Category Archives: Miscellany

Mundane Miscellany

If I haven’t made huge mistakes in the trauma/recovery area, I’m thinking I can wrap up revisions on Breath of Stone by the end of the weekend. I’d like to say sooner, but I’ve perhaps a couple hours a day for it through the next seven days. (When I sell more books, I’ll get to do fewer non-fiction projects…)  Then I must draft cover copy, and that’s just… SIGH.

I’ll be posting a couple chapters for patrons over at Patreon, along with this month’s article on injuries and trauma and healing.

There is a second Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off underway! I’m thinking of putting Sword and Chant in the mix. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it kind of novel. Even some of the most complimentary reviews mention it’s difficult to define. And it’s written in omni viewpoint.  More than ever, the response will depend on the reviewer randomly assigned the odd thing.

I’ve found new places I want to camp!  Pawnee Grasslands, Toadstool Geologic Park, Paint Mines, Palo Duro, Bisti Badlands….  And of course these longings are strongest when over a foot and a half of snow sits outside my door.

Have you see the schedule for the Nebulas?  There is cool, cool stuff happening there, and the cost of the conference itself is, in my opinion, darn good.  Alas, the Chicago location is far too expensive for me.  Maybe next time.

I’ll still be taping my own NOTx talk on the most important aspect of self-publishing!  I was trying to set up a small audience, but I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon, alas, so it’ll likely just be me talking to you.

Lastly, the ankle is improving more quickly than I would have anticipated.  Just walking, there is nothing but a lingering tightness.  Going upstairs is quite workable.  Going downstairs happens slowly and stiffly, one stair at a time.  Side to side motion isn’t all that fun, and rotation doesn’t feel very good at all.  But progress!  It’s healing!

And now, back to work!

#SFWApro

 

 

 

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A Little Miscellany

Most of yesterday was spent attempting to hunt down my primary Breath of Stone file. According to my computer, no copy of the file exists post-October 30, which is… quite incorrect. It isn’t the only file missing. Yes, I’ve done searches. Yes, I’ve looked here, thither, and yon. I think there’s a copy on my most recent Carbonite backup (yesterday!), but — believe it or not — Carbonite was completely down. And my email/password isn’t working. I can see the file, but cannot retrieve it or check its contents. And so… we wait.

Worst case scenario? I’m missing the two chapters that have taken me longer to write than any other chapter in this novel, the previous novel, and the previous-previous novel. The two chapters that have been the most difficult to make work.

***

Having decided to act as if Carbonite will do all the proper magic, I’ve nearly worked my way through an entirely different chapter. This is the last “What the hell am I doing, thinking I’m a writer?” chapter challenge. Really, darlings, I cannot tell you just how challenging these chapters have been. I can barely express why. I’m thinking we should run a poll to see if readers of the published novel can accurately guess which chapters were so troublesome.

***

In news that might or might not be related to the above, I enjoyed whisky last night. My karate ladies gave me a special drink glass as a going-away present. It has markings on the side for LOL, OMG, and WTF. Guess how full that glass was, my darlings. Guess how many times.

I’m waiting right now for Carbonite to connect and restore the chosen file. It still isn’t connecting. I’ll be making phonecalls. Sigh.

***

Once the entire revised Breath of Stone file is recovered, (because we are thinking positively, my darlings!) it’ll currently clock in around 98K words. I’ve at least 70K words of additional material to add to it. This is not a short story. I hope that will make it worth your patience.

***

I’m thinking I just might, maybe, be fixin’ to think about probably launching a Patreon by the end of the week. Since all patronage supports all writings, backers will see a combination of self-defense/combat rewards and novel-based rewards. There are pieces of it I think are fun but others might think are silly. I’ve decided the ones who think I’m silly are not my target patrons. 🙂 And darlings, if I could come up with an appropriate whisky-related reward, I would do so.

***

I read with great sadness the reports from World Fantasy Convention on their handling of accessibility issues. Really, folks. Really. Accessibility is not an add-on. It isn’t an option, or a treat, or an extra thing you do if you’re feeling generous. When you choose and negotiate with a facility, you include that in the negotiations.

And don’t toss out the “It’s so expensive!” excuse. It was $800 you say? Great. Charge every attendee an additional $1. Or perhaps cut back on whatever little ding-dongs the hotel says would be nifty to provide. Access isn’t optional. (Protip: when you negotiate ahead of time, you don’t pay that much. Just sayin’.)

Really, my darlings, considering how dearly some industry folks cuddle and coddle institutional memory, it’s rather ghastly that there is no formal way of passing along lessons learned from one con committee to another. My guess is the failure lies in protecting turf above other concerns.

***

Lastly, I’ll tell ya that the biggest downside to running a tight schedule and/or having many overlapping responsibilities is the amount of disruption a temporary illness can cause. I’m still digging out from the weeks in October where I had about four productive hours a day (that included time for mundane things like taking a shower), and the following week where I crashed hard after the minimal demands of MileHiCon. Alas, SFWA duties have suffered the longest simply because they had no deadlines that governed my income or ability to feed others.

The Things You Learn About Family

Earlier this year, I’d sorted through nearly all the boxes I’d had in some sort of storage for about five years. Then my folks moved and, by February, I had acquired at least as many boxes of stuff as I’d sorted before. Some of it was mine. Some of it was just stuff my folks didn’t want but didn’t want to “just give away.” Some of it, I discovered today, was family memorabilia.

One huge bulging envelope was covered, side to side and top to bottom, with my father’s crisp engineer lettering. Inside I found lots of miscellaneous remembrances: a 1950s Ice Capades program, a Palm Springs newspaper from 1976, a gift certificate for four martinis at the Apple Valley Inn (expired, alas), a copy of my cousin’s Naval commission, postcards of icky Benny Hill type humor sent by my grandfather when he was traveling.

But the real treasure is the letters. There are letters my father wrote home while he was in the Navy, and letters my grandmother’s Calgary relatives sent her in the 60s and 70s. There’s a wedding announcement for someone in Sicily–my grandfather’s home country–and from a man named Freddie, whom I knew as a child as the wild-white-haired old man who had a cabin near ours in the remote Apple Valley desert. The glimpses of life offered are so, so cool.

One little falling-apart letter, typed single-spaced on the front and back of a small sheet of thin paper, was from my great-grandfather. It’s a sad and angry letter than tells of how poor he and his wife are, living in Chicago Heights in 1951, and how ungrateful his children are for not sending them more money and taking them on vacations. He mentions no one remembers him saving “Joe” from the Black Handers in 1907. The next line, an incomplete sentence, refers to either Sam’s brother, or someone Sam killed, or perhaps both. Does he mean Joe? We don’t know. The odd sentence construction leaves interpretation open.

Then I found a browned newspaper clipping from 1938, talking of the murder of Sam Costello at the hands of Al Capone’s hitmen. Why was it in the envelope with all those letters and such?

I called my father to tell him of the find, and to ask about that newspaper clipping. Turns out Sam Costello was my great-grandfather’s cousin.

We’re still not certain if that’s the same Sam connected to the Joe who was either murdered or saved or both in 1907.

Perhaps, too, we will find some other clues to help us on our genealogy quest to discover if our family can apply for Italian citizenship.  My great-grandfather, alas, was not too keen on government records, reportedly changed his last name at least twice, and told numerous versions of his life in the United States.  It’s a puzzle, but we’re closing in on it.

 

Not-Reviews and Links

100_2354On this snowy day, I’m taking a break from Sand of Bone revisions.  My darlings, I know the revision process has gone on far too long–so long that it feels quite irresponsible to take a break of any sort.  But, well… Here we are.

I’ve been reading and muchly enjoying Kate Elliott’s Spiritwalker trilogy.  I could go on and on about how much I enjoy the characters and their interactions, or how tickled I am to see the insides of a revolution amidst a realistically convoluted world.  But one of the other things Elliott has done beautifully is measure her characters against the immutability of core morality—but never confuses morality with affiliation.  With our own current political climate utterly polarized by affiliation, it’s refreshing to watch characters find their allies, question their choices, and make externally-conflicting-but-internally-consistent decisions that are adjusted based upon new information.  I haven’t finished the trilogy yet, and so look forward to reading the last third of the third that I find myself purposefully slowing my reading so I don’t reach the end so quickly.

Not too long ago, I finished Pen Pal by Francesca Forrest, recommend by Sherwood Smith.  This, too, deals with revolutions and revolutionaries.  One central character finds the strength she needs to endure and succeed by holding more and more tightly to narrowing set of goals.  The other central character finds her strength though asking tough questions and adjusting her goals and perspectives.  Neither is more right or wrong that the other.  The challenges the characters face, and the settings in which they face them, require wildly different approaches even though their goals are essentially the same.

Between those two novels, I’ve tried repeatedly to sink into Ancillary Justice.  It isn’t that I haven’t liked it—I’ve really been taken by the concepts, in fact—but I haven’t found it as compelling in terms of story.  I’ll likely return to it after I finish Elliott’s trilogy in the hope the story will catch me.

On the nonfiction side, I’ve been reading The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back.  It’s as long and detailed as an epic novel, and I’ve been very pleased with the data used to back up the claims and proposals, but is too much for me to read and process all in one fell swoop.  Even so, I’m repeatedly struck by how we continuously make programs and policies bigger and more complicated in an attempt to make life simpler and easier.  It’s essentially investing millions to teach people to do more with less, rather than investing thousands to ensure there is more to do more with.  Forex, when I was living on a thousand dollars a month, I didn’t need an expensive training program to help me land a new job.  I needed six hundred dollars for new tires so I could drive to the job I was already trained to do.  Alas, I qualified for a training program, but there wasn’t even a “buy new tires” program to which I could apply.

Next up on nonfiction is How Can You Defend Those People? recommended by Nancy Jane Moore over at Book View Cafe.  The work of criminal defense attorneys fascinates me.  (In fact, when I looked into law school, it was with the goal of working as a defense attorney.)

And now, for a few links:

Hackschooling Makes Me Happy is a TEDx talk from teenager Logan LaPlante.  I love what this kid is saying, and adore the “structure” of his education.  If I had to do it all over again, I’d have homeschooled more fully along those lines.  Really, it wasn’t until this year that I completely let go of the curriculum-driven mindset.  Would that I had dumped it two years ago!

Fit and Feminist on the neurosis that has permeated The Biggest Loser.  I can’t tell you how many folks I’ve seen who are so obsessed with the notion of “healthy weight” that they’re driving themselves into illness to get it.  An extra ten or twenty pounds is not nearly as unhealthy for a person as a sedentary life or a diet devoid of essential nutrients.  And people look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them that, if they eat stuff like “healthy” granola and yogurts, they might as well chow down on a candy bar.

Over at Books by Women is an article on coming to writing with a theater background.  I love and can relate to her discussion of using the tools of compelling theater to write compelling fiction.  There is cool stuff there that made me think more about how I use my own theater background.

Lastly, there is The Destructive Power of Publishing.  I’ve never been one to completely and utterly dismiss all that Big House publishing is and can be, but I think I’ve made it clear why Big House publishing is not for me.  For more on that, check out Judith Tarr’s series on Escaping Stockholm.  This article speaks to those reasons.

I like getting my validation directly from readers.  Every sale is an acceptance letter!

Links o’ Miscellany and MHO On Them

First: I am in love with this article by Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown.  As I mentioned in comments at Sherwood’s LJ, a female character cannot be confident, competent, and likeable without being deemed a Mary Sue.  (That doesn’t even touch upon appearance, which is a whole ‘nother target of spite and vitriol.)  I remember a beta reader once telling me a character was a Mary Sue because of those three factors.  It didn’t matter that the character had been show to earn those traits; the three in combination simply Could Not Be Done is the character was to be “realistic.”

Think about that for a moment.  A character with competence, natural and practiced talents, who was liked because of the way she actually treated others was not realistic.  She simply wasn’t insecure enough, tormented enough, or outcast enough to be realistic.

That’s a fucking sad commentary on what “real women” are supposed to be.

And I should note that the majority of folks I read throwing about the Mary Sue accusation to other writers are women.  That’s double-fucking sad, in my opinion.

(Yes, I know the original definition of Mary Sue.  Alas, linguistic drift has bestowed a slightly different definition now, and that’s the one we’re stuck with, and I don’t deem it interesting, necessary, or productive to insist everyone use the phrase in its “proper” fashion.)

Second:  This post by John Wiswell–now a fellow graduate of Viable Paradise–made me cheer first (because hooray! more VP grads!), then made me grumble to learn some self-publishers thought it was a waste of his time.  *sigh*  I know there is a subset of self-publishers who cannot fathom the worth of critique prior to publication, nor the bliss of spending days among writers who care about storytelling.  My suspicion is it’s the same subset who would have, in the pre- self-publishing days, written long diatribes to agents and editors in response to rejections.

Me, I see nothing incongruent between attending Viable Paradise and self-publishing.  One is for craft and fellowship.  One is a business decision.  Anyone with shoulder-chips might indeed have good information about their side of the argument, but not the best judgment on which path is best for others.

Third: I have no link for it, but have been following various blog posts and Twitter comments from folks attending WFC in London.  From writers who have the “proper” credentials, who should without a doubt be treated to at least the crumbs of common courtesy.  And they are not.

That sort of disregard of writers–at what is supposed to be a celebration of such creativity–is a pretty good indication of what value such folks place on the writers’ creations.  And don’t sing the “But they’re all volunteers!” song my direction.  I’ve volunteered for numerous non-genre, professional conferences and conventions. I and other volunteers assumed courtesy and professionalism were standard expectations, not something guests received if they caught us a good time and were appropriately humble in their requests.

Fourth:  Check out David Gaughran on the tightening of Traditional Publishing/Author Solutions ties.  If you’re planning to go the traditional publishing route, it’s critical you read and understand it.  If you’re self-publishing, it’s equally important.  Alas, it’s becoming more difficult for new writers to avoid being shuttled into dead-end and horribly expensive self-publishing “services” that are endorsed by the same traditional publishers who sneered at Author Solutions and their ilk just a couple years ago.  “I know those other people say Author Solutions is a scam, and is being sued by their past customers,” says the new writer in search of validation, “but Big Respected Publisher says they’re awesome, so it must okay to give them thousands of dollars!”

And I was certain I had a fifth link, but it has vanished.

Edited 10-18-2013 for clarity.

Country Light and Sound

In books, film, and general media, some aspects of country living are presented as “true” when those aspects are really “true when viewed through the experience of city dwellers.”  This does make me sigh, particularly when plot points turn on those aspects.

I was born and raised in Southern California, but lived in a more rural community during high school.  Then, after many more years of city living in two different states, I moved to rural Indiana.  The nearest streetlights of town (population 1,000) were over five miles away.  The nearest true city (population around 10,000) was ten miles away.  I lived in a very small house that was nearing 100 years old, but had been wired for electricity only two years before I moved in, on a riverside farm of about 130 acres that I shared with the landowners.  My closest neighbors were Amish.

I was far enough from town that now, living three miles from the city outskirts, I hardly consider myself living in the country.

Moving from city to country prompts folks to choose one of two paths–adapt to the experience, or adapt the experience itself.  The first step of the latter involves the instillation of outdoor lighting systems to banish the night.

I can’t tell you often I hear country nights, or nights before artificial lighting, described as pitch black.  As someone who used to walk around on 130 acres at night, I can assure you night walks are not akin to a blindfolded stroll.  Nights are not terrifyingly dark by default.  Darkness depends, of course, on available moonlight, but also atmospheric conditions and vegetation.  On a clear night, less than a half-moon provided light enough for comfort.  A full moon’s brightness made hikes up and down the ravines safely possible.

But the moment you look at anything brighter than the moonlight–in fact, in you look directly at a bright moon–everything else will look pitch black.  The rods in your eyes use certain pigments to see in low light, and those pigments break down in bright light to prevent the light from overloading sight.  It can take over half an hour for those pigments to build back up.  So if you’re turning a flashlight on and off, looking at a campfire, going in and out of the house, or–as in the case of reporters–spending most of the time staring into good lighting–the night will indeed look pitch black all the time.

Patience reveals another aspect.

Nighttime sound in the country can also be described very poorly by those who live with constant background sounds.  Such sounds become so pervasive, they cease to be noticed.  Air circulation fans and traffic are two common sources.  That noise covers smaller sounds of footsteps, conversations, breezes through leaves, and the passage of small animals.  You won’t hear the murmuring of a casual conversation taking place on a porch a quarter mile away.

In the country, sources of ambient noise might be moving water and/or wind.  That’s about it.  Being still reveals low sounds of small nocturnal creatures–their movements, their calls, their feeding.  The yip of a coyote carries a long, long distance, as does the whoo of an owl.  From my front porch on the farm, I could hear the clopping of hooves for long minutes before the buggy came into sight.  (Amish neighbors, remember? 🙂  From my back porch at my current home, I can hear most cars on a back country road when they’re still two miles away.  When I see a character be caught off-guard by the sudden appearance of a vehicle on a country road, I know the writer hasn’t spent much time outside his city limits.

All that quiet stillness will make one very aware of how much noise a clothed human body makes when it moves.  While it’s true feet cause noise on the ground, the sound of moving fabric can give away one’s position as well.  These days, humans would make easy prey for any stalking animal.

There are times that I deeply miss living on the farm.  Even the days, the ones filled with hard work in the July heat, were wonderful.  An interlude.  The in-between.  The time I needed to leave behind an old self and find the new.  But it’s the night–usually in spring and fall, usually when the moon is near full–that I miss most of all.