Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wordos Halloween Reading

Last night was the Wordos Halloween Reading -- instead of a regular critique night we read 1000 word (or less) stories. The theme for the reading was "dearly departed." Man, was it grim. I think with a few exceptions, everyone had their characters' family members killed off. Somehow, I managed to write two stories -- one was funny and the other was -- er, Tanith Lee-esque. I was going to flip a coin to see which one I'd read, but by the time it was my turn there'd been a lot of grim stories. So I went for funny. I'm thinking the grim one will go to Whidbey (it's under the word count limit).

At the end of the reading we decided the unofficial theme for next year is "fuzzy bunnies and the elves who love them." (Yes, within ten seconds one end of the table had already outlined a crucified fuzzy bunny Easter story.)

This morning was a crazy day. I don't know where my keys are; after searching the house for about twenty minutes, I finally broke down and got my alternate keys. Sometimes when I've been wearing different jackets, my keys end up in a seldom-used pocket... but I went through four jacktets and I still couldn't find them.

Oh well. I think it was a kind of object lesson in remaining calm instead of getting more and more frustrated -- although I was a little late getting to my first appointment, in the end it didn't matter and I got where I needed to more or less on time as the day went on.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pre-Halloween Musings

On the house front:

Mark was inspired to paint the trim around the front windows and door. Our friend George said our house looks, "Artsy-fartsy."


On the spiritual front:

I'm wrestling with if I should become a UU worship associate. There's pros and cons.


On the writing front:

The PHP scripts that I use to track markets and stories is working nicely in terms of helping me rank which story to send to which market; it's a little clunky, but that's kind of okay because it makes me actually think about what I'm doing.

However... it's not foolproof. I typed in the wrong word count limit for a market and managed to send a story that was too big to a market (I got a form rejection).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Rejection Time Warp

New record.  I submitted a story (the traffic one) to a market and got it rejected in three hours.  Any faster and I would have thought I was in some kind of time warp.  

Oh well. 

In related news, I'm having problems with the 'mktime' function in PHP, because it only returns today's date or the beginning of the epoch (Jan 31, 1969).  It would be nice if it computed dates for data that I gave it, because then I could clear out the markets that are closed until such-and-such a date from my market suggestion lists.   

At first I thought it might be a problem in my markets array, and I tried tweaking the closure date with the 'trim' and 'settype' functions to make sure that I was passing a correctly formatted data point to the 'mktime' functions.  

It's one of those finesse things -- I can just keep track of when a market will open up manually.  But it would be nice to have the software have markets pop up only when they're accepting manuscripts.  

Uhhg... the iPod has just recycled for about the fifth time, and I'm carefully not looking at what time it is.  If only I could time warp my sleep...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Painting and PHP

Finished the east side of the house.  Hooray, now all the walls (mostly) have a double coat of paint and the cedar shakes wont rot out.  We still have to do the window trim and the drain pipes.  

I managed to finish re-vamping the stories-in-the-mail tracking software.  The new code tracks market payment more precisely and figures out a story's approximate market value . . . which is useful from a craft standpoint because the software suggests that I might want to trim stories down to the 5000 word size.  It's also humbling; I mean, if I were an editor and I had to choose, would I shell out $500 for a 5000 word story from me or from Ursula K LeGuin?  

Anyway, the software is a guide for where to send stories so I don't waste an afternoon trying to decide where to send something.  It's also a back-up system for Duotrope.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Writing News

Got a rejection; it was nice and the editor encouraged me to submit more material.

Been working on the story tracking PHP software; the old program is great, but it needed some tweaking so it could respond to markets with non-linear pay scales.

Did some minor post-critique work on the traffic story. It's ready and I hope to send it soon.

Tomorrow is supposed to be nice; so I'll probably be painting the house.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Our Story So Far...

I figured out some plausible rubber science for the traffic story and I worked it in this afternoon. It's rough, and I'll see if the parts I worked on still make sense tomorrow. I need to check a few other things in the manuscript, polish it up, and hope to start it up on the send-reject-resend cycle; hopefully by this Thursday or Friday.

Now that Mark is back, there's been some re-alignment of The Great Garage Clear-out. Most notable was the space in front of he lateral files. Some ladders and other stuff got placed in front of the files; after I moved the ladders to a new (and hopefully acceptable) place, I put blue tape on the ground to outline how far out the file drawers pull out. I think that will keep the area in front of them clear.  I'm hopeful that the new arrangement in general will keep our garage a more usable space. . . . and yes, I have a lot of useless garbage that needs to be sifted through for the good stuff and then thrown out.


Sigh.

Bad Hair Day

Bad hair! No biscuit!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Rubber Physics

Just finished skimming "Traffic.  Why We Drive the Way We Do" by Tom Vanderbilt.  I was hoping that it would solve a technical problem in one of my short stories, but it didn't.  Or at least the parts I went through didn't.


So now I'm left to my own devices about what to do with the story, which is about traffic, and which (according to two engineers at the Wordos critique table) has a fundamental flaw in its understanding of how traffic works (they weren't quite pounding the table and chanting "Ringworld isn't stable!" but it was close).   


Maybe I can have one of my North American circa 2009 characters invoke "graviton waves."  

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Tales End

Tales in the Mail is done. 

7 stories total:  2 science fiction stories; 2 fantasy stories; 3 essay or other stories.

Markets:  1 to Asimov's; 1 to Analog; 1 to Whidbey; 1 to F&SF; 1 to The Sun; and 2 to other markets.

One of Nina's stories goes into the post. Various electronic submissions and brings the story count to six.

Story Four

Nina just showed up with her LaserJet.

Let The Mailing Begin

Three manuscripts in the mail!

Loud Idiots With Cars

I don't know what was going on last night. Starting at midnight loud people parked in front of our house. I think it must have been the party shuttle because they left and came back at least once. Then someone in a monster truck pulled up around 2:30. Thinking that I could get some sleep after 3 AM, I awoke at 6 AM to a brown minivan blaring a news show.


Sheesh. If you'r going to be that loud I want to here a shriek of, "I am so drunk!"


Today is Tales in the Mail -- so I need to de-clutter the house.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Printing Day

Spent most of the day printing stories to send to postal-only markets.

And folding laundry.

And washing dishes.

Laundry Day

This morning is especially domestic. I found my winter scarf, so of course I had to take a picture of it.

I found a recording of Clara Rockmore playing "The Swan" by Saint Saens, on the theremin. Watching her hands as she plays (wearing a kind of purple turban, too) is wonderful, and she makes the theremin sound like an analog cello. As she played, I realized I'd found a new goddess, and I lamented that, as far as i knew, she had not done any collaborations with Laurie Anderson.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Writing Progress

Managed to pound out a 1100 word essay.  

Looked harder at the markets today to prep for Tales in the Mail on Saturday.   Tales in the Mail is when a bunch of Wordos gather for the sole purpose of mailing out manuscripts.  Four of the top markets are currently closed for submission; luckily the mainstays are still accepting  -- but they require paper submissions (so tomorrow is a printing day).   Other markets that accept electronic submission have allowed me to boot my number of manuscripts in the mail to barely acceptable -- I need to keep those numbers up.

The writing sabbatical is almost over.  It's been a real learning experience.  Although I know that I'll be focusing my effort in other places, I'm hoping that I can keep my writing road map clear in my head so that I use time effectively when I have it.  

Had fun this evening; I won some tickets for a Beethoven piano recital at Baell Hall on the U of O campus.  It was really good -- the piano sounded almost like a cross between a harpsichord and tubular bells in some places.  My Dad came down and he enjoyed the concert as well.  

Thursday

Day seven: the last of the Pepsi cans has run dry.  I have no porters to send for more supplies.

It's raining... no, wait, the sun is out.  Nope.  It's raining.

Managed a lot of dialog on the serious Mars story; edited the not-serious Mars story.

Muriel continues to be an irritant.