Dec 6, 2013 Uncategorized
I love when this happens.
So for Quite Some Time, I’ve been calling Episode 6, well, um, Episode Six. Not like Episode Seven: Lord of the Freeborn. Just Episode Six.
This was no good.
Then John Bodin, who is a first reader of mine, said he was nearly ready for it, and I decided I needed a title. Yet, I couldn’t come up with one. Still. In addition, I realized I needed to make an adjustment to Episode Six to make it work with Episode Seven (one of the reasons I’m writing the whole series before releasing it, I suppose). So the last three days has been spent in a last read-out(*), and in knitting (#) the new pieces into the work.
* A read-out is where I read the entire piece out loud as a prose check. Does it sound good? Do the words actually work as they are spoken rather than just sound good in my head?
# Special “knit” call-out to HM
Now all that is done. I need to smooth one exit chapter, but the real work is done.
Then, just a moment ago, I went to the top of the file and put down the new title to Episode Six: Changing of the Guard.
It’s simple. It fits.
Seriously, how do things work? And why do they take so danged long sometimes?
Note to John: Watch out for incoming.
Dec 5, 2013 Uncategorized
Book recommendation: I’m only a quarter of the way through it, but Jim Hines’ Libriomancer is a lot of fun.
I can tell it’s going to take a few weeks for me to settle into whatever my daily cycle is going to be–maybe a few months, really, since December is a weird month. Part of my problem, to be honest, is that I’m dealing with a weird, but possibly happy side-project right now, one that popped up out of the blue and is taking considerable time out of random portions of the day. The other problem is that I have too many project I want to spend time on.
I know. Poor Ron.
That said, it seems that I’m getting the bulk of my creative work done in the morning, splitting it into two chunks of 60-90 minute focused stages. Then I break for lunch and do something entertaining, but relevant … thinks like watching an episode of Orphan Black on Monday, or watching Stephen King talk about writing on YouTube yesterday, or Malcom Gladwell today. The afternoon is a mix of business, creation, and home stuff.
So far, so good.
A couple quick reviews of “Primes”:
Sam Tomaino of SFReview likes it.
And I posted this through twitter last night, but I’ll include it here for completeness sake, and because … well … Colleen Chen of Tangent Online likes it a lot. [grin]
Dec 2, 2013 Uncategorized
I’m sure everyone is on the edge of their seats waiting to hear about the winner of the “Fry it Up in a Pan” Sweepstakes.
First, let me say that I was happy to receive every recipe you all sent–and there were several. I suspect I will make all of them at one time or another. But there were two in particular I thought were the most noteworthy. As such I will arbitrarily decide to make two awards (though I created only one masterpiece today, hence only one is eligible for the “Hero” portion of the award package).
First Prize–and the recipe that’s stewing as I type–is a version of Guinness Beef Stew sent to me by Matt Horgan. Matt is a guy I’ve known from work for some time, and a guy who’s been writing in bits and drabs for some time. We shared a table of contents for an anthology released through the now-defunct Fictionwise. There is probably considerable truth to the idea that his recipe won the prize because, in order to make it, I needed to buy a bottle of Guinness Extra Stout. And … well … did you know these things come in six-packs? Beyond that, I scaled the recipe down a bit, so there just happened to be more left in the bottle as I put the recipe together, hence I had a tiny libation to follow my lunch of leftover pizza.
That’s right, one day as a freelance writer and I’m already drinking.
I blame it all on Matt.
Second First Prize goes to Imp Extraordinaire, Sharon Bass. She sent me a recipe for something she calls “Chicken with Pan Sauces” that sounds totally delish, and includes some directions for making a roux. Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but just the sound of the word roux alone is enough to draw my interest. I mean, saying “roux” makes me think of Winnie the Pooh and blustery days, and thinking of blustery days and Winnie the Pooh makes me think of Tigger. An thinking of Tigger is a wonderful thing.
So, winners, per the rules, feel free to drop me notes to tell me what you want. I’ll get to sending them your way pronto. And Matt, I’ll let you (and the world, I suppose) know the results of the Hero portion of this thing sometime later tonight!
I’ll leave you with a few photos:
Me, reading the ingredients:
Me, thinking about real cooking:
The crock pot, stewing away:
Nov 29, 2013 Uncategorized
I love seeing how “experts” think about things, and I especially enjoy hearing the oddities in how they talk about them. People, you see, say the dumbest things. I know, because I are a people, and I often say things that make others look at me askew. I like to think most of the time I get that reaction, though, it’s because I’ve said something that, while it goes against the grain, is true. I like to think that it’s this truth that catches people’s breath.
Of course, I also like to think that ice cream has no calories, so take that for what it’s worth.
Regardless, it’s been my experience that the very best time to pull out the old BS-o-meter is when words come from the mouths of experts. Experts, it seems, are often not really very expert at all. Oh, you can find them–experts who really are expert. But it’s not as easy as you would like. Most people, often don’t really know what they are doing and can’t describe it very well when you dig down deeply. Don’t believe me? Just ask them to draw a process diagram. Then watch the cartwheels and jousting begin.
My latest enjoyment in this vein came from an article linked in someone’s Facebook or Twitter feed. I can’t remember which. But it’s a piece in Business Insider titled “Dumb things Finance People Say.” It’s full of fun little bits, and I admit I enjoy the commentary the article provides on each of them.
Among my favorite:
1. “They don’t have any debt except for a mortgage and student loans.”
3. “Earnings missed estimates.”
4. “Earnings met expectations, but analysts were looking for a beat.”
8. “More buyers than sellers.”
16. “Our bullish case is conservative.”
24. “Investors are fleeing the market.”
These are just flat-out silly, and represent faulty logic and faulty statements at the most basic level. I enjoy the article’s responses–especially the response to “Earnings Missed Estimates” (no, simple cause and effect thinking allows us to see the it’s the estimate that’s the problem here), and “More Buyers than Sellers” (of which there are, by definition, always an equal amount of each).
Then there are phrases that are maybe more the lingo of the environment than anything else, but are, again entertaining for the way they reveal the thinking behind the comment:
2. “Earnings were positive before one-time charges.”
14. “We’re trying to maximize returns and minimize risks.”
17. “We look where others don’t.”
22. “We’re constructive on the market.”
25. “We expect more volatility.”
28. “This is a cyclical bull market in a secular bear.”
There are times I wonder why people talk like this. What reason do they have for making these kinds of misstatements? But I get it. I do. It’s among the beauties of people and of language. We use language for several reasons, and among them are to sway people to do things we want or to think the way we think. Hence you get these kinds of statement s from experts in certain fields (Finance folks are not the only ones you could write an article like this on). They aren’t all lies, of course. Some have elements of truth. Some highlight a single slice of the truth, essentially giving that slice prioritization over others. Some carry a message inside their obviously erroneous nature (“People are fleeing the market” for example can be right even if all stocks are owned at all times–but the actual event that is happening is that “even though prices are falling, a lot of people are selling their possessions as rapidly as they can.” If an expert were to talk about it in those terms, terms that actually describe what is happening, you might interpret this as “What a great time to buy”–which, assuming you have some disposable cash on hand and are not terribly risk averse, it actually is. I mean, who are these few buyers, and when do they expect to turn a profit buying these properties whose prices are in free fall? Tell me, experts, who are the dunces here? Wouldn’t it be just as proper–and more helpful–to say “savvy investors are picking up great buys?”).
Anyway. This was my fun read of the day, and I thought perhaps you might like it, too.
Nov 28, 2013 Uncategorized
I know … this place is getting thick with an unending stream of “lasts” and publishing news. While I’m going to promise to go light on the “lasts” from here on out, I hope to be unable to promise a slow-down on publishing news. Tonight is no exception.
Sorry, but I’m really not too sorry about that. [grin]
My short story “Midnight at River’s Edge” was published in e-form by Daily Science Fiction a while back. Now you can get it in Not Just Rockets and Robots, an anthology consisting of an entire year’s worth of work that appeared on the site. At $25, it’s less than a dime a story. Who can beat that?
Nov 7, 2013 Uncategorized
The third book that I’ve finished in the past month or so, is not SF at all. Instead, it’s a mystery. Or is it? If you don’t know, I’m not telling:
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
This is a story of a love affair between Nick and Amy, only Nick is really Lance, who is really just kind of self-centered in a writerly sort of way, and Amy is really … well … Amy is really intense in a screwed up, super-nice sorta way and until she winds up missing one day after being involved in what appears to have been a violent attack in her living room. This sets off a series of revelations that make the first half of the book something really remarkable. I mean, seriously, reading the first half of this book was, for me, just flat-out-fun.
The last half is just as interesting, and the plot just as twisted, but the ending is a bit abrupt for my taste. Your mileage may vary, though, as a scan of web reviews seems to say it’s a love-it-or-hate-it ending, which I can totally see. My two cents worth is that I left feeling like I was missing something important about what these two characters had to say.
Among the things I enjoyed about this story, though, was that Gillian Flynn draws her male and female characters with unmerciful clarity, leaning on stereotype in unrepentant and inventive ways to fuel the story.
A solid read.
Nov 6, 2013 Uncategorized
I’ve written recently about my triumphant domination of my New Years resolution regarding physical activity–that being my quest to average at least 20,000 steps a day. I admit it’s fun to discuss the “walking resolution” because I’m kicking total step butt on it. It turns out that 20K is really not that difficult when you decide to just change things.
This was not, however, my only resolution.
Today I must confess I have not been as diligent about the reading thing as I had hoped. Sigh.
To remind: my resolution was to read at least one short story each day. I stuck to that plan pretty well for about three months, then I got side-tracked and let it slip and never fully got back into the swing. Life took off, you know, and then my virtual dog ate all my electronic magazines, and you know exactly how that is, right? Honest–may the powers that be grant me a three-book contract if I’m lying!
I have read since then, of course. I’ve even talked about what I was reading around here every now and again. But I haven’t dug in and hit anything like the daily goals I had set. So, yeah, technically I have to consider my resolution to be a failure, but all is not lost. And I’ve sucked it up quite a bit recently, and have actually finished three novels in the past month or so. And since I can recommend all three, I figure I’ll talk about them over the next day or three, in order of my preference. So, let’s start here:
Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon.
I don’t think you can read this book and not come away having learned something about yourself and about the world around you. It won a Nebula award in 2003, despite being only tangentially a work of SF and despite there being almost no real plot, so you figure it has to have something going for it. For me (as it was for most of the other gazillion folks who have written about this book), that “something” is Lou Arrendale, an autistic worker in a group of autistic employees who is drawn so clearly that he exposes the very deepest truths about the nature of what it means to be human.
I read this because it was recommended to Lisa at a WorldCon panel she went to last fall, which I think is always a pretty good sign. I admit that–for me–the ending wasn’t as strong as the journey, but the journey was well worth it.
Nov 4, 2013 Uncategorized
“How many days?”
Lisa was driving us home from work. It was a question she had asked before–how many more work days before my career at the day job is over? In the past I’ve poo-pooed the question. In the past I didn’t have a solid date selected, but that’s different now.
Now there is a date, and that date is November 30, which means we also have a countdown.
17 Work Days. Not counting the vacation day I’ll take in there somewhere.
17 Work Days.
And so, in celebration, I give you:
Nov 4, 2013 Uncategorized
At the continued risk of sounding like a pretentious, overblown navel-gazer, I suppose that during this period of semi-introspection I’m going through it’s not too surprising that I’m finding a bunch of cases where synchronicity is raising its marvelously strange head. (Odd, isn’t it? When you start actually paying attention to something, you see it everywhere … kinda like when you buy a new car, you suddenly see that same model everywhere, right?)
Anyway, as I’ve noted around here a few times, I try to be active, and that means I hit the gym a bit. Like a bazillion others, when I hit the gym, I listen to stuff. I assume most listen to music, but me, I listen to podcasts I find interesting. Among them are the TED Radio Hour, which is a compilation of TED Talks centered about a subject.
They’re all interesting in some way or another, but the one I’m thinking about now is one about identity. How we see ourselves. How we see others. What makes us what we are.
I don’t have any answers for you this morning. But I thought you might be interested in checking it out. One thing I like about this site is that you can grab the whole thing (which will cost you nearly an hour to listen to), or just dig into individual bits. How convenient, eh?
Nov 3, 2013 Uncategorized
For various reasons I’ve been thinking a lot about quality work recently, and likewise about art. Some of this is tied up in things going on at work, but most of it is probably me trying to decide who it is that I want to be as I move into this next phase. It comes up when friends ask what I’m going to be doing–how many books I’ll write, will they all be SF, or whatever it is that I write (grin). It’s also tied up in Lou Reed’s death, which has struck me in a way that was much deeper than I would have imagined.
I don’t mean that in the morbid, dreary way it might sound. I’m terribly sorry he died, of course, but I’m thinking about him more for the remarkable art that he left behind. I don’t love it all by any means, but I very deeply respect it.
And then along the way I found this little piece of video that (for all its, again, heavy emotion) really struck a nerve about what it means to be an artist.
I’ll leave it to you to decide if I’m just getting a bit over the top silly here, but I can’t help but feel something important in that video, and despite it’s subject matter it makes me feel strangely good about people with a true purpose, true calling, or, well, maybe just people with a truth.
I admit fully that I don’t know what that is, but whatever it is I’m pretty sure that I want it. Even if it’s just a tiny slice. [grin]
Nov 1, 2013 Uncategorized
“How many hours a day will you work as a writer?” a friend of mine at work asked.
This is relevant because I’m spending a lot of effort studying work hours and organizational effectiveness. And it’s relevant because I’ve taken a lot of this work to leadership for overall discussion and awareness. It’s relevant because there’s a lot of interest in the subject, though I’m not sure anyone knows what to do with it. In other words, I’m having fun with it, but I’m not certain it’s going to impact much, yet.
“I have no idea,” I said. “I guess is depends on whether you consider doing things like cutting the grass as work.”
And he said something like, “ah, okay, so you’ll be working less than a full time job.” Those aren’t his exact words. I don’t remember his exact words. But that was the thought behind them. I understand why he would say that, and in truth I guess he’s right enough. But that misses the point. Cutting the grass is very important for me. I don’t like it. It’s not fun. But it’s a simple, repetitive task that allows me to disconnect physically and mentally from whatever I’m focused on and let ideas from other places crash together
As usual, I have ton more to say on this subject, but I’m out of time this morning. So I’ll just leave you for now with this.
Some of my best work is done while I’m cutting the grass, or while I’m walking around in Mill Race Park, or while I’m meditating (to some it might look like zoning out, but that’s their problem!) over lunch … and I mean that “best work thing” for both my job in Corporate America and for my writing gig.
If you want to do great work, find ways to step back for moments. Break up your day. It’s okay, really. It works out better in the end. And, yes, I would still say I’m working at those moments.
If others don’t get it, well, that’s their loss, right?
Oct 1, 2013 Uncategorized
Sometimes the world is a wondrous place. Sometimes it reaches out and gives you presents. This weekend was one of those times. I’ll leave you hanging on the actual present until tomorrow, because I’m like that, I guess, but mostly because I want to get a picture of it to do it up right. Suffice to say that it was a very, very cool present the world handed me, and that certain friends of mine will be mega-jealous.
Anyway, we had a long, but most excellent weekend in the Detroit area, wherein we took in Brigid’s first signing and got to see her and Nick’s first house in mid-build stage. Here’s a picture of the place and the proud owners:
When we got back, I finished a short story. Kind of. And went to bed. It was late. Very late. But such is the hard life that I live.
Seriously, though. That present was pretty cool. Just wait.
Sep 26, 2013 Uncategorized
This is a very strange time at work. The news of my impending move away from the corporate world and into the life of a freelance writer is pretty much searching it’s happy place. This means that people are stopping me in the hallways, or pausing in the quiet moments before and after meetings. They tell me they’ve heard about my next step, and they’re excited for me. They’re interested. They wish me well and they all say how cool they think it is that I’m taking this opportunity.
In the meantime, I’m still working on a final date to transition (I fully intend to go out on the highest of high notes possible), so while I dearly love and appreciate the thoughts, I find I’m not able to actually see the end of the tunnel.
Odd, I know. But, hey, that’s just how it is.
I have such a tough, tough life.
In the meantime, I set aside episode 7, Lord of the Freeborn for a couple days because I’m working on a collaboration with Bill Crow Johnson, another SF guy around here who has indie published a couple books. It’ll take another day, then it’s back to it.
Of course, we’ll be in Detroit this weekend for Brigid’s signing. Yippee!
Sep 23, 2013 Uncategorized
So, we’re going on nine weeks from Lisa’s surgery, and she’s making progress every day. She’s moved from boots to shoes and from two crutches to one. And today she’s taken several steps without a crutch at all. In fact, we took a bit of a walk down the street when we got home tonight, probably 500 steps or more, and she did most of them without a crutch at all.
Time is flying. Kinda.
Even better, for the first time since she’s been weight bearing she registered over 7,000 steps–which so happens to be a reward level in out Health Miles program. That’s the first time since her surgery.
Sep 23, 2013 Uncategorized
It’s been around a long time, of course, but I still find “Under Pressure” to be a song that stops me in my tracks. They played it on the radio this morning as I was making Lisa’s oatmeal (she’s still got morning exercises to do, and it’s still a good idea to keep her off her feet as much as is practical right now, so I’m still on breakfast duty).
It’s a great song, layered in its making as well as its content.
The bass hook announces itself, and then Bowie and Mercury take over and the song soars to so many different places. You hear this weird mix of tension and respect and one-upsmanship between them. Two stars. Two diva’s as it were, on equal footing, slugging it out for control of the piece. There is pressure there, even if its unspoken, a constant challenge and response. But there is also joy in the scat of their lyrics and in the jaunty backbone to the bass line–the hand-clap, the finger-snap rhythm. The musicians clamor underneath the vocal, toiling like men in the boiler room to give the song cohesion. The pace builds as if it is life itself. And this is life, after all, isn’t it? Someone takes care of the details while everything else is rushing by, and in the mix of sounds that make the whole of the song you soon realize the constant raising beat of the drums that increase the tension that has been carried in the vocal mix until it cannot be sustained without some kind of intervention.
Then the piece gets to its last third, that last minute and a half that is a pure call to put all problems and disagreements aside and just give love one more chance, why can’t we give love one more chance, why can’t we give love, give love give love give love …
Sep 19, 2013 Uncategorized
… me, I guess.
Here’s another reason to look forward to full-time freelancing. kinda. Today I slept in, which means that if I’m going to hit a medium-fair wordcount I’ll need to cram writing into the rest of my day. Yes, I know. Woe is me. But still …
Since I’m on the topic, here’s another asapSCIENCE video you might find interesting and even helpful in your own life.
Dealing with limited sleep is an issue I’m familiar with. Given I’ve had a full-time job for all this time, I have generally chosen the painful, but not terribly unusual approach of writing in the very early hours of the morning. I set my alarm for 4:00, and most of the time that works fine. But as it gets later in the week, I’ll admit that it gets more difficult to get up. One can assume it’s because my body accumulates sleep debt over the week, but that’s just me guessing.
Anyway, this is a problem I won’t have in some number of weeks.
Sep 17, 2013 Uncategorized
If you love baseball (or sports in general, or just occasional interesting things from unusual angles), you’ve got to read Joe Posnanski. Here’s a recent bit on Vlad Guerrero that captures him, and perhaps the core of the game, as perfectly as possible.
Sep 10, 2013 Uncategorized
I admit I’m stymied about how to respond to the recent discussion about gender and race in science fiction. I get it all and I agree with the general focus, though I tend to think of things as always in transition and get a bit angsty at folks with the most one-toned responses. They are complex issues.
Just because I was interested, I went back to the twelve stories that I’ve published (or will be publishing) this year and looked at the main characters I’ve written about. I think that’s really all we should do as writers, really–just be sensitive to what we’re actually doing. I mean, it’s fine to write characters however they need to be, and however you want them to be. You’re the writer after all. You should always be free to write what you want, and if you want to write nothing but straight females from Albuquerque, then by all means more power to you. But I think it’s probably a good practice to see if there is anything that you’re falling back on sub-consciously, and I think it’s not only fair but vitally important to spend time thinking about the way you’re treating your characters. They deserve a life, after all. They do not want to be caricatures.
I was pleased (if that’s the right word), to see that of the twelve stories, only three were completely dominated by a single “classical” Caucasian-American male point of view, though a fourth may count since I wrote a Brit in “Operation Hercules.” (FWIW, writing a different culture, IMHO, is the issue, really, not just writing a different skin color–writing a culture is work and art, writing a skin color is politics…so in my book, writing a Brit counts as stretching my cultural muscles).
That said, though my work does slant Caucasian and male (which should not be surprising, since that’s what I am), I have written (if I’m doing my quick count right) written from the points of view of six characters of some color, three females, and one full-tilt alien. I’ve written from the points of view of two young kids, a couple college-aged kids, and people across the spectrum of middle-ages. I’ve written mostly about characters whose sexual preference is not commented upon, so are generally assumed (I assume) to be straight, though I do have a gay orientation in “Following Jules.”
Here’s a quick run-down:
“Operation Hercules” – British officer (Caucasian, but a Brit)
“Out of the Fire” – A male kid, unraced, but probably interpreted as Caucasian. He is a boy, though. (Okay, I hear you honey, juvenile is not a stretch for me),
“After” – Ungendered, unraced, so probably read as white male due to my authorship. I note the illustration was done as a person of color, though, so I’ll take it.
“Speeding” (with John Bodin) – Two male leads, one of far-eastern descent, and the other unraced and most likely to be read as Caucasian.
“The Legend of Parker Clark and Lois Jane” – Caucasian male.
“The Teammates” – Though I admit there is little to note it, I always wrote the character as black (I would say African American, but the story is set at a time there may well be no America, so that racial nomenclature may not apply).
“Following Jules” – College aged, gay female, most likely Caucasian.
“Schrödinger’s Soldier” – No description, but I see him as Caucasian.
“Bugs” – Probably my most middle-class, white male character in the bunch
“The Flying Contraption” (To Be Published) – Young female, Caucasian
“Primes” (to be published) – Multiple PVO, Caucasian male, African American male, Caucasian male, and Latina female.
“Survivors” (to be published) – Alien point of view
I’m not sure what to make of it all, but it was interesting to take a look at, and it gives me some perspective of what I’ve been doing. So, it seemed worth the 15 minutes or so it took to put this post together.
Take that all for what it’s worth.
Aug 30, 2013 Uncategorized
It’s strange attending a convention that I’m not participating in. In some ways it feels like I’m not actually here, but on the other hand, it’s also kind of freeing. I’m doing the best I can to look at things going on around me–watch people and listen better to their conversations, pay attention to their questions. Watch how they react to responses. These are my readers, after all. Or at least a good chunk of them.
What follows are a few notes about our first two days here in San Antonio.
Wednesday – Day 0: Wherein we meet-cute with IMPs
Day one of the convention was really day 0, meaning we arrived Tuesday night and then had Wednesday to walk around the city a little. This was good because Lisa is, of course, still working at getting around on crutches. She had a record day in this regard, posting well over 9,000 steps for the first time since her surgery. We didn’t sight-see, so much as fiddle around on the Riverwalk–though we did take a boat ride that gave us some history of the place. I admit I was a bit angsty at times. I assume this is pre-convention normalcy for me. But what do I know? It could just be that I’m tired. [grin]
Anyway, at the end of the day we did dinner at Casa Rio, which is a decent Mexican place. To get there we had to brave stairs, which Lisa is rejoicing in having “mastered” (if that’s the word). “Tackled,” is perhaps better. She was tired after a long day, and as we left she made the first half of the steps up without much issue, but struggled with the last half. A couple people passed us, then as she was slowly making her way up, one stopped and waited on her to make she was okay. I talked Lisa up, and she made it. When we paused, I looked up to talk to the woman who had stopped and saw it was JB Galler-Smith (IMP extraordinare, and co-editor of OnSpec), accompanied by another IMP (Sharon Bass), Lezli Robyn, and Ita (whose last name I’ve forgotten, but who is a member of the OnSpec staff). It was a surprise for all of us, and we had a very nice fifteen minute or so conversation.
So, that was Day 1. Or Day 0. Or whatever.
Thursday – Day 1: the Starting Gun Goes Off
The convention actually started today. Lisa and I did breakfast, then wandered over to register and set up program elements we might be interested in. As usual, Lisa’s load was light. Normally she would pretty much just run through the huckster room and the art show, then head to the mall. But her mobility slows her down in that fashion, so she did a couple events. Despite this “slothfulness, I think she finished with another 8,000 steps. That’s a big chunk for two days in a row. No wonder she’s a little achy tonight.
Highlights of the day:
1) Watching Joe Halderman read. I’ve done that before, but I watched his audience this time. He’s a master, you know? Also liked hearing him read an opening to his current book that he threw away because it wouldn’t work–but he read it because he really liked it, and I can see why. It was really interesting. Then he read the story as it starts now. I see exactly why he ditched the original opening. Quite a lesson, there. Have I mentioned that he’s a master?
2) Connie Willis, Emma Newman, Gark Wolfe, and Mur Lafferty playing “Just a Minute.” Mur is pretty good by herself (at least she is on her podcasts, of course), but Connie Willis is the point guard of SF panels, making everyone else better.
3) Learning a bit about biology. Or at least a bit according to one biologist. I liked hearing him chat over areas of controversy in such a simple question as “what is life?” I walked away with a couple themes that will probably show up in my writing soon.
4) Hearing the not-so-subtle differences in the reactions of professionals who are fundamentally on the “traditional” side of things, and professionals who are fundamentally on the “indie” side of things. Not surprisingly, they come to things from very different directions.
Aug 10, 2013 Uncategorized
More good stuff coming in about my novelette “Following Jules.” SFRevu says: This was a beautiful story about love.
I’ll take it. [grin]
Without going into specifics, it’s been a very long month. My pure output has dwindled, and I’ve lost momentum on the projects I had in the pipeline. Oh, it’s okay, of course. Everything will settle back in. But I admit I feel out of sorts at the moment. It takes longer to get into the swing of things, and I’m considerably easier to distract. Sigh.
These are the times I need to focus more, need to keep my mind on the target. I know this. I do. I’m doing all the right things. So it’s time to just breathe deep, think good thoughts, and ride this wave out. Everything will settle before I know it. Breathe. Just breathe.
That’s much better.
Jul 10, 2013 Uncategorized
Sorry for the raw commercialism of this post, but when it rains it pours. Okay, I admit I’m only a little sorry for it. [grin]
I’m pleased to have received news that Juliana Rew of Third Flatiron Publishing contacted me yesterday to let me know that she’s interested in using my short story “Schrodinger’s Soldier” in her Lost Worlds anthology. Assuming we can work out the details, the work should appear this September. I’ll update you here as info permits, of course.
I also see that Fiction River has released an audio version of How to Save the World, complete with my story “The Legend of Parker Clark and Lois Jane.”
And, finally, for those who didn’t get it at Facebook, I happened along an video “Review” of my collection Picasso’s Cat & Other Stories, which, of course, you can still grab through one of the links on the sidebar (or in the shopping section of the site).
Jun 30, 2013 Uncategorized
Amy Sterling Casil writes a remarkable memory of A.J. Budrys. And, yes, I do remember her confusion over A.J.’s commentary one year. And yes, she has a rare gift.
I felt A.J. was pretty rough with my work my first year at WotF until very late in that week. He dismissed a piece of mine with an admonition that another established writer had done it far better…which was true–and he bashed another work as being light…which it was. But then he took extra time with the first draft of “Stealing the Sun,” a story that would eventually go to find a spot on a few lists and served as the anchor for a three-story set that Stan Schmidt bought for Analog. Rather than critique it in front of the class, he told me to meet him for breakfast the next morning. When I arrived he pushed the manuscript to me and said “It’s pretty good. Change < this > and it will sell.” And that was it for the comments on the story itself. But he wasn’t done.
I wish I could remember the exact words in the bit that follows, but I can’t. So I’ll paraphrase and say that in so many words, sitting there alone at breakfast, A.J. Budrys told me that I was a writer–that he saw I had things I was trying to say, and that he saw I was saying them. He saw how hard I worked–but that I needed to stop being so cute, that I had to dig out the heart of the story I wanted to tell and leave it bare. That I couldn’t let myself “settle.” Like Amy, it took me a bit of time to figure out what he meant. But the guy really was a teacher. He made me think about that message for years, and I think I’ve maybe got it now. Kinda. Almost.
And I’ve also got the memory of the look on his face as he was telling me this. Which is worth a helluva lot, really.
Jun 23, 2013 Uncategorized
As happens a lot on the internet, I came upon Sarah Kay through a series of randomish events and link clicks. She’s a spoken word poet, among other things, whose work has a startling clarity about it. I watched one of her videos a week or two back, and then her TED talk, and since then I’ve made it a habit to start my morning out with another. I think I’ve now made it through all of them on the linked page.
They’re quick. Two minutes. Three. Five at the most, I think. I particularly liked “B” and “Toothbrush to the Bicycle Tire.” I thought “Hiroshima” was remarkable.
I found they made me think a little, and made me happy most of the time. Perhaps you’ll feel differently, but I think you could do a lot worse than starting your day with a bit of Sarah Kay.
Jun 17, 2013 Uncategorized
I was talking to a co-worker today who was running thoughts past me about a possible next role. We discussed steps that had occurred, people who had been talked to, and the relative merits of the role and this co-worker’s capabilities and merits. Mostly, though, we talked about a question the co-worker had about how to get feedback from their manager. In other words, it was an interesting conversation. I’ve been around the place awhile, and I have these on occasion. I have a great time with them, really.
What was different this time, though, was that we got to talking about the company’s policy about posting positions–meaning that unless there exists some really compelling case, every position below executive director will be posted to allow equal opportunity for everyone in the company. I like this about my company. It’s these indirect things that tell you how much the leadership values diversity and attempts to foster the environment of merit over pure network. Anyway, the conversation brought about a thought about networking and merit, and the value of both. It goes like this:
Before you get a role you’re interested in, you know you need to network. Get your name out. Show people you’re interested. To some degree you have no problem with this. You’re growing your own opportunities, you think. It’s how you do it. Being a new writer, or even an “established” writer without much of a profile, that resonates. When I talk to people about growing their career, they get it. They realize networking increases their visibility, and gives them an advantage in the marketplace. They realize that part of the game is increasing the numbers of their opportunities for good things to happen–essentially increasing the odds, which means they know part of the game is associated with what I’ll call “luck.”
But then something strange happens.
The person gets a role.
And within a short while they forget the luck part. Suddenly they got where they got via the hard work they did and their basic capability. In other words, they earned it.
I’m thinking about this now, and I’m relating it to the recent whirlwind of issues that have been discussed across a gazillion SF-related blogs regarding sexism and misogyny in the field. I’ll not go into details because if you know them, I’ll bore you, and if you don’t … well, they’ll bore you. All I’ll say is that I love that word “kerfuffle.” It seems perfectly made for this situation, and I credit Laura Anne Gilman with using it first.
But I have a couple questions for you to think about here:
1) In the case of the person who gets a new role through the networking, interviewing, and being selected for the role, did they get lucky, or did they succeed based on merit?
2) If you tell that person that they achieved their success without working hard (that, for example, they were born on third base and think they hit a triple), do you think they’ll take that well?
A lot more ground that needs to be covered in the areas of gender and ethnic issues, that’s true. And I think it’s important to speak out when lines get crossed. But I think there are times when the angst that gets spun up gets tossed about in ways that are too pointed and swaths that are too broad. I think the most important thing about these situations is that we be able to differentiate each situation for what it is. That’s the ultimate lesson of valuing diversity, after all. Every person is their own being. Every situation its own thing, you know? We are all one culture, we are all members of multiple sub-cultures. But, ultimately, no one can define us buy our groups. Ultimately, we are each our very own culture. I think it’s basic respect to assume people who succeeded worked hard–even if they had advantages, just as it’s basic respect to understand that any success you have is the result of some degree of luck and advantage (some you create, and some created for you by things often completely outside your control). Nothing is easy, you know?
Anyway … I’ll not say much more about my personal feeling on the kerfuffle here except to say that I’ve been thinking about rejoining SFWA for a few months, and after seeing how the organization has reacted to the blow-up, how they owned it, how they quickly set wheels in motion to address the issue, has pretty much convinced me that I should throw my hat into the ring again.
In celebration of Father’s Day weekend, I thought I would take the opportunity to release my short story “The Disappearance of Josie Andrew” to Amazon for you kindle users out there–complete with a revamped cover image. (It’s already on Smashwords and all the places SW distributes to for all those other reader-types).
DJA is a special story to me for several reasons. Yes, it got me into my first Writers of the Future anthology, and it also made the preliminary Nebula ballot–either of those alone would give it a warm place in my heart forever. But this one goes considerably deeper for me. Here’s what I wrote about it back in the day:
Stories are strange things. Sometimes they cling to my mind and won’t let go when I want to stick them on paper, and other times they flood out and I merely hang on for the ride. “The Disappearance of Josie Andrew” was the later. I wrote the piece on a Saturday, in a single setting over a period of maybe four or six hours.
Of course, it then went to the Fishers Five and Lisa for modification. But it remains essentially the same tale that I put down that first morning.
I’m really proud of it. In fact it’s one of the few stories of my own that I still read every now and again because it makes me feel strangely good.
This is also a story that created some interesting commentary, as I’ve heard people give very different views about its politics. This actually surprised me a bit because I wasn’t writing a political story at all. Instead, I was really just pouring everything I really knew about what being a dad means into this character, who is a kinda down-on-his luck guy. Toward that end, I dedicated it to my father when it made its way into the WotF anthology..
Anyway…I hope you like it.
I put my palm against the Plexiglas where B86-97 floats.
Warmth flows into my hand.
I smile despite the pain this child unwittingly brings me. “Good morning, Kyle,” I say. That is the name I give to B86-97. Kyle Lincoln. I gaze into his tightly scrunched face and say his name three times inside my head to make sure I will remember it. I’ve never been good with equations or history or economics–or anything like that. But I can put a name to a face.
I pull my hand back, the heat of the chamber lingering like a stolen kiss.
In “The Disappearance of Josie Andrew,” author Ron Collins explores some ramifications of advances in reproductive technology. The “artificial womb” motif is a popular one in science fiction, and a personal favorite; I admire his choice to tell the story from an oblique angle — instead of the usual parent or scientist, the protagonist here is a janitor/technician at a large (and spectacularly unethical) institution. Collins takes the time to suggest, delicately, the awesome potential of human life and the tragedy of its loss. The story is rather morbid and set in a very anti-choice atmosphere … but I appreciate it anyway. It certainly sticks in my memory. I like the idea of small people and small changes being able to make a big difference. Creepy, but another favorite.
In quickly breaking news, I am happy to announce that I’ve come to agreement with Adam Crouse and the good folks at Interstellar Fiction to have my short story “Out of the Fire” published in their June issue–which should be going up, well, in June. June 1st, to be specific. Very pleased, of course. I mean, you pretty much have to be pleased to be in a publication that releases an editorial on the 4th of May and proceeds to use the phrase “May the fourth be with you,” eh?
Fourth or not, May has not sucked.
May 23, 2013 Uncategorized
As I noted previously on Facebook, I see that Barb Galler-Smith has announced that the new issue of On Spec is out, complete with an interview of me and my story “Operation Hercules.” OH is your basic dinosaur in World War II story, and is a favorite of mine for a few reasons. Needless to say, I’m grinning a lot today.
I’ve also received a galley copy of my story “Bugs,” which appears to be slated to run in this November’s issue of Analog. If true, that might mean I’ll be in two subsequent issues, since Following Jules will see Analog print in October if I I remember right. MUST.LOOK.UP for sure.
The publishing events are kinda stacking up. Hmm … maybe it’s time to put out another one of my very intermittent newsletters, eh?