Check-In – Day 27

  • Jul. 28th, 2017 at 5:30 AM
*coughs* Pardon the early hour (where I am, anyway). Did not want to miss Day 27 entirely! What have you been doing?

— Thinking. Maybe a little, maybe a lot.
— Writing.
— Planning and / or researching.
— Editing.
— Sending things to the beta.
— Posting!
— Relaxing, taking a break, etc.
— Other stuff-ing. Look at the comment.

Question of the day: When you sit down to type, do you have a preference for the type of keyboard you have to use?

The Big Idea: Adam Christopher

  • Jul. 27th, 2017 at 12:33 PM

Posted by John Scalzi

Congratulations! Your book was a success! Now do that trick a second time! In discussing Killing is My Business, author Adam Christopher talks about doing the thing that you did so well all over again — but different this time.

ADAM CHRISTOPHER:

You know how it goes, the difficult second album: a band spends years meticulously crafting a collection of songs, polishing them through endless live sets until they shine, and these songs form their incandescent debut album.

Then they need to produce the follow-up and essentially come up with an entirely new repertoire on demand. That second album can be a difficult one indeed.

Now, I didn’t spend years crafting the Ray Electromatic Mysteries – Made to Kill, the first full-length novel after the Tor.com novelette Brisk Money, came out in 2015 and was something like my seventh published novel – but somehow the series has a certain kind of weight, just like that debut album of your favourite band. I think it’s because that original big idea was very big indeed – I was writing Raymond Chandler’s lost science fiction epics, a series about a robot assassin working in Chandler’s near-future Hollywood of 1965. That idea sprang from Chandler’s own letter to his agent in 1953, in which he complained about sci-fi, saying “people pay brisk money for this crap?” Clearly, this was a front, the famed hardboiled author conducting a fishing expedition, seeing if his agent would bite.

Sixty years later, I wrote a story named for Chandler’s letter – Brisk Money. The idea was everything – a whole world was open to me, enough not just for a novelette but for a trilogy of hardboiled novels and another in-between novella, Standard Hollywood Depravity – the title, again, taken from Chandler’s letters.

So far, so good. Made to Kill was a blast to write.

And then came book two.

I wouldn’t call it a sophomore slump. Far from it. The three novels were pitched together, right from the start, so I knew what I was doing and where the books were going. But there was one thing in back of my mind while I was working on what became the second novel, Killing Is My Business.

What would Raymond Chandler do?

That mantra, in essence, became the big idea of the book.

The concept of the Ray Electromatic Mysteries is simple: the robot revolution came and went in the 1950s, and Ray is the last robot left in the world, designed to be a private eye working in Hollywood. The only snag to this is that his supercomputer boss, Ada, was programmed to make a profit – and she quickly figured out you could make more money by killing people than finding them. A little tinkering with Ray’s CPU and Ada turns him into an accomplished hit-robot.

Simple enough, and, importantly, an open-ended concept. You could write a hundred stories about a hitman.

Which was actually the problem – because while I could easily write endless hardboiled, noir-ish stories set in Chandler’s seedy LA underbelly, a world full of wiseguys and dames and crooked cops and the mob, that’s nothing that hasn’t been seen before a thousand times. Hell, that’s basically Chandler’s oeuvre and people have been calling him a genius or a hack for the last seventy-plus years.

No, what I had to do was to write science fiction. There was no point in Ray being a robot if that wasn’t vital to the story. Ray had to be the central player in the trilogy – he’s unique, literally, and that has to drive the story arc that stretches across all three books.

So: what would Raymond Chandler do?

More specifically, what would Raymond Chandler do… with a robot?

In Killing Is My Business, Ray’s unique character is used to rather unsubtle effect when he uses his virtually indestructible chassis to protect a mob boss from a drive-by shooting, literally placing himself between the crime lord and his would-be executioners. This is something that only Ray could do. It’s a key scene, the first piece of the story that I had thought of.

And it was also a scene that I knew had to happen – if Ray is a robot then being a robot is the story. With that thought foremost in mind, I could write book two and I could make sure the series as a whole is more than just a set of pastiche crime novels, it was something original.  

Now, if he only Ray Electromatic knew what I torment I had in store for him in book three…

—-

Killing is My Business: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.


Check-In – Day 26

  • Jul. 26th, 2017 at 7:20 PM
Sometimes, life is a dungeon crawl. Sometimes, it's more of a match-three puzzle game. So ... what's it been for you today? What have you been doing?

— Thinking. Maybe a little, maybe a lot.
— Writing.
— Planning and / or researching.
— Editing.
— Sending things to the beta.
— Posting!
— Relaxing, taking a break, etc.
— Other stuff-ing. Look at the comment.

Question for today: On a scale of 1 to 10, how disgusted do you usually get with your first draft of a longer work?

Posted by John Scalzi

Leaving aside everything else that is wrong and immoral about this proposed ban, at the moment there are something like 11,000 trans people currently serving openly in the US services and reserves. They are there legally, and it is currently their right to serve openly. Trump’s ban, at first glance, appears to take away their right to serve their country, and takes away their jobs, their incomes, their benefits for themselves and their families — for no other reason than something which yesterday was not illegal nor an impediment to serving their country with passion and distinction.

Make no mistake: Trump is affirmatively and explicitly taking away a right from American citizens, a right they already had and enjoyed. This is a big right: The right to serve in one’s military openly, without fear of punishment for who you are.

If Trump will take away one right from Americans, he’s not going to have a problem taking away other rights as well. Why would he? Trump is the living embodiment of “If you give a mouse a cookie” — if he gets away with one thing, he’ll go ahead and try to get away with something else. He’s already trying, of course.

I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that I support the right of transgender people to serve openly in the military, a thing they already have done, any more than it will come as a surprise that I support the rights of transgender people generally. But as important as it is for me to explicitly say I support transgender rights, I think it’s also worth asking people who oppose these rights, or other rights enjoyed by people not exactly like them, whether they are comfortable taking away fundamental rights these American citizens already have — and if so, what leads them to believe that their own rights, rights they already enjoy, are not also placed in jeopardy by that precedent.

If the answer boils down to “well, that will never happen to me,” as it inevitably will, it’s worth examining why they think they will forever be immune. The answer will be instructive for everyone.

And also, they’re wrong. If you can take away an existing right of an American simply because of who they are, then you can take away a right of any American simply because of who they are — or what they are, or where their ancestors came from, or what they believe, and so on.

I said on Twitter this morning, “Today, as has almost every day in this administration, offers each us of a chance to understand the dimensions our own moral character.” And so it does. And so it will, every day, I expect, until it is done.


Posted by John Scalzi

Coke announced today that it’s rebranding Coke Zero to “Coke Zero Sugar”:

Coca-Cola Zero Sugar is the new and improved Coke Zero. We’ve made the great taste of Coke Zero even better by optimizing the unique blend of flavors that gave Coke Zero its real Coca-Cola taste. Coca-Cola Zero Sugar is our best-tasting zero-sugar Coca-Cola yet, and it will be available across America in August.

Basically, it’s the same new formula it’s been introducing in foreign markets as “Coke No Sugar” but Coke is keeping the “Zero” branding here because it’s been successful and they don’t want to confuse us poor Americans any more than we already are in these trying times. Or something.

As I noted previously (see the second link, there), I am perfectly fine with Coke attempting this revamp — by all reviews I’ve seen the “Zero Sugar” version tastes more like standard Coke than Coke Zero, and since “actually tasting like regular Coke” is why I drink Coke Zero in the first place (Diet Coke shares its flavor profile with the late, unlamented New Coke), I’ll willing to give this new version a shot. If it turns out I hate it, well. I guess then that August 2017 will be a fine time for me to drastically cut down my soda drinking. I suspect I’ll probably continue calling the new stuff “Coke Zero” rather than “Coke Zero Sugar,” because it’s two fewer syllables and I’m all about efficiency.

So in effect, I think that this is less like Coke Zero dying than it is Coke Zero regenerating, timelord-like, into its next iteration. And I suspect I will remain its constant companion.


The Big Idea: Vivian Shaw

  • Jul. 26th, 2017 at 11:18 AM

Posted by John Scalzi

Monsters are monsters, but do they always have to be so… monstrous? Vivian Shaw considers the fundamental nature of these terrible creatures in Strange Practice, and how she came to look at them from another angle entirely.

VIVIAN SHAW:

What’s my big idea?

The facile answer is, of course, sensible monsters. An idea which doesn’t seem to have found a great deal of traction thus far in any genre, classic or contemporary, and so offers a wide-open opportunity to play with readers’ expectations — but the real underlying answer goes back a lot further than that. It has to do with the contrast between ordinary and extraordinary, and what that means in terms of storytelling.

I’ve been writing novellas and novels of varying quality since I was about ten or eleven, but I did National Novel Writing Month for the first time in 2004, right after spending a lot of time on urbex websites, and the big idea behind that first NaNo was how many characters from classic vampire lit can I get into one story while exploring the weird and wonderful subterranean world of London? The answer turned out to be between five and eight. That first draft featured not only Lord Ruthven and Sir Francis Varney, but also Dracula and Carmilla (only spelling herself Mircalla, because vampires and spelling are such a thing). On the human side I had Greta, descended from Van Helsing, and August Cranswell, descended from the family that put paid to the vampire of Croglin Grange.

I decided to put vampires in the NaNo novel because I’ve always been fond of them — even as a kid I loved reading the classics, even if I had to stop every now and then to look up the words. The way in which the Western vampire mythos evolved from age to age, gathering often-contradictory detail with each well-known story added to its canon, fascinated me. But in all the stories, all the retellings, I couldn’t get away from the fact that most of the vampires did really stupid things. Their behavior was practically designed to attract the attention of the pitchfork-and-flaming-torch brigade, and just for once I wanted to read about vampires who just got on with it — vampires who were monsters, yes, but also people. Vampires who didn’t have to have geographically unplaceable accents and go swanning around in evening dress all the time for no reason. Vampires who didn’t need to be hypersexualized edgelords in leather trousers, or spend all their time moping about their cursed eternal fate, woe. Vampires who’d rather write nasty letters to the Times than tear throats out (unless the latter was really necessary), and who used their powers to watch over the city and stop other monsters ruining everything. Vampires who were sensible.

And because I wanted to read it, I had to write it first.

That book was called The Underglow, and it sat around on various hard drives for a decade while I borrowed characters from it and played with them, letting them evolve into much more nuanced and interesting individuals. In 2014 I dusted the book off again, looked at it properly, and determined it would need to be stripped to the skeleton and rewritten almost from scratch.

And this time the big idea wasn’t about cramming in as many recognizable characters as I could shoehorn into a plot, nor was it limited to vampires alone. This time it was about the individuals themselves — a more diverse cast, given more opportunity to shine — and what it actually meant to them to be what they were, extraordinary creatures in an ordinary world. I didn’t just have sensible vampires. I had sensible were-creatures, and mummies, and ghouls, banshees, bogeymen, a whole spectrum of monsters to play with, a richer world to explore.

It was this second iteration of the book that would end up becoming a series starring Greta as the central character, set in this peculiarly overlapping supernatural-adjacent world. With my editor’s help, I continued to refine the text into something that explored that particular aspect of storytelling: both the contrast between the ancient monsters and the modern day, and the fascinating difficulties encountered by people who necessarily spent their time in the liminal space of that boundary between natural and supernatural. What their experience would be, as creatures who had to coexist either covertly or overtly with ordinary humans, keeping their natures as quiet as possible — and what it might be like as a human to witness that experience, and to take on the responsibility of offering care across species boundaries. What kind of person would you have to be, to do a job like that?

Without really intending to, all those years ago in the throes of NaNo, I’d done myself an extraordinary favor in inventing the character of Greta Helsing. In the previous version, Greta was much less important a character; in this one, I could take much more advantage of her highly specialized role to portray those monsters as her patients, people she cared for, whatever sort of creature they might be, and what that meant to her. As a human physician to the supernatural, she necessarily encounters an enormous variety of complaints, and so I get to write about so many fascinating problems seen both from the human and the clinical standpoint. It gives me endless pleasure to apply scientific protocol to the realms of the unreal — there’s the contrast thing again, ordinary and extraordinary balancing each other — and I love writing about listserv arguments over the relative merits of different embalming fluids in zombie tissue stabilization, or the practice of creating perfect bone replacements for mummies via 3-D printing from a laser scan.

So it’s contrast, and it’s the experience of that contrast, of being a stranger in a strange land, that really drives the book (and, in fact, the series). The concept of found family echoes throughout, as well — it’s a natural consequence of the transposition of individual and environment, and one of my favorites.

But if, in the end, all you take away from Strange Practice is sensible monsters…I’m gonna be well-pleased with the work of my hands.

—-

Strange Practice: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.


Which are you?

  • Jul. 25th, 2017 at 9:36 PM
Aries:
1st type - cute, bubblegum eternal child
2nd type - impulsive antagonist
3rd type - seductive risk taker

Taurus
1st type - earthy artist
2nd type - mature and maternal figure
3rd type - gluttonous pleasure seeker

Gemini
1st type - childlike clown
2nd type - sophisticated socialite / academic
3rd type - disorganised basket case

Cancer
1st type - aggressive, moody sensitive
2nd type - empathetic counsellor
3rd type - martyred worrier

Leo
1st type - exuberant performer
2nd type - wants to save the world
3rd type - hates themselves openly

Virgo
1st type - self critical nervous wreck
2nd type - cool and composed problem solver
3rd type - exemplary server

Libra
1st type - lonely, dependant, and sensitive relationship seeker
2nd type - formidable leader, justice seeking and moral
3rd type - airy flirter and artist

Scorpio
1st type - brooding, silent, angry at the world, unstable
2nd type - curious, fascinating emotional lover, interested in the world and complex
3rd type - powerful magnetiser, arousing and seductive

Sagittarius
1st type - uncontrollable and impulsive trickster
2nd type - philosophical and wise guide
3rd type - travel hungry, life absorbing wanderer

Capricorn
1st type - consumed labourer, contributing and sacrificial
2nd type - lazy and lethargic, melancholic and paranoid
3rd type - regal leader, success story, overcomer of obstacles with grace

Aquarius
1st type - introverted and misunderstood outsider
2nd type - playful child, interested by everyone and everything, cool and kind
3rd type - eccentric madman, drunk professor

Pisces
1st type - spiritual temple, compassionate comforter
2nd type - addicted daydreamer incapable of dealing with reality
3rd type - gossipy trickster, two faced and complex

Tags:

Check-In – Day 25

  • Jul. 25th, 2017 at 8:25 PM
The cat is asleep on the bed. He doesn't know that it's Tuesday, nor does he especially care. But we do! What have you been doing?

— Thinking. Maybe a little, maybe a lot.
— Writing.
— Planning and / or researching.
— Editing.
— Sending things to the beta.
— Posting!
— Relaxing, taking a break, etc.
— Other stuff-ing. Look at the comment.

Today's question: Do you maintain multiple posting names (i.e. pseudonyms or "pseuds") for your work, or do you lump all your works together under one name?

You Are What You Do

  • Jul. 25th, 2017 at 7:08 PM
Sharing to share. And because I want to keep this one. (Yes, the image seems broken, but it's the text I wanted.)

A reader named Molly asked me "you seem so confident in your 'you-ness" - how do you get to know yourself so well? I feel like I don't know who I am." Here's what I said: Dear Molly, If I tell you something like "your sense of self is entirely in your own hands," would you consider that good news or bad news? Hopefully it's the first, because it's true. In the 1960s, this dude named Daryl Bem came up with the theory of self perception, a theory of attitude formation. The theory says our sense of self is formed by our actions, not the other way around. I know that seems counter intuitive. We think that if you're an inherently brave person, you do brave things. But Bem's theory says it's the other way around. If you do a brave thing, you think of yourself as a brave person. I can hear your eyes rolling, but wait up, listen, it holds water as a theory. Let's imagine you're afraid to hang glide because you think of yourself as a coward. Now imagine your friends badger you into it anyway. You do it, and you're successful, even though you didn't choose it for yourself. Now you've done this brave thing, and you decide maybe you were wrong, you actually are a brave person. Subsequently you begin to think of yourself as someone brave. Later you tell the story of hang gliding to a stranger and they gasp—"you're so fearless," they say. Yes, you think to yourself, I guess I am! The story is confirmed. But IT'S NOT WRONG. You are what you do. Tell a story about yourself, you become that story. Good or bad. What does this have to do with your question? Maybe you've already figured it out. If you decide to go digging to find out who your are, all you'll find is an empty hole waiting to be filled. Who you are isn't a concrete entity waiting to be uncovered. You don't have to wistfully think, I wish I was a gentler person, but I'm just not: you can decide to be a gentler person. You don't have to sigh and wish you were braver: you can do brave things & grow into them. You don't have to say, I wish I was bad ass: buy a set of good sunglasses and live it until you are it. Is it easy? No. But I guess that's why they call it character-building. urs, Stiefvater

A post shared by Maggie Stiefvater (@maggie_stiefvater) on

Recs! Humor and Heartbreak

  • Jul. 25th, 2017 at 12:11 PM
I spent a good bit of time last Saturday writing this rec list up in Semagic. Sunday morning I did a last sweep and some final edits before calling it complete. Then opened a new file that I made some changes to and hit save-- which promptly saved over top of my completed rec list. Semagic has a weird save quirk that makes this possible when hopping between different files but I never remember that when I need to and I'll let you imgaine the swearing and clawing at face that proceeded, especially after I tried an immediate salvage of the file autosave and failed. So I then spent a good chunk of Sunday rewriting it from the scraps of memory. This time in Notepad ++ as all future posts will be drafted. *glares at Semagic icon*

ANYWAY, before all that excitement, when I first called up my rec tag shortlist, I realized I had over a dozen that were either Avengers/Captain America or Wonder Woman related (or, in one case, both), so I decided to run with those and give them their own list. These are heavy on the Steve, Bucky, and Diana, not surprisingly, along with two from Antiope's POV. They also feature significant appearances by Peggy, Tony, Pepper, Pietro, Wanda, Steve [Trevor], Donna Noble, and Bruce Wayne. Mostly fics as usual but one exceptional vid and a serendipitous art experiment also made their way in. There's 14 recs all together and the rec notes were written in order but you can, of course, pick and choose as you like. <3

ETA: The first couple of recs had a missing div coding error so they looked like one rec with the wrong title/link/author. That's been fixed now. :)

Onward to the Recs! )

The Big Idea: Tal M. Klein

  • Jul. 25th, 2017 at 11:56 AM

Posted by John Scalzi

Teleportation: A great idea, but with some practical… problems. It’s a physics thing. In this Big Idea for The Punch Escrow, author Tal M. Klein wonders, what if you could solve those problems, not with physics, but with another branch of human intellectual endeavor entirely?

TAL M. KLEIN:

F#*%ing transporters, how do they work?

It was the Ides of March of 2012. I had just started a new job and was chatting with a co-worker about lens flare. Specifically, I was ranting about J.J. Abrams’ penchant for gratuitous lens flare, using the Star Trek reboot as an example, when all of a sudden the conversation was interrupted by our CEO.

“It’s bullshit!” he shouted.

(He wasn’t talking about the lens flare.)

Our CEO wielded a PhD in Computer Science and was using it to fight with Star Trek, or more specifically its transporters. He went on to monologue about Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, explaining that the position and the velocity of an object couldn’t both be measured exactly, at the same time, even in theory, and in the highly improbable likelihood that somehow someone did manage to circumvent the uncertainty principle, they’d still have to contend with the no-cloning theorem, which stated that it was impossible to create an identical copy of any unknown quantum state.

Here is what I heard: “Teleportation is impossible because physics.”

Now let’s be clear, I’m not a scientist. What I am is a product man. I build and market technology products for a living. Having bet my career on startups, my brain senses opportunity where others see impossibility. In fact, whenever anyone tells me I can’t do something, my mind automatically appends a “yet” to the end of their statement.

My favorite author growing up was Larry Niven. This fact is germane here because the first thing that came to mind during the CEO’s aforementioned monologue was a Niven essay entitled Exercise in Speculation: The Theory and Practice of Teleportation, part of a collection called All The Myriad Ways. Niven’s spiel on teleportation explored the pros and cons of the myriad ways (see what I did there) we might achieve commercialized human teleportation. The science was interesting, but what I remembered latching on to as a kid was his take on the anthropological impact of teleportation.

Niven’s itch was akin to what angered my CEO: If we discount for Star Trek’s technobabble and defer to actual physics, then every time Scotty teleported Captain Kirk he was actually killing him in one place and “printing him out” somewhere else.

This destructive teleportation variant of the twin maker trope has been explored almost ad nauseum. Though there are several good stories and movies that address the existential problems teleportation could introduce should it ever become a viable transportation mechanism, none have adequately presented a marketable solution to that problem — at least none that might pass muster with an anthropologist.

How come nobody ever discussed how society might come to adopt teleportation in the first place, I wondered. Science fiction seemed to lack a scientifically plausible teleportation mechanism that could be deemed safe enough to commercialize in the near future.

So, I decided to solve the teleportation problem — with marketing!

In my day job as a chief marketing officer, when I’m asked to play out this kind of go-to-market strategy problem, I use a game theory methodology known as Wardley mapping; an augmentation of value chain mapping. The “product” came in the form of the Punch Escrow. It’s the MacGuffin that makes teleportation safe and thus both scientifically and anthropologically plausible. The value of mapping in predicting the future is based in pragmatism. If we can assess what components of tech will become commoditized in society, we can envision innovations that build on those commodities in alignment with basic needs, making their commercialization more plausible.

Consulting with a real life quantum physicist, I used the Wardley mapping approach to understand the teleportation problem and then solve for it: When someone teleports, the Punch Escrow is a chamber in which the they are held — in escrow — until they safely arrive at their final destination. That way if anything goes wrong during teleportation, the “conductor” could just cancel the trip and the traveler would safely walk out at the point of origin as if nothing happened.

But how does one market this scenario given the very obvious twin maker issue?

A capitalist society will always want to get from point A to point B faster and on-demand. I don’t think anyone would argue that safe teleportation is a highly desirable mode of transport. The Punch Escrow makes it possible, and International Transport (the company behind commercial teleportation in the 22nd century) effectively brands it as “safe.” To wit, critics of early steam locomotives avowed that the human body was not meant to move faster than fifty miles an hour. Intelligent people with impeccable credentials worried that female passengers’ uteruses might be ejected from their bodies as trains accelerated! Others suspected that a human body might simply melt at such speeds. You know what? It didn’t matter. People wanted to get from point A to point B faster, train tycoons marketed to that desire with implied underpinnings of safety, and trains took off.

Just as locomotives didn’t transform our world into a dystopia, it stands to reason teleportation won’t either. Yes, people die in train accidents (not because their organs fly out of their orifices, I should add), but the benefit is anthropologically perceived as greater than the risk. Same goes with commercial flight. Of course you’ve heard the axiom, “If God had meant man to fly…” — that didn’t seem to stop droves of us from squeezing into small flying metal tubes in the sky. Today, we face similar fears with autonomous vehicles, but I’m certain that the marketers will calm our nerves. I believe within a generation the notion of manual driving will seem as esoteric a means of getting around as a horse and carriage. Maybe the same will be said of teleportation a century from now?

—-

The Punch Escrow: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.


The Changeable Plan

  • Jul. 25th, 2017 at 2:40 PM

Posted by Alli

Almost every week I meet my friend for dinner and we go to either Barnes & Noble or the library. We spend an hour walking through the books, reading titles, touching covers, and expanding our to-read lists. In addition to an ever-increasing to-read list, I also have an ever-increasing library. And of those books there are a good many that I haven’t read. This year I decided my reading theme would be Read Your Damn Books. I made a whole plan for how many books I wanted to read, how many of them should be books I already own, how many audio books, how many graphic novels, etc. And then I proceeded to the library website and I ordered a bunch of books for home delivery because I apparently like usurping my own plans.

But aren’t all plans really just guidelines? I mean, when I made the original book list, I knew I would swap out books if I wasn’t particularly feeling a title, and that I would make new discoveries over the year. My primary goals were to read thirty books and to spend about half of my 2017 reading time consuming books from my home library. I also wanted to read at least five books borrowed from my local library and to listen to at least two audio books.

I had no idea that I’d get so invested in audio books. I’ve been listening to them while I take walks and so I’ve so far been through seven audio books. (Can I count one as “reading my damn book” since I already owned it?) My guideline of a plan obviously involves some spontaneous revision since I now have to decide how upping my audio book intake affects the number of physical books I read. Do I still need for half of my 2017 books to come from my bookshelf? Can I revise that number to just twelve? (Or ten seeing as how we’re over halfway through the year and I’ve read a whooping total of six books I own.)

I also had to scrap and revamp part of my plan. I had planned to start researching for a time travel story in the latter half of 2017, but in starting to draft my pirate novel, I realized I need to do more pirate research. So it’s back to the high seas, air, and steampunk for me. All the time travel books have been relegated to 2018—at least I already have the start of next year’s guidelines.

The main thing about plans is that they have to be flexible. Rigid plans often prevent productivity. If I said I had to stick to reading my physical books and ignored that I was enjoying listening to audio books on walks I might not have finished as many books as I have, or I might have stopped walking so I could add that time to my book reading time. Sticking to my original plan would have ignored my natural inclinations and that frustration would have easily made me stagnant.

Strangely this reminds me of writing my last novel. I had an outline laid out—an excellent guideline, indeed—but I got caught in the middle, trying to force the main character to read books when she just wanted to listen to audio books (at least in this analogy). Once I let her listen to audio books, things started coming much easier. I had to refigure my plan and change a few expectations, but finishing the first draft became much easier when I stopped fighting against my plan, just like how reading over thirty books in 2017 will be much easier if I let myself continue listening to audio books. Going with the flow isn’t so easy if you’re a planner, but learning to find my own rhythm and accept that as a new plan is key to staying productive.

At first I thought someone had messed with my chair at work, but no, the height adjuster is broken/breaking. I asked for a new chair. "We haven't bought any new chairs in 5 years." Can I at least get one that doesn't make me sit with my knees above my chest? "Sure, we can find you one."

I apparently treat my office chairs much nicer than most people, because the replacement, while containing a working height adjuster, had really beat up grungy chewed up armrests. So tonight (we shall see) they're supposed to move my armrests onto the new chair.

Then at home the cooktop has a crack in it, and it's so out of date you can't get a replacement any more, anywhere, so we have to decide: new cooktop or traditional (if passe) metal coils? Whenever we have some money saved up, that is. Half the cooktop is still usable, and we still have microwave and oven. Hard to stir fry veggies in the oven though.

So much fun on a Monday!

Okay, on to craft update!

On 23 July 2017 I completed the top of the Swedish Braid for Huxrin. It is biiiiig. I just realized - the last time I made a king size quilt for someone (namely [personal profile] porkwithbones it also came out biiiiig, even for a king.

So the request was king size bed, and Huxrin wanted me to use the blue/cream/gold braids I'd made from the Stonehenge strips I had from years ago. (Click on "quilt: swedish braid") That meant we had to buy more fabric, of course. ^^;; But Huxrin wants this as a future wedding present. So after it's done, into the hope chest it goes, I s'pose.

(The hope chest used to be Mom's. I never had one. But darn it, Huxrin has a vintage hope chest and we're loading it with stuff for Future Life After Medical School!)

Huxrin did indeed request a king size, and wow, this thang's big. Royal blue solid inner border, gold/cream floral lattice, and a lot of Galaxy fabric outer border. Probably I should've tried for, like, several smaller borders, but Huxrin likes the Galaxy fabric (I haven't yet met someone who doesn't, tbh) and it was lots easier than making many borders.

Pic )

Check-In – Day 24

  • Jul. 24th, 2017 at 7:05 PM
Monday, Monday, so good to me. That's what the song says, anyway. What have you been doing today?

— Thinking. Maybe a little, maybe a lot.
— Writing.
— Planning and / or researching.
— Editing.
— Sending things to the beta.
— Posting!
— Relaxing, taking a break, etc.
— Other stuff-ing. Look at the comment.

Today's question: Do you post any of your writing anonymously? (Goodness knows I do.)

Posted by John Scalzi

It begins thusly:

The new bed:

Which you may think looks quite a lot like the old bed, and you wouldn’t be wrong, in the sense that we did not swap out the headboard or bed frame. But those of you who are sharply observant and/or are creepy creepers might note the mattress is taller than it used to be. That’s because instead of a box spring underneath we now have a frame that raises and lowers the head and foot of the mattress when desired. That’s right, no longer do we have to sit up in bed on our own! Our bed can do it for us! Surely we live in miraculous times.

It was time to get a new mattress in any event. The last time we purchased one for this bed was 11 years ago, and it had gotten to the point where the “memory foam” had lost its memory entirely and both Krissy and I were getting backaches out of it. Once at the store and finding a mattress we liked, we decided to splurge a bit and get the motorized frame. If nothing else it will make everything weird for the cats. Which is its own benefit. Also, if it turns out that elevating the head of the mattress makes it easier to type, I may finally go full Grandpa Joe and never leave the bed at all. Note to self: Check Amazon for bedpans.

(Additional note to self: Really, don’t.)

And I got some saucy tweets out of it! Which, you know. Is its own reward.


When you feel like letting go...

  • Jul. 24th, 2017 at 7:17 PM
Apparently, sometimes you just need to dance in the rain!

It’s been an… odd couple of months, mental health wise. I’ve been struggling and trying to deny it and back on my meds for three weeks now. I had the nightmare 10 days or so of riding out the waves of side-effects. Obviously, the meds aren’t fully functioning yet but I’m starting to see some admittedly small changes.

This week… this week has been very stressful at work.
Facilities me has been run off her feet sorting out the after effects of a fire in the warehouse.
Finance me has had some pretty epic yelling suppliers. There have been tears and there have been tantrums!

It all came to a head on Thursday afternoon. I snapped at a supplier on the phone, I hid in the loo and cried multiple times. I ate my weight in chocolate a few times over. I was… shall we actively fighting the urge to do something stupid. I mostly achieved it.

Throw in a hellish drive down to London on Friday (it took me 7 hours to drive 170 miles!) and the weather at the weekend and I almost said fuck it and didn’t go.

But I did.

Saturday, in an utterly shocking statement, I went to a Raintown gig. They were playing in Canada Square as part of Nashville meets London. Kicked the whole thing off which was AWESOME. It was slightly damp in the way that I was soaked through my pac-a-mac. I’d hit the point I was completely drenched, couldn’t physically get any wetter.

I just… I let go. I was singing my heart out, crying my eyes out, laughing, and just… yeah dancing in the rain. It was what I needed.

Tools for Online Collaboration

  • Jul. 24th, 2017 at 3:58 PM

Posted by Editor

Stewart Baker

by Stewart C Baker

In the past decade, web-based applications have really come into their own. This is great for authors, because it makes collaborating much easier, especially when your co-author doesn’t live nearby. The tools in this list run the gamut from online chat software to fully fledged cloud-based authoring software. And, of course, many of them can be wonderful productivity boosters for solo authors, too.

Slack

Slack is a web-based chat client. Unlike some other chat clients, Slack allows you to create channels for each aspect of a collaboration, and it also keeps a searchable log of up to 10,000 messages and allows you to store up to 5GB of files on your team’s page. You can pay a monthly fee to get more messages saved and more file space.

Trello

Trello is an online project management application which lets you create stacks of virtual note cards. You can assign labels to cards, as well as due dates, checklists, attachments, and more. If you’re collaborating on a Trello board, you can also add comments to each card—useful for remembering what you’ve discussed about each aspect of your work in progress.

Gingko App

Gingko App (sic) is a web-based outlining and note taking tool. With it, you can create “trees”—hierarchically-arranged stacks of notecards. Gingko contextually highlights notecards depending on which branch of the tree you’re on, so it’s easy to see which act contains the chapter you’re reviewing. Notecards can be formatted with Markdown. Gingko trees can be shared for simultaneous editing.

Evernote

Evernote is a web-based note-taking tool, great for jotting down quick notes about things as well as for more involved planning. You can also use Evernote to upload files and—if you’re on Chrome—the related “web clipper” app allows you to take screenshots of websites, which can be useful for quickly saving important bits of research. Evernote notebooks can be shared for simultaneous editing, and you can also chat with collaborators.

Google Docs/Drive

Google Docs is Google’s web-based word processor. It has many of the features of other word processors, but also allows simultaneous editing and chat, and unobtrusively tracks changes, making it easy to retrieve earlier versions of your work. You can export from Google Docs to common formats like DOC and PDF, and pair the app with Google Drive to get storage as well.

OneDrive

OneDrive is Microsoft’s cloud-based storage application. OneDrive folders can be shared with others to allow simultaneous editing on the same file. OneDrive’s web interface integrates a lot of other Microsoft products, like Skype and Office 365, and you can edit OneDrive files in the desktop edition of Microsoft Word—a nice touch if you both use Word and don’t want to switch to something new for collaboration.

WordSlingr

Unlike the other web applications on this list, WordSlingr was created specifically for writing novels. Billing itself as an “online writers studio,” WordSlingr lets you brainstorm, outline, store research, set and track word count goals and—of course—write. Also unlike most of the other items on the list, you’ll need to pony up for one of WordSlingr’s paid plans to take advantage of its collaboration tools.

•••

Stewart C Baker is an academic librarian, speculative fiction writer, and occasional haikuist. His fiction has appeared in Writers of the Future, Nature, Galaxy’s Edge, and Flash Fiction Online, among other places. Stewart was born in England, has lived in South Carolina, Japan, and California (in that order), and currently resides in Oregon with his family­­—although if anyone asks, he’ll usually say he’s from the Internet.

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