Monday, December 29, 2014

Back In Business

Here I sit, early in the morning trying to bang out a post before work. It's been a full week since I've been on the job, though I did briefly check in on my work e-mail on Friday. I like my job, but it's sure been nice to be home.

Also nice is the fact that I'm the earliest riser in my house (and I've actually been sleeping late--late being 7, 7:30) and when there's nothing going on, i.e., no school to get up for and when my wife is taking a break from her own work, I get lots of uninterrupted morning time. Uninterrupted morning time is good for me, it seems, better than uninterrupted evening time. It gives me time to wake up, ease into the day, and then get working on writing. This past week, even with all those final Christmas preparations to take care of, and with the holiday itself, I've been able to put in some very good writing time.

So, as of Halloween, my WiP stood at around 22,000 words. At the end of NaNo, I had added enough to bring the WiP to 68,000 words, 256 pages. As of this morning, it now is a ridiculous 106,000 words, 397 pages--and it's not finished. There will be cutting, yes indeed.

I'm really not quite sure how I've managed this. This was a story that, to be honest with you, I've looked at more than once during the last few months and thought, "How am I going to fill this out some more?" Now I'm looking at having to make some fairly big cuts. Never mind that, however; cutting is, in my opinion, a better problem to have than having to find stuff to put in, and the stuff that comes out will not have been wasted. Besides, I'm not at that point just yet. I have three days left in 2014 to finish--and by finish, I mean finish the story. There's a conclusion to write, and I'm not entirely sure of what that will be, but I can see the shape of it, the outlines in the fog. I'm excited to write it, and I'm hoping I can wrap it up by the end of the year. And then it's time to take the saws and planers to it and make it nice and smooth and finished. And then I can turn it over to beta readers and, eventually, Carrie.

And speaking of Carrie, she has posted another query for review on her blog. Check it out, leave a comment, and you can help someone receive a free 100-page review. If you're still struggling with your own queries, this is a good insight into how an agent thinks and may help you when you work on your own.

Finally, the end of the year is almost upon us. Be safe out there, and enjoy your celebrations!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Happy Boxing Day

On Christmas Eve, somewhere between putting tinsel on the tree (this was my major, last-minute shopping run for the year) and baking a cheesecake for Christmas dessert, we hooked up the VCR--remember those, kids? We still have one, and it still kind of works!--and watched a couple of holiday classics, including A Christmas Story.

I remember seeing Siskel & Ebert review A Christmas Story back when it came out, and remember thinking, "I've got to see this film." As it turns out, I didn't see it for many years, but when I did, I loved it. The film itself performed moderately well, though it was not the holiday blockbuster the producers no doubt hoped it would be. It became a cult classic of the video era, and now is so big that you can't even call it a cult classic anymore.

We tried to get our kids to watch this movie when they were younger. Neither of them liked it very much, and I wondered why. In hindsight, however, A Christmas Story is a good example of the fact that having a child as protagonist does not automatically make a movie, book or TV show something for kids. While the movie is peppered with funny bits that kids can no doubt enjoy, I think this film is funnier the further away from childhood you are.  As an adult, it's easy to look at kids and say, "You got it easy. Wait until you're holding down a job, and paying a mortgage, and raising a kid!" What we forget is how intense everything is for a kid. Everything--what we love, hate, fear--is magnified because our emotions are unfiltered by time and experience. The wonderful innocence of childhood comes with a downside: everything is The Most Important Thing Ever, at the time of the experience. A Christmas Story captures that brilliantly.

We had a nice Christmas here, though it was definitely strange not having the Magpie around. She and five friends went on a little overnight excursion for Christmas which took the sting out of being 7,000 miles away from home for the holiday. Of course, through the magic of technology we were able to see her face and talk to her, and for that we are grateful.

That's all for me for now, have a nice weekend, all.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The tree is up, though not fully-decorated. Presents are arriving, soon to be wrapped. Now all we need is the food for the feast--and maybe some fresh snow to cover up the old stuff, make it look a little nicer. Thank you all for coming by and reading my mental dribblings, and for commenting on same, and for your own blogs, which provide me with interesting things to read and think about. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Ranting on The Interview

I am not happy today.

Oh, life is fine. The Catbird had two concerts this week, one for her choir, one for the jazz vocal group, that we attended and enjoyed. We had the organization holiday party, we Skyped with the Magpie, ordered a bunch of Christmas gifts--all that is fine. Though progress has slowed down a bit since November, I passed the 300-page mark on my latest project while I continue to build up some background for what I think will be my next one, and the governor of the great state of New York made a decision that shocked the heck out of me, but I fully support, when he essentially pulled the plug on High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing in this state--at least for now. (Seriously, the gas will still be in the ground five years from now. As far as I'm concerned, if there's any doubt about the safety of this process--and there is plenty of that--then this is the best course of action. But that's a story for another day.) After today, I work on Monday and then take the rest of the week off, and that will be nice, too.

But I'm still not happy.

What I'm not happy about is Sony Pictures' decision to pull The Interview. Set to open December 25th, the film is about a pair of American journalists who are granted an in-person interview with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un--and are subsequently recruited by the CIA to assassinate him. North Korea was not very happy about this--I'm not sure North Korea is actually happy about anything--and said so publicly. Sony Pictures, meanwhile, was hacked in late November. All sorts of information has been leaked out all over the internet, and the hackers, who may or may not be North Korean in origin, threatened September 11-style violence against theaters if they dared screen the film. After theaters started dropping the film, Sony decided to pull it altogether. (Sorry, this paragraph is a hot mess, but I don't care)

As for the film itself, I don't really care one way or another. I think the only Seth Rogen film I've actually seen is Superbad, which actually wasn't bad. The Interview had an interesting concept, but is probably fairly standard comedy, but maybe not. It's the sort of movie I might watch on TV one night if I came across it, but I doubt I would have gone out of my way to see it. On that level, I really don't care.

But it pisses me off all the same. Sony's decision, and the decision of the theater chain, make sense from a potential tragedy and a potential liability standpoint. Imagine the unthinkable. Imagine a major, national release on Christmas Day, and imagine if even one theater, anywhere in the land, is shot up, bombed, whatever.  Aside from the guilt over the injury and loss of life, imagine the lawsuits, and the lawyer saying, "You knew someone was going to do this, and you showed the film anyway?" "We really didn't think they could pull this off" is not going to cut it as an excuse, is it?

I don't blame Sony, or the theaters. Because, even if these so-called Guardians of Peace are just trolling us all (and, despite the noise the government is making that North Korea is actually behind this, I can't help but feel it's just that), even if these so-called Guardians of Peace are nothing more than a couple of idiots who are very good with computers and picked Sony because, hey, why not? Even if that's all they are, all it takes is one other idiot, maybe an idiot who doesn't really give a rat's ass about North Korea and Kim Jong-un, but just some idiot who decides, "Hey, why not?"--all it takes is one idiot like that to arrive at one theater on Christmas Day with a couple of assault weapons and some Molotov cocktails stuffed in his coat to cause yet another disaster. A disaster that can cost possibly hundreds of lives and millions of dollars in damages. I don't blame Sony for not wanting to be part of that, for not wanted to be held responsible for that, because even if there's no real threat from the so-called Guardians of Peace, they knew there was a threat, right? They're screwed.

This might be effective
But it pisses me off that we've come to this. It pisses me off that we live in a world like this. And it pisses me off because, as much as it's scary to think some random idiot or some deeply disturbed person can end my life just because, I actually like that idea better than the notion that some foreign nation is pulling strings inside our country in this fashion. That scares me. And it makes me think of this line from Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction: "Now when you yell at me, it makes me nervous. And when I get nervous, I get scared. And when motherfuckers get scared, that's when motherfuckers accidentally get shot."

There's a lot of scared people out there who are reacting with anger, and a lot of talk about kowtowing to terrorists and slippery slopes and where will it all end and stuff like that.  I'm scared because there's a part of me that wants our nation to just go in there and show Kim Jong-un what's what, just like there's a part of me that wants to see us lay waste to half the desert in that rather troublesome part of the middle east--but that's no solution I really want to see, and it's no solution at all, and it's a solution that would cost millions of mostly-innocent lives.

I don't know what the solution is. I don't know if there is a solution. And I don't think I've got anything else to say on the subject. Chuck Wendig has penned a terrific post on why we should be concerned about this as artists. I recommend it. That's it, sorry for the sloppy rant, have a nice weekend.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Preparedness, and Music!

Well, well, well, we are just a week and a half away from Christmas and...I am totally not ready for it. I did spend about ten minutes moving some stuff out of the living room yesterday so that we can (eventually) put up a tree and decorate. Because we are 'live (or, as my brother likes to call them, 'real, dead) tree' people, there's always a bit of an argument over when to get the tree and when to put it up and how long to leave it up. In my house growing up, we always got the tree fairly late in the season, which undoubtedly explains in part why tree shopping was always such a stressful affair. I remember tree shopping being fraught with tension and short tempers, and trips to many, many different places--often on the coldest day of the year to that point. The tree generally got put up in the tree stand on December 23, and the decorating occurred on Christmas Eve itself. Naturally, I have a predilection for that.

My wife, on the other hand, prefers to get a tree bought and in the stand earlier than that. She's not quite a 'let's get the tree on Black Friday' person, but she runs toward the earlier end of the spectrum. The result is we don't have a hard and fast day. It's not tradition in our house to get the tree every year on December 17, lets say, or December 12. Instead we roll along until we receive some signal that tells us, "It's time." (Usually it's the kids saying, "When are we going to get a tree?")

We are fortunate, however, in that our tree shopping usually isn't all that stressful, which is a good thing because the geography of tree places up here is a lot different than where I grew up. On Long Island it seemed like you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a tree lot. Up here? Well, the Lions Club sells them up in Cooperstown, but it seems like if you don't get one there in the week following Thanksgiving, you're out of luck. There's another place, an actual tree farm where we get our trees year after year, but if we strike out there, we're looking at a 20 minute drive (at least) to the next place--and the further we drive to get a tree, the further we have to drive home with one strapped to the roof of our vehicle. That is always a white-knuckle drive for me; I'm convinced, no matter how tightly we've got the tree strapped down, that I'm going to look in the rear view mirror and see it bouncing along the road behind us. It's a great visual, and might be funny as hell in a movie, but not in real life.

So, perhaps we'll get a tree this week. If not during the week we'll have to do it this coming weekend. I just hope the weather is good. What about you? If you buy a tree, do you get it early, or late?

And now, some music. It's not a Christmas song, but that's okay, there's enough of that out there without me pushing more of it in your face. Julia is the Magpie's friend, a very talented young lady. Perhaps one day you'll see her on TV or hear her on the radio and you'll say you heard her here first. Enjoy!

Friday, December 12, 2014

For Love Or Money

Back at the beginning of the month, when so many of you participate in the Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG), Nick Wilford posted about something many of us worry about: money. It's something a lot of us worry about, especially in tough financial times. Early in the post, Nick said:

"I know that very few writers go into the game hoping that they will clean up--if they do, they're either doing it for the wrong reasons or they're suffering under an illusion."
I found myself stewing over that line a little bit, to the point where, two weeks later, I have to comment on it further. The line bugs me. Note this is not to pick on Nick. I like Nick; I just happen to disagree with him, at least in part.

Success in the arts is often presented as an either/or thing. If you hang around any writing forum, it's only a matter of time before someone posts a poll that asks, "Would you rather be a critical success and have very few sales, or sell a lot of books and be panned by the critics?" Essentially, the question is are you in it for art, or for money? My answer: why not both?

So many of us are afraid to admit the truth: we want money. Lots of it. We want to dive into it, like Scrooge McDuck, we want a vault like Harry Potter's. But few are willing to admit. If we do, we're mercenaries. We're hacks. We're not artists anymore. Few are willing to wear that label.

The truth is, once I started to see that maybe, just maybe, I could write pretty well, I started to hope, to dream. Dreaming that I could make it big, dreaming that I could clean up. Hoping I could sell enough to get a new car. Take the wife and kids on a proper vacation. Put a new roof on the house, replace some crummy windows, remodel the kitchen. I'd like to not have to worry about money--is that such a bad thing? Not in my book. Is it why I write? No. I write for assorted other reasons, some of which I can't express easily However, money is part of the equation, particularly when it comes to seeking publication. Does this make me a bad guy? A sell out? I certainly don't think so, but I'm kind of biased here.

Where Nick is right on the money (so to speak) is this: if you get into this expecting to clean up, you're operating under an illusion. Especially if you're doing your homework and understand the economics of writing at this point in time. If you base your retirement plan on having a couple of big bestsellers--really big bestsellers, like James Patterson bestsellers--then, yes, you're doing it wrong. There's nothing wrong with dreaming it, though. Dreaming is what we do, isn't it?

Thanks as always for reading, and thanks for commenting. Have a great weekend!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Public Service Announcement

Carrie Pestritto, my agent, is once again open for queries via her Query Critique Contest. She posted 8 hours ago, so it may be too late this time around, but maybe not. If you've got a query you would like critiqued (with a chance at getting your first 100 pages critiques as well), then check out her blog and the official rules RIGHT HERE.

Allow me to say that getting your query critiqued by an agent is an invaluable experience--and Carrie's excellent! If you miss out this time or don't have a query ready, bookmark her site for next time. Good luck!

Recent Reads

I've been reading a lot lately, which is good. Reading is fuel for the writing mind, a way to help fill up the brain after spilling its contents all over the pages, and since I've been writing a fair amount lately, it stands to reason that I've also been reading. So, what's on that list?

Dr. Sleep, Stephen King. King catches us up on Danny Torrance, last seen as a terrified six-year-old boy trying to escape his father and other monsters in King's epic, 1977 work, The Shining. Now in his 40's, Torrance works in a nursing home where he uses the shine to help comfort elderly people as they die. He's struggling every day with addiction. Danny finds himself having to defend a young girl with prodigious psychic ability from the True Knot, a wandering band of what you might call psychic vampires.

Generally speaking, I enjoy reading King even if I don't like the story (does that make sense? I enjoy how he tells a story). Of his recent works, I felt Under the Dome (the book, not the TV show) and 11/22/1963 were far better. This was more like Duma Key, solid, if unspectacular, but at least it wasn't The Tommyknockers. It's worth picking up if you like King.

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell. This is one of those books I've been hearing about for years, and like many of those books that are much-hyped, I was disappointed. Cloud Atlas is six interconnected stories spanning roughly 300 years of our past and future. Each of the stories is told in a different way--journals, letters, novels, futuristic holographic recorders--and each of the stories maintains a very different voice.

Mitchell did a fantastic job of creating different characters and writing each section in different styles and voices, but to be honest, the structure of this novel felt gimmicky. I found some of the sections quite dull, some of the narrators extremely irritating, and the conclusion less than satisfying. Much like The Secret History, this novel had some great writing, but failed to live up to the hype (though I liked this one better than Secret History; don't get me started on that one).

Having put down Cloud Atlas, I was a little worried about picking up the next, much-hyped title, The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. Narrated by Death itself, The Book Thief is the tale of Liesel Meminger, a young girl who is sent by her mother to live with a foster family just outside Munich, Germany in 1939. Liesel slowly forms close ties with her foster family, other children in the neighborhood, and, eventually, the Jewish man her foster father ends up hiding in the basement. Like Cloud Atlas, this novel utilizes some unconventional storytelling methods, such as drawing and hand-written books in the middle, yet it never feels gimmicky. I found The Book Thief to be fantastic, well worth the hype, and I was sorry to see it come to an end.

Right now I'm reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, and I probably shouldn't say anything about it, as I'm not quite finished (but will be in the next day or so). Station Eleven follows several interconnected lives before and after a new strain of flu brings down civilization as we know it. Twenty years after the fall, Kirsten Raymonde travels with The Symphony, a troupe of actors and musicians who perform Shakespeare for the survivors "Because survival is insufficient." The story skillfully weaves past and present together to tell a complete tale (of course, I'm not finished, so it's entirely possible that this will all fall apart at the end, but I doubt it). So far, this is a very satisfying read, and I'm excited to see how it finishes.

That's it for me. What have you been reading lately?

EDIT: I forgot to add, the Magpie updated her Japan blog this weekend, which includes some pictures from her visit to an exhibit about the manga/anime Shingeki no Kiyojin (Attack on Titan). Stop by if you're so inclined.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Behold, the Emerald Ash Borer

Hi, everyone.

As seems to be my habit lately, I'm posting late. It's always my preference to do this first thing, but on Fridays the Catbird needs to be in early which leaves me less time, especially because I never get these things truly written in advance. I've actually got something like three posts in various forms of draft, one almost complete, but I couldn't pull it together this morning, and at this hour I'd rather expend my brain power on my WiP.

Instead, I'll share this piece with you, with some background. Late last year my boss connected with the publisher of a local weekly paper with the idea that someone in the organization (me) would write a column on environmental stuff that might appear once a month or so. He agreed. We sent him three columns, he was enthusiastic, and even came out and took some head shots of me. Eight months and multiple nudges from my boss later, he still hadn't run any of them, so she approached the other weekly. They liked them and ran one. Then another. This is the third, and is the most recently written. Visit the page here, and try not to be frightened by my humongously large picture. As much as I like that photo of myself, it's a bit...big. Time for a new one, I think.

Howard Russell, Michigan State University,
- See more at:
I should also note that if you live in the northeastern portion of the United States, you should probably pay extra close attention and take a look at your state's Department of Natural Resources or Environmental Protection or whatever they call themselves (ours is the Department of Environmental Conservation) and see if you need to worry about this little sucker, the emerald ash borer.

Howard Russell, Michigan State University,

Much better than the occasional spider picture, right?

Hope you all have a nice weekend!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Post-Game Presser

If you're a sports fan, you've probably seen this. Your favorite team has just had its most convincing, most complete victory of the season. In this game/match/whatever you call it, they've done everything well. In winning, perhaps they've snuffed a multi-game losing streak. Or, maybe, it's been a season of inconsistency, victories almost equally-balanced by defeat, and even within a single game they go from stunningly good to putrid in a manner of moments. Yeah, that kind of season.

But not now. This was such a solid victory, that everyone is convinced that the team is finally ready to play up to preseason expectations, is finally ready to ascend to what everyone feels is its rightful spot at the top of the standings.

In the locker room, reporters crowd around one of the star players. Microphones and recorders are shoved into his face as they ask about particular plays, how he managed to score that goal, break loose for that touchdown, sneak that curve over the corner. And eventually, someone asks the question: "Do you think this is a turning point for your season?" And just as surely as that question gets asked, comes the answer. "Oh, for sure,* but we try to take this one game at a time**"

To this day, I don't think I've every heard anyone, not the naivest of rookies, the grizzledest of grizzled veterans, or the most hard-boiled coach in all the land answer this question truthfully, which would be something along the lines of, "We'll know when the season is over. That's when we can look back and know where the turning points were." Or, perhaps, "We'll see how we play the next game." Either of those answers would be more truthful, more accurate, because it's entirely possible that the next game will bring another stinker, another loss, another return to inconsistency.

Wow, I sound like a real downer here, don't I? I should be celebrating a NaNo victory! I had a goal of adding 50,000 words to my current manuscript, and I did, after a fashion. My manuscript now stands at 256 pages and 68,000 words. Yes, if you do the math, it doesn't work out quite right, as I was starting with around 22,000, however, I also chopped a fair amount. Also, because of the way I'm working on this project, using a sort of outline, there are scenes that went in the outline--some pretty well-drafted--that haven't been inserted into the manuscript just yet. Yay, me, right?

Yes, but not quite so fast. A team can sometimes feel such relief at getting a big, much-needed victory that they suffer a let down and get their proverbial doors blown off the very next game. With the pressure of NaNo off my back, it's important that I don't take my foot off the gas. This project is not complete. The ending is still fuzzy (despite my pseudo-outlining ways, I haven't been able to see that far ahead yet). One of the characters is lagging a bit behind the others. There are sloppy points and inconsistencies. A coach or player may stand in front of the reporters muttering platitudes about "compete level" and "giving it 110%", but walk away knowing there's much to be done. That's where I'm at: happy with the victory, but knowing it's a long, long season.

Believe it or not, I'm much more optimistic than I sound. It was a good month. I just need to keep it going.

How about you? How was your month?

*I'm a hockey fan. Hockey players say, "For sure" all the time. I don't know why.

**I sometimes wonder why they even bother with post-game news scrums at all. At least in hockey, you rarely get more than this, unless it's a John Torterella press conference, where almost anything can happen.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Hangover Day

What a lovely sound, eh? That's about the size of how I feel, though. It's the day after Thanksgiving, and I feel slumpy and lethargic, hungover without the headache, though through the course of the day I had just two glasses of wine and less than a glass of beer. Turkey and all that other stuff just wore me out, I guess. Holidays are a lot of work.

"That other stuff" yesterday included:

-shoveling the driveway. The Catbird had done this before I got home on Wednesday, but it had a good 4 or 5 inches of snow since she had last done it.
-getting the car back. We live on a hill. We don't have snow tires on the vehicle yet. Our road had not been plowed in some time, and I lost traction about 30 feet short of my driveway. So I parked down at town hall and had to walk down there, clean off the car and drive it back.
-washing a mountain of dishes. My primary job at holidays is to keep the sink clear so that cooking can flow in an uninterrupted manner.
-Skyping with the Magpie in Japan, who dealt with being away from home on a major holiday for the first time very well, and who also learned that going to a karaoke bar is not the best thing for a slightly sore throat (she sounded a little like Lurch up there).
-Keeping the Table Shark--err, dog--away from the turkey. And out of the garbage can. We were not 100% successful in this venture, though it wasn't as bad as last year, when she scarfed a whole wing off the platter.
And, of course, eating.

Today I find myself with a day. A day to write. I'm close right now to my NaNo goal of expanding my current project by 50,000 words. I'm about 4,800 words short, so I can certainly do it--but that post-Holiday sluggardliness is tough to battle through.

Of course, I've learned the best way to deal with this stuff is mostly just to power through it. And so, it's off to fix another cup of coffee and then it will be time to dive in. No Black Friday for us.

By the way, I should point out we had a lovely day here. I sound like I'm complaining, but I'm not. We missed the Magpie but enjoyed each other. Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving (if you celebrate) and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Short Break From the Short Break

This morning's map as per the National Weather Service's webpage:

I'm living in the pink zone, the 'Winter Storm Warning' Zone, the '6-to-10 inches of snow' Zone. Of course, folks out near Buffalo would probably snort and say, "6 to 10 inches of snow? Wuss. We'd kill to have 6 to 10 inches of snow." We don't go out on Thanksgiving as a rule, haven't in some time, so we're okay, and it sounds like it will be largely over by tomorrow morning, so I'll get to work off the turkey &c. ahead of time. Hopefully, I'll come out about even.

For those of you who are traveling, be extra safe. This is a big day on the roads in America, and if you're in the northeast in particular (this storm systems spreads from Maine clear down to West Virginia, and there are A LOT of people in it) use extra caution and good judgment. Drive safe, be smart, and have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Stepping Back

After a rough week on the writing front, I managed to squeak out a few hundred words on Saturday followed by two good sessions Sunday which added about 3000 words to my current project. And, even better, I feel like those were 3000 pretty good words that add to my story. Yay. NaNo's handy little statistical dashboard shows I'm averaging a hair over 1,700 words per day, and tells me I'll 'finish' on November 30 (the previous weekend's writing blitz added so much I was projected to finish around the 24th or 25th, so I've fallen back a bit). I still don't know how 'finished' I'll be at that point, but I'll certainly be much further along than I was in October.

Meanwhile, I've decided it's once again time to step back from this blog for a little bit. I woke up this morning with absolutely no clue of what I was doing today, an all-too common occurrence lately. I don't want to subject you fine folks to these scrambly things that sound kind of self-pitying when I get right down to it (like Friday's). I've got a lot of things on my mind besides my NaNo project right now. I don't mind the work that goes into blogging (I like it, in fact, otherwise I would have stopped long ago), but it is a distraction for right now that I don't need, so it's time to take a step back. I figure I'll still cruise around and read what you all have got to say, but it's time for me to go quiet for a few weeks. Thanks for your support, I'll see you soon!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Blah, Friday

It's Friday. Normally, I get my blog posts done in the morning, but I've been slipping lately. I haven't been thinking about the blog post much this week (I lie; I've thought about it several times this week, but never got much beyond "Friday's coming."), and we went to the school musical last night which was fun (no, the Catbird opted to sit this one out; she's on stage crew instead) but didn't allow me the time to think or write.

Not only do I have no blog post today, I have not written anything on my NaNo this week beyond some scribbled notes. I'm just short of 25,000 for the month, but after Saturday's brain-deflating splurge, I've been inconsistent. I'll get going again--weekend's coming.

Nope, nothing worthwhile here.
I was going to reach back into the 'archives'--the vast file folder on my hard drive with ideas and started blog bits, but the one I was going to use, well, it was based on a news item that doesn't look so reliable in hindsight.

And so, we need something goofy. I hope I haven't put this one up before. I looked and couldn't find it, so maybe I haven't. Enjoy your weekend, all.

Monday, November 10, 2014


I forgot to update my NaNo word count yesterday. It will always look to the whole world like I did nothing yesterday, that I'm a slacker, a NaNo pretender. t's not entirely true--I actually wrote about 300 words yesterday that were intended for my project. I pretty much deliberately took yesterday off, though; after cranking out just shy of 5000 words on Saturday, my brain was somewhat deflated. I do believe it's important to take time off and let things settle and regenerate a little.

But I went to my writers' group yesterday afternoon and I wrote those 300 words that actually included to some extent the prompt (not an every time occurrence; I ignore prompts on a regular basis). I was pretty happy with it, too, until I read it out loud. Then, it seemed all wrong. And I think my writers' group felt the same way: my words landed like a dead bird, thudding on the table. Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn't.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Another Quote: Reviews

Because NaNo (just under 13,000 words so far) is eating my brain, I'm even less prepared than normal for a Friday post. So I'm once again  turning to John Irving's interview in The Paris Review back in 1986:

"Reviews are only important when no one knows who you are."

What say you?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Weekend Update

Greetings, it's the first blog post of November. After me kvetching over unseasonable weather back in early September, we had a gorgeous autumn, with a great run of fall colors and pleasant temperatures. And yesterday came and I woke up to snow. It wasn't much--little patches here and there, more like ice pellets  that coated the roof of the car and left isolated little patches on the grass here and there, but a symbol of what's ending and what's coming. Well, it can't be stopped

We had one of the first of the lasts this weekend, as the Catbird said goodbye to her high school cross country career. On Saturday she and her team ran in the Sectionals meet. They did quite well, finishing fifth. The Catbird ran a good race, placing 38th overall out of 147 runners. Last night was the annual end of season potluck dinner. Coach always introduces the runners in little groups, hands them various awards/mementos (letters, patches, a photo book of the season). She definitely teared up a little bit when talking about the Catbird, who has been running with her for six(!) years. "She started as an adorable little seventh grader," said Coach, "and she's an adorable senior." And still little. It wasn't as emotional for me as I thought, but these moments will be piling up.

And the Magpie is doing very well. We're in the habit of Skyping with her at 9 a.m. Sunday morning, which is 10 p.m. Sunday night in Tokyo. Or, it was. With the switch back to Eastern Standard Time, we are now 14 hours behind, and she can't push her Skype session back an hour, so it looks like we have to get up extra early on Sundays. So much for sleeping in!

But she's having a good time, and has found a good mix of people to be with. When she was still over here and planning her year, she vacillated between living with a host family and staying in a dorm. I think she really wanted the immersion experience of a host family, but chose the dorm in the end, and I think that's a good decision. As it is, she's meeting plenty of Japanese people (duh, she's living in Japan), but she'd not beholden to the rules of a family, and she's also meeting a wider variety of people. Her friends include people from Finland, France, Denmark and Canada, and almost certainly more than that. And though she's been there now for two solid months, she says she still has these moments where she'll suddenly think, "I'm in Japan!" And perhaps I'm overstepping my bounds, but what the hey: she's keeping an intermittent blog that can be found here:

(On a likely related note, I suddenly see a whole bunch of visitors to this blog from Japan--hello, Magpie!)

That whole time thing really messed me up yesterday.

NaNo update: over the weekend, I managed to put together 5,339 words. My manuscript has now passed the 100-page mark, though I found myself looking at a scene I wrote yesterday, thinking, "Have I gone off the rails a bit? Does this really advance the plot?" Doubt on, doubt on.

And some music. A little Grateful Dead (because I haven't done one of them in a long time) from a Halloween concert at Radio City Music Hall many years ago:

That's it for me--how was YOUR weekend?

Friday, October 31, 2014

NaNo Yes or NaNo No...or NaNo Sort of?

If you've been around this space any length of time, you'll know I've documented my feelings and beliefs about NaNoWriMo before--and if I had bothered to stick one of those widgets with keyword terms in the sidebar (and if I had bothered to keyword all of my posts) you'd be able to find them all. Generally, if you're new here and don't want to scour through all my posts, my position is I believe NaNoWriMo can be a Very Good Thing for people. It definitely helped me get myself going down this crazy path.

Unfortunately, I rarely seem to be able to get it together to do NaNo these days. Why?

(let's hear it for the criminally-underrated Road to El Dorado)

It seems since my last attempt at NaNo (and what a joke that was; I'm not sure I wrote a single word), the stars have not been aligned. I've always been revising. Well, not this year. However, I'm also not exactly starting a new project. AS I mentioned last week (I think), I'm about 22,000 words into a new project, and said new project is going well. NaNo, in theory, is for novels that are started on November 1, though you are free to outline the shit out of it before hand. Still, this seems like a good opportunity, does it not? If I can add 50,000 words to the manuscript by the end of November I'll be around 70,000, and that will mean an end is definitely in sight. So, with that in mind, I'm going to bend the rules of NaNo a bit and throw my hat into the ring. Strike up the band, I'm a....

How about you? Are you NaNo'ing this year?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Double Post Monday!

Schnikies, it's usually all I can do to get one post out on any given day, and here I am with a second. Well, there's news--no, not that news, news that may be good for you!

Agent Carrie Pestritto, the wonderful woman who represents yours truly, is offering a chance at a free critique of your query letter. What could be better than that? Well, if your query is selected, you also have the chance of winning a critique/edit of your manuscript's first 100 pages--and Carrie does a bang-up job, let me tell you.

What are you waiting for? Hie on over to Literary Carrie right now!

Weekend Update: Change Is Good

If you've been reading this space for any length of time, then you're almost certainly aware that I am a card-carrying member of that subset of writers known as 'Wingman'. I am not a planner, not an outliner, not a plotter. I plunk myself down at the keyboard and start writing and just let it flow.

Now, you might also know that winging it is not quite as purely improvisational as it sounds. When I'm not writing, I'm thinking. I'm thinking about my story. Not ALL the time, but when I'm driving to work, or showering, or walking the dog, or washing the dishes. Those are great times for thinking of story. And the way I often think about my stories is to essentially have it play out in my head. When I sit down to write, it's almost like a transcription session, though it often goes off the rails and takes wild turns from what I had envisioned moments or hours or even days before.

My current project is one that has bedeviled (did I really just used 'bedeviled'? I did, by gum, I did) me for quite some time. The idea first sparked more than a year ago. I wrote the intro in my writers' circle the same day and was really taken by it. But I was also busy with a revision of one project and a new draft of a another and on and on and on. I also found that, when I did sit with the intention of writing it, it just wasn't coming the way I wanted, so I left it alone, figuring it needed more percolation time. I sometimes need two strikes of 'inspiration', or whatever you want to call it, for an idea to really get going, and that second strike hadn't happened yet.

At the beginning of September I had a conversation with Carrie about next projects. I had two in mind and we talked them over, and she suggested I work on this particular one--the one that has been giving me fits. We talked over my roadblock with the project and brainstormed some ideas and I walked away feeling a little more fired up, but for the next couple of weeks, I still struggled--and so I changed my approach: I wrote an outline.