Sunday, December 27, 2015

Holiday Papercraft 2015

 Once again, I'd stumbled across a Pinterest pin and thought, "I could do that as a holiday gift."  So I went to the art store and used their paper-cutter to cut out some circles with three slots and various designs in them.

The designs I came up with were a snowflake, a double-star, a lightning star, six-hearts, and a Christmas tree,  I re-used old designs, too: the unicorn, and the partridge in a pear.
 Back home, I folded the circles and started assembling them into pentagons....
 ...because pentagons made out of equilateral triangles will make a kind of cone shape.
 The tricky part was arranging the triangles so that they had alternating colors and different designs.  The really big assemblies required glue along the tabs to keep them from falling apart.
 I used small clips to hold the tabs in place while the glue dried.
 In addition to previous years' unicorn and partridge, I designed some snow-flake like designs and an eight-fold sun shape.
 I wasn't exactly thinking through how many triangles I'd need.  I was thinking I would only need twelve, but that would be the case if the triangles were pentagons.  I ended up having to decide between a twenty-sided globe, an octahedron, or a tetrahedron.
In the end, I chose a tetrahedron:  it had a more stable base, was at a good scale as a table or mantle decoration, didn't require glue for construction, and created more finished products per sheet of paper.

I added an LED votive candle and an inner tetrahedron of parchment paper as a light defuser and my holiday gifts were complete.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Applications and Unicorns

Monday.  I'm applying for a two week writer's residency in eastern Oregon near a dried out lake.  There won't be much internet, and the only other folks there will be mostly other writers, some painters and photographers, and possibly some sculptors.  With the luxury of so much uninterrupted time, I could write a twelve chapter novel (especially if I prepped for it before hand).

Filling out the application is bringing up some issues; they want references and a writer's resume -- I write science fiction and fantasy, and I'm thinking they may be looking for literary writers.  So I'm telling the voices that are telling me that I'm not a good enough writer to take a hike. 

Between filling out the various blanks, I muse about attending Another Genre Workshop that lasts six weeks--but that's a pearl of too-great a price and I don't have the resources to be able to go.  I know a lot of younger folks without families or with highly flexible jobs who have gone, and it makes me  jealous.  And then I recall the Other Other Genre Workshop that I didn't get into...  And then I go down that spiral of comparing my writing career with others', which makes me a bad person.   

Ugh.... well... 

In other Creative News, after creating winter holiday craft for my relatives, I'm working on a NeoPagan themed craft for me.  Although I sometimes have issues of images of The God and The Goddess (Must deity be gendered? Must deity look like hot underwear models?  Must deity be about sex and fertility? Must deity be borrowed from ancient or pre-industrial, rural cultures?) , I'm designing some anthropomorphic images.  The first Goddess image I created looks less like a Phoenician Goddess and more like a Dalek Goddess.   I managed to design passable oak leaves and acorns, and I've got some older designs from previous years, so I'll be able to add in deer and unicorns.  

Because what good is it being a gay NeoPagan male if you can't have unicorns on your altar?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Working Out and First World Problems

Working Out:  Went to the gym last night (Wednesday).  Did about a half hour / 300 calories on the elliptical.  Tried one or two unassisted dips and decided that I'd do 3x7 at only 10 (I forget; I think this works out to a fifty or sixty pound assist).  Downstairs I managed 3X13X50lbs on the pec fly machine, 3x13x80lbs on the lat pull down, 3X12 curl-ups (which I haven't done in a while), 3X13X35lbs barbell curls, and some free-weight work (dumbbell shrugs and a bench-press kind of move).

The only difficulty with evening visits to the gym, and it's more amusing (but a little distracting) than irritating, is that some nights there are hard-core weight lifters who grunt there.  Last night there were three guys, I think they count as "bros.". I'm guessing they were thirty-something, which is a little young as far as the typical folks who go to the gym.  Anyway, they were grunters, which wasn't so bad -- and actually, I sort of prefer the grunting over the sibilant hissers -- except one of them wasn't a grunter so much as a gasper.  Every 1.5 seconds he'd make a high-pitched "ah" sound.  It sounded like a sound track to a porn movie, except the music over the gym's PA was "Take a Load Off Annie." 

On a different front, I think the latest iOS update turned up the auto-correct settings on my device.  It was very annoying the other night when I was trying to take critique notes and SimpleNote would freeze.  Just now, my word processor wanted to capitalize the "O" in SimpleNote and wouldn't let me erase and replace it with a lower-case one.  Auto-correct also wants to add extra periods to sentances that end with quotation marks.  Oh well; first-world problems.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Holiday Reading

Last night was the Wordos Holiday reading.  It was packed with folks, and we had twelve shorts to read aloud.  I think the funniest story was about a mechanical Christmas carol moose; the most serious was a serious CJ-Cherryh-Morgain-esque science fiction story; the most political involved President Trump.  They were all fun or interesting to listen to; I think I was sitting at the dark end of the really long table (my story was about discovering one's first love is really mercantile).

Just one (or possibly two) more run to the craft store for Holiday Paper Craft.  It's nice to be able to give out this year's construction when I have extras, and people seem to like what I've created.

Working out... um.  Right.  Between writing the holiday short and Holiday Paper Craft, I haven't made it to the gym.  My Very Noble Goal for my holiday break is to go in in the mornings before Mark goes to work.  

My other Nobel Goal for the holiday break is to spend some time getting an e-book story out when I'm not otherwise engaged with The Child.  I'm trying to recall what we did in the 70's... because I'm really only recalling playing and sort of hanging out during the two weeks or so of vacation.  My dad must have been around for a lot of it because he was a teacher, and my mom worked some of the time.  I guess I'll have to ask my sister.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Manuscript Production Process


Wrestling with a story.  Originally, it was a 1000 word story for the Wordos Halloween reading.  When I was first writing it, I realized that my point-of-view character was a whiny teen complaining about how unfair their life was, and I didn't want to write the equivalent of magical teen princess complains about her life.  So I switched the POV to an older, mentoring cousin.  This seemed to work.  

I liked the story enough to submit a slightly longer version, 1900 words, to Wordos for critique.  Folks seemed to like it, but wanted some more information and a cool description of a ritual that happened before the story started presented on stage.  I incorporated those changes and submitted it to a second group, with a word count of 2300, but, alas, the story is now driving to the plot because of addition of the information and ritual, and they think the story should be written from the POV of the whiny teen.

I'm thinking some of the way this story worked the earlier incarnations was partially due to the fact that I read it aloud, and my Radio Voice hypnotized Wordos (but not the second group) into liking the submitted draft later.

Although both groups wanted clearer and higher stakes (darn, I thought I got that), I think the most useful critique so far has been the observation that if the story wants to be a coming of age story, use the teen's POV, but if it wants to be a fixing a failed mentor-student story, use the adult's POV.

When stories don't work, I'm slightly perplexed and frustrated that the translation process from my head to paper to the readers' heads didn't work.  I often have difficulty finding the sweet spot between assuming knowledge on the readers' part and over-explaining.  Also, the world-building and eye-candy is what I like to write, which seems to mean that my characters are underdeveloped.  (In my head I can hear K.D. Wentworth's voice saying, "women like to write about relationships and guys like to write about spaceships and submarines.")

I suppose this is a reminder to read my Notes on Critique on a regular basis.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Two More John Themes

Working out - last Tuesday (12/7) after Wordos I went to the gym.   I spent about a half-hour on the elliptical reading about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.  For a while I was trying to properly say Nebuchadnezzar and it sort of works as a running chant.  I also managed to reset the machine about three minutes into my run because I was trying to hold the book down on the console. 300 calories.  Downstairs I increased my weights a notch:  pec flies 3x12X40 lbs, lat pull downs 3x12x80.  I did some free weight work with 15 lb Dumbbells and then it was getting late so I went back upstairs and did some assisted dips, about 4 or 5 reps of 7, decreasing the assisted weight each time from 15 to about 10 (the first weight is something like 36lbs, and each additional one is 6, and I wish they'd just list the amount of weight because I'm never quite sure what the calculation is.

Writing - The Wordos Holiday reading is coming up.  Luckily, the themes match some rough work that I already have.  Not quite as lucky, it turns out I have enough material for four and a half stories, and I only need one thousand word short.  The story that I'm polishing is threatening to turn into a talking heads story, so I'll have to fiddle with the action and make characters' motivations very clear.  

In the course of going through older manuscripts, for this story and for others that I'm struggling to get into e-book format, I've discovered two more John Themes:  The Marvelous Device, and The Bracelet.  The Marvelous Device is usually a cross between an orrery, tarot cards, a music box, a disco ball, and possibly an insect.  It can be made of gold or silver, but any shiny metal will do.  If it is made of more mundane materials, these will be enchanted somehow or otherwise Highly Symbolic.  The Bracelet is typically a form of personal assistant; it usually shows up in science fiction stories as a combination smart-watch/comm-link.  The fantasy version tends to function as a magical electronic pass identification card.  Very likely The Bracelet has its origins with the women who steal Spock's Brain.

Working out - last Thursday (12/10) I went to the gym.  Umm.  200 calories on the elliptical, 100 on the rowing machine.  Pec flies 3x12X40 lbs, lat pull downs 3x12x80.  Triceps pull-downs, 3x12x30lbs.  I think I did a few other things, but I don't quite remember what they were.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Do You Love Your Monkey or Do You Love Me?

Apparently, I've been singing "Monkeys mine, their bitter perfume / breathes a life of gathering gloom" one too many times, because I've been informed it's grounds for divorce.  

Oh well.  I'll stop, because I don't want to annoy my husband... but I was kind of looking forward to making "A Very Monkey Christmas" album and singing, "I saw monkeys kissing Santa Clause, underneath the mistletoe," and singing about Good King Wenselsas seeing "a monkey came in sight, gathering winter fuel," having John Lithgow as Dr Emil Lizardo shout, "Drum while you still can, monkey-boy!" at Peter Weller's Buckaroo Banzai.   

I suppose this penchant for inserting monkeys into songs started with ABBA's "Money! Money! Money!"  because I think it's hysterically funny to sing, "all the things I could do, if I had a little monkey."  But I think there's something deeper going on, and following the chain of monkey associations, I can hear Mike Myers as Dieter asking guests on "Sprockets" about monkeys, which is followed by Peter Seller's voice as Clouseau saying something about a "minkey."  Which goes back to my Dad:  he used to have a high school physics demonstration with a monkey puppet which showed independent vertical and horizontal motion -- the monkey puppet got shot by a BB and would crumble around it.  I'm pretty sure he called it a minkey, until one year the girls in his class corn-rowed the monkey's hair and the puppet attained celebrity status as "Bo Minkey."  

I think at this point Mark would yell, "Help! It's genetic!"

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Advent Weekend

Saturday (12/5) I attended the morning sessions of the Tipree Symposium at the University of Oregon.  I wish I had had gone to the session on Friday, because it sounded like it was an incredible sharing of letters between James Tiptree Jr. and various authors, most notably, Ursula Le Guin.  

I saw some writer friends and Wordos alumni, and we had a nice lunch discussion about writer's intent, and audience, and I realized that I need to get out and socialize with people more.  

I picked up a copy of Ursula Le Guin's "Steering the Craft" (partially because I already own all of her other books that were being sold there, but mostly because I thought if I were going to own a writing manual, it should be by LeGuin), some spare copies of F&SF Gordon Van Gelder had brought as freebies, and a gift (which I'm keeping a secret).  

I read "Gypsie," a novella, Saturday night.  Wow, it was overtly a cheery tale of a failed trip to Alpha Centari.  When I bumped into Jai at the Eugene Public Library Sunday afternoon, she was saying that Kim Stanley Robinson's "Aurora"was in the same vein, and I recalled that I had read a short article by him about some of the feasibility problems with generation ships.  So it looks like interstellar voyages that go badly is going to be the next thing.   

This weekend was a Holiday Shopping and Craft weekend.  I'm working on a super-secret project and I think after all the prototyping and cutting and folding I've got a Holiday Craft Gift that A) doesn't take three hours to complete per gift, and B) my relatives will actually like.  

Sunday (12/6) I slept in until 8.  I'm not sure if I'm fighting off Mark's cold, or if it's the light, or if it is the three storm systems moving in, or sitting in lecture hall chairs just a little too small for me, but my body -- especially my feet -- felt sore all day.  

Augh! Christmas is Coming!

Lots of deadlines looming of the Christmas kind; this will make it difficult to get writing and gym time in.

I was writing a blog post about Bad Parenting Ideas I've Actually Considered for Longer Than Five Seconds, but I decided that it would bring too much backlash on a number of fronts.  I'm sure anyone frustrated by raising a child could come up with it.

I'm thinking about my birthday, which is in a few weeks, and what I'll do during it.  Last year I had a dance party, but this year I think I'll try something more laid back.  I wouldn't mind some sort of tea.  I'm trying to think what sorts of thing would be appropriate for a pentagenarian... and maybe I'll have to visit my Pinterest boards or something.

Working Out:  Went to the gym Wednesday ( 12/2) night:  35 minutes on the elliptical, so I'm guessing 350 calories.  3x13x30 lbs on the pec fly.  Increased lat pull-down to 3x13x90.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

More Virtual Book Editing

More Scrivener and Kindle adventures... I did some research on-line, which suggested the extra carriage returns could be caused by trailing spaces at the end of paragraphs.  Luckily, my story is short enough that I could take those out fairly quickly.  It means I'm going to have to come up with a search-and-replace strategy.

I dropped in a cover; we'll see how it turns out.  I attempted to find a filter for double- and em-dashes, but it looks like they only go one way; so I'm going to have to use search-and-replace there, too.  I also put in ❦ as a section separator to see if the floral hearts would come out properly... and...

The preview tool doesn't show my cover.  The extra carriage returns are gone (yay!) and the floral hearts code is showing, not the actual symbol ❦.

Oh well.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Adventures in Scrivener and ePub

I want to publish mobi filles in order to direct publish reprints to Amazon. 

I use Scrivener to produce my stories.  

Scrivener is a compiler: it takes bits of a story or book and compiles the pictures and text into a finished work. Depending on settings, I can choose to format finished work into chapters or sections.   Normally, I output stories as RTF files in standard McIntyre SFWA short story format, but in this case I'll want to change the output to mobi.

I open up a story in Scrivener.  In this case, I originally wrote the story with some other word processing tool, so I copy the text into a new Scrivener file.  Scrivener uses text blocks and folders to organize words.  Typically, each scene gets its own text block, and text blocks are gathered into folders.  The hierarchy of folders is used to organize story chapters, if any.

I have to break my story apart so the scenes are formatted properly; I manually search for the hash marks that separate my story into three scenes.  This breaks my story into three text blocks, which live in the main Story folder.  

Now I'm ready to compile.  I hit the COMPILE button and the familiar compile dialog box comes up.  Normally, I compile for RTF, so I change that option to ePub.  The normal Compilation Options on the left-hand side of the dialog box change to some new things.

First I chose the contents option.  I don't need need the First Page Header because I don't want to publish my contact information and other information only an editor would want.  

Under the separators option, I realize that instead of the usual hash-tag for separating scenes, I want to use a fleuron ❦  The Unicode standard calls them "floral hearts." I paste one into the Custom text box for the text separator.  Hmm, I might want to use a section sign, § but it's not as pretty.

Under the Cover option, I realize, oh yeah, cover.  I'll need a 500 pixel by 800 pixel cover.  I'm going to skip the cover for a moment; it looks like I can drag and drop a picture.

Onto the Formatting option!  Ooops, Scrivener wants to make my short story a book with chapter titles.  There's settings for each section type: folder, text block collections, and text blocks.  When I click on the folder, I see Scrivener wants to start each folder with a chapter heading and a title.  Since this is a short story, I'm thinking I might want to keep the title, but get rid of the chapter heading....and I can only remove the title.  I think the solution here is to unselect folders in the Contents option above (so now only the text blocks for each scene in the story are selected for compilation).

I click on the Level 1+ icon document, which controls the look of the text.  There's a "Section Layout" button I click on and I find a setting "Number of words to make uppercase" when starting a new section.  I select "Use small caps" and choose to make the first 3 words uppercase.

I'm running out of time, so I jump ahead to the Layout option and unselect "Generate HTML table of contents" because this is a short story.

There's a Meta-Data option, and I'm sure I should add things, but mostly I want to check out what the formatting is going to do, so I hit the COMPILE button.

To keep things organized on my computer, I save the mobi file to a folder within my Manuscripts folder called "epub", to reduce the chances later in the year that I'll grab the wrong compiled version of my short story.

Now I want to see what the story looks like, so I go over to  I click on the web page's "Create New Title" button.  This takes me to a new page where I can enter in information about the book.  Of particular interest is the "book description" which would be either a story excerpt or a blurb, or at the very least a short teaser telling a potential buyer what the story is about. Oh, keywords, like fantasy... and Digital Rights Management (DRM), I'll leave that off for now, but I might want to enable it to allow for more sharing.  

At the very end is a button called "Book contents file," which I press.  A dialog box comes up asking me for my e-copy of the story, and I navigate to the epub folder I created on my computer.  The page thinks to itself for a moment, and the status of the manuscript is displayed.  The conversion from mobi on my computer to Amazon's Kindle format appears to have worked, and there's no obvious spelling errors.  Now I can preview...

Since I haven't saved a book cover, and I didn't include any front matter, my book jumps right into the story.  The first three words are in smallcaps, which is what I asked Scrivener to do.  On a third pass, I notice that only the first section of the story starts with smallcaps, which I suppose isn't so bad, but I did want each section to start the same way.  

Oops.  I didn't tell Scrivener to convert double-dashes (slush-pile format)  into em-dashes (finished format); I'll have to do some other conversions for ellipses and italics.  But oh!  The fleurons ❦ work!  Now of course, since this is a Winter Solstice tale, I'm wondering if I could use a snowflake ❄ instead of a fleuron.  Hmmm.  There's an extra blank space in the text, I'll have to go back to Scrivener and see if there's an errant carriage return.  And there's no ending symbol, this might be a good place for a a section sign,§ 

NCX view?  I don't know what NCX means, and it displays an inappropriate working name for one of my sections; I'll have to see why the Kindle previewer is slurping up just one section name.  

Hey!  I can preview on different devices.  Uh oh! Trouble in paradise; the fleurons don't work on iPad devices. Or a Kindle DX.  Bother!  It looks like more errant carriage returns are showing up.  I'm done for the moment, so I follow a link back to my Kindle bookshelf.  My book is still in draft format, and I can come back to it later.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Pre-Holiday Pause...

Working Out:  Between the Thanksgiving Holiday and feeling downright lazy I didn't go to the gym for a week.  I did go Monday night:  300 calories in 30 minutes on the elliptical (it appears that I'm able to do about 100 calories in 10 minutes).  3x12x40 lbs on the pec fly machine.  3x12x80 lbs on the lat pulldown station.  3X12x30 lbs on the triceps pulldown station.  4x12x30 lbs barbell curl.  2 30 second planks plus and assortment of sit-ups on an exercise ball.

Writing:  This has been a heavy critique week.  There's five stories on the table for Wordos, and I'm going through older manuscripts and preparing them for mobi format; this will enable me to set stuff up on Amazon direct publishing (which I should have started doing at least two years ago).  

Thanksgiving was mostly fun, but I didn't get to visit with my relatives as much as I wanted to.  I'm working on a super-secret holiday craft project, and don't want to spoil the surprise with photos of the process.