Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wrapping up February

Happy Leap Day! Really, an extra day on the calendar should not be associated with leaping, which involves jumping or skipping over something. The name would be more accurate if we lost a day instead of added one. Anyway, with another 14 hours until March as I write this, the stats might change. But as of right now, here's how I did for February:

Words of fiction written: 5,100
Stories started: 1
Stories finished: 1
New submissions: 4
Total stories out on submission: 5

I hit my modest word count goal for the month. I did not finish the first draft of my next Writers of the Future entry, as I wanted to, but I am one longish scene from the end. However, the opening scene will take some serious revising before I send the story to my first readers. I've come to realize I started in the wrong place and the first three pages are a big infodump. That's OK for my purposes of getting oriented but not OK for the final product.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Oscar redux, and a trip

In my Oscar picks, I got 13 right, which is more than half but not as good as I've done in some years. I missed actor and actress, although I enjoyed the acceptance speeches of both Jean Dujardin and Meryl Streep (which, along with best picture, were the only awards I saw).

The reason I missed most of the Oscars ceremony was because my two youngest children and I traveled over the Rocky Mountains to Grand Junction this weekend for my grandpa's 90th birthday celebration. The trip can be difficult in winter, but we had clear skies Saturday and Sunday. I caught up with a lot of distant relatives I haven't seen in a long time and some I don't ever remembering meeting. I heard a few variations on: "The last time I saw you, you were 4 years old!" Most importantly, I got to spend some time with my grandparents for the first time in months. I hope I'm doing that well when I hit 90. Despite spending 10 hours on the road over two days, the trip was definitely worth it.

On a side note, at these kinds of gatherings, I notice people are generally remembered for one thing, and it's all they get asked about. For instance, one of my cousins does a lot of traveling (in the U.S. and abroad) for his job, so we all ask him about where he's been over the past few weeks. As for me, I am the writer of the family. Everyone asks me how the writing is going and whether I've had anything published lately. If I have to be labeled as something, I'm proud that it's as a writer.

Friday, February 24, 2012

My Oscar picks

I will be driving over the Rocky Mountains on Sunday night, coming back from my grandfather's 90th birthday party (90!) when the Oscars ceremony will air. So I won't be watching for the first time in years. But I still enjoy making predictions on who/what will win. Some of my picks are based on critical opinions and some are blind guesses. Almost none are based on my opinions because I've hardly watched any of the nominated movies this year. Here we go:

Best picture: The Artist
Actor: George Clooney, "The Descendants"
Actress: Viola Davis, "The Help"
Supporting actor: Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"
Supporting actress: Octavia Spencer, "The Help"
Animated film: Rango
Cinematography: The Artist
Art direction: Hugo
Costume design: Jane Eyre
Directing: Michael Hazanavicius, "The Artist"
Documentary feature: Undefeated
Documentary short: Saving Face
Film editing: The Descendants
Foreign language film: A Separation
Makeup: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Original score: The Artist
Original song: Man or Muppet, "The Muppets"
Short film animated: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Short film live action: Time Freak
Sound editing: Drive
Sound mixing: War Horse
Visual effects: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Adapted screenplay: The Ides of March
Original screenplay: Midnight in Paris

I'll post how I did on Monday.

Monday, February 20, 2012

General updatetry

The Nebula Award nominations came out today and you can read the full list here. Once again I've managed to read next to nothing that the bulk of SFWA members thought was great last year. I've read none of the novels; one novella (Kij Johnson's wonderful "The Man Who Bridged the Mist"); one novelette ("Ray of Light" by Brad R. Torgersen); and one short story ("Shipbirth" by Aliette de Bodard). I have some catching up to do.

However, I have been reading other things. This past week, I finished "Storm Front" by Jim Butcher and "The Alchemist" by Paolo Bacigalupi (which was nominated for a Nebula last year). I highly recommend both. I've started "Kushiel's Dart" by Jacqueline Carey, which will probably take me several weeks to get through because it is a door stop.

Tor.com is doing a Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch. They're now starting in on Season 2, which is my second favorite season (No. 5 is the best, IMO). I feel nostalgic every time I read one of the posts and get an itch to pull my DVD sets off the shelf. I love one of the comments on today's post -- made by editor extraordinaire Gardner Dozois, no less -- who points out that every evil thing always kicks off its take-over-the-world plan by attacking the Bronze. Ha! It's because the Bronze is The Place To Be, of course.

And a last note: the Oscar's are this weekend. I usually watch the best picture nominees as they come out on DVD. So far this year I've seen ... Moneyball. That's it. The only other nominated movies I've watched: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Bridesmaids, Kung Fu Panda 2, Rango, The Muppets, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and Jane Eyre. So when I make my Oscar picks later this week, I'll be doing it based on critical opinion and not my own. Oh well.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Writing progress

We are (almost) midway through the month, so it's time for an update.

Writing: So far this month, I've written a 1,000-word flash story (dark fantasy) and 1,500 words on my next Writers of the Future entry (science fiction), which is coming along swimmingly. My goal is at least 5,000 words per month, so I'm right on target for reaching that goal in February.

Submissions: I've sent out one new submission this month, for a total of five stories on the market. Days out range from 4 to 129.

Reading: I've finished the current issue of Asimov's and am now reading the current Analog. No stories yet stand out as gold. I'm also listening to "Storm Front" by Jim Butcher, which is the first book in his Harry Dresden series. Mr. Butcher is a master of pacing and tension. There's a lot to learn from there. Also, it doesn't hurt that the audiobook's narrator is none other than the fantastic James Marsters, a k a Spike on "Buffy."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thank goodness for Good Samaritans

I parked in a usual spot in downtown Denver today and walked a half-mile from my car to the office. About 6 p.m., I walked back to get my car and move it into the office parking garage. (I pay the cheap option on the garage, which means I can get in only after 6 p.m. and on weekends.)

Anyway, I started up the engine, put it in drive and the wheels spun. Put it in reverse. The wheels spun. I spent five minutes turning the wheel this way and that, going forward, going back. I was stuck. And the sad part is that the snow is mostly melted off. I just happened to park in an ice rut.

I went across the street, where a guy was using a pickup with a plow attached to the front to clear out a pay lot. He very nicely agreed to give me a push. No good. He went and found a friend who was also clearing snow. The two of them still could not get my car out. So they enlisted another guy. By this time, I was very thankful that so many of them were out clearing snow from a parking lot at 6:30 p.m., when most people are home eating dinner. Finally, with three big guys pushing the front end of my car, my little Corolla rolled backward out of the ice and onto dry asphalt.

I checked later and found out the parking lot is leased for use by employees of a local hospital: Exempla Saint Joseph.

Too bad it wasn't the other hospital owned by Exempla in the area: Good Samaritan.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

42 hours of snowfall

We take our winter seriously here in Colorado. The latest storm started with some flurries Thursday evening and didn't move out until noon today, after it had dumped about 18 inches of white stuff on the driveway. (My back and shoulders ache from the shoveling.) More than 17.1 inches would make it the biggest February snowstorm in Denver's history. I'm guessing we set a record.

Most Denver-area employees wisely called in sick Friday and stayed off the roads. Unfortunately, I work in a profession that doesn't grind to a halt for anything. Come holidays or snowstorms, the newspaper comes out every day. So I plowed into work and back home again last night, which was the worse part as far as road conditions went. There are a handful of nighttime work commutes every winter in which I grip the steering wheel white-knuckled, creep along the interstate at 40 mph and - once I have pulled into the garage - thank God for getting me home in one piece. Last night was one of those nights.

Writing progress: Running total of 5,300 words. I plan to get another 1,000 to 1,500 words written this weekend. I'm feeling really good about this story so far.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Stats for January

Words of fiction written: 5,000
Stories started: 1
Stories finished: 0
New submissions: 4 (all the same story)
Total stories out on submission: 4

I'm generally happy with the word count, but I know I can do better. The flash fiction project I'll be starting this month will increase the number of stories and submissions. It's not a race, but I won't make sales if I don't write more and submit more.