Sunday, August 31, 2008

Mote Coppercon (a little more only)

I ran over to coppercon again today, mostly because my daughter Reanna wanted to go to the mall with her friends. So, I left her with her friends (and one friend's mother) and went to the con that was a block away.

I had my camera this time. I was hoping to get a picture with Steven Brust, but he is pretty elusive. He had a signing with Michelle M. Welch, but I arrived in the last five minutes and only Michelle was there. Apparently, Brust took off about 5 minutes before I arrived.

I did get a couple of pictures with Jack Mangan. Here, Jack is looking philosophical and I'm just wondering what he's doing.



I wanted to get a picture with Michelle, but despite sitting in the lounge with her, Lejon, and Jack for maybe 45 minutes, that never happened.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Coppercon 28

Todays panels at Coppercon went well. I finally got the chance to sit on a panel with both Emily and Ernest Hogan, two Phoenix writers who I have known for several years. I had lunch with Jack Mangan, Michelle M. Welch, and her husband Lejon.

The panel on bringing SF into the classroon was moderated by Paul Cook, who teaches a SF course at Arizona State University. Chris Paige teaches, too. Emily Hogan sat on the panel as a bookseller, and I sat on the panel as a writer and parent. We had some good discussion and I think it went well.

My second panel was "Does SF translate well to film?" It was moderated by Kevin Birnbaum, who is a screenwriter. Summer Brooks is part of Far Point Media, a group that handles a lot of podcasting. I was one of two writers on the panel, Tabitha Bradley was the other. We got into some good discussion with a lot of audience participation. After the panel, Summer, Kevin and I talked a great deal and Kevin showed us a preview of a film he is involved with. Very risky and heated racial tensions permeate the story. Should produce good controversy.

My last panel was on minorities in SF. I have blogged about this in the past, and I brought up many of the same points. Summer Brooks moderated this panel, and we were joined by Ernest Hogan. Of my three panels, this was the only one that ended a few minutes early, but we did have some interesting back and forth.

Michelle M. Welch is on a panel with Steven Brust tomorrow. I hope to attend that one, as it should be entertaining.

///

Oh yes, one last thing. Here is the film clip of the storm last night. I almost decided not to post it because it really doesn't look like anything special. Believe me, somewhere in the sky we had a lightning flash several times a second. It was incredible. Apparently my phone has low enough resolution that it can only pick up what is immediately in front of it. So, when you watch the clip, imagine a whole array of these clips surrounding your head and playing at different start times.

video

That is all for today. I worked nearly 70 hours this week and I am exhausted.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Light at the End of the Tunnel -- A Train?

It looks like the hoobaloo at work that has me working long hours might be showing signs of resolution. It's not a done deal yet, but good progress has been made. After working over 14 hours yesterday, getting home at 11:00PM, I got home at 6:00 today then had an hour conference call. Almost a vacation by comparison.

But nobody wants to hear me whine about long hours. I can't really stop writing no matter what I said. It's in my blood.

There was a terrific lightning storm this evening, still going on, in fact. I'm running the laptop on battery and connected to somebody's "linksys" so I can keep my own hardware unplugged. I took a full minute of video on my cell phone that I will share once I can bluetooth it onto my work computer. It doesn't do the storm justice, but it still has a lightning strike every few seconds. It just doesn't show the flashes from the lightning in other directions. For a while, there was a strike of lightning going off somewhere in the sky every 1/10 second or so. Just amazing.

////

Recall that Sam's Dot Publishing is planning to release my IGMS story, The Adjoa Gambit packaged with a new novelette, Winter, as a trade paperback early next year. Just today, I got a very cool blurb from Jack Mangan. Jack is a local writer and runs the Deadpan podcast. He's linked on my sidebar, go check out his stuff.

Anyway, I wanted to share the blurb.

"The best elements of Science Fiction's past, present, and future can be found in Rick Novy's writing. This is blue-collar, classically-influenced Spec-Fic at its best."
-- Jack Mangan of the Deadpan Podcast, author of Spherical Tomi
Is that a great blurb or what? At first, my reaction to the term blue-collar was to be a bit perplexed. Then I gave it some thought and realized that it's a very succinct way of stating what I usually take four or five sentences to put across. I'm not a literary writer. I don't want to be a literary writer. I'm an entertainer, and I write to tell a story for the reader to enjoy. In that respect, it is blue-collar, and that's intentional. Most of what I write I want to be fun reading.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hiatus

I regret to announce that I no longer get to be a writer. My day job, the one that pays the mortgage, is consuming pretty much all my waking hours. That means there isn't much point in maintaining a blog until my situation changes. Farewell.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Lava Tubes

We arrived safely from the weekend excursion to the famous (not really, I hadn't heard of them) Lava Tubes. I also don't know why people call it Lava Tubes when there is only one of them.



It's a 1-1/2 mile out-and-back hike with no choice but to come back because the cave dead-ends. Here is Russell going in.





Photography is difficult inside as without flashlights it is completely dark. Here is a picture of people out of range of the flash.



See what I mean? We met up with this poor, unfortunate soul who seems to have been in the cave for a very long time.



Russell found a light saber in the cave. It was probably discarded because it is clearly a factory reject.



We camped just off the forest road. Here, Russell is setting up one of the tents.





We did visit Lowell Observatory. We didn't get to see much. The sky was clouding fast, but we did get to see M57 (aka the Ring Nebula) through a 16-inch telescope. It looks much the same as in the photo , but washed out and colorless as expected when viewed optically. The eye is not as sensitive to color as is photographic film.



I bought a sweatshirt with this logo:



The boys had fun at the observatory. I was somewhat bored because the public dog-and-pony show experience doesn't hold anything new for me. Still, it was better than a lot of alternatives.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Quick Note

Just a quick note today. Russell and I are heading up to Flagstaff early tomorrow morning. No update tomorrow night as I will be in a tent. I hope to have some photos for sunday or monday night.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Court of Honor

Russell had his first appearance at a boy scout court of honor this evening. He received his first two merit badges, First Aid and Basketry. He earned them both at Camp Geronimo this past summer. He also officially received his Scout badge, but he has been wearing it since the end of May. We'll try to do some work on Astronomy merit badge while we're up there.

This weekend, the troop is going to Flagstaff for some camping and to visit Lowell Observatory. (Yes, I do indeed realize I was just there last week, but I didn't get to go inside.) I'll have some photos to share in a few days.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Review - I Can Fly

The Fix just reviewed The Written Word volume #13, containing my story I Can Fly.

I Can Fly by Rick Novy is a flash, first person narrative by a child that punches the reader in the gut.
- Carole Ann Moleti, The Fix


I must say, I love when a reviewer gets it, and I love when a story works as intended. That's pretty much the same reaction I get from anybody who reads it and provides feedback.

Chort Shtories

Funny thing about working on a novel is that other ideas come to mind. Some are other novels, some are good ideas for short stories.

While working on this slog-a-thon of a novel, I've already come up with the "cool idea-TM" for one I will tackle no earlier than the one after the next one. In addition, I have the seed for the annual Halloween story contest at Codex Writers Group. The seed can't be revealed until after the contest ends, but I can say that this year, my story seed was provided by Klingon Guy, Lawrence M. Schoen. The concept I must incorporate into my story is something I probably would not have done otherwise.

John Jacob Adams is editing an anthology called Federations. I would very much like to have something appear in that market

Finally, I have a first draft of my latest short story, marked up by SFFW, which is the writers group here in Phoenix that I started with a few others last year. For those who care, SFFW stands for Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers. Catchy name, eh? I had to give the group a name on the spot so the Borders where we meet could write it on a piece of paper.

So, it looks like I have three short fiction projects coming up and a good stopping point in the novel also coming up. So, regarding Rigel Kentaurus, I plan to complete this first arm of the Y-shaped story then take a break and work on some short fiction for a few weeks. When I finish those projects, I'll start on the other arm. Maybe that sort of change in scenery is what I need.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More Slog

Ugh. I've been so busy lately that balancing my checkbook fell 4 months behind. It took me three days to get through that mess, with missing transactions and bunched up EFT transactions that take forever to find. You'd think after fifteen years of marriage that I'd be used to it, but I still hate sharing my checkbook.

But, its done. For now. It's one of those activities you just hate to do because it takes a lot of effort to make the statement, the checkbook, and Quicken all match. Blech.

I don't know about you, but it sure seems like I use debit more often than ever. Not having the check numbers makes keeping track of things far more difficult. I guess life just gets more and more complicated.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Blahs

Ever have one of those days when everything seems to go against you? I'm suffering from the blahs, and I'm not sure what to do about it. I managed to write about 800 words on the novel today, yet I'm more concerned with the short story manuscripts that have been out over two months. I must have a dozen I sent out all on the same day back in June. The law of averages says it's not likely they are all under serious consideration. The novel is a slog, I have a short story in semi-finished state since May, and my job eats all my writing time. On top of that, my bank statement doesn't balance.

Time for bed. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

More with Alan Dean Foster

I managed to get all the photos off my phone and onto my computer so I can share them with you. Prescott wasn't the only place I visited friday. I also went to Flagstaff.

This is what the entrance to Lowell Observatory looks like. Notice the nice juicy monsoon storm clouds forming in the sky. I was with a Flagstaff local who did not know what the symbols on the left are. Do you know? You can click the photo to make it larger.



If you are facing these Lowell Observatory wickets and do a 180, you'll be looking out over Flagstaff and see something like this.



And, as promised, here is Alan at his writing desk. The desk is probably the least interesting of all the flat surfaces in the study. Since Alan posted photos of his study on his web site, I'll let you look over there. I did take a cell phone movie but posting that would be like an invasion of privacy IMHO. I asked Alan if I could post the photos I am putting here.



And this is the best of two attempts to get an image of us together. Let me tell you, it's very difficult to line up a shot when you can't see the screen.



See what I mean?

Finally, I wanted to show you what I did with the strands of mammoth hair that Alan gave me. They spent the ride home in my pocket. Late last night, I found a nice picture of a mammoth by scouring google images. I found the one you see in the photo below.

The frame itself hold the picture recessed from the glass a good half inch or more. You can't see it very well in the photo, but live the hairs loop around in three dimensions. (This picture I shot with a camera, not my phone.)



Remember those monsoon clouds up top in the Lowell shot? Well, I got dumped on while driving east along AZ69 between Prescott and I-17. I saw the coolest rainbow that actually come down out of the sky in front of the mountains. Well, as it turns out, it is also very difficult to get a good cell phone photo while driving in the rain at 65 MPH on a two-lane highway. The picture doesn't nearly do the rainbow justice, but at least I got the rainbow in the shot. So, for all you treasure-hunters, the pot of gold lies inside the triangle formed by AZ69, AZ169, and I17.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Visit with Alan Dean Foster

This afternoon, I found myself in Prescott, Arizona for a visit with veteran science fiction and fantasy writer Alan Dean Foster. Alan and I had been corresponding on and off over the past couple of years. Despite both of us living in Arizona, until today we never managed to meet in person.

Alan has a reputation as a world traveller, and it certainly is true. He has a fabulous collection of artifacts from around the world to go along with all the his SF and fantasy art and first edition books. We spent about two hours together as he gave me a guided tour of his collection with stories to go with several items. If you go to the May 2008 entry of his news page, you can see several photos of his beautiful study. It's a dream work environment for a writer.

One of the artifacts he owns is a tangle of wooly mammoth hair. He gave me a few strands, and I have plans for them. I will share when it's done. I have a few photos of my own, but they are on my cell phone. They are difficult to get off the phone, so I will post them another time.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Long Hours

Sorry once again for the blog post drought. I'm working long hours again and there just doesn't seem to be time in the day when I finish helping with homework at 10:30PM and have to get up at 5:00PM. I'll make an effort to get something substantial posted soon.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I've Been Tagged, Too

Oh, the things you discover by doing vanity Google searches. Advanced apologies to the five I tag.

The Crotchety Old Fan has tagged me with a meme started by SFSignal.

I'm going to cut and paste the instructions for the benefit of the next players.


# Copy the list below.

# Mark in bold the movie titles for which you read the book.

# Italicize the movie titles for which you started the book but didn't finish it.

# Tag 5 people to perpetuate the meme.



Here is where I show how much cinema I don't watch, or how much cinema I read, for that matter. Still, I'll give it a go.

1 Jurassic Park
2 War of the Worlds
3 The Lost World: Jurassic Park
4 I, Robot
5 Contact
6 Congo
7 Cocoon
8 The Stepford Wives
9 The Time Machine
10 Starship Troopers
11 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
12 K-PAX
13 2010
14 The Running Man
15 Sphere
16 The Mothman Prophecies
17 Dreamcatcher
18 Blade Runner(Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)
19 Dune
20 The Island of Dr. Moreau
21 Invasion of the Body Snatchers
22 The Iron Giant(The Iron Man)
23 Battlefield Earth
24 The Incredible Shrinking Woman
25 Fire in the Sky
26 Altered States
27 Timeline
28 The Postman
29 Freejack(Immortality, Inc.)
30 Solaris
31 Memoirs of an Invisible Man
32 The Thing(Who Goes There?)
33 The Thirteenth Floor
34 Lifeforce(Space Vampires)
35 Deadly Friend
36 The Puppet Masters
37 1984
38 A Scanner Darkly
39 Creator
40 Monkey Shines
41 Solo(Weapon)
42 The Handmaid’s Tale
43 Communion
44 Carnosaur
45 From Beyond
46 Nightflyers
47 Watchers
48 Body Snatchers

As I feared, not many.

My tag list:

1) 2008 Campbell Award winner Mary Robinette Kowal
2) Eric James Stone
3) Jack Mangan
4) James Maxey
5) Matt Rotundo

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Back to Work

It's been fun watching from a distance Mary's reaction to the Campbell award sinking in. My official 24 hours of jealousy is officially over and I'm taking a little break from working on my novel to post.

The kids start school tomorrow and I, of course, go back to work. It's been an expensive last two weekends. We replaced the old van, a 1003 Mercury Villager. We replaced it with a relatively new Chrysler Town and Country. It wasn't really what we want to drive, but the sixth passenger forced our hands into another minivan.

Now, we have school shopping and two birthdays. Reanna got a replacement phone and Russell got a Nintendo DS of hid own, so he can leave his sister's alone.

The good thing about school starting is that we are on our way to leaving the elementary school behind. It's a petty little fiefdom, and after 8 years, I'm glad this is the last one.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Officially Jealous

Today, I get to be officially jealous.

One of my classmates at Orson Scott Card's Literary Boot Camp in 2005 got some good news this evening. Mary Robinette Kowal, who I noted just yesterday as being a non-male SF writer to check out, earned a huge trophy for her shelf this evening at Worldcon. Mary just won the Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

I met Mary online in Orson Scott Card's web site, Hatrack River, where he has an area for aspiring writers. I met her in person at Boot Camp, and read a marvelous story about a planet lacking in sodium where salt is something to fight wars over.

We did group critiques on this story and I spent considerable effort trying to find a hole in the world she developed. I'm sure it must have got on her nerves, but I wanted to see how thoroughly she thought it out. She very quickly filled any potential hole I could think of. Sodium vapor lamps in the streetlights? No, they use mercury vapor lamps. Mary is very thorough in her understanding of her world building.

Needless to say, Mary was one of several writers that had that special something to their writing. It was noticable then, when Mary was still honing her craft. It was very evident in the latest story I read that she has taken it to the next level. Campbell award? Obviously so.

I'm sure Mary has a fine career ahead of her. I smell at least one Hugo or Nebula in her future, too. Probably both. She has already had nominations.

So, today I will be officially jealous. Tomorrow, I'll work on my novel with no malice. I'm no longer eligible for the Campbell, but awards don't really mean that much to me. Sure, it would be cool to win one, but having somebody tell me they enjoyed one of my stories gives me satisfaction.

Don't get me wrong about the jealousy thing. Mary works very hard. Aside from her career as a puppeteer, she volunteers with SFWA, goes to conventions, networks every chance she can, and darn it, she's an extremely pleasant person to be around, too.

Congratulations, Mary.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Minorities in SF

One of the panels that I will be participating in during Coppercon 28 is on Minorities in science fiction. It's a subject I find interesting in both my astonishment that the average SF reader is a white male, and the dearth of writers who aren't. It's a self-fulfilling prophesy in some ways, but the closed-loop nature of that is starting to show signs of crumbling.

Maybe it's because I lived for ten years in Silicon Valley, where diversity is just a fact of life. People from everywhere live there, and whites are only 40% of the population. Or maybe it's that I grew up in a family that gradually became more and more diversified through adoptions and marriages.

It astonishes me because I have traveled and recognized that cultural differences are skin-deep. People are people are people, no matter where they are.

Tobias Buckell is one of the rising stars of the genre. Go read Crystal Rain and you'll want more. Buckell uses his own background growing up in Grenada as fuel for the Caribbean flavor of his world. I haven't read the two follow-up volumes only for lack of time and about 3000 other books piled up inside my "in" box.

Buckell is an interesting guy. He doesn't look Caribbean, so he gets the opportunity to hear things people wouldn't say around other members of his family. It reminds me of stories my wife tells me about how people treat her when she's alone, and the behavioral differences I see when they learn she's married to a white guy.

I ran across this article by Liz Ng'ang'a. I have no idea how to pronounce that name, but I'm guessing the ' is a tongue click. I'd be interested to know if that is correct.

The article asks the question why Africa was used in SF as a dark and mysterious place in the first half of the 20th century, but is virtually ignored today in the genre. Why, she asks, is SF not embraced by African writers?

The reality is, however, that the SF genre remains largely male and largely white. That is changing, but it's changing slowly. Here are some non-white, and/or non-male SF writers to check out:

Mary Robinette Kowal
Tony Pi
Ruth Nestvold
Filipino writer and poet Kristine Ong Muslim (She is so isolated geographically that it's difficult to find reliable information about her.)
And of course a bigger name is Steven Barnes

The point is that by reading another point of view, you enrich your own life. Give some of their work a try. Much of it is available for free on the web. (Probably not Barnes' work, but he's a bigger fish in our pond.)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

School is Coming

This evening, we attended the middle school orientation for my daughters. Reanna is going to have most of the same teachers as Audrey did last year. School is coming. I've already emptied out the bank account buying backpacks and notebooks. Weird how it feels like I just took down the Christmas lights.

There isn't much news on the writing front. I've had a bunch of short story submissions out on the market since I did my blitz back on June 8th. A lot of those haven't come back yet.

The novel moves slowly ahead. I'm nearly completed with the alien branch of this Y-shaped story. I'll go and back-fill the human branch in a couple more chapters. Then, when the human story line catches up, the story lines merge and I finish up the trunk of the Y.

A Y-shaped story is one with two separate story lines, and two point of view characters that eventually merge together. My novel is a two branch story, but consider Niven and Pournelle's Lucifer's Hammer. A story like that has branches that merge and break apart all over the place.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Not So Dead Anymore

Last post I lamented the demise of Darker Matter. I had tried to connect several days in a row with no luck. For some reason, I gave it one more try this evening and connected. The Darker Matter web site is back, along with an index of all stories appearing in the magazine. You can see the list here.

You can see my story, Chaos Theory, here. If you go read it, I apologize in advance for the infodump in the beginning. Bear with it, once you get past it, the story picks up.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Some Things Don't Last

My story "Chaos Theory" was sold to online magazine Darker Matter. It appeared in the fourth issue. I was paid in advertising space, which I traded to my friends at Shimmer Magazine for some copies.

Alas, Darker Matter published issue #5, then died. It lingered online for a year, but it is now no more. A shame. Although I made a mistake with the story by starting with a needless infodump, the story rewarded the folks who muddled through the infodump and got to the meat of the story. It was actually the brightest story in a magazine dedicated to mostly dark fiction. That says something about the concept.

It's a shame that most aggressive online magazines fail after a year or so. It's difficult to pay professional rates out of an editor's pocket, and unfortunately, most of them don't have a positive cashflow.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Coppercon 28 Schedule

My panel schedule for Coppercon 28 arrived in my email box today. I'll be appearing on three panels saturday.

Sat 11a-noon
Bringing SF into the Classroom
w/Paul Cook (Moderator),Chris Paige, Emily Hogan

Sat 130p-230p
Does SF Translate Well to Film?
w/Kevin Birnbaum (Moderator),Tabitha Bradley, Summer Brooks

Sat 3p-4p
Minorities in SF/F
w/Summer Brooks (Moderator),Ernest Hogan

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Planning for Story

The time it takes for an idea to form into a full story can vary a lot. Sometimes, they jump into your head fully formed and all grown up. Other times, it can take weeks, months, or even years to fully develop to the point it's ready to be put down into words. Sometimes, you get an idea you know that you aren't ready to write effectively, so you put it aside.

When I attended Orson Scott Card's Literary Boot Camp in June of 2005, we were instructed to take five index cards and generate mini-stories. It was an exercise intended to teach the writer how to find the story ideas that surround us. Those ideas are there. They are always there. The difference between the beginner and the experienced writer is, in part, knowing how to find those ideas and turn them into stories.

During this exercise, we were to find two story ideas out of books or magazines, two out of observation of things around us, and one from interviewing a stranger. Those index cards ultimately led me to write two of my published stories, Cats and State Secrets. The idea I was most excited about, and felt had the most potential is the one I used to generate my boot camp story. That story has never been shopped because it really is chapter 1 of a novel.

That story idea was so good that Card several times asked if I brought it with me, or if I came up with it through the exercises he assigned. Absolutely it came from the exercises, and that idea alone was worth the price of the workshop.

I have kicked the tires of the novel I plan to write since the workshop. I wrote a short story of about 6000 words that I'm still shopping around. It has the disadvantage of also feeling like chapter one.

At the time of the workshop, I had just finished writing Neanderthal Swan Song for the first time. finishing that novel was really the first step into becoming a real writer. It proved I could finish a project of that size. At that time, I knew I wasn't ready to tackle a novel based upon that idea, and I estimated that wouldn't get to it for another five years.

It has been three years since that idea formed, and I do have enough experience now to write the novel. I'm also already about 23,000 words into another novel, and I would like to finish that one first. That's okay. The Boot Camp idea needs a lot of research. I've already done quite a bit of that research, but it needs more. It also needs a lot of planning to pull off.

The novel I'm working on now, Rigel Kentaurus, has two major points of view, one for each of the major story lines. Neanderthal Swan Song was quite linear, even when I redrafted the whole thing. This new one will have as many as five independent story lines and I have yet to figure out how to tie them all together at the end. I also haven't figured out the climax of the story.

That is one of the major problems in writing. The translation of the "Cool Idea-TM" into story can be difficult. It took me months and months of simmering to allow Rigel Kentaurus to gel enough for me to start writing. This new novel will likely take more.

One thing sits in my favor. Once I have the current project well-understood and I start planning the next project, my subconscious tends to start working on the new project. As I get closer to the end of Rigel Kentaurus, I have no doubt the new project will gel.

I generally work on short fiction between novels, just to keep my inventory up and keep my name circulating. I'm projecting that work on the new novel will start in the spring of 2009, depending on Rigel Kentaurus. That book has been a slog, but there have been a lot of extenuating circumstances around my progress.

Once I start drafting the next novel, I may disclose the idea and discuss how the plot for the novel develops. Suffice it to say that during Boot Camp, the reaction to the "Cool Idea-TM" was extremely positive.