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Well hello there, Livejournal...

Papa Bear
It's been a while, hasn't it? A very long while, but it's nice to see you're still here!

I know, I know - it's me that's been away. But I have good reason! (Well, I have a couple of reasons - one good, one just sort of inevitable).

See, over these past 4-5 months I did something I've been meaning to do for YEARS. I FINISHED MY BOOK!

Yep, that's right. The one from which I posted chapters oh so many moons ago. Those of you with whom I'm connected on Facebook already know this and can skip most of this story.

It took some doing, I can tell you. When I started back in on it last October the draft was around 55,000 words long. It's now 117,000 words and ripe for cutting. And it wasn't all smooth sailing to get there, either.

Originally I had planned to be done December 15th, 2010. As added impetus toward finishing, I resolved not to shave or trim my beard until I did finish. Two months of beard, I thought. How bad can it be?

Two months of beard wasn't bad. I mean - it wasn't PRETTY, but it wasn't bad. Sadly, I didn't finish by December 15th. Then I thought I'd finish up by January 1st. That's a nice day to be done. Start the new year with a brand new novel in my hands.

No dice.

Every week that went by I swore, and was convinced, I would finish by the week after that. That I would devote the weekend to writing, forgoing sleep and the company of others to wrap the damn thing up. I needed to be done! And it just kept going on... and on... and on.

What's more, I'd set a goal of writing about 90,000 words with 100,000 being the TIPPY TOP end of how long my draft ought to be. An agent friend of mine had told me flat out that she doesn't accept queries over 100K.

80K came and went, and that, I thought, was a sizeable book. Then I wrote past 90K and started to get a little nervous - I needed to wrap it up, but the story went on and I really needed to write the story correctly. 100K. 110K. Oy - by that time I was resigned to it. I kept writing and writing.

February 17th was it. That was the day. I decided it. I was into the final confrontation. The climax had come. I wrote. I wrote. I wrote. But something was wrong. The Jonas bits weren't working. I couldn't get his piece to budge. I was like trying to push Jello uphill. I had decided: It would be done that night. I would finish. I would shave. It would be done. So I forced it.

I sheared my face some time around 2 am, went to bed and couldn't sleep. Eventually I did drift off, but woke miserable. The last chapter was wrong and I knew it. I tried to convince myself to let it sit - to just fix it in revision, but I couldn't. I was miserable company, a nasty piece of work to everyone around me. By lunch time I knew it wasn't going to blow over, so I sent Gail and the kids away for a trip to CostCo and I stayed home and opened that damned chapter again. I found the music I needed (Blood Rave from the Blade soundtrack) and I wrote that bastard. And I wrote. And I wrote.

Gail and the kids came home around 5 and I wasn't quite done, but I was close. I stayed at my desk for another hour writing the wrap-up chapter. Even then there were two pieces I wasn't ready for yet. Two pages of combat and two or three pages of post-story coda. But - I was done ENOUGH.

I've since gone back and filled in those two pieces. It ain't perfect, but I don't think it's bad. I'm not even fretting too terribly over the 177,000 words. There are two pieces I already know can come out (One HAS to come out - it was a terrible idea. The other is something that can come out without harming the story, and will probably do the story some good by being gone). If I need to, I'm sure I can find more.

I'm beginning to get commentary back from advance readers and I'm incredibly grateful for it. It ain't all roses, either, and that's just fine. My stance on 'negative' comments has always been 'bring 'em on - I can take 'em', but that's been largely theoretical up to now. I'm happy to say that it's not theoretical any more. I've received some now that were, I think, rather sharply worded. They stung at first, but I found that I could take them and learn from them. I find myself eager, in fact, to start revising.

It's been a strange road, and the end (inasmuch as it IS an end) doesn't feel quite the way I expected it to. For instance - it doesn't feel like an end at all. I wrote a book. I am no longer -writing- that book. I expected a greater sense of culmination, but there's still a ton of work to do. More, maybe, than there was before. There are things to learn: How to write a query letter, how to write a synopsis, how to pitch, etc. I want an agent. After that, a publisher. Revisions and rewrites. Hopefully after that there will be marketing to do. And always MORE BOOKS.

I had it printed and bound last Friday. As I stood at the counter watching my payment go through, the woman charging me asked if I'd written the book. I told her I had and she asked me what it was about. I gave her my elevator pitch:

It's about three people with extraordinary abilities and broken lives who are drawn together by fate and chance to prevent a cataclysmic event that could reshape the world as we know it.

A woman standing nearby had overheard and said 'Sounds very dramatic! What's it called?'

'Tiamat,' I said. 'It's the name of an ancient Babylonian goddess.'

'And what's your name?' She asked.

I told her, shook her hand and thanked her when she said 'I'll keep an eye out for it!'

I hope she does. And I look forward to hearing what she thinks of it when she finds it.

If you'd like to be on the list to read the early draft and offer your commentary, I'd love to have it. Just leave me a comment here with an email address and I'll let you in on the party!

It just got cold here

Papa Bear
I had it in my head to write something a little longer than this, but it's 1:30 in the morning and I'm fairly certain I've said what I was going to say a few times before. In short: It's November - just days away from Thanksgiving, and a little more than a month until Christmas. Seemed like a fine time to crack the seals on the Christmas music.

I don't know if it's something to do with the autumn moon, or maybe the chill in the air, but my imagination gets supercharged in these days and conjures distant friends and loved ones, dreams of snow and starlight and lovely darkness.

I miss you guys. North, south, east and west (so far west it's East!). And I'm thankful that I have friends so strong that I can feel their care and closeness even though we're a world apart.

Merry Christmas and Happy Thanksgiving. Send me some snow, wouldja?

A brief bit of writing news

Papa Bear
As of today my novel stands at a total of 62,807 words. That is, I believe, up 15,000 from when we moved to Washington. Much of that 15K has been written in the last few months.

This means that I'm within about 27,000 words of my goal. 90K is a decent (maybe even slightly high) word count for a first novel. Whether I can finish the story in 27,000 words is still in question. BUT - 27,000 words in a month is actually a very doable total for me. It probably means some sleepless nights come December 12-15th, but it's for a good cause, right?

I've also resolved not to shave until I've finished the damned thing. December 15th is my target date. I'm already VERY shaggy and the straps of my CPAP do mad things to the beard of a morning. I'm seriously looking forward to finally FINISHING the book AND shearing my face.

Fingers crossed! When it's done you can be sure I'll be crowing from the rooftops.

Also - I've been writing a bit

Papa Bear
I've been a little leery of mentioning this as I hate making promises I subsequently break (and I've made these promises many times before, to then disappoint myself by not following through). The lesson there should not be that making promises is the reason I then break them, but that's the way my brain interprets it anyway. I'm superstitious like that.

That said, I HAVE been writing lately. Quite a lot, in fact.

Over the last few months I've added 10-15K to the word count on my book. I've sorted out (or bulled through) some material that's been dogging me for years. I'm moving forward. I've also joined some writing friends of mine in committing to finishing the damned thing by December 15th. I think I can do it, especially with the incidental support of friends who are doing the same thing. It's good for me to have someone else putting up word count that I then feel compelled to match.

I'm not going to be posting the work here - that just adds another chore (and another excuse for not writing) to the job, and I'm working on reforming my writing process to leave as little complexity as possible. But stay tuned! Once it's done, I'll be more than happy to share it with anyone willing to give me feedback!


Papa Bear
I guess I oughta come 'round here more often...

Cat Vacuuming: The Census!

Papa Bear
NEW POST, PEOPLE!! Go read it!


Papa Bear
So, the industry people I know/have met keep stressing the need to have a WEB PRESENCE if you want to sell books. Livejournal ain't gonna cut it for me - not THIS account anyway. So, I've started a blog. It's here: Cat Vacuuming!.

No, I'm not abandoning LJ (inasmuch as I seldom post as it is). Cat Vacuuming is going to exist at a slight remove from my personal life. So, I'll keep this around yet for some time to come, I'd imagine. BUT - you should all go read the blog!

Big Girl

Papa Bear
It sure doesn't seem like it's been eight years, but sure enough - my little girl turns eight years old today. I've made a habit over the years of retelling her birth story on this day, but I'm breaking it this year.

My memory of it is still brilliantly vivid: the drive through town at 2 in the morning, the frigid air and the dry, empty streets. I don't think I've ever seen so little traffic in Pittsburgh in my life.

Instead of looking back though, I want to look forward, as I hope she is.

Eight years old. 'She's half-way to 16,' I told Gail last night. It amazes me... no, I should say SHE amazes me. She's not a baby anymore. And she'll only be a little girl for a short while longer. The first glimmers of the young woman she'll be are there already. I'm proud of her, certainly. That's no surprise at all, but what is surprising to me is how much I respect and admire her.

That's not something they tell you about so much when people talk to you about being a parent.

She loves to dance. I've always known that. I love to watch her dance. But when I went to 'Parent Observation Day' at her new dance school, I saw something new: determination.

Dance isn't just something fun to do anymore. Dancing is important to her and she's not just -doing- it anymore, she's pursuing it. In a class packed with scattered, distracted, crazy 6- and 7-year-olds, she was focused and attentive. She concentrated on everything her teachers said and did, and reproduced them with remarkable accuracy. Now, I've always thought she was good. That's pride. But to see her working so hard to build herself and her skills - I found myself admiring her dedication.

And that's just one thing. She's a smart little girl. She has her own opinions, draws her own conclusions, and adjusts both when she receives new information. She talks to us, and she listens. One thing that's stuck with me from our conference with her teacher this past Fall was that Marenna answers questions thoroughly. She doesn't just regurgitate the bare minimum, she expands upon it and gives context for her responses.

But that's all present, and I promised to talk about the future.

She was born in 2002, just two years into the 21st century. It seems fairly likely to me, that (assuming the world survives so long) she could very well see the first days of the 22nd. What that world might look like, I can't even hope to imagine. All I have to do is look back over my relatively short life (38 years isn't THAT long...) to see that it's purest folly to try and foretell the wonders she will see. I can still remember going to Shane King's house (Hey, Shane! Nice to see you comin' round!) and playing Pong. I remember learning BASIC on the school's bank of TRS-80s, all getting their instructions from a cassette tape drive on Mr. Feisel's desk. And now here I am typing on a machine more powerful than a room full of those things and thinking that it's getting a little long in the tooth.

That's just the tip of the ice berg. I'm confident that she will see a woman elected president. I hope only that it's a woman she can be proud of. What will her world look like? How will she look back on mine? How will we navigate the seas of puberty, high school, college... Will she have children? Will she write, as I hope so deeply she will?

I don't know. I don't have any answers. All I do is look at the girl I have now and hope. I do my best to give her the tools to choose wisely, to recover from her mistakes, and to see the storms that will inevitably come and weather them well.

Happy Birthday, Marenna. Thank you for being my girl.

Daddy loves you.
Papa Bear
You remember TRON, right? Jeff Bridges is a computer programmer reduced to scamming on teenagers from his loft above the video arcade (remember when you had to GO SOMEWHERE DANK AND SMELLY if you wanted to play video games??) because he got fired from his cush job designing games like STAR INVADERS and BLASTEROODS. But he gets sucked into the COMPUTER WORLD via laser digitization when he tries to get the goods on the bastard that stole his KILLER robot tank game and has to fight for his life against DOS programs and bloated, whiny spreadsheet software armed with nothing but a glowy blue frisbee.

Well I saw THAT in the THEATER (Yeah yeah, I know. I'm OLD. Now shut up and get off my lawn.) and it was AMAZING!

I remember reading an article about the cutting edge graphic development that went into it. One of the lead designers talked about how they had a terrible time getting the computers to make the gridlines that described the landscape of the computer world to DIM as the lines receded into the distance rather than grow brighter.

In the twenty-odd years since then computer generated special effects have... shall we say... made some improvements...

TRON is to AVATAR, the new James Cameron movie just out today, as poo smears on the walls of the monkey house are to the Sistine Chapel. In most cases (and given that I know there IS no moon called Pandora inhabited by 10-foot-tall HOT bipeds of feline extraction) I couldn't tell where the film ended and the effects began.

The movie is beautiful. It is an amazing spectacle and for that alone, I recommend going to see it. If nothing else, you'll get to see a couple hours of really pretty design. The textures are amazing, the movements smooth and natural. And I don't mind telling you, the Na'Vi are really pretty hot across the board.

Furthermore, the concept plays DIRECTLY to the escapist fantasies I've harbored for the vast majority of my life - trade my pudgy, fragile, humdrum human existence for INSTANT HUGE AND AWESOMENESS BY LAYING DOWN IN A POD LINED WITH MEMORY GEL! I mean really... Who WOULDN'T sign up for a service where they grow you a new body that is BETTER IN EVERY WAY, has bones laced with carbon fiber, organic neural interfacing, and just happens to match a race of UNIVERSALLY ATTRACTIVE aliens who have no hang-ups about running through the forest naked.

...Well, maybe a couple of folks in Utah...

As for the story... well...

Don't get me wrong. It's not a BAD story exactly...

Okay, so maybe it is a bad story, but it's familiar and hits a bunch of pre-installed buttons, so... y'know. There's that.

It's been done a few times over the years: White guy is disabled and disenchanted with life/society/the world he lives in. White guy goes to land of savages to serve as Ambassador/Outrunner/Bastion bringing the glory of Whiteness to the Red/Blue/Yellow/Purple people. White Guy gets an in with the natives and finds out they're really a hell of a lot more civilized than their lack of firearms would imply, begins to learn their ways. White Guy is accepted by the open/happy/gentle-but-don't-screw-with-'em natives just in time for the WHITE EMPIRE to come along and spoil it all by murdering a whole bunch of pretty rainbow people. White-Guy-Gone-Native does the Rainbow People thing better than the folks that made it up and becomes the savior of the poor naked savages, leads Rainbow People to fight Panzers with Toothpicks and wins (director's choice as to whether victory is AWESOME PRIMITIVE ASS-WHOOPING or NOBLE DEATH AS MORAL TRIUMPH). Either way, White Boy saves the day the Native Way 'And then they named me their chief...'

Story-wise, Avatar is almost identical to Dances-With-Wolves, except Wes Studi is blue instead of red, and chief instead of warleader. (And I TOTALLY looked at his character the first time he came on screen, back to camera and without uttering a word and I thought 'Is that Wes Studi??' And then he spoke and it WAS!!) Oh - and Kevin Costner (or rather, his analog) gets his own black braid and blue dragon. Plot developments are telegraphed YEARS before they happen (seriously - I got them in the mail for my 23rd birthday. Fifteen years I've been wondering what the hell that was all about...) But then another big blue butt swings by on a vine and it doesn't seem to matter quite so much.

(It's also almost identical to The Last Samurai, except that Ken Watanabe is played by Zoe Saldana and Tom Cruise rides around in a 10' tall blue box of awesome and is heterosexual.)

(I'm just sayin'...)

All in all - a FINE piece of entertainment. I'm gonna go see it again. :)


Stuff and Nonsense

Papa Bear
Good News: I've lost 15 pounds since we got bicycles and I've started being better about what I eat.

Bad News: Losing 15 pounds means I ONLY weigh 264

Cool News: I'm enjoying watching Defying Gravity and re-watching Kingdom

Crappy News: Sometimes friends are too broken to be friends, and that makes me sad.

School News: Tuesday the kids go back. YAY!

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March 2011


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