Monday, March 28, 2011

Free meters = bad

Today in real life: Today is Cesar Chavez Day, which in means parking meters in Denver are free. The result of that is counter-intuitive. All those drivers who usually use pay lots in downtown park on the street instead. That's hundreds of extra cars. By the time I arrive in downtown about 12:45 p.m., there is not a parking space to be had within an eight block radius of my work. I am forced to park farther away than I normally do, walk about a mile and end up being late. I hate free parking days.

Today in writing: I'm in brainstorming mode. I have one solid idea, but that's not enough. I need to come up with a couple more before I have a decent framework for my next story.

Bits and pieces:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Writing progress

The first draft of the WIP is finished, coming in at about 6,000 words. I found when writing the bittersweet resolution that everyone had abandoned my viewpoint character, Maggie, and that was not going to work. Maggie needed someone to help pick up the pieces and to leave the reader with a sense that she was going to be all right. So the last few lines are now a conversation between Maggie and her best friend. Then I went back to the beginning and wrote the best friend into the story at several points, mostly in passing references but also one conversation between the two characters.

Today in real life: Grocery shopping, played with the kids, washed clothes and dishes, and vegged while watching Mythbusters try to blow out some windows with exploding popcorn kernels. (It didn't work.) Now I'm at the day job.

Bits and pieces:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Actors I would watch in anything

I came across this today. It started me thinking about which science-fiction actors I would watch in anything. In no particular order, here are my top 5:

Karl Urban
I first saw him on Xena: Warrior Princess as Cupid and Caesar. I didn't become a fan until he came to DragonCon one year as part of the Xena contingent. What a fantastically gracious guy. Since then, he's become a star with movies such as Star Trek, The Bourne Supremacy, Lord of the Rings and Red. I also enjoyed The Price of Milk, with fellow Xena alum Danielle Cormack. The not-so-good: Pathfinder, Doom, and a failed television show pilot that looked a lot like Firefly before Firefly. What was it called again? Ah, yes, The Privateers.

Peter Wingfield
"Comes a Horseman" was the first Highlander episode I ever watched, and it wasn't Adrian Paul who hooked me on the show. Of all his roles, I like his Highlander character Methos best. I also enjoyed his work on 24 and Caprica, and in the second X-Men movie. But if you name a science-fiction show in the last 10 years, he has probably guest-starred on it at some point. The not-so-good: Riverworld was terrible. And Catwoman. And Highlander: The Source.

Jennifer Garner
My introduction to Jennifer Garner was as the super-smart, butt-kicking Sydney Bristow on Alias, which I think is her best work to date. Also enjoyable: The Invention of Lying, Juno, 13 Going on 30, Catch and Release. The not-so-good: Pearl Harbor, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Elektra.

Amy Acker
I first saw her on Angel, as the sweet, smart and crazy Winifred Burkle and, later on, the not-so-sweet but still crazy Illyria. Both performances were great, and I'm not sure I can pick which was better. I also loved her work on Alias and Dollhouse. As for the not-so-good, I can't think of any.

David Tennant
I first saw him in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, although I didn't know at the time who David Tennant was and he didn't make much of an impression. I became aware of him as an actor in his role as the Tenth Doctor on Doctor Who. He wasn't my first Doctor - that's Matt Smith - but he is my favorite one. He also makes a fantastic Hamlet. The not-so-good: He was appropriately creepy in Secret Smile, but the movie didn't have much else going for it.

Honorable mentions: Summer Glau, Sean Bean, Lucy Lawless, Bradley Cooper

Friday, March 25, 2011

Stuff and fluff

Today in real life: The day job (which is where I am now) and grocery shopping. It's a beautiful day in Colorado: sunny skies, 60+ degrees and no wind. Also, early flowers like daffodils and crocuses are starting to bloom. I love the springtime. I've also started a new audio book, "Water For Elephants." I'm on disc 2 out of 10, and loving it so far. What fantastic, vivid writing.

Today in writing: Not much so far. I did some polishing on stuff I wrote yesterday but no new stuff yet. That will come after work, assuming I'm not dead tired.

Bits and pieces:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

E-publishing

I've only recently become aware of the self-publishing phenom that is Amanda Hocking. Today, news came out that she has translated her popularity in publishing novels through e-booksellers into a seven-figure book deal with St. Martin's Press.

Her amazing success has led to quite a lot of discussion in blogs and on message boards about electronic self-publishing and whether new writers should go that route or the traditional route (which includes agents, publishing houses and editors). For a great breakdown on how the two business models work, check out Nathan Bransford's posts here and here. For a little snark, there's John Scalzi's e-publishing bingo card. And James Van Pelt has some good points on the subject, too.

(Edited to add: There's also this fascinating conversation between authors Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler, the latter of whom recently turned down a traditional publishing contract for two books and half a million dollars.)

As for me, I'm leery of jumping into e-publishing. For starters, for every Amanda Hocking, there's a million writers whose works languish in obscurity. I figure that her success is akin to winning the lottery. Sometimes people get lucky. Most of the time, they don't. I'm sure there's more than luck involved for Ms. Hocking, who has been writing novels for several years and probably does a hell of a lot of promotion and publicity.

My long-term plan is the same as it's always been: Learn the ropes in writing short stories until I (hopefully) make enough professional sales to be eligible for the SFWA, then try my hand at novels. If that takes me years or decades, so be it. I'm not in a hurry.

Today in real life: I'm wire editor at work, which means my shift starts three hours earlier than usual, which means I got nothing done before heading into the office. Actually, I take that back: I played Candy Land with my 3-year-old.

Today in writing: Over the past three days since my last post, I've written probably 750 to 1,000 words. I'm one scene away from finishing a first draft.

Bits and pieces:

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Very Blustery Day

In Winnie-the-Pooh, there is a story of a blustery day. The wind blows so hard it lifts up poor Piglet, who is saved only by clinging to the end of a string that Pooh holds on the other end on the ground. Pooh then flies his best friend like a kite all over the Hundred Acre Wood. That is what today is like here in Denver.

When forecasters in the Denver area predict a windy day, they aren't kidding. You better keep one hand on your hat and the other on your small dog so it doesn't go the way of Piglet. I spent 10 years in the Carolinas and went through a few hurricanes; a typical spring day in Denver doesn't have the rain and tornadoes, but it can have equivalent winds. It might be better if we had some rain because dry weather and wind are a bad combination. For instance, our blustery Monday is whipping up a hell of a wildfire in the foothills just west of the city.

Today in real life: Woke up late, had breakfast with my 3-year-old, ran errands and did some laundry before going to the day job.

Today in writing: Nada in the daytime. About 300 words after work. I had difficulty figuring out how and where to start a new scene, which gobbled up half an hour of writing time.

Bits and pieces:
  • Jack coming back? Kiefer Sutherland says a "24" movie will come out in 2012. Awesome. But the skeptic in me will wait to see whether it actually happens.
  • Peter Jackson releases a couple photos of the first day of shooting "The Hobbit."
  • A reviewer at Tor.com dislikes the sexist humor in the latest Doctor Who minisode. She has some good points.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lazy Sunday? Hardly

Stuff I did in real life: Took advantage of the beautiful weather to go for a 3-mile run; called one of my sisters to wish her a happy birthday; did the grocery shopping; watched about half an episode of Doctor Who; read most of the current issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies; and spent eight hours at the day job.

Stuff I did with writing: Early in the day, not much - probably 200 words longhand. After work, I finished a scene for the day's grand total of 600.

Bits and pieces:
  • Filming has begun on "The Hobbit." Yeah!
  • "Limitless" takes No. 1 at the box office. I haven't seen it and probably won't until it comes out on DVD, but I root for Alias alums to do well in their projects.
  • The Science Channel is showing the Firefly episode "Shindig" tonight, in which Kaylee wears a dress that looks like a wedding cake - inspiring the convention costumes of countless female Browncoats - and we hear the first (and only?) reference to "Captain Tightpants." Read a big ol' recap here.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Givin' myself a kick in the butt

I'm foundering here, folks. In the past week I've done so little writing that it's embarrassing.

So in the interests of reviving my anemic word counts, I am going to follow the example of many other writers and start posting my daily production stats on my blog. I figure if I am putting my progress out there for public consumption, I'm more likely to make an effort to attain respectable counts. At least, that's the idea. I do most of my writing in the evening, so that's when I'll be posting my stats.

My self-imposed deadline to finish the first draft of my WIP: March 31.

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Edited at 11:30 p.m. to add:
Time spent writing: 45 minutes
Word count: about 500

Friday, March 18, 2011

Doctor Who minisode

Well, I am just geeking out today. Not only did I get my Entertainment Weekly with Geek God Nathan Fillion on the cover, I also came across a new Doctor Who minisode.

Part 1: Space


Part 2: Time

The new Wonder Woman

The first photograph of the new Wonder Woman has been released. Check out the reader comments and you'll find most people are hating on her new look. The consensus: Adrienne Palicki's costume looks like a cheap Halloween getup. I have to agree.

I've mentioned before my love for all things Wonder Woman. But I don't know what to make of this television reboot from David E Kelley, and the costume is not lessening my wariness. Wonder Woman, like Superman, tends toward the cheesier side of the superhero spectrum. I love me some cheese. Lynda Carter's take on the Amazon princess was fantastic for its era. But today's television watchers expect more realism in their fantasy. Compounding the problem is that a recent attempt at a superhero show, "The Cape," was canceled after half a season, and the one before that, "Heroes," got mired in slow, boring plots and lost its audience in the process.

But is this the way to go for Wonder Woman? I think not. It's a conundrum.

In other news:
Every three months at my place of employment, all the new release books we get from publishers are put on sale for a huge discount. (Sale money goes to charity, I believe.) The only books I buy nowadays are at The Denver Post's quarterly book sale. But today, my haul was not so great. I was hunting for one of the annual best-of collections for science fiction and fantasy, but I found none. I picked up Joe Halderman's "Starbound" (even though I haven't read the prequel) and "Hellhole" by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. Plus, I got several kids books and Roger Ebert's 2010 movie guide for my dad. Total spent: $18.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Some days are better than others

Today has been one of those days that, if I had a time machine, I would skip right over it. So far, it has involved sitting in the dentist chair for two hours and being told I need oral surgery yesterday; an ankle injury that has me hobbling around like an invalid, and traffic backups that made me late to work.

With all that going on, I got no writing done. However, I'm pretty happy with my total progress for the week of about 1,500 words.

Bits and pieces:
  • It's my normal practice to take a book with me wherever I go, so that I have something to do during lulls. Usually, my book is either science fiction or fantasy and I get no comments on it. My current novel is "The Girl Who Played With Fire," and it's a great conversation starter. Random strangers ask me about it because they have read it, too, or are considering reading it and want to know what I think.
  • I keep playing back the scene in this week's "Glee" in which Kurt and Blaine finally kiss. It's such a honest, romantic moment, and there are too few of those on television nowadays.
  • Nathan Fillion is this week's cover boy for Entertainment Weekly. Awesome. I can't wait to get my copy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thoughts on "Glee"

On "Glee" tonight, the New Directions went to their regional competition, with the winner going onto nationals in New York. I don't think it's much of a surprise who won. The interesting part was that for the first time, this show that has become a gold mine for selling covers on iTunes did three original songs.

The primary storyline for the episode really resonated for me, as a writer. It revolved around the glee kids struggling to write original music. Most of what they came up was horrible. Rachel sang about being an only child (which was better than her first attempt, a song about her headband). Santana sang about Sam's huge lips. Puck sang about Lauren's "Big Ass Heart." They struggled. They wrote and threw out what they wrote and tried again. Eventually, they came up with three catchy songs that didn't suck. (Although in real life, I believe professional songwriters penned those tunes.)

Of course, it's not realistic for a bunch of high school kids to go from singing about "froggy lips" to those catchy songs they performed at regionals in the span of a week, anymore than I am going to pound out a Hugo winner on my next story. The learning curve is long and difficult. However, I did like watching the New Directions' efforts go from trash to terrific. It's what every writer hopes to do.

(In a sidenote, my favorite performance of the episode was not any of the original songs. It was Kurt singing "Blackbird.")

Want to listen: Here's "Loser Like Me."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Another milestone

This morning, my little blog hit 2,000 views. The first 1,000 came between August 2008 and January of this year - 29 months. The second 1,000 came in less than two months. That is what comes of posting almost every day, and writing about a subject people are interested in. (Not my writing efforts, but a little television show called Firefly.)

In other news:
  • I picked up "The Girl Who Played With Fire" at my local library yesterday. I'm only 25 pages into it so far. It picks up just about where "Dragon Tattoo" left off, and the prologue is all about more extreme violence toward women. Here I was hoping Steig Larsson had gotten that out of his system in the first book.
  • I watched "The Town" a couple nights ago. It's an engrossing story about the aftermath of a bank robbery. Good stuff. I recommend it.
  • Today, I have the day job to attend to, and also some errands and housecleaning. I hope to also have time to do some writing, which I have neglected for too many days.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Productive day

What I did today instead of waste time on the Internet: Went for a run; played a couple hands of Old Maid with my kids and also read them some Beatrix Potter; finished Damon Knight's "Creating Short Fiction"; submitted my Writers of the Future story for Quarter 2; wrote a couple of blog posts, and read a novella by Tobias S. Buckell at Subterranean Press. Oh, and I spent eight hours at the day job. The only thing I haven't done is write.

On Facebook no more

Well, folks, I did it. I quit Facebook cold turkey and, yes, I am having withdrawal symptoms. My fingers itch to send me into that social-networking paradise where my former co-worker from 10 years ago tells what she ate for breakfast and my mother's second cousin shares what she thinks about the situation in Libya. I also want to post about the trivial moments of my own life, like the Volkswagen Bug I saw that was painted just like Herbie the Love Bug.

Why did I cut myself off from such simple joys?

The first reason is the more noble one. Facebook sucks up too much of my time that I could spend on more important things.

The second reason is more personal. There were some trolls among my friends. The intentions behind some posts were misinterpreted (which goes to show how hard it is to achieve clarity in writing in any forum). Words were exchanged. I apologized for my part in what happened, but the apology was neither accepted nor reciprocated. I decided to unfriend the trolls. But I realized that to purge the trolls completely, I would also have to purge our mutual friends, people I did not want to insult with such an action. It might have made a bad situation worse. In the end, I decided my best course of action was to delete only one person: myself.

So far, three people have noticed I left: my husband, my mother and one of the trolls, who I'm told took advantage of my absence to slander me on a wall post. (Or is that libel? It is in print ...) But the vast majority of my friends will not notice one missing voice amid the noise. My former co-worker and my mother's second cousin will never know I'm gone, nor care if they do. Such is the kind of world we live in.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Two of my favorite shows, combined

Doctor Who credits made up in the style of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

More bits and pieces

I finished reading Orson Scott Card's "Pathfinder" a couple of nights ago. I noticed it follows a pattern from several of his other books: A separate storyline of sorts is told over the course of the book in segments at the beginning of each chapter; and the protagonist is a gifted teenage boy. I like how the story manages to come across as both science fiction and fantasy at the same time. It's not my favorite OSC book, but it's worth reading.

Mark your calendars: Doctor Who Season 6 has a U.S. premiere date: April 23. Read more here.

In "Creating Short Fiction" Damon Knight says it's rare for a writer to write protagonists of the opposite sex. Men write about men, and women write about women. In looking at my sold stories, all five have male protagonists. In all my original fiction, I have used a female protagonist four times (including in the story I am working on now). Also, there are plenty of female novelists who write male protagonists on a regular basis: Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. Le Guin, Naomi Novik, Katherine Kurtz. I wonder whether Mr. Knight is off-base with his assumption, or if conventions have changed since he wrote the book.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bits and pieces

I finished the fourth (or is it fifth?) revision of my next Writers of the Future entry today, sent it off for (I hope) one last round of critique and did a happy dance in the living room. After three months of plugging away at this story, I'm pleased with how it has turned out. But I'm also tired of looking at it. I need to go play with my other work-in-progress for a while.

And now that I am laying off the revisions for a couple of days, I can finish the novel I'm reading and watch that Netflix disc that has been sitting on the shelf for a week.

We've had gloomy skies, 20+ degree weather and a threat of snow all day in the Denver metro area. As of 5 p.m., a few flurries have come down and that's it. Radar shows the snowfall sitting at the edge of the foothills but not moving into city. Yet. By the time the storm passes sometime tomorrow, we're supposed to have about 6 inches of snow on the ground. Waiting for it to start is sort of like waiting for an anvil to drop.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Firefly is back, again

The Science Channel began airing "Firefly" tonight, complete with science segments by Michio Kaku. The first episodes: "Serenity" and "The Train Job." It's nice that they're airing the episodes in order, unlike that other network that decided "Serenity" wasn't good enough to air as the pilot. Idiots. Anyway, I unfortunately had to work and could not watch. Never mind that I have watched every episode several times and own the DVDs. It's about the thrill of seeing this doomed but brilliant show back on the air.

Entertainment Weekly's Jeff Jensen and Ken Tucker both posted about "Firefly," one before tonight's airing and one after. Ken Tucker will apparently do recaps every week, as though the show were brand-spanking new. I love how my favorite pop-culture magazine is treating this like a Big Event. And I hope the Science Channel's ratings are through the roof.

What it takes to succeed

I've read quite a lot recently about what it takes to succeed as a writer. I define success as achieving a sustained career in professional markets, whether in short fiction or novels (although novels are the more high-profile and profitable of those two options.)

There is a certain amount of talent and luck involved in achieving success. If you don't have an active imagination and an innate understanding of how to tell a story, you probably won't make it as a writer. (Of course if you don't have those things, you probably wouldn't want to make it as a writer.) However, talent and luck alone won't be enough if you're not willing to put in the work. The professional writers I'm aware of write 1,000 to 1,500 words a day. Some do more, but very few write less.

I do not write 1,000 words a day. I'm doing well if I can average 500 a day over the course of a week. There are two major reasons for this. First, writing is not my No. 1 priority; my family and my day job come first. Secondly, after almost three years of writing original fiction, I am still in what I consider to be the learning phase. Yes I have a few sales, and I am proud of each and every one of them. But in general, I spend more time revising stories, trying to figure out what works best through trial and error, than I do writing new material. I aim for quality rather than quantity and (hopefully) am learning the techniques that are necessary for writing good fiction.

In the fall of 2012, my youngest child will start kindergarten. When that happens, I will have several hours most weekdays in which I will be the only person in the house. My plan for those hours is to unplug the phone, turn off television and Internet, and produce some serious daily word counts. That is when I hope to take off my training wheels and make a serious push toward turning pro.

Friday, March 4, 2011

I love this

I don't have much time for blogging today, but I wanted to share one of my new favorite weekly online features. Every Friday, Tor.com rounds up Doctor Who/Torchwood news in a nifty little post called the Weekly Who. If you're a fan, you should check it out.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

WotF waiting begins

The first batch of results for the first quarter of the Writers of the Future contest has started going out. For me, this kicks off a ritual of checking my e-mail every five minutes and filling the time in between by annoying my husband with guesses about whether my story placed this time around.

I don't claim to have inside knowledge or to be an expert in how the process works. Far from it, or I would have found a way to win by now. However, after nine quarters of entering, I have a pretty good feel for the pattern of how results come out, and it goes something like this:

Main judge K.D. Wentworth sorts the entries and sends them back to L.A. The contest administrator notifies those whose stories are in the batch as to whether they have received an honorable mention or rejection. Certain message boards become busy with some people crowing their success, others commiserating their rejection and still others trying to figure out why they haven't gotten a response yet. A few weeks later, the process repeats. While she reads, Ms. Wentworth sets aside the stories she thinks might win. When she has finished going through all the entries, she sorts those last stories into semi-finalists, finalists and silver honorable mentions.

Then there are those stragglers who, after all the blasts of e-mails has gone out, are left in the dark. Wondering. Most of those entrants can probably count on one of two results: straight rejection, or their story got lost in the mail or eaten by the electronic submission system.

We are at the point in the process when the first results has gone out. I am currently one of those posting to the message boards going: But where's my response?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spring season begins

I've done no writing or critiquing yet today because I have been busy with housework, child care, grocery shopping and soccer coaching. But the kids are now in bed and it's only 9:30, which means I have a good three hours before bedtime. That's plenty of time to finish my rewrite and perhaps do a story critique, too.

Soccer practice went well. It was the first of the season, and you never know as a coach what you're going to get. We have eight kids, all first-graders except for one kindergartner who is playing up a year. All of them have played before, and a couple of them are little speed demons with a powerful kick. We just have to get them to use their instep instead of their toe, and add some ball-control skills to the power.

Time to get with the writing.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

February stats

February might be the shortest month of the year, but here at my blog, it was the biggest month ever for traffic. That is partly because I'm posting more frequently, but it's also because of a little show called Firefly. Do a Google search on the possibility of the show coming back, and my post on the subject comes up as one of the top items. As a result, my Firefly posts have skyrocketed to the top of the list of my most-viewed posts of all time.

In other news:
-- I have missed my self-imposed deadline of Feb. 28 for getting the rewrite done on my next Writers of the Future entry. I should have it done today or tomorrow, though. I also have two stories in my e-mail that I need to critique. So, I will not turn on the television until those things are done, and as soon as I'm done posting this, the Internet is going off, too.