Sunday, December 26, 2010

Yuletide Aftermath

Another Christmas has come and gone.  Everyone can now relax and let their lives gradually return to normal.  After the Christmas Eve festivities were canceled, I was actually looking forward to a couple Christmases.  It was much better than the four Christmases in three days a few years ago.

Carrie's aunt's Christmas was fun.  The ham was excellent, the deserts were plentiful, and I wasn't the biggest loser in Mexican Train.  Carrie's mom loved the aluminum tumblers and the calendar I made her using my photographs and her dad loved the vest we braved the mob in Bass Pro for.  Today, we went to my mom and dad's for Christmas Breakfast.  My mom also loved the calendar I made but wasn't as pleased as I thought with the books I bought her.  My dad, on the other hand, was excited about his movies and had a good time playing the Seinfeld trivia game Carrie got me.  My brother got me an external hard drive that I'm currently backing things up on as we speak.

The total book hall for this Christmas was fifteen; nine were actual books and the other six I bought using Christmas giftcards.  If the winter is brutal, at least I'll have books.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Gray Festivus and White Christmas

In honor of the joyous holiday of Festivus, Carrie and I went to Old St. Charles yesterday and walked around.  It was a clear day and not too cold, around 40.  Pictures are forthcoming.  I was exhausted and after a supper of leftover pizza from Festivus eve, I devoured Queenpin by Megan Abbott and retired early.  Or tried to.  The sound of cats being intimate in my back yard kept me away for about half an hour.

Belle woke me up this morning around 5 to take her out.  A mix of snow and sleet had just begun to fall.  Fast forward three hours and I've got three inches of snow in my yard.  The hill has proven to be impassible by vehicle and the roads beyond the neighborhood haven't seen a plow yet, at least at the time of Belle's and my expedition twenty minutes ago.  Expedition pictures are also forthcoming.  It looks like I may be snowed in today.  Thankfully, I have enough beer, food, and reading materials to withstand the winter siege for at least two days.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Something Geeky I had to share.

I recently read Old Man's War by John Scalzi and immediately became a fan of gargantuan proportions.  I've followed his blog off and on for about a year and was afraid to give his novels a chance for fear they wouldn't be as enjoyable as his daily musings.  If Old Man's War is any indication, my fears were groundless.

Uncle John's Bathroom Reader has been one of my favorite series for years, packed full of useless facts and seldom heard true stories.

"What's the connection?" you ask.  It's simple, Margaret.  Today I learned that John Scalzi, or The Scalz as I refer to him in my head, writes for Uncle John.  I'm tempted to dig out some old Bathroom Readers and re-read the articles written by my new hero.

Some simmering is in order...

So I've been thinking, maybe I should let Wandering the Web of Worlds sit for a couple weeks.  There are some nagging problems I need to sort out.  Something always bothered me about the beginning and I think it's the quest itself.  It seems like maybe Valaric should be tasked with finding the homeworld of the Midar rather than finding it and bringing back some of the inhabitants.  I figure once Valaric finds it, the ships the High Oligarch has secretly been constructing will be put to use.  Plus, the secret fleet will give Branton Fenn a reason to be in Euklin when Valaric arrives.

In the mean time, I'm planning on knocking out 75k in January-February.  I really want to attempt to write a crime book and there's no time like the present.  I just have to figure out the wrinkles of the plot a bit more before I dust off The Gravedigger.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Roast Report

As I reported earlier, today I threw whatever I could find in the crock pot so I'd have a hot dinner.  To recap, here's what went into it:
  • 1 small can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1 envelope of Lipton Onion Soup mix
  • 1 sirloin roast
  • 1 bottle of Michelob Original Lager
  • 1 can of Sierra Mist
  • 1 empty small can full of water
Around 1, I poked the roast a few times and felt that it was still pretty solid so I turned the dial up to Hi.  By the time 4:30 rolled around, I turned it to low and poured in three and a half cups of rice to cook in the juice.  Normally, I usually use a can of beef broth somewhere in the process and no Sierra Mist.  Privately, I was concerned with the flavor the lime flavored soda would impart to the meet.  Once the rice was done and most of the gravy was soaked up, I scooped myself a bowlful and had a taste...

... and it was delicious!  It wasn't on the edge of being too salty like it sometimes is.  The Sierra Mist gave the meat a subtle sweetness.  In short, it was the best thing I've made in the crock pot in a long time.

Blog post #250 - The Ice Storm

So last night I was so engrossed with reading that I was completely unaware it had been freezing raining for hours until I took Belle out.  Sure enough, every concrete or asphalt surface was coated with ice.  This morning, I debated attempting to get out of the neighborhood until I busted my ass on the sidewalk.  Today, I am working from home.

I should have bought some groceries yesterday.  As it stands, I will be eating waffle fries for brunch.  Lucky for me, my mom gave me a sirloin roast from their half a beef so I threw it in the crockpot, along with a bottle of beer, an envelope of onion soup mix, a can of cream of mushroom soup, and a can of sierra mist.  I can't smell it yet but I'm anticipating deliciousness.  The cream of mushroom soup should really contribute to the gravification process.

After not winning any Goodreads giveaways for over two years, I won another one this week.  It's called Lick Your Neighbor and it's by Chris Genoa, an author I've been curious about for years.  My good karma must finally be kicking in.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


With work getting busier and the holidays coming up, I'm finding less time to write.  I haven't written anything in a few days and I can't decide what happens to Valaric on his second visit to Euklin.  However, I did decide that I'm changing Hodak from a lobster-centepede type of creature into a humanoid rhino that wears a monocle and is obsessed with firearms.  Should be fun once I get a block of time in which to work.

I knew this was one of my most productive years as far as reading is concerned but I didn't know how productive until a few minutes ago.  It turns out I've read 126 books in 2010.  Just think if I could write as fast as I could read...

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Yesterday afternoon, I finished the book I was reading and looked over the unread pile for another.  I looked at the shelf and noticed a discrepancy.  While I saw four unread Hard Cases, Goodreads said I owned five.  Long story short, I cannot find Baby Moll anywhere.  I tore my house apart and came to the conclusion that I accidentally threw it away when I cleaned my desk a couple weeks ago.  This throws a wrench into the works since I'd planned to have all of the Hard Cases finished by 12/31.  AND they're now out of print.  The good news is Titan starts reprinting them on 1/11/11 so I have until then to find one.  It's only a 6.99 paperback but it still burns my ass that I accidentally threw it away.

In other frickin' new, Carrie and I are going to a play later and it's snowing its ass off.  Since I already found out Friday that the Rep won't refund tickets, we might have to brave a blizzard to get there.  I just hope we don't have to hack open our tawn-tawns and hide in their innards on the way home.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Revisions Continue

I'm on chapter 8 of the new draft, which will be 80% new material.  Valaric as a jack of all trades instead of a malcontent magician was something I should have done in the first place.  I should have the Silver Scarab in space by the end of chapter 10, just like in the previous version.  In this version, however, the ship isn't so large and has a catapult and a few ballistae for armament.

Once I get everyone in space, things should progress fairly quickly.  With two characters being snipped, I should be able to add in more character developing moments, something I felt was lacking in the previous version.  The battles will have to be altered but not to a huge degree.  I'm really excited about writing the new ending.

In other news, I decided to hold off on reviewing my 12 Beers of Christmas until I have all 12.  I realize this may put me finishing after 1/1/11 but so be it.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I finished the new chapter 6 today.  Tomorrow, the expanded trial of Fenlock and his adjustment to life in the Hall of Forty-Seven Imponderables.

As near as I can tell without breaking out my NaNotes, I only have three more chapters of new material to write before I can tackle revising chapters 10-32.  While it seems like a lot, I'm only changing the parts involving Jochi and Zephalmachus, neither of which got much play to begin with.  The battle scenes are the parts that will require the most work.  The ending is also coming together nicely.  If I'd only known what Branton Fen was up to when I'd started writing...

In other news, I've been reading a ton of crime again lately and keep thinking about digging up my Gravedigger character and attempting another crime story.  That will definitely require me to plot everything in advance.  I'd hate to get to the end of a mystery to find out I have no idea whodunnit.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mondays along the Utmar river

At the confluence of the rivers Utmar and Ot, the White Tower of Thirteen Mysteries stands like a sentinel over the surrounding forest.

That's what I learned earlier today when Valaric left Malvernia behind to visit his old mentor, Ebeneezer Froad in chapter 5 of my second draft.  Things feel a lot more natural this second time through and I'm managing to get around a lot of the stuff I wasn't too fond of in the previous draft.

I'm reallly excited about writing the ending now that it's pretty clear in my mind.  I'm thinking about doing it now and then filling in the gaps.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Dominick the Donkey

Time to start setting the alarm clock again

Remember when I used to be productive on my days off?  I slept until 7:30 the past two days instead of rising early and getting things done.  I don't know that I actually accomplished anything yesterday other than buying a couple Christmas presents.  I combed through chapter 4 of the second draft but did very little actual writing.  So, here's the to-do list for today:
  • Take Belle over for her exercise
  • Get a new oven timer
  • Buy groceries
  • At least outline the new chapter 5 (in which Valaric visits Ebeneezer Froad to enlist his aid.  Froad's going to take a more central road in draft #2, making his death on Nal Sakaar even more poignant.)
  • Put up the new shower curtain
  • Make some progress in Shooting Star/Spiderweb, the Hard Case double.  Once I finish it, I'll only have six Hard Cases left to read before I'm caught up.
In other news, I don't know what the hell happened but I had some crazy dreams last night.  In one, Carrie made me go to a transvestite bar, and in another I had a puppy that looked just like Belle did when she was a few months old.  His name was Phillip.  Another one featured a lot of crawdads climbing out of a lake and trying to come after me.  In the same dream, I also said I was a survivor and could explore Tokyo on my own.  No idea where that came from.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Steam powered street sweepers and second drafts

I'm two and a half chapters into my second draft.  While most of the things that have happened in the first draft will still happen, they'll happen a little differently.  I think of my drafts as parallel realities.  Do other writers do the same thing?

After a lot of thinking last night, I'm changing some roles around regarding the non-Fenlock portion of the cast.  Instead of being a renegade magician, Valaric's a jack of all trades type of character who quit being a magician after a disaster left a friend of his dead.  Thorvald and Kashgar have been substantially de-magiced, Elluria's still Valaric's former lover but is also representing the Confederation of Magicians on the voyage.  Glitch is now primarily an inventor and much more eccentric.  I'm clipping Jochi and saving him for the sequel, should I choose to write it.  Diversifying the abilities of the crew should make it easier to create more plausible obstacles.  Otherwise, why wouldn't they just magic their way around everything?

I can't decide if I want to take Zephalmachus out or not.  The zoologist/shape shifter provides most of the comic relief.  I like the character a lot.  Maybe I should save him for the sequel as well.  With two fewer crew members, I think I'd have a lot more room to develop everyone's personalities.

The science vs. magic theme will be played upon much more heavily.  Malvernia now has a neighboring city across the river devoted toward science and learning, Euklin. Euklin pollutes the river Ot and the air itself with its factories and is hyper-orderly, constructed in grids of identical buildings.  The streets are cleaned by robots resembling large steam-powered roombas, something I've been planning on working into a story for some time.

The story is still alive in my head.  That's the most important part.  At least that's what I remember reading in On Writing by Stephen King, my second favorite book on the subject.  My favorite writing book is Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block.

How does she stay in business?

There are three used bookstores on my way home.  One is in High Ridge and is just far enough off the beaten track that I don't go there very often.  People are allowed to smoke in it and there's a cat running around.  One is in Festus and is the one I visit once every week or two as it is splendid.  The third...

Well, the third is different.  Pam's Books is right off the highway but I still only go there once every couple months.  She has a lot of books but the place is unorganized, cramped, unorganized, expensive, and unorganized.  Even if you have a specific book in mind, you can't get in and out in less than ten minutes.

Anyway, I was in a good mood on the way home yesterday and decided to give old Pam a chance.  I'd like to tell you that I unearthed some rare gem or that Pam and I had an interesting conversation about eReaders.  Nope.  I got out of my car to find that Pam was closed for lunch.  At 3:45, the time many people are heading home from work and most likely to stop at a used bookstore.  There was a woman tapping her feet by the door but I didn't join her.  You'd think in these uncertain economic times, especially when more and more people are turning to eReaders, Pam would be wanting to make any sale she could.

I have some theories about how Pam stays in business:
  • She's a spinster and still lives with her parents, therefore she only needs to make enough to cover rent on the shop
  • She has a sugar daddy and it doesn't matter if she stays in business
  • She's a successful romance novel writer and runs the shop for fun.
Wealthy heiress isn't one of the theories since her parents are still alive and do all the heavy lifting for her at book sales.

In other news, don't give a dog leftover curry.  It makes them have to go outside to use the bathroom several times throughout the night.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Uphill Climb

If the past few hours are going to be any indication, the next 10-12 chapters are going to take all month.  Maybe I should just slam out the Fenlock chapters and the ending and call it a draft.

The lack of depth to many of my characters became apparent yesterday when Theresa, one of my co-workers who's been reading almost as fast as I can write, said Fenlock was the only character she felt like she knew.  I'd had similar feelings before.  Again, I think I might have too many characters.  At least Fenlock's not letting me down. 

I'm definitely going to rethink the occupations of some of the supporting characters before I start the first draft.  The problem I'm having with having so many magicians is that its hard to create plausible threats.  I expect the writers of The Justice League have felt the same way in the past.