Archive for December, 2011

David’s Index for 2011

Novel words written: 40,243
Short fiction words written: 28,006
Notes, outline, and synopsis words written: 22,486
Blog words written: 25,268
Total words written: 116,003
Novel words edited out: 4,381
Net words written: 111,622

New stories written: 4
Old stories trunked: 1

Short fiction submissions sent: 38
Responses received: 28
Rejections: 20
Acceptances: 3 (2 pro, 1 semi-pro)
Other responses: 1 (rewrite request)
Other sales: 5 (2 reprint, 2 audio, 1 live performance)
Non-responses: 1 (magazine changed ownership)
Awaiting response: 3

Short stories published: 9 (5 pro, 1 reprint, 3 audio)

Novels completed: 1
Novel submissions: 1
Rejections: 1
Acceptances: 0
Awaiting response: 4

Agent submissions: 11
Rejections: 14
Acceptances: 0
Awaiting response: 1

Happy New Year!

Looking back, looking forward

It’s been a good year.

In all honesty, I have to admit that I live a life of comfort and ease. I have a fine home and a wonderful wife, I’m retired at the age of 50 with enough money to do fundamentally whatever I want, and my health is excellent. I live in a wonderful town with an active community of writers. I love and I know that I am loved.

Flipping through the 2011 kitchen calendar, I see a lot of plays and movies and museum visits. We continued with yoga and our neighborhood SF book group. There was no overseas travel this year; instead we threw a big party which we called “BentoCon, a science fiction convention and square dance” to celebrate our 50th birthdays and 20th anniversary with about 100 of our friends and relatives. It was a heck of a lot of work but it was awesome. We have most excellent friends.

We did have the usual insane amount of domestic travel, including a week in the Bay Area for Fogcon and Potlatch (with a visit to Hearst Castle in between). I visited Buena Vista University in Iowa, where I spoke to the students of my old Clarion West classmate Inez. I participated in a mock battle of sailing ships. I was privileged to be invited to Walter Jon Williams’s Rio Hondo workshop, where I ate many fine meals and critiqued manuscripts with some of the finest writers in the field. I atttended Radcon, Wiscon, the World Fantasy Convention, and OryCon, and square dance events in Atlanta, Phoenix, and Vancouver BC. We took a trip to Eastern Oregon. I taught a crew of brilliant high school students at the Alpha Workshop in Pennsylvania, and was a guest pro at the Cascade Writers workshop on the Washington coast. And at the Worldcon in Reno, I got to present the Best Short Story Hugo to Mary Robinette Kowal.

As far as the writing goes… well, I’m a little disappointed in myself. Despite all the writing workshops I taught and the Hugo I presented and the interview in Locus, the actual writing and publishing didn’t go as well as I’d like. It was a year of near-misses, with “Pupa” coming in second in the Analog readers’ poll and missing the Hugo ballot by four nominations. I spent the whole year looking for a new agent and failed to snag one, despite getting >this< close with an agent who loved the book except for this one thing and then, after I rewrote it to her specifications, decided she didn’t really love it that much after all. I finished the first draft of a hard SF YA novel set on Mars, but reluctantly set it aside (for now) because my agent hunt has shown me that science fiction really isn’t selling right now. So I started researching and outlining a YA Regency interplanetary airship adventure that I think will be more marketable (and also a lot of fun). I intend to begin drafting that one on January 1.

With all that novel-related work I didn’t do a lot of short story writing and submitting, so I don’t have nearly as many new stories, submissions, or sales this year as in some previous years. I did make two pro sales and several reprint and audio sales, and I saw “Trust” published in Daily Science Fiction, “Citizen-Astronaut” in Analog, “The Tides of the Heart” in Realms of Fantasy (which, regrettably, folded shortly thereafter), “The True Story of Merganther’s Run” in The End of an Aeon (finally!), and “Into the Nth Dimension” in Human for a Day. I also saw reprints of “Pupa” in Into the New Millennium (Kindle), “Written on the Wind” at Escape Pod (podcast), “A Passion for Art” at StarShipSofa (podcast), “Zauberschrift” at PodCastle (podcast), and “Powers” in Wild Cards I (audio). “Tides of the Heart” got some very favorable reviews, including a Recommended review in Locus.

Short stories are good. Short stories are fun. But I really, really want to succeed as a novelist, because it’s clear to me that novels get far more attention in this field than short stories do. So in the coming year I intend to really buckle down and focus on the writing. The only way to succeed in this business is to produce, and I intend to put my butt in my chair and write a lot more next year than I did this year. I resolve to write every day, with a minimum of 1000 words per day on weekdays and 100 words per day on weekends and travel days. That’s a stretch — it’s a lot more words per day than I’ve managed in the past on a consistent basis — but I’m hoping that this aggressive goal will force me to find new ways of working and new attitudes that will increase my productivity going forward. And if I can really write at that speed or higher, I can finish this novel in less than a year and still write a bunch of short stories.

So that’s me. I hope you’re enjoying this holiday season and making plans for a great 2012. See you there!

Unboxing Day

Happy Boxing Day to all those who observe it! We will be roasting a chicken, and having stuffing with it, which we haven’t made at home in years.

Yesterday was spent in the quiet traditional way, beginning with the unwrapping of presents in front of the fire, continuing with a full day curled up on the couch watching Dr Who and other geeky TV, and ending with the traditional movie and squid dinner with our friend Michael. I honestly can’t say how many times we’ve done the movie-and-squid thing with Michael on Christmas Day. This year’s movie, Sherlock Holmes, was full of sound and fury and didn’t signify a heck of a lot, but was visually very impressive.

I got Kate a comic book (Angel: Smile Time) and some Signature needles and some stitch markers and an empty box and something she already had. The empty box was a prepaid thing from Ritz Camera where you fill up the box with photos (up to 450), bring it in, and they’ll scan them for you. The thing she already had was our wedding album. The old album’s vinyl cover had gotten aggressively sticky, you see, to the point that it was attacking the items next to it on the shelves. Though it was a very expensive “archival” album and supposedly guaranteed for life, the company that made it no longer exists and their successor wants an astonishing amount for a new cover. The good news is that the photos themselves were unharmed. So I bought a gorgeous handmade leather-covered photo album (which also claims to be archival, but I must say I will probably never trust that word again) and stuck all the photos into it with those little paper corners (also archival). This took many hours of painstaking work spread over several days, but I think she’s very pleased with the results.

Kate got me a Nook Simple Touch, and a charger and a case and a stand, and also some T-shirts and pens and candy and a pair of toast tongs and a DVD (Creature Comforts) and a dozen jars of homemade jam.

The Simple Touch is awesome — very readable, very light and comfortable in the hand, a nice user interface, and the battery is supposed to last for months. I’m extremely pleased with the device. Unfortunately, it refused to connect to our home wifi network, and without wifi it’s much less useful. I called Barnes & Noble and checked the message boards and tried everything I could think of, but it simply would not connect. Given that we’ve also been having intermittent problems with another wifi device (a Squeezebox Radio) for months, I decided to bite the bullet and replace our Ruckus wireless router with something more dependable. So today is also Unboxing Day, because I went out and bought an Apple Time Capsule, unboxed it, and installed it.

I’ve been putting this off for a long time, because I’m always afraid that any change to our wireless network will mess something up, but it only took about half an hour to set up the Time Capsule and get everything connected to it. The Nook had no problems connecting, and — knock wood — the problems we were seeing before with the Squeezebox Radio should also be a thing of the past. And connectivity between the systems in the house is markedly faster. I’m aware that Time Capsules have had reliability issues in the past, but (again knocking wood) Apple seems to have cleaned up its act on this one. I’ll start backing my laptop up to it tonight (the other computers have their own attached hard disks for constant Time Machine backup, but I’ve been backing up the laptop manually and rather sporadically).

I ought to mention one other issue with the Nook, which is that when I went to transfer to it an ebook I had earlier bought from Powell’s (yes, you can buy ebooks from your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, thanks to Google) there were some permission issues and I wound up losing the ability to read that book on any computer. I sent off a help request to Google, not expecting a response until Monday, but I heard right back — on Christmas Day! — with a reply that the book’s permissions had been re-set, which did indeed fix the problem. So, though I oppose DRM in principle, kudos to Google for good customer support on this incident.

So all in all things are very good here. Hope you are also having a relaxing and happy holiday.

The Former Capitals of Europe Tour

Having cashed in all of our Alaska Airlines miles, we are now in posession of tickets for next year’s trip to Europe, which I’m calling the “Former Capitals of Europe Tour.” We’ll be flying to Venice (which dominated Europe in the 13th-15th centuries) on April 18, and returning home from Berlin (which dominated Europe in the 20th-21st centuries) on May 19. Our itinerary in between is not yet set, but we plan to hit Vienna (which dominated Europe in the 15th-19th centuries) and Prague (which was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire in the 14th century), and will probably also take a tour of the Czech Republic.

This is our second visit to Venice and Vienna, my first and Kate’s second to Berlin, and our first to Prague. Any recommendations for sites, hotels, restaurants, events, etc. to see (or avoid) would be highly appreciated.



This morning my friend Janna was notified that she’d been selected as one of 1000 contestants to make a video explainng why she should be the one to win a suborbital flight on Virgin Galactic. I’m thrilled for her, of course, and in my LJ comment on her post I suggested that she use Kip Russel’s contest-winning slogan from Have Space Suit Will Travel. But I didn’t remember the actual slogan, so I went and re-read the first few chapters of the book.

Not only did I find the winning slogan (“I like Skyway Soap because it is as pure as the sky itself!”), I found that the book was packed with something I’ve chosen to call retroanachronisms: worldbuilding elements that were contemporary or futuristic at the time the book was written, but are distractingly outdated today. For example, in this futuristic world with bases on the Moon and Mars, Kip’s small town has three paper newspapers, he has to “tune in” the local TV station on his hand-built black-and-white TV set (at one point the picture and sound go out and he tunes a station from another city “on the skip” but it’s too staticky so he switches back), and the contest winner is announced on a variety show with singing, dancing cigarette packs. Not to mention the gender issues.

I have committed a few retroanachronisms myself. In “I Hold My Father’s Paws,” which must take place at least ten years in the future, I have a character remembering hiding something in a box of old CD-ROMs when he was a kid. Referring to something present-day as being in the past (in this case, a memory of something that was old at the time) is a great way of establishing that we’re in the future, but it bit me here. There’s no way the character — who would be at most ten years old in 2011 — would even know what a CD-ROM is, never mind have a box of them anywhere in the house. They became more thoroughly obsolete, and faster, than I anticipated when I was writing the story (2002). The exact same problem affected Back to the Future II, in which Marty lands in an alley containing bales of discarded 12″ laserdiscs.

Retroanachronisms are, I think, impossible to avoid when writing fiction set in the future. You have to have some elements of the present day in your future world, for the sake of reader identification, and sure as shootin’ some of them will turn jarring as the future takes twists you didn’t anticipate. But they’re fun to watch for in older SF.

“He wouldn’t do that.”

Talking with Kate about what a character in a newspaper comic strip is likely to do next, based on our knowledge of his previous actions, I realized: we have circuits in our brains devoted to analyzing and predicting the behavior of other humans in our monkeysphere, and fiction exercises those circuits in a way we find entertaining. This is why characters are important.