Sunday, November 30, 2014

November stats

My goal was to write one chapter per week on the novel this month, and ... success! Four chapters written, for a total about 13,000 words. I even managed to write almost 4K during Thanksgiving week, with the kids on vacation and not leaving me five minutes of peace. I also wrote through a nasty cold that turned into a sinus infection and incapacitated me for two weeks. And I wrote a slightly-longer-than-a-flash piece at the start of the month (which, coincidentally, I just received a rejection on while writing this blog post).

Next month, I need to put the novel on pause and write something for Writers of the Future. I have no clue yet what I'll write, but I have four weeks to figure it out. I'm not panicked yet. Meanwhile, I'm waiting on results for Quarter 4 of Writers of the Future. I was among the many who received a "your story made it through the first pass" email about two and a half weeks ago.

The stats for November:
  • Words written: 14K or so
  • Stories finished: 1
  • Submissions: 4
  • Stories out on submission: 7

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"The Temptation of Father Francis" now free to read

For anyone out there who wanted to read my story co-written with Nick T. Chan, "The Temptation of Father Francis," but who doesn't have a subscription to Intergalactic Medicine Show, I have good news for you. That story and all the stories from Issue 41 will be free to read for the next month or two. So go forth and read!

Here's the link right here.

And as a bonus, here's the blog post that I wrote for the IGMS blog Side Show Freaks that, for whatever reason, never got posted there, giving some background on how this story came about.

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The moral of this story is that sometimes two writers are better than one.

Father Francis started out as the protagonist of a flash story. The only real-life inspiration for that story came from the mysterious deaths of honeybees. I imagined a solitary priest traveling in his dirigible (because dirigibles are cool) across a dystopian West with an AI who thinks she's Annie Oakley and a cargo of pollination bots, a.k.a. mechanical bees

The flash was published a couple of years ago in Every Day Fiction (here's a link to it) to a positive response. I liked the idea of writing more about Francis and Annie. I tried. I had a few false starts. The right story didn't come to me. So Francis went onto a back shelf in my mind, something to revisit someday, when a fellow writer and friend, Nick T. Chan, suggested we co-write stories using worlds or characters we had already created.

I knew exactly which character to use.

The addition of Nick's creative input was what Father Francis needed. Together we came up with a story in which Francis is experiencing a crisis of faith when he arrives in the town of Temptation. He makes his usual offer to use his mechanical bees to pollinate the crops, but he soon discovers that he might need the people of Temptation more than they need him.

This tale was a lot of fun to write and turned out so well that Nick and I have talked about continuing the adventures of Francis and Annie. Because when you have a dirigible, the sky's the limit.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Alias" and journalism

I'm currently writing an urban fantasy novel in which one of my protagonists works for a weekly newspaper in Denver. I've worked in newsrooms since 1998. I know how newsrooms operate, and I know how a lot of popular culture portrayals of newspapers get it wrong.

This past week, as I've been fighting off a nasty cold, I've been semi-binging one of my favorite 2000s television shows: Alias. In the first season, one of the main characters, Will Tippin, played Bradley Cooper before he became an A-list movie star, is a reporter for an unnamed Los Angeles area newspaper.

Alias gets a lot of the journalism stuff right. The newsroom looks about what newsrooms look like. Busy, close quarters, and a little worn-in and messy. The relationship between Will and his editor strikes me as pretty realistic.

There's also plenty that the show gets wrong.

The little things:
  • Journalists don't dress that nice unless they have to. Ties every day? Dress pants and skirts? Most of us wear jeans to work. A few of my colleagues prefer sneakers and hoodies.
  • There's a scene in which Will's editor bugs him for a story on deadline, and he pulls out a folded-up bundle of papers and slaps them onto her desk. Uh-uh. We have these things called computers. We write, submit, edit and lay out stories electronically. Even in the dark ages of the early 2000s, we did this.
  • The Alias newsroom has no televisions. What's with that? How are you supposed to keep up on major national and international stories, and watch the local sports teams play, without TVs?
Those are nitpicks, but then there are other things that make me want to yell and throw things at the television.

Will has an assistant. She's a pretty 19-year-old named Jenny who has a crush on him, and fetches him coffee and phone numbers. Reporters don't have assistants. No one in a newsroom has an assistant with one possible exception: the editor-in-chief of a Top 10 circulation newspaper. If you want coffee or a phone number, you get it yourself.

But then it gets worse. A few episodes into the first season, it's mentioned that Jenny isn't an assistant. She's an intern.

I was an intern right out of college at a major metro paper, and I've seen dozens of interns come and go over the years. If you're hired as a reporting intern, you report. You get assignments, cover events, do interviews and write articles. If you're a copy desk intern, you edit and write headlines and other display type. Interns do the same things that staff writers do, carry the same work load, only for half the pay (or less).

If that poor girl Jenny is an intern, it's no wonder she's so sarcastic and bitter all the time. She should be writing articles and instead is fetching coffee for Will Tippin.

Sigh.

Here's the other big error in Alias. Will spends the entire season investigating the murder of his best friend's fiance. Of course we the audience know why Danny was killed. His murder is what initially fuels Sydney to take down SD-6. Poor Will is completely ignorant of the spy game, which means the audience knows more than he does, which turns the audience against him. But that's a different issue all together.

Under no circumstances should Will's editor be letting him pursue this story. He's too close to it, too personally involved. Any decent reporter would have interviewed Sydney and Danny's friends and family, but Will doesn't. Because he doesn't want Sydney to know he's investigating Danny's death. When Sydney does find out, she begs Will to drop it, which in turn makes Will question whether he should do just that, even though he has stumbled onto a larger conspiracy than a man murdered in his bathtub (which is a big story in itself).

And don't get me started on how quickly Will seems to get a hold of things like Social Security numbers, traffic camera footage and information linked to license plate numbers.

Despite all this, I still love Alias. Probably because Will's newspaper plot line is secondary to Sydney's spy stuff and lasts only one season. Then he gets fired, and that's it on this show for the unnamed L.A. newspaper.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Brrrrrr

Last week, I turned 38, but that milestone was overshadowed by another one: The coldest temperatures Denver has ever seen in November, plus several days of snow. I spent Monday at the DMV renewing my driver's license. When I went in, the day was sunny and 65 degrees. When I came out five and a half hours later, it was 25 degrees and snowing. And it snowed and snowed, and we didn't get back above freezing for several days.

My husband and I had planned to see "Interstellar" on Tuesday (my birthday), but postponed our plans due to the undrivable roads. At least I have something to look forward to this week.

A silver lining to the crappy weather: My new snow tires are proving much better than the old ones.

Despite having frozen fingers, I've made some decent writing progress. This month so far, I've written a short story and two chapters of the novel. I'm well into another chapter that I hope to finish by Friday. I've written about 25 percent of the novel, and it's about 20K. So I'm looking at a finished product of about 80K, eventually.

Submissions stats this month:
Stories out: 6
New submissions: 3

So far this year, I've made 33 submissions. Barring a massive surge in the last six weeks of the year, I won't be beating last year's submission total of 45. I blame that on a couple of things. First, I've actually been selling stories, which takes them out of circulation. Imagine that. And I haven't been writing as many new stories to replace the sold ones because I've been working on the novel, instead.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Doctor Who: Death in Heaven


The season finale seems to have created two camps: those who think it's the best of Moffat's time as showrunner, and those who think it was unsatisfying. I'm afraid to say I agree with the latter group.

It was the anti-"The Doctor Dances." Instead of everyone winning, no one does.

Oh, the episode had its moments. The extra 15 minutes helped with the pacing, giving some scenes more room to develop. But the climax and resolution first had me confused -- because what I thought had happened couldn't possibly have happened because it was too awful -- and then had me frustrated when I realized that, no, I wasn't confused at all and it really was that awful.

The problem was the script. The performances were good. I especially enjoyed Michelle Gomez as Missy. She gave the character more depth than John Simm (though for the record, I also loved John Simm's take on the Master). I don't think she's dead. The show can't kill off a character with such a long history in such an anti-climactic way.

Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman did their usual quality work. Jenna Coleman's name first in the credits, and the use of her image instead of Capaldi's, right after Clara declared that she was the Doctor, was genius. For a half a minute, I almost believed it. I also loved the Doctor taking out his frustration and anger and hopelessness on the TARDIS console. That was an earned moment, and Capaldi sold it, 100 percent.

Here's what I saw as the major issues:

Missy's Cyberman plot was overly complicated
She had been stealing souls for centuries, and created some Cybermen so she could explode them to create more Cybermen, who then didn't do anything. Yeah, I know, the army was a gift for the Doctor. But seriously, couldn't she have come up with less of a Rube Goldberg plot to achieve the same end? And how can you have Cybermen all over the world without having them do something besides pose for selfies with tourists? That was a total misuse of a classic villain. Ugh.

An unnecessary death
Moffat brought back the amusing Osgood and gave her the best line of the episode ("Bow ties are cool") for the sole purpose of having Missy kill her. Her death was intended to raise the stakes, to show that Missy was serious about her insane homicidal tendencies. It's a very Joss Whedon-ish move. It didn't work. Osgood's death was pointless and wasteful. She had potential. She was smart and cute and got bonus points for being a Doctor groupie. Then she basically walked straight into an obvious trap and then stood there and let Missy kill her. Since Osgood is the stand-in for the fandom, what does that say about Moffat's opinion of the fans? Again, ugh.

That scene with the Doctor and Clara
You know the one I'm talking about. He lies, she lies. They care deeply about each other but still part ways on the street, ending a long and complicated relationship in the worst way and for all the wrong reasons. There was no sacrifice as there was with Rose, Donna and Amy. There wasn't any honesty, as with Martha. The Doctor and Clara cannot end it like that. I do think that Clara has one foot out the door (probably because the thing she needed to tell the Doctor is that she's pregnant), but please, Show, you have another chance in the Christmas special. This time, get it right.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Catching up on Doctor Who

Here's the thing about this season of Doctor Who: I'm just not that into it. Sure, I've been watching, though not consistently. I caught up on the past three episodes this week so that I wouldn't be hopelessly behind going into the season finale tonight.

The season is good. There have been some great episodes, but no instant classics. It took me awhile to put my finger on the problem, but now I have: Matt Smith is gone.

Peter Capaldi is a fantastic actor, and I'm enjoying his take on the Doctor, but he's missing the magnetism and gravitas of Matt Smith that kept my eyes glued to the television screen for so many seasons. David Tennant had the same qualities, though he wasn't as good at the "I am the Doctor" speeches. Peter Capaldi does magnificently, and I love his dry delivery of the jokes, but I find myself checking Facebook and half-watching instead of being riveted.

I've heard fans for years talk about the concept of "My Doctor." People ask: Who is Your Doctor? I didn't have one until this season. Now I realize that Matt Smith has been My Doctor all along, and the new guy just isn't the same.

The one big improvement this season has been Clara's development into an actual character instead of a Big Mystery for the Doctor to solve, but even she has been all over the map. She loves traveling with the Doctor. No, she hates the Doctor. No, she has changed her mind and is back with the Doctor. Now she's lying to the Doctor and Danny. I'm getting whiplash just thinking about it.

I will watch tonight's season finale, of course. I was underwhelmed by the reveal about Missy's identity ... because, really, who else was she going to be? It's nice that Steven Moffat listened to the fans and regenerated a traditionally male character into a woman. I will be thoroughly put off if Missy doesn't survive the finale, but I think she will. And I'll post some thoughts on the finale tomorrow or Monday.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Why I won't do NaNoWriMo

Well, it's November, and for a lot of writers, that means it's time for National Novel Writing Month. I'm writing a novel, but I won't be doing NaNoWriMo. Why? Because 50K in a month would burn me out so completely that I wouldn't write for the next several weeks, which would end up being counterproductive.

My writing time is limited to about an hour a day, give or take. That's because most of my time is devoted to my family and the day job. To write the necessary 1.5K per day to reach the NaNoWriMo goal, I would have to cut into my family time (because the 40 hours/week at the day job aren't negotiable), and I'm not willing to do that.

However, I will work on the novel, and I refuse to give into the distractions of any other writing projects. My goal is to finish one chapter per week, which will probably put me somewhere between 12K and 16K for the month. I'm a tortoise, not a hare. That's all right because the tortoise finishes the race.

While I'm at it, stats for October:
  • Word count: No clue. Probably around 10K. But it could be more. Or less.
  • Submissions: 1
  • Stories out on submission: 5