Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

The storage locker

We spent a good chunk of yesterday and today emptying out our storage locker here in Portland and ferrying things down to McMinnville where a friend has a ginormous locker that he’s letting us put things in. Free!

It was really bizarre looking through the locker as we’d forgotten what a lot of the contents were.  Rob said that it was like going through a deceased aunt’s house because all the things in there seem like they belong to another life.  Creepy.

I found my box of juvenilia, which I did not bring back to the apartment, tempting though it was.  At some point next summer, we’ll go down and sort through things but at the moment it was just too overwhelming.

A varied day

Today was one of those days that looked like I had nothing on the calendar and then I was out of the apartment all day. I started with breakfast and tea with a friend, then trotted off to the Puppet Kitchen to show some of the saw players I met this weekend around. From there I went to rehearsal for Tiger Tales.

There was some writing on the subway but I only managed to get 455 words in today. That brings me close to wrapping Chapter 5, which will hopefully happen tomorrow.

At Wiscon, Day 1

  • 01:06 You know… just once, I would like to go to a con without pulling an all-nighter at the theater. See you at Wiscon tomorrow? #
  • 04:31 I’m waiting for the bus to the airport. Have I been to bed? Does a 20 minute nap count? #
  • 04:38 Today’s shopping list consists of ginger ale, laser and napkins. #
  • 06:02 Curses. My flight rescheduling means that I’ll arrive at Wiscon after the writer’s workshop session I’m supposed to be leading. #
  • 06:54 On the plane and ready to fall asleep. #
  • 14:39 Have arrived at my hotel for Wiscon. Very tempted by the nice soft bed but I’m going to head over to registration. #
  • 18:03 Sitting around with Klages, Levine, Monette and Thomas. Wiscon is already fun. #
  • 22:37 Just a gentle reminder: Robinette is my middle name, not my maiden name, not my surname. That’s Kowal. #

Sans, twitter. The con is great fun and I’m happy to see people. I’m also so tired I could weep, yet somehow I managed to moderate a 10:30 pm panel without any major mind melts. Thank heavens for the theater instinct which kicks adrenalin in to focus the mind just long enough to get through the “show.” 

And I’m even more thankful that I had very smart panelists in Carrie L. Ferguson, M. J. Hardman and Deepa D. so I didn’t have to do more than ask the occasional question. What was the panel?

Many of us can point to something which we read that changed our lives. Some of us view writing fiction as a political act. This panel will explore the relationship of SF/F to society and culture. Can SF/F change the world in a practical and political way? Is there any occasion when writers of SF/F can justifiably claim it is only entertainment and has no responsibility for commenting on popular culture.

Oh, I also managed to catch up with Erin Cashier, who was in the writing workshop I didn’t get to this morning, and go over her story with her. A hearty thank you to K. Tempest Bradford who stepped in to cover the workshop for me.

Last day of the writing birthday retreat

Well, my guests have all gone to bed and I’m mostly packed. I decided to catch an early flight back to New York because there are some things going on with the show that need attention and it’ll be less stressful to just fly back and deal with it myself.

I have to tell you that this week has been wonderful. Having time to hang out with family and friends, write and cook has been just great. I don’t want it to be over.

On the other hand, I am looking forward to getting home to Rob. The only time my poor boy could schedule for his physical was on Thursday, so he wasn’t able to be here for the weekend. He also came down with a nasty, nasty cold. Hopefully I’ll be able to tend to him some when I get home and not spend all my time at the theater.

But if I do, at least I’ll have some very happy memories to boost my spirits. I haven’t even told you half of the cool things from this week. For now, know that I am an extremely happy forty year old girl.

Writing Retreat Day 3

I was a little distracted today but still managed to wrap up a story and edit another. At one point, to keep from checking my email every two minutes, I headed into the kitchen to start cooking and made some Deep, Dark Chocolate cookies. Gluten free, I’ll have you note.

We all trouped out to a matinee of Coraline, which was really enjoyable although there were aspects of the book that I seriously missed.

I’ve now stayed up waaaaay too late, finishing the final touches on Issue 10 of Shimmer. I’m going to print it out in the morning and barring any surprises, we’ll send it to the printer on Monday.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a story that I’d like to start tomorrow.

Birthday Writing Retreat Day 2

The last of our guests arrived today bringing us to ten plus my folks to make an even dozen. I have to say that this was a brilliant idea to throw this house party/writing retreat. While I’m a little distracted because I’m working on the show remotely, mostly I’m hunkering down and getting writing done, which feels great.

I’m also getting to cook, which I very much enjoy. The routine goes like this: Breakfast consists of cereal, toast, fruit and yogurt. Folks are on their own for that. Then writing happens.

Sometime around noon, we all get hungry so there are sandwich fixings and leftovers from the night before. (Mushroom Quinoa Risotto, Vegetable Soup and Broccoli) Today I also cooked some bacon for BLTs.

More writing happens.

Around six I started cooking dinner. Tonight’s menu:
North Carolina Red Trout with garlic, oregano and lemon zest.
Steamed Cauliflower with Parmesan Cheese
Green salad with Balsamic Vinegrette
Dessert: Mom’s Blueberry Cobbler

Then more writing happens.

You see why I think this was a good idea.

My new computer has arrived.

My new computer arrived yesterday.  Well, technically it arrived on Monday, but I was out of town, so our UPS guy left it with our next door neighbor.  I didn’t actually get to fondle the thing until noon yesterday.
As a reminder, I got the Lenovo X61 and so far it is everything I wanted. It’s got a very comfortable keyboard and is smaller than my Kowal Portable, but doesn’t feel smaller.   The best part though is the tablet function.  Oh. My. God. I may not be able to go back to a regular computer after this.  It’s so easy to just grab something and move it on the desktop.
And then there’s the handwriting recognition feature. It is amazing.  The interface is totally transparent and required no training. It can even read my cursive.  I let my neighbor play with it while I was working on some prop things and he said that it felt almost like writing  in a regular notebook.
I’m really impressed with it.  I can’t wait until I get to try drawing on the thing.

The return of the computer woes

After all of the problems with my computer, I waited for two days to make sure it was stable before I started writing on it. It felt so good to be back on a familiar keyboard and with a full size screen, so I got some good words in.

And then my computer crashed again. The blue screen went past so quickly that I can only assume that it was the same error message as before. I turned it back on, to retrieve the file I’d been working on and it almost immediately went down again.

I’ve taken the RAM out, cleaned the connections thoroughly and stuck them back in, but I’ve got no real faith the machine will keep working. I’m using it to go online, as a test, but you know…

I think that shopping for a new computer has just been bumped up on the priority list.

MacBeth = finished

I spent the afternoon and much of the evening with Michael Schupbach, the puppet designer for MacBeth, as we did last touches on the puppets. I am pleased to say that, barring disaster, we are finished.

We went out for dinner afterwards and a much-deserved beer. I think both of us felt like we’d been leaning into a galeforce wind that got suddenly switched off. Sure, I have other things on my plate, but I’m actually not pressed against a deadline for the moment. It’s liberating but also disconcerting. I keep feeling like trying to correct for that wind and losing my balance, you know?

One of the interesting things, for me, about building or designing is that it uses the same part of my brain as writing does. It’s the part that solves problems and tries to come up with a coherent language for whatever story I’m trying to tell, whether it’s physical or a verbal. I’ve noticed before that my productivity in writing goes way down when I’m designing but not when I’m performing. It’s not that I can’t write, but the creative drive is being spent elsewhere. You know?

When I’m writing, I walk to the subway and I’m thinking, “How do I get him out of this…?” but when I’m designing, I’m thinking, “How can I make this stand up…?”

A director once said to me, “I want you to start with a blank stage and then create the universe.” That’s the creation process in both fields in a nutshell, isn’t it.

Ralan.com fundraiser

SF writer, Rick Novy, pointed out that Ralan is having a fundraiser and has only raised 14% of his goal, half-way through the drive. Come on folks, we can do better than that.

We all use Ralan.com because he has pretty much every market listed.

Rick suggests:

1) Make a 10 euro donation (the paypal site takes care of the details).
2) Help me to spread the word on the blogosphere. Let’s show Ralan the thanks he deserves for all he does for us.

Will you help out?

Teenage wardrobe question

All right. I’ve sent this question to a couple of teens that I know, but I figure the wider the spectrum the more chance I have to not screw up. Please — if you are an adult, only answer if you have a teenager handy as a reference guide or if you can provide a handy link to a resource with actual teens.

I need to dress the teenager in my current WIP. Normally, I only make passing reference to clothing, but in this case I need to know exactly what she’s wearing.

Cassandra is sixteen and I have no idea what she’d wear to school in early October (N.C, Tenn, or anything up through PA is fine. No mountains.) She’d run in the art crowd, but plans to be a veterinarian. She’s a serious reader. Very smart. She does not like fantasy because she has an actual fairy godmother and the books never, ever get it right. Loves the Bronte sisters and Asimov. Her parents are upper middle class, but she’s been a latch-key kid for years, so is used to dressing herself.

Her mother is always on her to “gussie herself up” so I’m looking for the casual, rebellious end of the clothing spectrum but also with a desire to fit in. So no Goth, no Steampunk.

One specific need, plot-wise. I need footwear that is unsuitable for riding a horse, but that it’s not unbelievable for her to have worn while running through the woods.

Any ideas? I just have no idea what she’d wear. ZERO.

Kids these days. Why when I was a girl…

Edited to add: I just realized that I am an idiot. At the point when she is running through the woods, she has just escaped an intruder at their house. They don’t wear shoes at home (Dad sells Japanese antiques, adopted the no-shoes rule at home). She’d be in stocking feet. Now I need to go back and rewrite the running through the woods scene…

The question still stands for the rest of the clothing though. Thanks!

Why Modern Readers are Less Tolerant of Description

Nancy Fulda has an excellent post about her theory on Why Modern Readers are Less Tolerant of Description, which rings totally true to me.

One hundred years ago, or even fifty years ago, the average reader did not travel widely and did not have access to full-color photographs or television. They had never seen pyramids, or elephants, or tropical rain forests. Many people had also never seen a prairie, a pine forest, a stretch of English farmland, or an industrial city. This means that the reader’s repetoire of pre-conceived images was not as vast as the modern reader’s.

I think much of her post is also true for dialects in fiction. Once upon a time, not only was it possible for someone to have never heard a German accent, but it was also likely that they would be called upon to read that passage aloud. So writing dialects phonetically helped the reader. Fashions and readers’ expectations change.

My prelimary WorldCon schedule

The planners of Denvention are really on their game. I’m not sure when I’ve known about my programming so far in advance. Granted, these are preliminary schedules, but here’s the list.

Schmoozing 101 – Wed 13:00

Survival Tips for the Beginning Writer – Wed 16:00

How to Give an Effective Reading – Workshop – Fri 10:00

I’ll also be doing the Strolling with the Stars one morning, but I don’t know which one yet.

Horse and math question

Oh, my horsey friends, please double-check my book learning.

I’m figuring that Character A will take about 2 and a half hours to cover four miles on a deer path through a heavily wooded area. She’s got about fifty very short characters with her, so isn’t walking at top speed.

Returning, she’s mounted on a horse. Is it reasonable to think that she could cover the same distance in about forty-five minutes? If she were in a hurry, (and she is) how fast could she safely go? This is a path with which she is familiar, but a new horse.

Many thanks!

And just in case someone else finds them useful, here is a site with Horse Speed in MPH and one with The Average Walking Pace for humans.

Writing down the headwork

I don’t talk about my writing process all that much on this site because every writer has their own way of figuring things out. That and I generally find it dull, but the motorcycle ride yesterday reminded me of a trick that I find handy and you might, too.

I spent a lot of time on the back of the bike doing “headwork” and trying to sort out character motivations and worldbuilding. The moment we stopped, I pulled out my keyboard and started writing. Not story, but jotting down what I’d been thinking about during the headwork.

In fact, the term is misleading because, while I spend some time just thinking, like yesterday, I usually write a lot of this stuff down in the form of a dialog with myself. Sometimes this happens at the beginning and sometimes in the middle when I discover a plot problem.

The key is writing it down, because that makes the ideas less slippery. I can see when I’m covering the same territory because I have a log of my thought process.

I was going to use yesterday’s session as an example, but it’s sort of too in the middle of the project, to be useful to anyone except me. But, while working on “American Changeling,” I found my characters stalling a lot, which is a sign to me that I don’t know what they want. Now, I knew that my main character needed a Key to open a magically shut gate. But what was that key? I had no clue. Here’s my log of the headwork I did to sort that out.

What does Kim want?
To fit in.

What do her parents want? Love her, but loyal to the Faerie Queen

How does she unlock the gate?.
First of all… Who locked it? Queen Elizabeth? To protect her borders because the Fae were going to make a deal with the Scots or the Irish. Research that.

OR did the Faerie Queen lock it herself to keep out the mortals who were corrupting her people OR to stop a threat from the Unseelie Court.

Let’s go with Queen E or no… the catholics but for similar reasons. ((Eventually wound up with Queen Mary)) Now. Where did the key wind up?

Ah… The Portland Art Museum as part of the Britannia exhibit. Make something up there that makes sense. Clearly the key is iron. ((Because then fairies can’t touch it, which was important to the story)) Is it necessarily key shaped? No. What else could it be…

A chalice. A mirror. An ink pot. A vase. A… What’s a reliquary. Now that’s an interesting idea. Yes. If the — oh, not the Art museum. A catholic church — reliquaries hold the bones of a saint, preferably a woman or child, but is actually the bones of a Fae. Yes. That makes sense.

All of which led me to a clearer understanding of my backstory and once I knew who my bad guys, I could make smarter choices about their actions. The thing about writing it down is that it makes it less ethereal. It gets it out of my head and lets me look at it without the sort of idealized Ah-ha! moment that vanishes when actually examined.

I won’t pretend that I made this idea up. I know a lot of writers who do it. I picked it up in Orson Scott Card’s Literary Bootcamp and, boy, has it made my life easier since.

How about you? What’s your favorite trick?