May goals update! Much accomplished!

May 31, 2011

So, checking in on my list of creative to-do items for May, I feel like I’ve really done very well:

  • Finished all three fanfic chapters I wanted to write. The new installment of “Un-brotherly love’ is a little shorter than I had planned, but it came to a good chapter break point.
  • I added four titles to my master fanfic tracker spreadsheet, which was enough to figure out that it wasn’t all that hard.
  • I submitted four stories for magazine publication!
  • I’ve finished reading and critiquing a novel manuscript from critters.org
  • I’ve visited a lot of cool blogs.
  • I had a great time with the Storywonk workshop, and posted all of the ‘homework assignments’ on the private forum.
  • I’ve completed tracking spreadsheets for all of the critters comments I got for ‘The Landing’ and ‘Harry and Mars’

This, in addition to other cool but unplanned stuff like getting into the CSSF workshop, and getting the air conditioner repaired.

I’ve started on the list of June goals to accomplish, as follows:

  1. Read the rest of this entry »
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It’s Memorial Day.

May 30, 2011

Today, I’m wishing a memorable Memorial Day to all you Americans.

Here in Canada, we have our May long weekend one week before you. I actually think it’s kinda funny how that works out.

Memorial day is specified to be the last Monday in May.
May has 31 days.
Victoria day in Canada is specified to be the Monday on or immediately before May 24th, which was Queen Victoria’s birthday.
Since 31-24=7, it always works out to be exactly one week away, no more and no less.


A Wizard of Mars, Chapter Fifteen

May 29, 2011

A Wizard of Mars chapter index.

So, I’m drawing close to the end of my chapter-by-chapter recap of Diane Duane’s novel “A Wizard of Mars”, and I’d like to say that I’ve had a great time sharing this book with you. I’d like to try something else soon, possibly not chapter by chapter, but going through a book in installments as I read it, instead of a single review/book report of the novel as a whole, and I’m setting up a poll to see what possible titles there’s any interest in from my regulars.

So, at the end of the last chapter, Nita teleports into the throne room of one of the Martian royal houses, that of the Shamaska city, and she’s very pissed off and wizardly and competent and magnificent, as Kit said about her a bit earlier. So she tells off Iskard, the king, and Rorsik, his toadying minister, for the way they’ve treated the planet, and wizardry, and their people, and Aurirelde, Isakard’s daughter, and Khretef, her sweetie from the other side of Mars, the Eilitt. Particularly Nita rages on at the blindness of wizards letting themselves slip into an ‘us or them, we have to use wizardry against them because they’d do it to us’ mentality.

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More Ad Astra notes from Friday night:

May 28, 2011

(Taken from my palm tungstens)

Beta Readers
Terminology – editors versus test readers versus critiquers versus critters or beta readers.
The Bunch of Seven, at Ryerson: “Does anybody want to read this manuscript?”
The worst critiquer – your mother? Anybody who will grimace and say “it’s great”!
Deal to meet every two weeks for coffee to talk, and you had to demonstrate process or owe the other person a coffee.
Pride on the line, didn’t want to have to owe the other person anything.
My sister, the professor beta reader – loving yet stern.
Critiquing the work in progress is an art – getitng from the little cleanup stuff, to the bigger stuff, ‘where you lost me, what were you trying to do I didn’t get it.’
Is it important to all be around the same level of skill?
Useful specialty fields, like renaissaince history, fantasy fan
Someone who will give you the bad stuff, won’t take your bullshit or excuses.
Shorthand vocabulary between long time beta readers, familiarity with longer works.
30% more or less of a particular factor (30% less words?)
Posting something up for the fans realtime, but it’s malleable, make changes based on the fan feedback. intensely collaborative experience.
Different specialties and different perspectives, like cultural – british or german?
Busy schedules – distributing manuscripts before the meetings.
Everybody has to make a commitment to the group.
Internet writing friends – commiting to writing.
Limits on the group policies, reciprocity.
Where to find readers? making friends with other readers.
Writers as beta readers? giving the readers/audience perspective.
At what stage do you let the beta readers see it? in progress/first draft/second draft/later?
Clarity for helping you see where you need to get over the hump you’re facing.
‘Too many characters?’ When you list them off, if you say ‘he’s the other guy’ then get rid of him.
The reader is doing a good job when you say ‘I hate you / shut up.’
Ongoing relationship – it builds over time.
Might overlap with professional editing.
‘A marvelous precis of a story, with good cursing.’
Something positive, and something to improve on.
Getting the most beautiful rejection letter, it’s nice that they took the time to write it.
When do you take a comment to heart?
The stages – first to encourage, then your needs change as you get more confident and better.
Don’t tell them that you’re not taking their notes to heart, just thank them and compliment them.
Have the courtesy to say thank you.
Don’t tell them that you’re not taking their notes, or defend your work. (as in getting defensive,)
‘That’s a starter book’, ‘that’s a green belt book instead of a black belt book.’
Writer’s group, you feel under the gun with serious criticism. (defensiveness again.)
Don’t repeat the same constructive criticism that other people in the circle did.
Plug for ‘day jobs for creative professionals.’
Times when it’s very hard to write. you may need to make a change in your life.
Mystery story without any mystery in it.
‘Rewrite in regular english instead of fake olde english.’
‘Very pretty, very terrible story, with a remembered plot.’
Cutting 20000 words from the middle of the story.
‘Well i like you as a person.’
Confessionals didn’t come in for another 300 years.
Writing a rosary within 10 years of the introduction of rosaries.
Read the rest of this entry »


More iphone App updates

May 27, 2011

Well, as I mentioned a few days ago, I’ve gotten back to messing around a little with NSBasic App Studio and my iPhone over May.

So I thought I’d share a few examples of what I’ve been up to. The first app idea I had was for a little date calculator to answer questions like ‘What day is 90 days from Halloween’ or ‘How many days are between my birthday and Christmas’?

For things like this, it’s been really easy to use NSBasic App to arrange elements on the iPhone screen and not that hard to tell it what I want it to do with them either. Here’s what the DateCalc app looks like when it’s working: Read the rest of this entry »


Lost notes from long-ago conventions.

May 26, 2011

Well, I went through the memo pad files on my Palm tungsten handhelds this evening, looking for more material on Ad Astra, but when I realized that I had some notes from even longer ago, I thought that I had to share them first. I’ll try to edit for a bit of clarity when I can, but these will generally be very rough, just what I managed to type down at the time. Please reply with questions in the comments about anything that intrigues you, and I’ll answer in more detail if I can, or speculate otherwise.

This first memo I don’t honestly know where it’s from, but it could be from Polaris 2010:

How to write
worldbuilding – know how things work and where things are
map of dystopian ontario – civilization around hydro plants, cancer pollution zones
writing a story in 24 hours – with prompts from strangers and libraries
outlining a story before starting the first sentence
have to be willing to kill characters off, even if you like them and they don’t want to die
two characters running around a building in opposite directions but not meeting
to master the art of outlining… Or not?
character driven writing – know their skilllsets, and then make them go beyond
appendectomy with a spoon and first aid training
wars and the aging of characters – retconning your history
computer tools – custom dictionary spell check, massive internet research, excel file for character bible, search and replace, macros for italicizing ship names
chinese font issues – pdf submissions
preparation details that don’t get into the book – lots of them
helps you live in that world
the grist mill – after being in one when it was working, the feel was wrong, needed to rewrite
tinker’s plague, triangular trade deficits, drove some of the plot
writing programs – ms word with all auto functions turned off, simple good manuscript format
Read the rest of this entry »


Summer Donation Day is tomorrow!

May 24, 2011

The Office of Letters and Light, which organizes National Novel Writing Month, Script Frenzy, and a few other programs, is doing a one-day donation drive tomorrow. The funds raised tomorrow will go towards the launch of the new ‘Camp Nanowrimo’ year-round writing extravaganza, and upgrades to the website hardware in anticipation of record-breaking traffic for the first few days of Nanowrimo in November 2011. And Lindsey Grant has been giving us a few sneak peaks via the ‘Breaking News’ space on the nanowrimo.org home page.

It looks like they’ve got some great limited edition donor thank-you gifts up for grabs, including bumper stickers and bear posters. I can tell you that I’ll definitely be pulling out the old credit card early tomorrow morning, because I don’t want to miss out on my goodies!

If you’re a Nanowrimo or Script Frenzy veteran, I encourage you to chip in whatever you can. And if not, then nobody’s asking you to donate, but watch this space for Camp Nanowrimo news, maybe take a look when it goes live.


What have I been working on lately?

May 23, 2011

I thought I’d bring all of you up to speed on a few things.

  • The ‘Request for dedicated readers’ that I answered at critters.org is going fairly well – I’m up to around page 125 out of 184, so more or less on track for finishing by the end of the month. I’m liking the story so far, and hopefully I’ll have some helpful feedback to share with the author.
  • New smartphone apps! I’ve been learning some good tricks with NS Basic App Studio, and have completed little apps for date calculator, (figuring the difference in days between two dates or the date result of offsetting an input date by a particular number,) and a data collection front end that feeds into a web application back end. I’ll post some screen captures in a few days if I remember.
  • The Straight Dope Message Board short fiction contest went well, though I didn’t win in the voting. But I really like my story, which actually took the character of Lisa from Chatterboxes, which is fundamentally a speculative contemporary sci-fi book, and put her into an urban fantasy scenario, learning sorcery from a teacher who isn’t quite what she expected.
  • I’m a little behind on my goal of submitting a story a week this month – I’ve done two, and I want to make a few more revisions to the Landing based on my critique tracking results before sending it out again.
  • I’ve nearly finished the second out of three fandom chapter updates I wanted to make in May – this one is ‘Children of the Molecule’, my Roswell/Doctor Who crossover, which is finally drawing towards an end.
  • And I’ve written a new scene for ‘The Long Way Home’, with Naveli getting Ereyu as a pet ferret.
It actually looks somewhat impressive when I type it out in a list like that.

Feeling the heat

May 22, 2011

Well, the weather finally warmed up for the long weekend. And my apartment has been getting hot.

This has been a regular thing for my apartment. It has two rooms facing west to the park, and tends to trap summer heat. Air conditioning has been a bit of a recurring tribulation too. The second summer after I moved in, I bought a window air conditioner at Canadian Tire, put it into my kitchen, took it out and put it in its box when the weather cooled down – and the next summer, my friends, family, and I absolutely could not figure out a way of putting it back into that window without the fool thing falling out. My apartment has oddly shaped windows. I ended up selling that window unit for something like 20% of what I bought it for around the end of that third summer.

I think the same year, I bought a model of air conditioner that sits inside the room, with a hose that connects it out the window, and a little plastic tank to collect the water that’s condensed out of the air, so that when the tank is full the air conditioner shuts off. It’s a nifty little machine, and can also run as a dehumidifier, fan, or an electric heater in the winter, but it doesn’t really have that much ‘oomph’ as an air conditioner, especially since the hot air has to run through the hose. So my apartment would still get pretty warm in the hot spells, even with that air conditioner running non-stop.

But I got along that way for many years. I actually got a lot of good writing done during the summer from avoiding being in my apartment – I’d take the Alphasmart Dana, go down to the Red Hill library and write all Saturday, and two evenings a week. I set my all-time personal daily best at the library, 10,000 words split between four or five different stories.

But eventually that got a bit ridiculous, and I decided that I was going to get a new window air conditioner for the kitchen, and possibly enlist the help of a handyman to help get it in. I was mentioning that to Paul, the guy who runs the laundromat downstairs, and he mentioned that he knew a guy who did that kind of work, and gave me the friend’s number. I called the guy up, he said that he was refurbishing a good used window model air conditioner that might work with my place, and so he set it up and installed it at a bargain price. I’ve been leaving it in the kitchen, (because it’s basically built into the window with plywood,) and plugging the tiny drafts as they come up with foam or paper towel or anything else that’s handy.

So, last year at around this time, I tried turning on the air conditioner, and noticed that I wasn’t getting a rush of cold air, or indeed a blast of any air at all. There was a sound, so I figured that something was working, but it wasn’t the fan. Did a bit of tidying up in the kitchen just on principle, called Don up, and he came over on the Monday of the Victoria day long weekend, tweaked the fan motor, mentioned that I should be cleaning the filters, and I paid him a little for his time. Well enough.

Pretty much the same thing happened this year, except that I made sure to clean the filters before trying to turn the power on. Don’s coming by at 9 am tomorrow.

Also, I managed to accidentally break something in the other air conditioner’s hose attachment last fall when I was packing it up, so that though everything else on that unit is working fine, I cannot actually get the hose to stay in the window, and thus cannot actually expel the hot air from my apartment. Sigh. My mom has a similar model air conditioner that I may be able to borrow parts from, or I may show the broken hose and fitting to Don tomorrow and see if he can think of anything better to do for it.

At least I shouldn’t need to worry much about the heat after tonight.


The Lost Ad Astra Notes: part 1

May 20, 2011

So, it’s been nearly a month since I went to the Ad Astra science fiction convention in Toronto, but I didn’t post that much about it because that was in the middle of the A-Z challenge, and the good letters like A for Ad Astra and C for Convention had already passed. And I didn’t pull my notes out as soon as May started. So here are my somewhat scattered thoughts.

My overall impression of Ad Astra was that it was ‘more Polaris than Polaris.’ Polaris 24 was my first hotel-based convention, and in some ways it was crazier than the conventions with bigger celebrity guests at fancier venues, like Wizard World or Fan Expo, because there were so many really cool panels going on, always something interesting happening, the action starting relatively early and ending really late, scrambling to find some time to grab a bit of food in between panels that I really wanted to get to. Those are all the ways that Ad Astra was moreso than Polaris.

And it was at least as much crazy fun.

So, my Mom picked me up at work this time to drive me into the city, on the condition that I at least try to buy any of a long list of Mercedes Lackey books for her. The drive went reasonably well, except that we got somewhat lost actually looking for the driveway into the hotel, though we spotted the building quickly enough. Then there was a bit of a wait for my room to be ready when I was checking in.

I registered, started going over my program and the schedule to see what panels I thought I’d be able to make, and a friend from the Firefly fan group, Colleen, spotted me sitting in the lobby and asked if I could keep watch over her suitcase for a few minutes, and I agreed. Then she got dragged outside by her grandkids and I had to hang around for a while until she got back.

My first panel was with Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon, who were a lot of fun; that one was about continuity in an ongoing series. Then a panel on how to find good beta readers, which had lots of interesting tips. I was making notes like crazy on whatever came easily to hand – the iphone for one panel, a palmpilot for the next, and so on. I’ll put together as many of the notes as I can and share them with you all.

Read the rest of this entry »


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