Mar 2, 2014 @ 11:46 am
Now that the workshop is over, and I can turn some brain cells in other directions…
Thanks to Lisa’s gentle reminder, I note that the 2013 Hugo nominations are open. So I suppose I should be a good writer and let you know that if you’re a attending member of Worldcon, meaning you attended last year, or are already committed to attending this year, you are eligible to nominate work for the award. Given that, I wanted to take a moment to outline work of mine that I’ve seen published in 2013. No hard sell here, of course. That’s not quite me. But if you liked something here and are so inclined, consider it a reminder. [grin]
Here is the nomination form.
So … here goes.
- Following Jules – October – Analog
- Operation Hercules – May – On Spec
- Out of the Fire – June – Interstellar Fiction
- After – June – One Sentence Story Anthology
- The Legend of Parker Clark and Lois Jane – June – Fiction River Anthology: How to Save the World
- Teammates – July – Galaxy’s Edge
- Schrodinger’s Soldier – September – Third Flatiron Anthology: Lost Worlds Retraced
- The Flying Contraption – December – Elementary, Elemental Masters Anthology
Nine pieces published. Not too bad, I suppose. And with one publication already and five more in the pipeline for 2014, things look good next year, too (hey, ya gotta enjoy it while you can, right?)
Mar 1, 2014 @ 4:29 pm
I’ve been at Kris Rusch and Dean Smith’s Oregon Coast Anthology Workshop for the past week. It’s been an absolute blast, but also grueling. Imagine six full days sitting in a room with more than 40 writers and watching 4-6 editors go through manuscripts. Hours, and hours of it. Days and days of it. Quite intense. Then add into this mix the opportunity to use the break windows to grab insights from all those 40+ writers on how one should go about running their business. And then add late-night gab sessions.
So, yeah, one may be getting tired. And there’s one day left—this one a broader business-oriented set of talks. For those not following my twitter or Facebook feeds, here are a few of the highlights:
- Brigid, who is out here with me, made her first and second pro sales, putting “Gambler’s Fallacy” into the Fiction River Risk Takers anthology (edited by Dean Wesley Smith), and “Frostburnt” into the Pulse Pounders antho edited by Kevin J. Anderson.
- I followed that up with two of my own, having Kerrie Hughes accept my story “The Grand Dangoolie” for her Steam and Alchemy edition, and Kevin J. Anderson accepted a story of mine that I will likely retitle to “Fraternization” for his Pulse Pounders anthology.
- Yes, you got it. That means I’m going to be a TOC-mate with Brigid!
- Add to this that my writing bud Lisa Silverthorne dropped a pair of stories into anthologies also, and it’s gone pretty danged well.
The best of all things, though, has been spending time with this collection of 50 or so people, all in my field (and admittedly seeing Brigid take to it with the confidence she has…it’s nice to see her find out that, yes, she does fit in). Nothing is better for pumping up the energy than seeing other people who are doing things you want to do, and showing that yes it can be done.
One more session today. Then home tomorrow.
And the beat goes on.
Feb 22, 2014 @ 2:50 am
I met Lisa Silverthorne in the airport on our way to Portland, and since the plane was delayed by about a billion years we had lots of time to catch up a talk about a bunch of writing things. Somewhere in here we got on the topic of our writing careers—which is a term that both of us struggle with, specifically (I think) because of the word “Career” and the connotation it has of “pays the freight.”
This is, of course, not really right.
I mean, a football player can have a High School career, a college career, and an NFL career, and in only one of those cases will he actually make any money (unless he goes to Kentucky, of course [grin]). Artists of all types have careers that do not actually pay the full freight of their living expenses. But, over the years the Lisa and I have discussed this kind of thing, when we talked about having a career in the field, it’s always included the fact of supporting ourselves to at least a very large degree on the income that comes from our work.
Of course, everyone who writes thinks like this at some point, but I don’t know that it’s a particularly healthy way to see it.
It’s a hard thing, separating financial reward from your career as an artist (yes, I know how pretentious that can sound. Just deal, okay?). But they are two different things, really. I say that now, several hours after the conversation, and while sitting in a plane thinking about it. Your career as an artist is not about what you make in the pocketbook, it’s about what you make in your chosen media. I think we get our energy streams all tangled up when we think about it the other way.
As an artist, you need to create things that matter to you. As an artist, you need to focus on filling your life up with experiences and thoughts and points of view and other fancy stuff, and you need to do that so you can find ways to keep putting yourself into the things that feed that spark that flickers in your heart. The problem, of course, is that sometimes people don’t react to them well. Or perhaps even worse, people don’t see them. In our case, as writers, editors don’t buy pieces we love or people don’t read or review or otherwise talk about in any way the things we pour ourselves into.
And that’s hard, too.
It’s really hard to keep doing the work, to keep opening the vein and giving yourself to the work when you’re not seeing the financial or critical reward or whatever your mind is set on.
And it’s possibly damaging, too, because when you don’t get that sense of feedback, that validation (for the lack of a better word), then you can start to disbelieve in yourself. And then you start to think, “well, if I just start writing things this way instead of how I’ve been doing it, then it will be more commercial and people will like it and people will notice it, and …” and next thing you know, the thing that is fueling that art you’re supposed to be making is broken, and suddenly your “career” as an artist is flopping on the floor like a dying fish because, well, that’s what it is. You’ve killed that thing you’re meant to be. You’ve killed the thing that literally makes you an artist.
Of course, the thing that makes this whole topic so infuriating is that when you look at the folks who are your inspirations, it seems like they have it all so together, that it just works. Of course they do. I’m not really sure what to say about this. I’m not successful enough to have a valid opinion, I guess. But, valid or not, my opinion is this—for a writer to have true financial success, they have to first be focused on the pure act of making things that they care about as an artist. Whatever that is.
Feb 19, 2014 @ 9:24 pm
Now that the reading sprint is over, I’m coming up for air. It’s with no little pride that among the first things I’ve done is to wander over to the DetCon1 site and nominate my little girl’s debut novel, Singer for their Young Adult or Middle Grade Member’s Choice award. Some folks might say I’m a bit biased, and how can I argue against them. But in all seriousness, this is a really good piece of work that I think deserves notice.
Nominations are open to the public, so you can do it, too. Hint, hint.
You have until the end of the month, too. So if you haven’t read the book, go the hence and pick it up. You won’t be disappointed.
Feb 19, 2014 @ 2:00 pm
Yes, it’s been quiet around here for a bit. I know. There are reasons, of course, and of course they are mostly self-inflicted (in the good way). I’ve noted before that I’m getting ready to attend a workshop in Oregon with Brigid (and Lisa Silverthorne, and several other great writers). It’s going to be much fun. But this is a bit of a unique workshop, in that each writer is submitting not one, but six short stories (each focused on its own themed anthology). Part of the gig is to have read all the stories, or at least read them far enough to gain something valuable from them when they are discussed. Have I mentioned that it appears there will be something over 40 writers at this workshop?
Take a moment to do the math. 40 writers x 6 stories = 240 stories.
We received access to them about a week ago.
That’s right, 240 stories to read in a week. Assuming each averages to 5K words, that works out to about 1.2 million words. Of course, you don’t read every one of those words. Part of this learning it to read like editors, and to then translate those reasons we put stories down into ideas and tactics that keep those reasons from creeping into our own writing. I would guess I read only 60-65% of the words submitted. But still. That’s maybe 800K words. It’s a huge chunk of work. Then … to this … add that I had the opportunity to read a draft of a novel by another friend of mine—a chance I jumped at because she’s a great writer—and you’ve got a whole new level of … uh … work. Yes, I know, shoot me dead, I have to read for something I’ll loosely call “my job.”
Anyway … as of today, I’m finally done. It’s been a long week for me, and to be honest, I don’t see how people who have full day jobs will be able to do a medium decent job of it. But that’s not for me to say, eh? It is only for me to do. I can say that I’m feeling a strange post-process energy fade.
Not to worry, though.
After all, I still have a short story to trim up, and a new novella to write…and then there’s the business book I promised to feed back on, and another research project to undertake.
It’s always something, after all.
Feb 18, 2014 @ 4:01 pm
Here I am, taking a break from a huge reading stint that is sucking up pretty much every spare moment I have (about which, more will come later), to relay two pieces of very good news from the Ron Collins writing front. The first of which is that Abyss and Apex has informed me that they are interested in publishing my novelette “Good Luck Charm.” And as of this afternoon, we’ve come to proper terms for them to do so. This is very good news to me because that is a story that I think is quite good, quite important, and perhaps just a bit … uh … creepy/eerie. It was looking for a proper home, and I think it’s found it.
The second piece of good news is that I can finally say that I’ve optioned “Primes” (my short story in the January issue of Asimov’s) to a small film company in Toronto. This means they have the right to begin working to fund and arrange to turn this story into a feature length film—a step that is by no means guaranteed, but is great fun to think about, eh?
Okay. Enough frivolity. Back to my reading.
See you in a day or so.
Feb 9, 2014 @ 1:55 pm
Cool news for a friend of mine. Check out Fiction River’s podcast of Lisa Silverthorne’s story “Speechless in Seattle.”
You can, of course, buy the whole anthology at several places … but here’s the Link that will reveal all.
In addition to begin a friend and a great all-around person, Lisa is one of my favorite writers. She’s a voice that deserves to be considerably more widely read than she is (today, anyway).
You can find a lot of her work in electronic reader form right about here. And in my opinion you can’t go wrong with her collection “Sound of Angels,” the title story of which found its way onto the preliminary ballot for SFWA’s prestigious Nebula award.
Feb 8, 2014 @ 11:13 pm
Even after all this time, I still get surprised about how this whole creativity thing works. You see, I’ve spent at least four days working on a final short story that’s due for the workshop I’m going to later this month. I’m sure I’ve spent at least 20 hours on it (probably more like 30). It’s together. It does something. But the honest fact is that (although it will eventually work, and I wouldn’t be embarrassed of it) I still just don’t like it. It doesn’t speak to me as well as it should. But it’s due tomorrow, and I was planning to brush it up this morning, do another pass after Lisa’s copy edit, and send it off.
As Tina Fey so famously says, the show doesn’t go on because it’s ready, the show goes on because it’s 11:30.
Last night, though, just before turning the light out, I was struck with a new first sentence. And by new, I mean NEW. It’s not a first sentence that goes with the work I did all week. Of course, when I woke up this morning (early, natch … something before 5:00), the story was just there, waiting for me. So I respected it. I dragged my ass out of bed, and ate my breakfast, and grabbed my coffee, and went downstairs, and wrote down that first sentence. Then off I ran. The first draft was done by 10:30 AM. Then came lunch, and a shower. The “smooth” was done around 3:00. Off to Lisa.
Of course, I have zero idea whether anyone else will like it. I assume they will, but a writer should always keep this weird bi-polar thing around themselves, so I’ll remain undecided for now. But I admit I like it. It speaks to me. It means something to me–something that I’m not sure I can really say about the piece I worked on for the last four days.
And so, I ask, did I need to put in the hours on this first story just to get to the stuff I liked? Or, if I just sat on my but and did nothing for the last four days, would this second story still have come to me? I have no idea, of course. But at the base of my heart I certainly feel that the hours with butt in chair Tuesday and Wednesday, and Thursday and Friday, were the ticket to the game today.
Feb 5, 2014 @ 8:12 pm
I’ve been reading Chuck Wendig’s blog with some interest the past few days as he’s been talking about publishing, the quality of stories, and how that all plays with the self-indie-whatever publishing crowd. It’s good stuff (though the standard rule of thumb seems to be that I should give you the “vulgar language enclosed warning–not sure why, yes, it’s language, and yes, it’s used well).
Against that backdrop … I was jotting some notes about some story things yesterday, really just kind of free-writing in that open-minded way you do sometimes, when out came this thing:
It has to be good, right?
Yes, but no.
What is good, after all? What’s good to you is not good to me. What is good to me is probably at best irrelevant to you.
What it has to be is important–to me, anyway. And even moreso, it has to be important to me today, right now. Not yesterday, or in the future. The me of the past is gone, so he doesn’t matter. The me of tomorrow is undefined–who knows what the me of tomorrow will think. He’ll probably be different than I am now. I hope he will. So just do the work that’s important to me now and that’s good. Good enough? Shrug. What does the word “enough” have to say in that sentence. If it’s good, it’s good.
I admit I like it. Oddly, the phrase I like the most is the nearly invisible segment of “So, just do the work…” and one of the reasons I think I like that segment is that it relates directly to what Chuck Wendig is exhorting independent writers to do, that being to raise their … uh … freaking game. Or at least to pay attention to the big picture of what it means to be an independent publisher. Do the work. Pay attention to the details.
Right about now, I can hear my beloved Lisa snorting out loud–as if I can actually pay attention to details. Sheesh. But, seriously. Do your best. Respect readers. Pay attention to the business. But mostly, do all of that and write something that means something to you.
Feb 4, 2014 @ 11:17 am
I’ve been writing a bunch of short stories that past couple weeks, and somewhere along the line I ran into this 60 Minutes interview with Bob Dylan. It’s got me really thinking about what being a creator means (I started to type “artist,” but I don’t know that it’s the right word. I like “creator,” though. I suppose the difference doesn’t matter, though).
Since finding it, I’ve listened to it three or four times.
Dylan is a remarkable person, an enigma, of course. He is a creator/artist beyond all things, and I think this is what makes him so hard for people to understand–I think he ties into things that move him, and he puts those things on the wire. He lets them free, regardless of his personal attachment to them. And, listen to him. Sentence by sentence. Almost every phrase he utters has a unique depth to it. Almost every word he uses has a purpose. People understand him because his ability to cut cloth into the exact shape it winds up in is so pristine. And so a lot of people followed his lead–a lead that Dylan himself never wanted or expected, a lead, in fact, that Dylan doesn’t even really see. At one point in the interview Bradley says, “… but some of your songs did stop people cold, and they saw them as anthems, and they saw them as protest songs, It was important in their lives, and sparked a movement, I mean, you may not have seen it that way, but that’s the way it was for them. How do you reconcile those two things?” And Dylan’s response is so … lucid … so lucid, but also so hard to comprehend without really separating things inside you, without parsing your intellect so crisply from your emotional self.
Think about that a little.
Feb 2, 2014 @ 4:31 pm
So, Brigid and I are planning to attend a workshop together in late February, which will be pretty danged cool–at least for me. On her side, she’s going to have to put up with being around her dorky dad for a week. My guess is that she’ll run off and hide with some other writers and leave me in the dust. Sigh.
As part of the workshop, we’ve each been required to submit a new short story each week for the past five weeks, with one more to. By short story, it’s meant to be no more than 6K per story (3K minimum). They are always due Sunday night.
I titled this one “Poor Lisa” though, because she is both Brigid and my personal copy editor. This schedule means that every Sunday for the past five weeks (and one more coming up!), she has been hit with somewhere in the range of 10,000-12,000 words to zip through–generally starting sometime in the mid-afternoon or early evening. Nothing like a rush job. Of course, Brigid is, like, this big ol’ Linguistics major, and pretty much writes well-formed prose falling out of bed, so I don’t think hers requires nearly as much work as my engineering-informed prose does.
But, still. 12K words a day is a lot for a day off, eh?
These are a lot of work for us, but I’m thinking she’s looking forward to this thing being over more than we are. [grin]
Feb 1, 2014 @ 9:35 pm
For the first time in awhile, I’m making some reasonable time to read most every day. This means that instead of reading almost wholly in the short fiction field, I’m getting into longer works. January, then, found me finish three novels, and a long novella (in addition to, of course, several short stories–I expect I’ll always read short stories. I mean, when a short story is done well it will just take your breath away). I figure I’ll do my best to post what I’ve read, and what I’ve thought about them, ranking them on a 5-star basis.
Here are what my stars will mean:
1 Star – Not my bag. Didn’t like it enough to finish it
2 Stars – Finished it, but really didn’t like it.
3 Stars – Good book
4 Stars – Very enjoyable, (if in a series, I’ll probably read more)
5 Stars – Absolutely loved this book
Here are the longer works I’ve gotten through this month:
Libriomancer, Jim C. Hines (3.5 stars)
Totally enjoyable read. I enjoyed the whole librarian as magician thing, and as a SF writer the inside references are a lot of fun.
Of Ants and Dinosaurs, Cixin Liu (Translated by Holger Nahm) (2.5 stars)
This is the novella length work (though it might actually be a novelette, I’m not sure). The story uses the ants and dinosaurs to represent different social entities who need each other, but seem to have considerable problems with communication and the distribution of power. Sound in any way familiar? I found the end to be a shade predicatble, but it was still an interesting read.
Freedom, Jonathan Franzen (3.5 Stars)
Someone gave me this book a year or two ago, and I just got around to reading it. The essentials of the plot revolve around a love triangle, and is stuffed with the politics of the past 30 years, parent/child relationships, and a flavoring of gender stereotypes. Since it’s a big ‘ole book, I started it with the idea that I may not finish it, but Franzen kept me reading–mostly because I found pretty much every character to be interesting. I wanted to know what they were going to do next. I walked away happy, though I can see where some may not share my thoughts here.
Uglies, Scott Westerfeld (4 Stars)
Yes, I’m slow to the party on this one, too.
“Uglies” is a YA story set in a world where all kids undergo an operation at age 16 tha makes them physically attractive (based on the norms of the day). There’s more here than meets the eye, though, and our lead character is a young woman who learns more and more about the world as she finds herself caught up in the political machinations of the “Pretty” overseers, the mainstream “Uglies,” and a group of revolutionary folks who are a throwback to a different time. Like most YA’s, it’s a quick read. I just finished this yesterday, so assume I’ll read book two here real soon now.
Jan 30, 2014 @ 7:05 pm
So I’m down in the basement today working away at this short story that’s due for a workshop by the end of Sunday. No problem. I’ve actually been fiddling with it for two days, and all is well. It’s a fine story. I am not disappointed in it.
Then, through a serendipitous event or three, I stumble upon a different thread. So I put this story away for a moment, and two hours later I find that I am transported into a totally different direction, and a totally different world, telling a totally different story for this exact same assignment.
This story is like crack to me now.
How much like crack, you ask? I’m now debating the value of staying up overnight to work on it. If I don’t, I worry that it will just keep me up, anyway. I hate the idea of throwing off my sleep cycle again now that I’ve finally gotten it back to something semi-routine, but we will see what happens.
I have no idea if I can pull this one off in a way that will actually be even semi-commercial or semi-successful (philosophical question of the day: is there a difference?). I have no idea if the thing will work or not. But it is suddenly just flat-out cool because it’s challenging. It’s like a little puzzle coming to me, due to the way I’ve stumbled upon it, in stages with twists and turns and new emotional tones and … well … it’s just fun.
As you might now tell, this is the story that I will submit. At least, I think it is. I “finished” it this afternoon in pseudo-code. It needs fleshing out at the end, and to be honest, it may need re-arranging. I really just wrote it verbatim as it came to me. It wanders a bit. That’s okay, because I love it for its wanderings right now. Tomorrow we’ll see if we can rope some of those wanderings in. Tomorrow we’ll see if it’s actually any good.
But it won’t really matter to me in the end (of course, I just lied, but we’re are a writer, we’ll ignore that fact for the moment). The mere work that happened this afternoon was worth it. The mere idea of the work. The mere attempt to create something. It was really what matters. And the irony in this is something that you, dear and poor Typosphere reader, will only get to experience if it is ever published. [grin]
Jan 28, 2014 @ 7:43 pm
It’s getting better all the time
It’s easy to think things are going to hell in a handbag in this world of ours. I mean, we’ve got the temperatures and the water levels rising, and we’ve got gun owners all over the country shooting folks (at least, as long as your country is the US), and we’ve got terrorists threatening the Olympics, and we’ve got the income gap that never seems to go away, and we’ve got gender gaps and adhere too staunchly to stereotypes, and we’ve got the big-bad Western world lording ourselves over the rest of the world, and pretty much ignoring the death and disease and all other sorts of destruction that is still so rampant in the third world.
All of those are true–or at least true enough for conversation’s sake.
And, yet …
Among the links I received from a compatriot at my previous place of business included a bit written by the one-and-only Bill Gates* that suggests that things are not quite so bad. In fact, Mr. Gates suggests that things are actually … at least in the big picture … getting better for folks we don’t often think of as having their lives get better.
* I cannot think about Bill Gates without reminding myself of how many folks, me specifically included, considered him the devil incarnate for what he and his company did to choke certain innovations that were happening in the late 80s and 90s. The Gates of today is a growth from the Gates of yesterday, which, for me creates a strange dissonant dichotomy that is hard to really comprehend. But I digress…
His piece reminds me of the very popular Hans Rosling TED talk that shows exactly what is happening to the world, and argues strongly that we (since I’m in the US, I use “we” to mean the self-described “developed countries”) are actually enjoying improved existences, also. If you haven’t seen it, you should. If you’ve seen it, it’s worth a reminder.
Here it is:
Among the things I like about Rosling’s information is that while he’s focusing on the disappearing gaps between the developed countries and third world (which his data shows was very much true in the 1960s), he’s also showing how things are actually getting better in the developed countries over this time too–it’s just that when you’re already in pretty good space, the progress is much harder to feel.
So, yeah, we got problems. And, yeah, things need to keep getting better. But, you know, it really doesn’t suck to be living in these developed worlds these days. I mean, relatively speaking.
Jan 28, 2014 @ 12:00 pm
I still get an occasional email from people I worked with in my corporate world. This weekend, I received one with several interesting links that I intend to talk about here over the next few days. This is one regarding gender in the workplace.
Warning! Warning! Warning! Danger Will Robinson! — what follows is a semi-analytical discussion of gender and society. While I have thought about this topic for some time, and continue to do so, I do not pretend to be an “expert” (if such a thing even exists). Your eyes may roll. Many apologies. If you don’t care to act in at least a semi-civil fashion about the topic, then I’m sure you can find something more interesting to spend your time on. [grin]
The thing I like about this article is that the foundation it uses to build its points begins with the idea that distribution of goals and personality types is the same for all people types that we keep trying to segment our populations into. I think this is one of the most important steps “the world” can take toward resolving our differences with the other–which, in the case of this article happens to be gender.
I also like that the discussion it makes hinges on the idea that human success in areas of intense competition (such as raising through the ranks of the senior executive branch of a company), is greatly enabled by that person’s support structure. I have so very often told Lisa that whatever success I had in my corporate days was completely shared by her, and completely created by the fact that she was doing all the things it takes to maintain a stable household. And I completely lived that fact after she quit working part-time out of the home and became a corporate being. Merely the fact that dinner is ready (or in process) when one gets home from work is a major relief.
I think you can go a long way toward describing the way the world works if you put these two equations together:
1) Despite society’s thinking in the matter, personality traits are actually fairly evenly distributed among people types (in this case, men and women).
2) People (both men and women) are more likely to succeed in competitive endeavors when their support structure allows them to focus all their energy in the areas of their interest.
To use these two lenses, all you really need to do is ask “why?” something exists, then think about these two “equations.”
For example: Why are there more men in positions of power today? Answer, men often have more effective support at home. (Another interesting variant of the question: why do some men win over other men? I posit that oftentimes, it’s because the winner has a stronger support structure).
Another example: Why are there so few women at the top of the corporate food chains? Answer, they tend to not have support structures at home that are as strong as mens’ (meaning, men do not stay at home often, even today, and two income families are very tough to operate in–and even tougher for women because they still tend to do most of the day-to-day work). Why do men not stay in the home? Because we are taught so early in our lives by our support structures that to be a man one must provide. It is not seen (by either men, or women) as cool for a man to be the one who stays at home, but it is often seen as pretty cool for a woman to be a stay-at-home mom.
[Opinion -- in this light, I liked the example in the article of Norwegian leaders' mindset about their country's paternity leave policy--"companies are beginning to question the character and values of a male employee who does not take his paternity leave. What kind of a man would not choose to be with and care for his son or daughter?" ... what a great question, eh?] It all leads me to ask “how many men have lost out on their true calling merely because society made it such that they felt their role was to go make the money?
And it works in non-corporate arenas, too. Why do people get bullied? Answer, they don’t have a strong enough support structure. [Note, in this case, the support structure could be friends, family, or society in general] Why do women get bullied by men in sexually aggressive ways? (aside, I’m no absolute expert, of course, but it seems to me that most, if not all, sexual harassment is essentially a “special case” of bullying–which is all about power and domination) Answers(s): a) Men are competing, actively trying to put themselves one-up on the woman, and feels their support structure supports this, and b) Some still believe women should inherently expect to be addressed in certain ways that, while perhaps not physically aggressive, are still bullying. *
* This case of bullying is interesting because there is some “truth” to the argument that the bully is not really performing sexual harrassment. To use very blunt terms, this kind of abuser sees absolutely no harm in using a term like “cunt” or “bitch” to describe a woman because he also uses the term “dick” or “asshole” to describe a man. Both of these are very aggressive forms of bullying, and the bullier often seems incapable of understanding the difference that gender and the way society has crafted our competitive environment can make.
Anyway, you can go on.
I like thinking about this article in this way because then I can ask other questions that help me think about what the “right” answers are.
For example,(at the risk of being a bit pedantic here) there is absolutely nothing wrong with either men or women competing hard for a position, just as there should be absolutely nothing wrong with a male deciding he wants to be the support structure. However, the male competitor’s support structure needs to sharply curtail a man’s use of his maleness to intimidate (let’s face it, we can speak generically in this area, but today’s world is still mostly about men intimidating women, rather than visa versa). And the woman competitor’s support structure needs to deeply support that woman’s persistence and pursuit–which specifically means that it needs to help her pick herself up when she fails and it needs to help her try again.
Nothing is ever an absolute, of course, and to peel this onion further requires a little squinting of the eyes or a bit more abstract thinking. But as general rules, I think you can study almost every issue you can think of through these two lenses and see that we are basically our own greatest enemy when it comes to getting along.
Jan 27, 2014 @ 9:46 pm
Apropos of nothing, I as made a feeble attempt at writing a steam punk story this past week, in which no zeppelins appear. This, I assume, will be a problem.
So, today, the local radio station we listen to in the morning had one of those silly little trivia things they do to give away tickets to something. The question today had to do with the 40th anniversary of the appearance of Led Zeppelin in Indianapolis’s Market Square Garden (which was a sold-out show). Once Zep was revealed to be the answer to the question, the DJ went on to note that tickets for the event were $8.50.
That’s right: $8.50.
As in, give me a 10 and I’ll give you a buck and a half back.
Proof? You want proof?
Doing some quick math, and assuming a 3% rate of inflation over that time, that means an equivalent ticket today would be $27.73.
An admittedly quick spin around the web says that today I can see Beyonce for (starting at) $460–not counting the airline tickets to London, anyway. Or Katy Perry for $123 in Newcastle. Or Pink for a very reasonable $67 in Anaheim. One Direction is north of $220, no matter where you see them. I can take in the Zack Brown Band for $34 if I can make it to Columbus, Georgia–but it’ll cost at least $60 to see them pretty much anywhere else.
No wonder the minimum wage needs to be raised! No wonder workers at the mega-fast food companies are revolting! Heck, back in my days (back when even if I wasn’t cool, some of my friends were) I was a lifeguard making $4 an hour or whatever, which means I could work for about two hours and that would pay to go see Led Freakin’ Zeppelin!
Today? Well, you can do the math.
I admit that I have to fight the urge to grit my teeth pretty hard when I make some of these comparisons (Coughing heavily in One Direction, in particular, he says coyly), but I get it. The world is different.
Of course, it’s even worse than this, because, you see, the quickest and observiest of you (and by that, I mean Lisa) might note that the Indy concert that the station was actually talking about happened in 1975 (not 1974–Zep wasn’t touring at that point). This means it wasn’t really the 40th anniversary of this concert, but instead the 39th. So that $8.50 ticket only accrues 39 years of inflation, and hence be worth only $26.92.
Jan 24, 2014 @ 6:35 pm
It’s been a busy day.
Accomplishments: 3,400 words on a new story that’s shaping up. Dinner made (kinda). Laundry moved (kinda). A bit of vacuuming (mostly done as a way to get my brain reset on character development rather than plot movement). Fed cat. Fed me!
When I left my “real” job, people often asked me what a writer does all day. At the time, I really didn’t know. Truth is, I still don’t.
Is that a good thing?
Jan 23, 2014 @ 8:29 pm
Okay … I admit I’m sometimes more than a bit dense, and I admit that I’m sometimes not the most adroit person in the area of the political zones that surround social and group interactions. But, I’ve got to admit that this thing where bigwig politicians in Indiana have moved another step closer to including a gay marriage ban in our state constitution is just a little more than embarrassing.
I cannot understand how any person who believes in personal liberty can possibly be for this ban. Except, of course, I can. This is not about liberty. This is about exclusion. It’s so much about exclusion that this group went even further than banning gay marriage, but left in the notorious second clause, the one that specifically banned even civil unions (or at least they think it does, though, for some reason there exists a line of thinking that says no one actually knows what the second piece of the amendment does. Go figure.) This is about a bunch of “old” Republicans ignoring a majority of the rest of the folk around–specifically including younger Republicans (read the article), to poke a stick in the eye of people they don’t seem to understand, don’t seem to respect, and don’t seem to like so much. Are they really this afraid of living in a state where relationships different from theirs might be considered acceptable? Sadly, I guess the answer is yes.
I wish I could actually understand the root of the feelings that folks who support this ban feel. At least I think I wish that. Is it fear? Is it self-righteousness? Is it “merely” a stubborn clinging to a culture that they understand rather than an embracing of things they don’t get? Is it actually hate?
All I can do is guess. This is probably the base problem we have with communication between people. I honestly can’t have an real idea what someone else thinks or feels, so I’m left to fill it in myself. Which, of course, I do. I have my opinions. Those, and a five-dollar bill will get me a sugary coffee at Starbucks.
Like I said, though, I’m no expert here. From what I read it seems like the movement of this bill was neither unexpected, nor really very worrying to the opposition. And I should stop here and say that I continue to be proud of my previous employer, who (as mentioned in the article) has always been a visible and vocal advocate for the opposition of this ban. In fact, thinking about that is probably one reason I decided to write this tonight rather than letting the issue pass without comment. I know that several polls suggest that many folks think this is a “minor” issue, but it’s not. It’s a foundational piece of thought. It’s basic human infrastructure (he says, talking like a wonky engineer). It’s about equality, and it’s about excellence. Without these, nothing else is really possible. You cannot have equality without equal opportunity and equal treatment. You cannot have the most excellent of excellence across society if you’re excluding large portions of your population.
So, yeah … man, I just scratch my head here.
Jan 13, 2014 @ 3:31 pm
Yes, it’s a very strange place, this space between my ears. It’s a place that stretches time, that plays with it, and that sometimes even pretends that time is something real.
Now that I am writing full time, I find that I am becoming considerably more sensitive to the passage of time within any single day (and my apparent misuse of it), yet considerably less observant as to the day itself. For example, Lisa got me a desk calendar for Christmas specifically so I would be reminded of the actual number that this particular day carries. I glanced at it a minute ago, and saw it read “13.” This is good. The 13th is a lucky day in my book, even if it’s not a Friday.
What got me picking at this subject again was that my morning today was not a particularly productive one. By that, I don’t mean that I frittered away the time. I don’t mean that I grazed too much of the interWebz, or wandered incessantly upstairs for snacks, or spent focused inordinately on any other time waster. Instead, I sat dutifully at my desk and created words that were targeted at a story I will sometime complete. I created words. Yes, I did. So when I say I was not particularly productive, I mean that I did not find any of the words I created this morning to be particularly worthy, and that I fully expect none of them will ever be read by anyone else (unless some poor hacker works her way into my hard drive, that is … and if she does, she’ll deserve every word she reads).
At the end of the morning, I was torn between two conflicting views of myself.
The corporate leader and project manager that is still fully resident across most of my thought patterns was distraught. I “wasted” three hours. I mean, just wasted it. Three hours. A full 180 minutes (or more, really), and I have zero words to show for it. What a slacker.
But the artist in me is growing stronger every day, and the artist in there knows that the point of the morning was to show up and to do the work, regardless of what happened. The artist knows the score, understands the process. The artists looks at these last three hours as soak time–that period where the brain is churning over things and trying on ideas and saying “Dear God, no!” and “Well, if you were to tweak that just a little it might sometime be not too embarrassing to show out in public” and the several other kinds of things that (what I’ll endearingly call) my personal muse goes through as I’m figuring things out. The artist knows these last three hours were not wasted, but were, instead, part of the deal.
This means that, yes, I throw a lot of words away.
So, you say, that all sounds good. But what happens if the good stuff never comes together? What if the good stuff never shows up, and you wind up throwing out all the words all the time?
Since, again, I have a calendar on my desk, I can, again, report that this is the 13th day of the month (and, by chance, the 13th day of the year). I can also report that in this month I have, to date, finished three short stories, comprising something in the range of 10,800 words of what I will call “publishable” fiction (in this context, “publishable” means only that a work is completely finished through first draft, all personal revisions, copy editing, and through any other refinement I felt was needed, and that the story therein is what I consider “good.” In general, it also means the story is either on an editor’s desk or in transit to same). I have another 5,500 short story that I will be finishing up here shortly, probably 2K of those words were done in January (the rest in December). Given these numbers, I’ll state that I’ve been averaging essentially 1,000 publishable words a day for the first two weeks of the year. If you could stand over me and watch me work, however, you would see that those 1,000 words a day never come flowing out in simple, free-flowing 1,000 word chunks. Well … almost never. Okay. I lied. Sometimes they do come out in those rivers and currents–but those times are almost always preceded by an hour or two or three or … more of bouncing other words off the page while I wait to get into the right flow.
This is unfortunate, but it does seem, for me, to be true. Catching that flow–and ensuring it’s the “right” flow–is the issue. That is the magic.
The story I finished yesterday, for example, managed to see light of day only after I explored the starts of three other stories and deemed them not interesting enough to carry me. Each of those stories required me to invest time to decide if they were the right ones, and that time “paid off” when I hit the flow that gave me that “aha!” burst of energy that told me I actually cared about it and was interested enough in it to drive through to its end–the arrival at which then came with relative haste. I could say that it took me only a day and a half to write the story I wound up with, and I wouldn’t be totally lying (though it was a long day and a half). But the truth is that I was working on the idea for two or three days prior to that without arriving at any words that would remind anyone of the final draft I wound up with.
The project manager in me calls those first two and a half days “wasted.” The artist in me just gives that guy a knowing nod, understanding that the world needs movers and shakers like him–and in fact, happy (most of the time) that this piece of him exists. But as he’s nodding at the PM that sits inside me, the artist portion of me just moves on to squint at the next blank page and imagine which words might look best on it, which words might capture the essence of what it is that I might have to say.
This is because the artist side of me knows that there really is no garbage. It knows that the words you throw out are just as necessary as the words you keep. The artist side understands that the “good stuff” happens in different ways every time, that it’s all good stuff in its own way. The artist side of me knows that it will always come together as long as I trust in it, and as long as I give it the space to let it happen in its own way.
Jan 10, 2014 @ 10:16 pm
I’m a couple days late here, but it’s nice to be able to note that two of my stories published last year made Tangent Online’s Recommended Reading List.
Jan 9, 2014 @ 6:18 pm
Before leaving my cushy corporate job to take on this life as a full time writer, I talked to a heard other folks who were doing this, and they all said the biggest problem they had was that there was never enough time to do all the things they needed to do. You’re at home, they said. So you get to do all the home stuff. And people (and cats, for that matter) think you’re not really doing a job, so they don’t get that you’re busy. And, of course, you’re at home, so there are distractions.
I admit I laughed at them a bit. Sure, I said to myself. Those people have no idea what they are talking about. They had time running out their … ahem … backsides, and they’re telling me that?
Now, of course, I completely understand.
I don’t think, for example, that I’ve had a full workday since mid-December. By that I don’t mean I’ve been slacking off. I mean that between holidays and snow shoveling and getting up to date on a couple TV shows and going to movies while my beloved was off work herself, and the keeping of the logistics of the house going and whatnot, I’ve not been able to actually set aside a day and “go to work” like I would if I were, well, working. Today was as close as I’ve gotten, and this actually missed by a bit since I didn’t get an early enough start.
I did, however, manage to get a couple of my bigger writing projects done–a couple that you will hopefully hear more about in the near future. We shall see.
In the meantime, I’m grabbing an early dinner and getting ready to go to a local writer’s group. That counts as “work,” now, doesn’t it?
Jan 2, 2014 @ 8:53 pm
I am clearly the Strangest Person on the Face of the Planet. I admit it freely. This is because I appear to be the only person in existence who, as a general rule, does not view the weather as a particularly interesting bit of news. In fact, most of the time, I do not view it as news at all. Yes, I want to know the forecast, but you can give that to me in 30 seconds and I’ll be fine. Sixty seconds, max. In fact, I’m perfectly content if you just put the forecast up on a screen for 15 seconds, split in such a way as to show me what’s coming for the next few days.
I mean, seriously. I live in Indiana. How can it be news that it snowed in January? I don’t understand. I also don’t understand how people, upon hearing that it’s going to snow (in Indiana during January), can get overly amped up. This is news? Clearly, though, I am alone in this thinking. Clearly, I am the Strangest Person on the Face of the Planet.
Again. I agree that I want to hear what’s coming. Once. That’s helpful. And I guess it’s fair to note when a snow sets a record (assuming it actually does set said record). But otherwise it seems to me that it would be best to just acknowledge the fact and move on.
But I am obviously the outlier.
Today I saw a traffic cam–a news broadcaster doing the story from inside a car driving on the roads. Clearly, someone thinks this is interesting. I, however, the self-admitted Strangest Person on the Face of the Planet, find this to be among the silliest things I’ve seen a reporter do. Yes, I know that’s a broad statement. But I suggest this the kind of thing the Strangest Person on the Face of the Planet can get away with.
Anyway. Just thought you needed to know that.
You can go back to the weather report, now. [grin]
Dec 24, 2013 @ 12:34 am
So, tonight I finally got around to making the “Second First Prize” recipe in my “Fry it up in the pan” contest, Sharon Bass’s “Chicken with pan sauces” (complete with directions on how to make a roux). I adjusted it a tad, adding caraway and parsley, and adding broccoli rather than the mushrooms that my sweetie doesn’t have much taste for.
It was fun to make, though I underestimated the timing, of course (I’m new enough at this that I’m almost always underestimating the time it takes to do about anything in the kitchen, including cleaning up afterwards). Lisa reported that it was quite yummy, which–at the risk of patting myself on the back–I’ll agree with.
This means Sharon can now officially claim her prize. Woo Hoo!
Here’s the photo!
Dec 22, 2013 @ 4:22 pm
Conversation today as we’re getting into the car:
Lisa: Don’t do anything stupid.
Ron: [Looking at her directly] Honey, you’re going to have to be a lot more specific than that.
So, how’s your holiday starting? [grin]
Dec 21, 2013 @ 11:14 am
I’ve been working on this short story now for over a week. It’s going to end up at about 6K words, which is fine. A story needs to be whatever it’s going to be. But it’s a complex story, and it’s taken a lot of writing and rethinking. Yesterday I was stuck, and I was actually dreading the process of looking at it again. I needed to write some new stuff to get it to a final shape, and I was just kinda done with it. You know what I mean, right? It just didn’t get me going to think about working on it.
Other times, I would have just jumped to another project and hoped to come back to this one. But I really, really want to get this thing cleared out. I need it to be out of the queue.
Changing topics for a moment …
Last time I went to work out, I listened to a Ted Talk Radio Hour podcast that was about spoken and unspoken communication. Amid the collection of talks that were touched on was one by Amy Cuddy about body language. You can find the entire talk below. In this talk she showed some scientific evidence that the concept of “Fake it Till You Make it” thing can really work (Though I like her rephrasing of it to “Fake it until you become it” even if it doesn’t rhyme as well). Specifically, she shows how some tests she’s been involved in suggest that taking power poses for a few minutes before attacking a tough situation or problem can really help you out. She showed several such poses, including the traditional “Super Man” pose–though she called it the “Wonder Woman” pose, which is just fine with me.
the video’s the standard 18 minutes, but it’s a good one and worth the investment.
Okay, back to the manuscript in question …
So, yesterday, rather than fiddle with another story, I decided to try it. I started my morning session with a couple minutes of standing in the Super Man/Wonder Woman pose, and telling myself that I was stronger than this story and that I could bend it to my will. Then I started writing. Next thing you know, the story part was done, and done in a way that I like. I still have some detail to fiddle with (half of which I finished this morning, the other half of which I’ll (hopefully) finish in my next full writing session. If that works out, the thing will be out of my queue and all will be right with the world again.
Was this because of Wonder Woman or Super Man? No. Of course not. I was because of me.
But then again, perhaps this means I’m a super hero’s alter-ego in waiting.
Hey … it could happen!
Dec 18, 2013 @ 3:41 pm
If you know me a little, you’ll know that I have this thing for baseball. It’s mathematics just sticks with me. 90 feet between the bases. Perfect. Differing home parks. Beautiful. Pitchers and hitters. Best match-up sport ever devised.
I love other sports, too–college basketball in particular. But baseball is to be enjoyed at a different level.
Due to my intent focus on the sport for come time, Lisa, my much better half, became a baseball fan for many years, too. It cooled as my focus shifted to fake sports (which is, perhaps something for a different blog post. But she followed the game closely for some time, and even played fantasy baseball for a few seasons–performing better than most of the guys in the league wanted her to perform. She had only one rule: Ryne Sandberg was hers.
Against this backdrop …
One of my favorite baseball writers is blogging down his 100 best players in baseball history. This one’s for Lisa.
Dec 17, 2013 @ 5:09 pm
Scene: Ron, standing in kitchen, holding bottle of water, scratching cat.
Ron: I’m heading downstairs to write for the next hour and a half.
Cat: (speaking with eyes only, and perhaps a single tweak of a whisker) Yeah, right.
Ron: I hope to make at least four good words.
Cat: (gives cat chuckle, which looks remarkably like a faraway stare to anyone except a cat owner)
Ron: Would you, uh, happen know what those four might be?
Cat: (walks down stairwell, swishing tail, the universal signal for) Like I’m gonna tell you that?
Ron shrugs and goes downstairs to waste 90 minutes.
Dec 16, 2013 @ 1:54 pm
This morning started, like so many December mornings seem to, with a quick running of the snow shovel over the driveway. Hmpf.
In more interesting “news,” I woke up today with something I’ll call a full story stuck in my mind. So, once the driveway was done and the beloved wife deposited at her place of work, I started my “real” day with a burst of free-writing that put the whole thing down into one very, very rough form. But even in that brief process, the story as I remembered it from my waking became considerably deeper. I must admit, though, that there is a good chance that this extra depth is a result of having spent the morning shoveling, because while I was out there on the driveway, I did my best to keep the story in place (hoping desperately that it would not slip away). Who knows what things grew deeper due to my work to clutch at it out there in the snow?
When that was done, I turned my sites to some business things and some other basic administration of life itself.
At least I had my priorities in order, eh?
Dec 15, 2013 @ 11:16 am
If you like action-oriented, old-time, hold-onto-your-seat Heinlienesque SF, I suggest you check out William Crow Johnson’s two books, Earth 2.0: Prison Planet and his new one, Earth 2.1: Regensis. Big books about bold characters that move. Three bucks apiece on the kindle. What’s not to like, eh?
Full Disclosure: Bill’s a writing buddy of mine (and he’s written me a very nice acknowledgement in 2.1!), so take whatever bias that might entail into account. But I’ve read them both and think they’re great fun.