Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Back to work today. Things haven't boiled over, but nothing has changed, either. I have plenty more vacation days to use before the end of the year, and I intend to take most of them.

Things could be worse, I suppose. In spring of 2006, I interviewed for a position in San Diego and went looking at houses the next day. Now, I have to wonder if the houses I look at are still standing. I know there were some evacuations in Powey. One Poway house in particular I remember very well. In retrospect, it seems very susceptable to this kind of firestorm. I have to wonder if I would be sleeping in Qualcomm Stadium tonight if I had ended up in that job.

On the writing front, I got an interesting personal rejection from Stan Schmidt at Analog. It's been several in a row now that I've been told the story either "isn't bad" or "pretty good." This last one seems just to be off-target.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Alas, Back to Work

I burned two days of vacation this week, just because. Sometimes you just need to get out of the office. I spent the two days here at Entropy Central with the kids in school. Well, the two days are gone and I go back in the morning. I got very little done, not for lack of trying.

I did manage to get the oven cleaned, and I got part of the wireless network working, the laptop but not the kids' computer. It shows up on the network but doesn't access anything. Aargh.

I did manage to finish that short story last saturday at the Ice Den, and I'm fairly happy with it. It's called Plan R. It's the story I plan to submit for the ASU writers conference this coming February. Finished with that, yesterday I started from scratch a story I had been spinning my wheels on for a few months, and it finally seems to be gaining traction. This story is set on Europa--much of it in submarines underneath the ice. Should be a fun story, not looking to be short, either. I had to keep Plan R under 15 pages for the writers conference. I have no such limitation on this one. It will be my Writers of the Future entry for Q108.

Once I finish that one, I will begin work on my next novel, Rigel Kentaurus. More about that another time.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Icing the Puck

Here I sit at the Alltel Ice Den as my three lovely urchins glide, glide, and sway at Radio Disney night. Okay, my son is more likely doing a glide, slip and crash, but they have fun. I decided to try to finish the short story I started last monday, so here I am making a blog entry.

The Ice Den is the hippest spot in town if you are 11. It's the place to see and to be seen, if you're 11. I managed to snag the only table next to an outlet, so I have power, and this place is a hot spot (as is the adjoining Peter Piper Pizza), so I have internet.

I've been switching back and forth between the story and this blog post, depending upon which catches my fancy at any given time.

News on the home front, we bought Reanna a snare drum today. She's asking for a drum set for Christmas, but she's got percussion lessons now. She does the drum parts on a practice pad, but she really needs a drum, especially to get the feel for drum rolls. She really loves drums, and as irritating as the practice repetition can be, we have to encourage her.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Rush Rediscovery

About nine months ago, my daughter, the clarinet player, needed some uncommon oral surgery. As a result, she had to stop playing clarinet in the elementary school band. She changed to percussion, spending the last semester of 5th grade playing the big bass drum.

Over the summer, we got her playing glockenspiel (bells) and she started taking lessons. She has played on vibraphone and marimba, and then takes the last few minutes working on drums. Now, it looks like she will become a full-fledged drummer. Last night, she made this comment: The more I work on drum set, the more interesting it becomes.

As a result of her interest in drums, I introduced her to the work of one Neil Peart, the drummer of a group called Rush. Perhaps you've heard of them.

This got me back to listening to Rush. I just don't get tired of them. Moving Pictures is one of those rare albums without a bad track. People generally either love or hate Rush. You know where I stand.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I Finally Did It

Almost exactly three years ago, in October of 2004, I once again started writing my first novel. The reason this iteration stands out is that I actually finished it. I called it finished in April of 2005, length, 74500 words. The day I decided to finish the project no matter what is the day I mark as taking this craft seriously. We can call that day October 1st because I don't remember the exact date.

For various reasons, I never submitted this novel anywhere. From April 2005 through December of 2006, I concentrated exclusively on short fiction, with a week interruption for Orson Scott Card's Literary Boot Camp where I generated a short story that is really chapter one of a novel I plan to attack in a few years.

I joined Codex writers group shortly after that and became part of a community of great emerging writers, most of whom have far more skill with this language than I can ever hope to have. Still, I learned enough that I realized the dormant novel had a lot of problems, including some issues that Orson Scott Card and David Gerrold independently identified from the outline alone.

In January of 2007, I started redrafting the novel, that is, starting again from scratch. I cut one full story line and finished in June of 2007 with 115,000 words. Double the word count with less story. Why? I am a better writer than I was in 2004.

Here it is, October 2007, almost exactly three years since I started that novel, and started taking my craft seriously. I now have a SFWA eligible pro sale, a second sale at pro rates, 19 stories total in publication or forthcoming, and I finally submitted my novel, Neanderthal Swan Song, to Baen this week. I believe I am a much better writer of long fiction than of short fiction, so we'll see.

I have two short fiction projects remining that I hope to finish this month, a short story of about 2000 words for the ASU writers conference that's coming in February, and something new for the Writers of the Future contest. After that, it's onward to my next novel--the beginning of my series of loosly connected future history stand-alones that sees Earth drawn into a million-year-old interstellar war. It has a very important tie back to Neanderthal Swan Song, but no spoilers here.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Monday Morning Compliments

On monday, Vylar Kaftan posted this on her blog.

I noticed that nobody responded for several days and posted this in response:

Funny. No takers.

To which she replied as advertised:

Rick, I admire the way you’ve committed to your writing despite such incredible time pressures. I’m astounded by how much you manage to get done without much time in which to do it. Kudos to you.

So let's talk about that for a little bit. Lack of time is the worst excuse for not writing because if it is important to you, you will find or make the time.

I'm saturated. I have my hands full with a full-time engineering job that includes conference calls to other parts of the world at odd hours. I have 3 kids who all seem to have a crisis at the same times. I have a geriatric mother-in-law in the house who needs help getting dressed and using the facilities. I have a wife who just had elbow surgery and can't lift more than 3 pounds with that arm right now. I get up at 5:00am have an activity almost every night. Many nights, I don't start writing until 9:00PM or later. Sometimes, I'm just too tired.

That said, I wrote a 115,000-word novel, a project I started a week before my mother-in-law broke her hip. I've written 11-1/2 short stories this year, totalling over 30,000 words. I'm half way through a collaborative project that sits at 4500-words half finished. I wrote a screenplay outline. I sold 13 short stories in the past year by keeping at least 90% of my inventory in submission at all times.

And no, I don't write at work.

Not enough time is an excuse I don't buy. I don't have enough time to write. I have time pressures that would make most people quit writing, but look what I did this year.

Am I satisfied with those results? No. I've achieved only about half my goal for the year. I wanted 2 novels, one screenplay outline, four short stories, plus a collaborated short story. I won't finish the second novel, but I will make serious progress. I wanted 300,000 words, I'll be lucky to hit 200,000. But I'm much closer to my goal than I was in January, and I have a novel that I finished under extremely difficult conditions.

And Vylar, I admire the way you can weave words together and make your prose sound like poetry.