesn't have one.

All of these projects have been on the books for at least one year (many for much longer). We just haven't had the money to fund them. If we had until the end of the month to get engineering done I can think of three more projects we could have (updated firehall, fix a road that keeps developing a dip, second water tower). And that's just off the top of my head. Give me a moment and I can think of more.

Unfortunately we had just finished up one major project (part of the reason all these others are left wanting) that we could have used this money for. That was "Sunrise Development" (Sunrise, Breezewood, Mist, and Eastwood). That was a five year project to repair a road that the village should never have accepted (very long story).

So when you hear some gasbag go off on how all this money will be "wasted" on "frivolous projects", just keep in mind that I represent a Village of less than 2500 people and I have all these things that need doing and they're all "shovel ready."

Flu Shocker!

Shocked we are to discover that many of the flue strains making the rounds this year are resistant to Tamiflu. Here's an NPR piece about it.

This is a Bad Thing(tm) because we've stockpiled Tamiflu around the world just in case Bird Flu (insert dramatic music cue here) makes the jump to an easily transferable human strain. Now there is the possibility that it'll also be resistant to the drug.

As I said to my wife last night, "Shocked, shocked I am to hear that evolution has occurred in nature."

So, Mr Lame Duck President, how's that whole "teach the controversy" and "don't believe in evolution" thing working out for you?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Bone in the World

After a night filled with what seemed to be meaningless word substitution, I think I got "Scrimshaw Man" back in order. There were edits all over. I put in a word in the first stanza that I kept saying out loud when reading it. The second stanza is all new from the last time I submitted it, I think it's much stronger now. At least it's more concrete.

So after a quick search, it's off to Strange Horizons. We'll see how it does there. Good luck little poem. So that was what, two days?

Although I did skip writing a report for the Village. Oh well. I'll have to do it this weekend.

Arts and Crafts Movements

Sarah Monette talks truth to power about The Art of the Short Story. This is actually an article in the sporadic series with a longer title of "Routes to Publication May Vary According to Your Talents" being written unconjunctively by many authors on many blogs.

But she speaks a lot of truth. The first paragraph is what I'd like to discuss, though. In there she says that, basically, Short Stories aren't the same species as Novels. This is a fact. She also discounts the "business route" of writing shorts to make a name for yourself and then start writing novels. This is also true. However, this is the route I've taken. And I think there's a lot of established authors and editors who add on motivations to my move (because they've advised me against it).

I think my natural writing length is a novel. I started out wanting to write novels and I still do want to write novels (as I hope to be working on them this year). Also, novels are where the money is at in this game. So, yeah, novels it is.

However, as my first attempts at writing them showed, I didn't have the foggiest clue as to how to tell a story. I took a community education class taught by a somewhat famous romance novelist that was supposed to help us write novels. It was that experience, the wrestling with the opening chapter, that demonstrated to me that I needed to learn some craftsmanship.

A Whine to Far

Okay, I've heard this one to many times. Please, both President Bush and anybody who worked in the administration, I am really sick of hearing about how hard the job is. How you've been on call basically 24/7 since 9-11. I'm tired of hearing about how many lunches/dinners/etc you've missed. Your kids have grown up with you not there, blah blah blah.

Yeah, government work is hard. Didn't you know that? Haven't you been paying attention? I guess you have never had real jobs in your life. Government work is not 9-5 with weekends off. This is especially true for those who work around the Oval Office.

Also, hate to tell you this, it's also the same thing for any salaried position these days. Or at least for those of us who are doing all the work.

Stop whining.

Oh, and the rewriting of your history is also getting tiresome. We were there. You weren't that great.

And as a final point, terrorists made it onto Embassy grounds in Yemen last year. We have had many soldiers killed by IEDs. You cannot claim that after 9-11 there have been no terrorist attacks. STFU about it.

Or, you know, I can start researching and write an article with annotated footnotes. You really don't want me to do that.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Confusion or Bust!

I don't think I made this announcement yet, so here it is belatedly.

If you're in the Detroit area later this month, you can stop by and see me baffle entertain the multitudes with my deft, mad bullshitting panelist skillz at Cryptic Confusion. Yes, given my meh outstanding performances at ConClave, I wrangled an invited to continue spouting drivel above my pay grade sharing my perspective and inflicting irreparable mental damage what little I know and have learned with the masses.

As an added benefit there is the meeting of the Kletcha Clutch (although I think it mostly revolves around Mer Haskell), seeing people I only get to talk with once a year, and in general, having fun.

It's a fresh New Year for Rejection!

Lucy at Andromeda Spaceways writes to tell me they've passed on "Scrimshaw Man." The letter seemed generic, so I'm going with it being a form rejection.

Alas and alack I haven't the knack.
Or something like that.

I think the main problem is still the second stanza (there's only two, so that's 50 percent). I have description but not a lot of action and that's something that I think may need to change. The last line (which Goblin Fruit specifically pointed out) probably still jars the ear. It's sort of like a baseball bat. I think I can change the second stanza to switch the point of view (not the POV character, but where his attention is) to an action stance. It'll be a complete rewrite, but I have two lines already (and have already rewritten them to use stronger language).

Here's an example of the first line:

"Give me the nickel and enter the tent"

to

"Surrender your coin and step inside"
(and I'm thinking about those last two words, "pass the bar," "take the pike," "roll the turnstile" although "step inside" works best with the next line as it adds possible meanings, and relinquish also works instead of surrender, but I like the connotations of "surrender").

So at the earliest opportunity I'll need to revisit it, and then I'll need to find another market. The New Year is off and running.

Big Time! I'm on my way and I'm making it.

Seems some Asian SPAMMERS hit the blog last night. It'll take me a little time to clean it all up (I'm at work after all). They have about three or four standard comments that they've placed in fifteen or so posts throughout. If I remember my kanji correctly, the names they left are Chinese.

And dudes, keep hitting my blog. I'm almost done compiling your router numbers.

If I'm wrong about you, 重庆游戏中心, 安徽棋牌游戏中心, or 贵港热线休闲游戏中心 (those are the top three names) please post here and let me know.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

And Rewrite, Rinse, Repeat

Rewrote all the way throughout the frame. Added in details and little atmospheric things. We're now at 4987 words (you can tell how much I've rewritten since I've again added things in and we down another five or six words. I think I getting near the end of it. I'll have to print it out and go through it with a fine toothed comb and then let some other people read it to make sure I'm making sense. Hopefully I'll be done sometime in the next two weeks (there's council stuff to do, soon).

In other news, at the doctor's office I was down eight more pounds (nine since the last appointment, as I was up one pound then).

Really tired from not sleeping normally. So we're off to bed.

Writerly Linkee-poo

Came back to work and had over 600 posts I haven't read. You all have been busy. I feel like such a slacker, I've barely made one post a day (and sometimes not even that). I'm catching up. Somethings I'm just going to skip (sorry, only so many hours in the day).

Justine Larbalestier is at it again. She's spilling the beans with a whole bunch of writing advice. And better yet, she's taking requests. I always go for Freebird myself, but hey, it's up to you. Here's some link-love for her posts; Choosing POV, and Generating Ideas, and a long one on How to Get Unstuck.

It's something about new writers, we just can't get enough advice, I guess. Or maybe it's just me and I'm overly interested in how other people do it. And, again, just because it's advice from a published author doesn't mean it'll 1) be appropriate, 2) answer your deepest needs and 3) might not work for you. Justine, however, is very entertaining as she gives you her take on the subjects.

Jeff VenderMeer is doing a massive cleaning of his house and sharing some of his finds over on Ecstatic Days. There's some juvenilia going on, so be sure not to miss it. He also finished up his 60-in60 pieces (about reading the Penguin Great Ideas books).

Matt Stagg over at Enter the Octopus is giving some publicity advice. And don't forget to memorize that last paragraph. Really. Very good advice.

Rick Ferrel is continuing with his dragons of creativity series all about release our inner writers. If you're not reading it you should be. Also, please note, to "slay the dragon" and pass the test you must give into them, not actually kill the dragon.

Several people I know have had book releases lately; S.C. Butler, Josh Palmatier, Jim Hines, and Karl Schroeder. I know I'm missing a few people. Sorry. But if you're looking for some good reading to fill those long winter nights, you don't have any excuses now. And most of these are mmpb (mass market paperback) releases, so it won't cost you an arm or a leg (maybe just a few hairs).

Oh, and there's about a gazillion contests out there to win books. If you're surfing you've found some of them.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go read that "Unstuck" post (although I think she's talking about sticky plots, and that's something Dawn just doesn't help with, sticky pots on the other hand it works wonders).

Monday, January 5, 2009

Beware the Dayplanner, my son! The days that bite, the entries that catch!

So, while I'm waiting for the mac to process the updated file request, I'm flipping through my new day calendar. In the back there is a section for "Internet Resources." The page flopped open on the second page and up at the top is the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) (www.fdic.gov in case you're wondering). Not a good omen.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hopeless romantics, here we go again

I know it's not catblogging Fridays today, but I couldn't resist.

So here's the new kittens.


I alluded to them a while back, and now that they've been with us almost a week, I think it's time to introduce them. Here is Vivian and Cleo(patra), a mother a daughter team. The mother is Vivian and she's only a little over a year old (we're estimating). Cleo was born October 4th. They were drop-offs at a house in farm country twenty minutes east of us (well, Vivian was, the others came later).

Vivian is pretty well socialized, Cleo isn't, yet. We're working on that. Cleo also had her leg broken. The person we got them from said in the past week, the vet says soon after her birth. The bone has healed, but not well. It had calcified into the muscle which had locked her back right-leg up on her body. The vet massaged it a little, and we've done some more. She's using the leg a little now (although it is visibly smaller than her other leg). So she's a little gimpy/limpy cat.

So far we're doing okay. We're trying to get them on a schedule (but with being off for the holidays and everything it hasn't helped). The first night they did sleep with us, but since then they've sleep on their own bed. I'm a little more allergic to them, but that may just be an adjustment to having animals and the general closing up of the house because of winter. I would also have episodes with Isis. It may also be with having two cats.

Hopefully I can get a good picture of Vivian so you can see her distinctive markings. It's like a cross between a tabby and calico. They have stripes and calico markings. The stripes become spots on their backs. Vivian also have ear tufts which give her a distinct wild cat look. Cleo has the same markings (with some variation), but so far isn't displaying the ear tuffs. Also Vivian has green eyes and Cleo has brown.

They like to play, chasing strings and sometimes just picking something and batting it around. They're slowly discovering their new world. They just found the cat tower the other day. Cleo loves it, Vivian not so much. Or I should say, Cleo loves climbing up and down, Vivian just likes sleeping up high.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Rewriterly Rewriting Revision

Okay, time for bed. I've made it through the opening frame, 1246 words (1121 words in the old draft). I'll see if I can cut a little more. Total word count, though, it at 4992, only one word less than the last draft. I haven't touched the closing frame yet. There's a few words I want to put in there, to flesh out the world they live in. So, I'll cut some and add some tomorrow, or later.

1, 2, 3 What are we fightin' for

So what am I doing this last full day of real vacation? I'm rewriting the frame for War Stories. It's a little darker and the character set is greatly reduced, just Bobby and Fenny now (and an unnamed nurse or two). Most of it was from handwritten notes I had made, some of it came from the original frame. The middle, Bobby's story, isn't changing (until I get edits), but the editor (::waves toward Michigan::) made a comment earlier about how the frame wasn't working for him, and in review I agree. Most of the characters, who had some part to play in the full story (where they told more stories) now are just guys in funny hats. So out they went.

Most of the concepts have transfered over. I don't think I'm as fair to vets as I was in the original, but it's a story. And to make the story, Bobby needed to have more problems. Sorry about that.

Current word count, (for frame and middle) is 5130. So I'll need to get rid of another 140 or so words. I think it's doable. I cut out 200 on the first run through. I think the new frame has some of my better writing, but there's also soft parts. Heck, while bouncing back and forth (yeah, I do that, call me Mr. Distractible) I'm down eight words. So yeah, there's some poof that can be cut, some redundancies to eliminate. Keeping under 5000 should be easy.

I should probably do an entry over on Genre Benders about the first paragraph. It's a pretty good example (if I say so myself) of including small details that fill out a whole scene. How in 30 words you can include all the senses and paint a picture of where the story takes place. In the original frame it took two paragraphs to get it all in.

Anyway, now I've got meetings to go to and errands to run. Hope you all are having a good start to the fresh year.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

It's the End of the World for a New Year

(Cross posted on Genre Bender)

If you've been paying attention to the publishing world lately, you know that they've been predicting Armageddon for all of the past November-December. As the economy hits the skids, publishers haven't been immune from the bird-flue epidemic of layoffs and cutbacks. Since Harper-Collins' executive announcement about not purchasing new manuscripts leaked out, it's all been doom and gloom.

Well, genre sales have gone up this past Xmas buying season. You wouldn't know that except for actually looking at bookscan data (no, I don't have access, but those who do tell me it's true).

But things aren't all rosy. Since the 70s, genre publishing has been on a downhill slope. This was made manifest to me by going to a panel honoring Betty Ballantine at the 2007 World Fantasy Convention. Part of that panel interviewing and honoring her covered how the industry has changed since she helped start Ballantine Books. Of the major changes, print numbers and sell-through (how many actually sell) have been the most drastic (besides the switch from paperback to hard-cover and the rise of the trade paperback). In the 70s is wasn't uncommon to print 30,000 books for a new author and sell 90% of those. These are numbers a best-selling author would envy today. 30M (30,000 in print speak) books is the same as the combined total of the first, second, and third printings of a new author. And 70% sell through is considered good.

Here are two blog posts that shed light on not only the current state of genre publishing but also the history of how we got here (thanks, BTW, to Jay Lake's link salad).

First up is Charlie Stross' Why SF & F novels are the length they are.

Here's another from Scrivener's Error on the Publishing Squeeze.

Hope that helps with perspectives. As for me, I'm going to spend my Xmas Borders' gift cards as quick as possible and hunker down on the new work for the new year. Here's hoping with have happier news to talk about at the end of 2009.