Saturday, January 31, 2004

Reflections on the windshield

I've decided to start doing a look how well I'm doing on goals and work at the end of each month. At least, I'll try to remember to do this each month, but there's no guarantee. My mind doesn't really work well on those sort of 'date' things.

But anyway....

The State of the Writer Report, January 2004

My focus this year has changed, of course. I have new things to take care of, new duties and new worries. But I'm happy to say that the changes have not been as drastic or troubling as I feared they would be.

Forward Motion is moving along very well. We've gained about 1500 new members since NaNo, and many of them are finding their way into the crit pages, asking questions, joining in at chat, etc. This has been an extremely good group who are obviously interested in writing and not trolling for trouble. In fact, there have been fewer problems in the last few months then I ever remember. The moderators have been wonderful in helping to revise some of the forgotten boards. I think the site is doing very well, and it's great feeling.

The two year novel class is going well, too. We're about to move into character development and planning. I'm looking forward to seeing how some of the others usually create characters and see if what I offer helps anyone. We have divided up into genre groups now, and I can see that there is going to be a lot of help given from one to another. It's a great group.

Back to School for Busy Writers is giving me a little trouble right now. I need to get it better scheduled and have people turn in the work well ahead of time so that I know it's ready to go. Prior to this I've just trusted both them and their computers to cooperate. A disaster has left me with an open spot in February that I'm working on filling right now. Lucky for me that I had an idea for a strange class already in my head and got most of it mapped out yesterday. It's going to be a lot of writing that I hadn't planned on, though.

Vision is giving me problems because of a technical glitch with the checks. Honestly, I don't know why we keep having trouble with that part. It's not like I haven't run a business before and had business checks. I think it's just a curse. I'll have to sacrifice some dust bunnies or something.

I am almost caught up on all the Double Dragon Press work. Deron has asked me to look over a submission, and I've been reading it the last two days. At the moment the submissions are closed, and that's good. I need a little break to get caught up on other work.


Well... it's been odd. I've been purposely going slower than usual this year because I gave myself a goal of half a million words -- half of what I've written in the last two years. I want to get a lot of the material I've stacked up edited and submitted. In that respect I've done very well. I have edited, at least a little, every single day this month. That's a record for me. I'm working on Muse, and I'm about ready to put together the submission package. I haven't done this in a while, at least not for a print novel submission.

I have been so caught up in working on Muse that I've pretty much dropped everything else in new writing for the moment. I am determined to get the new material written for Muse, and everything edited. I am going to do a submission package and get it out before the first week of March.

Farstep Station keeps calling to me, but I'm holding off on jumping back into it. I hope to do some more short story writing as well soon. But first I have to get Muse done. I am making myself stay focused on it, which is good... but difficult for someone who is used to working on multiple projects. The only thing that saves me is that I have a lot of nonfiction writing to do at the same time -- Back to School material as well as the two year novel course. I have about 63 pages of material on the novel stuff, and a publisher who might be interested in a finished project, so it is definitely getting counted in new words now. (grin)

I've had two story acceptances this month and one poetry rejection (held over from a submission last year). I did get my two submissions out for the month, but it wasn't easy. I need to start working sooner on that for next month. Of course, if I do this right, one of those submissions will be Muse.

Total new words for this month will be slightly over 45,000. Edited page count is slightly over 100. I need to get the second number up higher, but I'm still doing pretty well. Two submissions, one with an acceptance already. So, goal wise, I'm hitting pretty much right on line.

Of course, January is always the easy month. Let's see how I'm doing around May...

Friday, January 30, 2004

That's Wind. He's such a cute guy.

Well... until about 3:30 this afternoon, I thought I was very nearly caught up with everything. But about that time I learned that I'm short a class for Back to School in February. It's way too late to ask anyone else to come up with something on such short notice, so that's what I've been working on all afternoon and night. It's going to be an odd class, but at least it's something I can mostly handle without too much work.

Russ is home. Yay! We had a nice dinner and he told me all about the stuff he did in Omaha. I told him how cold we've been and about various on line bits.

Over the last three days I read my two NaNo novels from this last November, and I have to admit that they weren't horribly bad. The first one needs more work than the second, but I think the story lines held up pretty well and the characters were interesting. I needed to look at something of mine besides Muse. It was a good way to spend a few nights, curled up in bed with lots of covers and a half dozen or so cats.

I'm very happy with Muse as well. I haven't quite decided where to insert the new material for it, but the editing on the first part is going well. I am going to start looking at cover letters, query letters, synopsis... all that other fun stuff as soon as I get past 100 pages of editing on it. Once I get the submission package out, I'll go back to finish the edits.

You will have noticed that I've dropped just about everything else in fiction writing. This is because of outside work at the moment. Once I get caught up with Back to School (again!) and get the work done for the Novel Class so that I'm a month ahead or so, then I'll go back to work on Farstep Station and maybe a short story or two.

Right now I only have time for one piece of fiction, and since I've told myself that Muse is going to be in the mail before my birthday, I had better not drop the ball on it.

And now... back to work!

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

I am still alive. Just very busy. But I thought I ought to type something in here. A shame I don't have anything interesting to say...

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Okay, let's talk about photography. (grin)

I hope to do a webpage devoted to how I take and manipulate some of the pictures, but right now I just don't have the time. So I'll do a quick run down here.

Photography is my second obsession. I used to have my own dark room (still have all the equipment) and I would love to get back into black and white work if I could. I just don't have the time, or even really the space, for something like that right now.

The pictures that show up here and on my regular journal are all digital photographs. 99% of them are taken with my Sony CD1000, a camera that is no longer made. It is only a 2.1 mega pixel, but for on-line work that's obviously enough. I can also print very nice 5X6 pictures and 8x10s of some of the better shots. The few other pictures were taken with my even older FD91, which is less than a mega pixel camera. I grab it now and then because it uses floppy disks and that makes it very easy to transfer to the computer. The CD1000 uses mini CDs, and while it has a USB connection, it turns out the firmware won't work with Windows XP, so I have to wait until I'm done with a disk (about 200 shots) before I can work with them.

I am, however, drooling over the new Sony 8 mega pixel camera. This one uses removable storage like Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Compact Flash Type I/II, Microdrive. You can buy a 1gig microdrive and not have to worry too much about running out of space. Granted, that gig of space can cost you from $300 to $600, but if you have spent the money for the fancy camera, it might well be worth it.

The real joy of digital photography is in three parts:

1. Instant pictures. You can see what you took right away on the camera's playback mode. This can make a huge difference if you are taking pictures of something you want to be certain to get right. Instant pictures also means instant sharing. I often post a picture in chat only a couple minutes after taking it.

2. Cost. Even though my CD1000 cost me about $1500 (it is a very fancy camera for a digital), it has more than paid back that money in savings on picture processing. I take a lot of pictures -- well over 3000 on this camera alone in the last 2.5 years. When I used my 35mm Minolta cameras our vacations usually cost less than the picture processing afterwards. Going digital has saved a lot of money.

3. Reworking pictures on the computer. As much as I love doing darkroom stuff, for color pictures there is nothing more rewarding than being able to fiddle with them in a nice graphic's program. I use Corel Photo-Paint 9. I love it, and as you can tell, it does everything that I need. And I get to play with the pictures as much as I want like crop, change colors, background, blur, texturize -- whatever, and it doesn't cost me a cent in printing costs. I can then print out on my nice little HP color printer that is made for pictures if I want. Or post it on one of my sites. Or delete the reworked version and start over. (Always work with copies, not the original.)

The real question for most people is what to look for in a digital camera. Because I spent years in 35mm, I had certain wants that mean I look at the more expensive cameras. But most people are not going to want 35mm-like controls and worry about aperture and shutter speed, white balance, and various other choices. Most people just want a point-and-shoot camera. For both types, the big thing to be aware of is the mega pixel count. The higher you can afford (they are more expensive as the count goes up), the better. You will get better quality prints with the higher count. Most photo processing shops now print from digital as well, so once you choose which pictures you want printed, you can get it done. For the point and shoot cameras, I've been very impressed with the Olympus brands.

For those who want more, you'll be looking at the far more expensive SLR type digital cameras. There are a lot of them on the market. Everyone from Nikon to Kodak has gotten in to the market, with varying success and prices.

Probably the very best affordable SLR digital is the Canon 6 mega pixel Canon EOS-300D. It's basically a digital body that uses Canon lenses and runs about $1000. The problem, of course, is if you don't happen to own Canon lenses to put on it. They can be very expensive. But over all, this camera has the most flexibility because of that 'any lens' option. The pictures I've seen from this camera are exceptional, though. (Nikon, Fuji, Pentax, and several others offer body-only digital cameras as well, but I think price wise, the Canon might be the best of the group.)

For most of us, however, it's just not an option. I've stuck with Sony cameras since my first digital -- an FD7 years ago -- and I've no complaints at all, except that I hated to see them discontinue the CD1000. However, with the growing mega pixel sizes (meaning they take a LOT of space to save), the CD version just wasn't practical. The new, larger removable storage units are expensive, and I'll miss the fact that pictures aren't instantly saved, but I'm going to have to get used to the change.

The camera I am currently drooling over is the Sony DSC -F828. It is, as I mentioned, 8 mega pixel which makes it the highest one available in the $1000 range. It has all the SLR options that I love -- and a few more than I have on the CD1000 like a burst and bracketing mode. It also uses a new four color system -- red, blue, green, emerald -- rather than the usual three color systems of most cameras -- red, blue green. It does have two problems, both of which I've had in all Sony cameras. One is a somewhat blotchy black at the higher ISO ranges. The second is a tendency to get a purplish halo around things in bright contrast scenes. I had that problem big time in the icicle picture on this page, but I've long ago learned how to use Corel Photo-Paint to easily remove it in most pictures. In the end, it's not much different than correction a color shift on a print in a darkroom.

I have been won over to the digital camera revolution. I've been here for quite a while, in fact, learning the tricks while the cameras improve in quality and catch up to the film SLRs. I won't go back, although I may play with black and white film and print processing again someday. I used to love to do that on my own.

Unless the weather turns horrible, I'll be going to the zoo in Omaha tomorrow. Just me, my tripod and my CD1000. I'll likely take 200 or more pictures before I'm done.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

You know, glancing back over the last few entries, I think I forgot to post a bit about my upcoming chapbook, Honor Bound. I know there are a couple people who only read this for the exciting news about my life. (grin) I might as well talk about it here, too, since I think I managed everywhere else.

At any rate, I have seen the cover art for the chapbook. I've also seen two of the blurbs.

Blood, bullets, knives, explosives and a genderbender twist---with a healthy dose of heart. Works for me. Jane Fancher

As I've said elsewhere, I love Jane Fancher's work. People should go and hunt it down. And she should write more. I hate the waiting.

And the second quote:

A talented writer with a gift for worldbuilding... CJ Cherryh

Anyone who knows me for long knows that I adore CJ's books, that I have about 50 of them hardbound and signed... and having a quote like that from her means a lot of me.

The person who did the final copy editing on the little book also ordered a copy for his friend because he liked it so much.

It will be out soon, as in counting the weeks, if not the days. And I can't wait to hold the book and see what Holly said for it as well. (grin)

In other news, I'm working on Farstep Station still and getting some work done on Muse. I have slowed down in my writing. I seem, in fact, to have slowed down in a lot of things right now. But life is good. How can it not be with something as fun a Honor Bound coming out?

Friday, January 16, 2004

No, that's not how it looks now. That was last April. We're having rain right now.

I think there is something screwy here with the weather.

I'm posting to give just a quick note so that people who wonder and have not yet emailed me will know...

Yes, I knew about Robert. I knew for a couple years... hold on. October of 2002 -- that's when Seri Ember came out. I'm glad that he finally realized he can trust his friends, because that's really what his admission is about, you know. It's not about who he is -- Robert has always been Robert.

No, it had nothing at all to do with why Robert and the other people left FM. There were only two times when it was even a passing concern. The first was when Nonny announced she was moving in with Robert. Holly and I discussed it (she knew way before me), but we both decided that there was no way Robert wouldn't be up front with someone he loved, even if they hadn't met.

The only other time was when Nonny posted something on Holly's blog that Holly felt was just... not truthful. That was between the two of them, and Holly never took it any farther.

I'm glad Robert found the courage to be himself and be open with others. Being yourself, and being happy with your choices, is all that matters in the end.

So, good luck to him, and enjoy life.

And I'm going back to writing.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Finally, an understanding of why I seem to not be moving forward on my new sf novel. It came to me suddenly while I was thinking about something else entirely.

I have messed up a chronology and an event. I cannot have the people meet with an alien group at this point because it is far later in the time line that the first aliens are encountered.

Having realized that is a relief. It gives me three options: Change the nature of the people they meet, change the date (and therefore a lot of background material and circumstances) when they meet, or take the story entirely out of my IWC universe. At this point any one of those options is viable. They all three mean some serious reworking of the few thousand words I already have as well as the outline... but I am now able to look at the entire work and know why I couldn't move forward on it.

This is a relief. It was an odd way to start the year, to find the novel I'd been planning on for months had started to limp ahead by a few hundred words at a time. It's a good thing the new additional material to Muse filled the gap in my meager word counts. It's also a good thing that I decided to drop that word count down for this year.

I am tending toward changing the nature of the people they encounter, and that's not only because it would be the easiest change. I have set up in my universe a number of wildcard human groups. I've used them... twice before, I think, with a reference to the third. I believe I had ten ships of these people go out to different areas. (Need to go back and look at my notes again.) I could use one of those ships to explain these people... and, in fact... hell, I like it better than the alien question because it fills in one more serious problem I thought I would find an answer to when I got to it.

Huh. This works. I need to find my timeline, my notes on the lost ships, and work this one in.

You know, I suddenly want to work on Farstep Station again now. (grin)

Sunday, January 11, 2004

For the most part, I write science fiction and fantasy. However, I also write sci-fi. I understand and enjoy the differences between the types of material, so I will continue to point out that they are not the same things -- because the writers who appreciate the differences are generally pleased to know that the universe they created from scratch is not classed in the same group as the latest media adaptation or tie-in novel.

It's not a matter of being snobbish -- it is the ability to say that a book like Tactics of Mistake by Gordon R. Dickson is not the same as Aliens: Earth Hive by Steven Perry (who is an excellent author, by the way). In the first book Dickson created the entire setting, from ships to worlds to the trouble that caused a war. In the second, Perry wrote from a set of instructions on background, aliens, what can and cannot be done within this framework. For the fans, that means that they can pick up a book and know that it will have a certain set background points which, as fans of the movies, they will understand and accept. Innovation comes only in the storyline, not in the vehicle with which the story is delivered.

On the writing side, both types of material have their own difficulties. In fact, while writing to the specifications of a game module (release is due in April, I think), I had to go through and please several different editors who knew the game better than me. It was a very interesting and difficult type of writing, and there's no guarantee that the story made the final cut -- I won't know until I see the game.

Sci-fi, by the way, is also far harder to get published than sf. In sci-fi you basically have to be approached by the people who own the copyright and offered a chance at a contract. Rarely they will do this by an open call or a contest, but most of the time they choose the people they want to do the work. It is also usually work for hire -- that is the author gets a set amount of money for the work and no claim on royalties. Sci-fi written without a chance of selling it is fanfiction.

And most of the big stores now shelve sci-fi in it's own section, another sure sign that it is [b]not[/b] the same as science fiction -- to such a degree, in fact, that they will still leave original fantasy in with science fiction, but pull media related material out. That's a pointer to the larger moods of readers, who find it convenient not to have to look through the shelves of science fiction when they want a media tie in book instead. This seems very reasonable to me since I don't consider them the same market. Of course there is a lot of crossover between them, but then there is crossover between any genres.

So I'll continue to go along with the professionals who in this case believe that these are two distinct markets and different types of writing. Not everyone agrees, but in the end I'm quite pleased to know that I can write in both types, and that if asked, I can name them.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

I am very pleased with how well things are going at Forward Motion right now. With the new year in full swing, and having survived all the holidays, people there seem to be more than ready to turn as much of their attention as they can to the art of writing. We have new people joining every day, and all of them are looking for (and mostly finding) material that will help them become better writers. And they find people who are willing to answer their questions, give them advice, and make suggestions. We're working on a system to get a lot of the quieter boards moving again as well, and I think that's already showing some promise, though it is a bit too early to tell.

We seem to have attracted a few more professional writers again, too, which is neat. Sometimes, wandering through the boards and threads, I am amazed at the questions, answers, and degree of help that people are willing to give to each other at the site. There is never a question of whether you are good enough to receive that advice. It is just given in the hopes that it will help. Even in chat people have been remarkably civil lately, with only a couple outbreaks of childishness that have gotten people kicked from the site. But you have to expect that in so large a group. There will always be people with the kinds of egos that make it impossible for them to accept that someone's advice is not an attack, and that others are not always going to act on what they think is best either.

When I look over the site, I can see Forward Motion's direction has turned back to what Holly had originally started -- a writing site. Not a site where there is nothing but writing, but one where writing takes precedence. I've noticed that even the Rants board has had fewer posts lately. And when I started the novel writing class a good many people who had been members for a long time but mostly lurked came out of the shadows to join in.

I think that, more than anything else, is a sign that the site is giving people more of what they want. I have over 170 people signed up for the novel class, and while I have no doubt that many of them are going to drop out of it for one reason or another, that is still an incredible number of people who have signed up, looking for writing related instruction.

And that makes me very happy. It makes me feel that this is the way the site should be, that the direction is right for us. Not for anyone else, but for Forward Motion.

I think it's going to be a good year.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

We are having cold weather tonight -- sub zero temps, wind chills that are far below that. My office is nicely warm because Russ got the lovely little stand up heater to work again, and it's enough for this room.

And that pretty much means I hate to leave this room, of course.

I've done well in FM work today, not so well in writing. I'm going to take some paper into the bathtub with me and do some work on the short story... it shouldn't be too long, and I think it might be fun to work out the last of it tonight.

Beyond that, my day has been pretty calm and quiet. Site stuff, writing, more site stuff, more site stuff... a few things that are not site stuff, but are Internet related, and ... well, not enough writing. (grin)

However, I have found that my new daily schedule is helping make sure I don't leave too much stuff behind each day. I have a couple more things to handle tonight, and I think after a bath that should be easy to handle.

Beyond that, it's really a pretty quiet sort of few days. I see that my new SF novel, Singer & St. Jude: The Lost Cause has made it up to #15 on the Fictionwise SF list. Looks like a good deal to me...

Monday, January 05, 2004

While wandering through weblogs for the last few days, I have seen that some people have listed both their achievements for 2003 and their goals for 2004. Well, why not? Why not take an honest look at what I've done and what I want to do.

A look back at 2003:

Last year was a good writing year, obviously, but my sales were down. Part of that was due to a run of incredibly bad months, starting with my niece's death and ending (more or less) several months later with me in the hospital. During that time, several other things went wrong, from the deaths of friends to medical problems. As always, I kept writing... but quite often anything outside of losing myself in a new story was impossible. That meant serious editing was out. I managed to put out my two submissions a month, but I'm not surprised I made so few sales from them.

But still... I wrote eight new novels (my first drafts are often quite short but they all reached more than the SFWA guidelines for novel), two novellas, six novelettes and fourteen short stories. I also wrote eight outlines of at least 3000 words, and a couple of them quite longer. Seven of the outlines correspond to the books I wrote in 2003, but one is for the book that I am working on now. I wrote over one million words in 2003, so I have nothing to complain about there.

I sold seven pieces, placed two in non-paying markets, had thirteen rejects, and an additional four pieces that were dropped because the publishers closed. I still have six pieces out (and a couple of those I had better check on).

The novels I wrote were:

Gathering (Book 7, Dark Staff) (fantasy)
Hope in Hell (Book 8, Dark Staff) (fantasy)
Glory (Near future post apocalyptic fantasy)
Ruins (Contemporary mystery/adventure)
Badlands (SF)
Ada Nish Pura 2 (SF)
Mirrors (Urban fantasy)
Journey to Winter (Fantasy)

You know, now that I've listed them out and can see the titles, I realize that isn't a bad set of novels at all. The first two are already sold. When I finished Ada Nish Pura 2, I decided that rather than work at making it considerably longer, I would meld it into Ada Nish Pura 1 and make one novel. I read through it a few months ago and was very pleased. Mirrors and Journey to Winter are the novels I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2003, and I like both of them.

All of these works are in the rewrite/edit queue now, and I can't say when I'll get to any of them, except that I hope to do the work on Glory early in 2004.

The shorter material I wrote in 2003 ranged all over the place as well. I had hoped to write one short story a week last year, but that possibility disappeared when everything went to hell. I would like to try it this year... but I just have way too much other stuff going on.

Looking at the list of novels, I'm very pleased. There's not one of them that I would consign to the files and never look at again. In fact, that has given me more hope for edit/rewrite and submission this year than I had before I looked at the list.

A look ahead at 2004:

This is a year of change for me. With the work at Forward Motion, and the other non-writing projects that I have, I realized that I needed to cut back on my word count. This year I plan on doing about 500,000 words. I'm not entirely certain how that will work out in the number of items I produce, though. I had hoped to write more short stories this year, but I know that I will also write several novels -- at least three or four that are already scheduled...

I am already working on my first novel of the year -- Farstep Station -- and my first short story -- At the Edge. I have already posted a Vision Issue for this year, and I have started the novel writing program.

I've also started editing my mystery novel, Muse. I wrote it a couple years ago, and I think I'm finally getting a handle on the problems that need to be addressed.

I intend to do more editing this year than I have in the past, as well as submitting of novels. I've already edited one short story, and I'm looking for a place to send it off. I am working slowly through Muse, but once I get into the swing of things, I think it's going to go faster.

Really, none of this looks overwhelming. I'm going to enjoy this year. But then... as far as writing goes, I always do. (grin)

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Long day. Way too much stuff to get done and not nearly enough writing done again!

But I am starting to get caught up with all my other work, and I think if I start on the writing earlier instead of messing around for most of the day I'll do better. I'm going to take some paper and actually write out a few scenes tonight and type them in tomorrow. I won't know how I do on the word count until then, but I just need to get away from this computer for a while and rest. I can do that in the tub and write at the same time.

Russ will be home late tonight, which is good. It's supposed to snow, but not much. Just the same, he's not going to stay too late and have to drive home in the dark in snow. That wouldn't be good on the small, back roads of Nebraska, and really going by the Interstate would not only add a lot of distance, but also isn't all that much safer with the crazy drivers.

I'm really a bit worn out tonight, and I hope that get past this tired stuff soon. It's been an annoying day for that reason, although I have actually gotten more done than I expected to.

The odd thing about the new novel is that I can see it clearly, but every time I sit down to do the actual work I either get called aside for other things, or I end up staring at it and not getting nearly as much done as I would like to. I think I'm just driving myself nuts this time.

Anyway, time to post and move on. I have writing to do. (grin)

Friday, January 02, 2004

Russ's uncle died on New Year's Eve. He had been ill so it wasn't a shock, but still...

Today Russ has a class to teach in Omaha. It's an all day class so he's already on his way, and we're supposed to get snow tonight. So rather than driving back up here (over 100 miles) to get me, and then drive back down there and then about 60 miles to the east, he's just going to stay in Omaha tonight and then drive on to the two towns where they are holding services tomorrow -- one at 10 am and another at 2 pm.

Since his sister is flying in from Tennessee and his brother is coming down from northeast Nebraska (even farther than Russ has to go -- this is a long state), I'm sure he's going to stay there for a while on Saturday to spend time with them. The problem is that it's supposed to snow all day Saturday. I hope the weather isn't too bad when he's driving back.

In the mean time, class stuff has started at FM and I've begun my first novel of the year and my first editing. I am having some bad back problems, though, which is keeping me from spending as much time at the computer as I would like to right now.

And sleep might be a good plan, too -- but the bed is horribly uncomfortable for me. In fact, I think I'm going to go take some pills that will knock me out for a good amount of the daylight hours. Not a problem from my POV.

LOL. Point of view. I've become way too much of a writer.

Anyway, here it is about 7 am. I think I should stop working on the edits for Muse and just crawl off to bed like I said.

Not off to a great start for the year. I hope things get better soon.