Down and Fourthed

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015 11:27 am
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I had grand plans to write up a detailed and insightful post about 4th Street today. This was thwarted by the kitten waking me up at 8:30 this morning. (I rolled into the driveway at about 2:30 a.m.) Five hours of sleep is generous by my during-4th-Street standards, but as a post-con recovery sleep it is deeply inadequate, and now my brain is pudding.

It was a good con. Highlight as always was hanging out with fun people having interesting conversations. Highlight other than that was definitely the workshop, which went very well from both an organizer and a participant perspective. I'm delighted it's over (tired!), but I'm delighted we did it. Throughout the weekend, I had a great time hanging out with the usual suspects, and also with some of the intermediate-writer crowd, where we talked about stuff and writing and other stuff and writing and more stuff and how it interrelated with writing and stuff.

And now, some disjointed remarks, because pudding.

If last year was Chaos Con, this year was Kerfuffle Kon. Mainly they were localized kerfuffles, though, and they mostly got settled (as much as a kerfuffle ever gets settled, anyway), and didn't need to spill over into anyone else's enjoyment.

It's a truism that I never have the conversations I anticipate having at 4th Street. (I have other cool and fascinating conversations instead.) This year, it extended to panels; the couple I was side-eyeing and thinking I'd better sit near the door for turned out to be fascinating and engaging, whereas the couple I was keenest on didn't connect with me. The writing panel on "How To Play The Cards You Ain't Been Dealt" particularly left me cold, which leads directly to:

I need a translation algorithm, or possibly several. My writing process is non-standard, on almost every axis you can think of. This is frustrating and leaves me odd-man-out in process discussions, but it also means that when I'm trying to learn a bit I don't have, people keep giving me advice or tips that just don't fit. They're handing me a piece for my jigsaw puzzle, but I'm playing with Legos.

My workshop manuscript seems to have nailed my target audience pretty well; unfortunately, I severely underestimated how narrow a niche that is. Contemplation required.

The driving there and back was pretty good. A few bouts of really stupid traffic and a lot of construction, and a poorly timed encounter with one major city's rush hour, but on the other hand, hardly any weather; a few spats of rain, but no thunderstorms and certainly no tornadoes. Getting gas on the way back turned into an epic saga, but I know where the failure point was. (Edgerton, dammit. If not before, Edgerton.)

Arrived at con ridiculously early. Woke up ridiculously early most mornings, too, including Monday; I was moved out and checked out before most people were stirring. The one day I didn't wake up ridiculously early, the shrieking children actually proved quite useful. Note to self: just put the travel alarm in 24-hour mode. (Yes, I did it again.)

Good food was consumed, good talk was talked, good times were had.

The cats were startled but happy to see me last night. After I'd gone upstairs with the intention of going to bed, Ember brought a toy all the way up the stairs to present to me. Awwww.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I am packed enough that I feel like I should be leaving today, because that would mean I had just enough time to do the last few things in a mad, frantic scramble before leaving only an hour or two later than planned.

In fact, I'm leaving tomorrow, and I have enough time to do the last few things in a sane and reasonable manner, provided I don't dawdle. This is confusing the hell out of me.

The housemate will be home with the cats, so I only feel mildly guilty about going at all. The biggest challenge at this point is trying to coordinate my departure time with the weather; my ideal schedule, cunningly devised to avoid all rush hours at all major metropolitan areas I pass, threatens to put me in the path of some very nasty forecasted weather at some very inconvenient points. I'm considering leaving rather earlier and sitting out the storms at various points as needed.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Coconut Secret Peruvian Crunch 70% Dark with Toasted Coconut

Where bought: Foods For Living

Sharp, intense aroma that goes straight to the back-brain.

Texture is hard, crumbly with little bits of coconut and possibly coconut crystals. Chews well, melts quickly.

Intense, bittersweet flavor shot through with little bursts of coconutty sweetness. They blend better than that makes it sound, though, giving all the intensity of dark chocolate without any bitter or sour tones. Very good. Aftertaste is toasty-warm but also sort of tingly.

Overall: Very nicely put-together. Have to be in the right mood for toasted coconut, but when I am, would definitely buy again.

Sugar Status

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 11:41 am
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
So it turns out that the empty box from a Toblerone is the perfect thing to prop the large frosting bowl at an angle for scooping out the last of the frosting. Given what I usually listen to while frosting cookies, this amuses me greatly.


Once again, I am reminded that for all the astonishing amount of time this takes, the immediate limiting factor is actually the number of cooling racks we have, and the shortage of places to put them. I could get a lot more cookies done now if I had anything to put them on, or anywhere to put that thing once they were on it.


ETA: It's looking like I'm going to get cookies done for the workshop, but not for the con as a whole. I still have an amazing amount to do (both RL and my own con-prep), and there just isn't time.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
This is just here for the record; not much to show for the past couple months.

April:

Haley novel = 38 (I managed to work in a line I really liked and hadn't previously been able to find a place for.)
original short stories = 15
Total new words in April = 53

Queries sent = 1

Looking back at goals, I did get my taxes done. And the flu is gone, though there is a trace of a lingering cough that I'll be very glad to see the back of.


May:

Falling From Ground = 40
original short stories = 184 (incl. more clown history!)
Total new words in May = 224

There were also a couple quick edits on ...And The Kitchen Sink that didn't actually change the word count.

Short stories submitted = 2


What can I say? I've rather had my mind on other matters lately.


I'm not setting targets for June, either; still getting my feet under me from real-life matters. I've an unaccustomed amount of critiquing to do; got the stuff for the library group done just in time, and now there's the 4th Street workshop coming up. I have been fiddling with some living-room fanfic lately, which is a nice low-demand way to ease back into writing. And I poked at Green Ring a little the other night.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat as necessary.

R.I.P. Milo

Saturday, May 30th, 2015 06:10 pm
lizvogel: cute cat in 'yoga' position (Cat Yoga)
A little over ten years ago, a scruffy yearling cat stood on our porch and said, "I live here now. Let me in!"

Today, we said goodbye.

Milo was the world's most amiable cat: laid-back, mellow, but always wanting to be involved in whatever was going on. Smart, brave, and affectionate, he loved muzzle rubs and rump pats and that spot at the base of the tail that induces caltitude. He could velcro himself to a lap before you'd quite finished sitting down, and he had an amazing ability, if he wasn't sitting on you already, to identify end-credit music and ensconce himself immovably on your lap so you had to sit and watch another three episodes. He loved food, and his adopted sister (and his big and little brothers, past and present), and catnip, and us.

Yesterday we had a lovely morning sitting outside in the sun, followed by an extended multi-stage afternoon nap on the nice cool living room carpet, with his people sitting nearby and petting. The cancer had taken away a lot of what he enjoyed, but he still made a beeline for my lap, or stretched out his paws to touch one of us. And there were several meals, and then off to bed for one last snuggle in my armpit, and one more early this morning, complete with a good loud purr. And then today, we gave him as peaceful an end as possible, the last thing we could do for him.

He never backed down from a fight in his life, but this was one he just couldn't win.

Goodbye, my little guy. You were the best of cats.

MediaWest*Con 35

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 11:30 pm
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
So, there was MediaWest*Con this past weekend.

It was a good con. We were commuting from home, which I think actually contributed to a better con experience. For one thing, I wasn't roaming the halls for hours looking for something interesting still going on late at night (MediaWest's attendees are increasingly early-to-bed types, as the years go on), which always leaves me cranky and disappointed -- if there was nothing left to do, we just went home to bed. For another, since we didn't have the hotel room to retreat to during the day, I think we went to a lot more panels and sought out more interaction during the day. So it was a good arrangement, as well as vastly cheaper and easier to manage with the ailing cat.

I think it may also have helped that a lot of the people whose first fandom is complaining have finally just stopped coming. So pretty much everybody there was willing to have a good time, which makes it a lot easier for everybody to have a good time.

The art auction was small but high-quality -- my goodness, there were some impressive pieces. The dealers room was pretty low-key, but I actually bought a new zine! Panels ranged in quality; the best was definitely the Cabin Pressure panel, and not just because I knew almost all of the trivia questions. (Brilliant!) Good meals with good company, interesting conversations in the hallways, and a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity on Sunday night -- works for me.

Things Writers Say

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015 10:20 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)

"I could just take tomorrow and do clown research."

lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Dagoba Hazelnut (milk Chocolate 37%)

Where bought: Foods For Living. What can I say, they had Dagobas on sale.

Not much aroma.

Warm, friendly flavor. Nicely hazelnutty, blends well with the chocolate. Smooth texture, melts well in the mouth, and little chopped-up hazelnut bits flow easily with it.

Overall: Yum; not challenging, but pleasant. Would buy again.

Status Report

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015 05:15 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
It wasn't enough that I had the flu, followed by the nastier flu, both lingering; last week, I had to go and sprain my ankle, too. ;-P

I'm in that annoying state where I don't feel good enough to do much of anything, but I don't feel bad enough to be not doing anything. Which means I am mostly surfing the web. Occasionally I manage to turn that to the arguably-useful surfing of market and agent research, but not often enough.

Well, and minioning to cats. Because colds may come and ankles may go, but the cats still expect hot-and-cold running human at their every beck and call.

March Word Count

Friday, April 10th, 2015 04:28 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Getting a meaningful total for March is complicated. The first thing I did that month was scrap Chapter 2 of Falling From Ground in its entirety, which put me down -4567 words right from the get-go. Despite some fairly Herculean outputs here and there, that would give me a net total of 1361 words -- which seems a poor reward for a hard decision that really did need to be made and that will make the book sooo much better.

So instead, I'm going to reset to zero after that point, and just look at new production.

Green Ring: 1382
Falling From Ground: 1013
The Kitten Case: 3533

Total new words in March: 5928

That sounds better than it was; a graphical representation of my output would look like an inverted Bell curve. And The Kitten Case is definitely anomalous data: I attempted a NaNo-style ass-kicking and produced a for-me impressive 3500 words in seven days (six, really, there was a day off in there), but I'm not sure I'm happy with any of it. It may end up going the way of FFG's second chapter, and for much the same reason: For all that I'm a fan of wordcount as a metric, pushing for wordcount when the story's not there just leaves a mess to be cleaned up before the real writing can be done.

Still, it's good to know I can push out that kind of wordcount if I set my mind to it. And while I'm sick, to boot. In fact, all of March's stats get the "while I'm sick" bonus, because while the ugly-cousin flu moved in right at the beginning of April, I wasn't exactly feeling spry and healthy for any of the month leading up to it.


Querying: Queried 2 agents, researched and decided against 4. Mostly from the AAR database trawl.


Submitted 1 story.



There are no goals for April, other than to get my taxes done and to shake this rotten flu.

Sickie Squared

Sunday, April 5th, 2015 01:43 pm
lizvogel: A jar of almonds that warns that it contains almonds. (Stupid Planet)
It seemed like the Cold From Heck and I were reaching an understanding. It was even making noises like it might move out on its own, and then, it invited its cousin to stay -- the big, ugly cousin, with the prison tats and the anti-social tendencies.

I spent the whole of yesterday in bed, and may be headed back there quite soon. I'll spare you the gorier details, but actually getting uninterrupted sleep in three- and four-hour blocks last night felt miraculous. I never want to see another glass of juice or cup of tea again.

For added fun, I'm on call for jury duty next week. Normally I don't mind doing my civic duty, but then normally I can breathe without coughing up a trachea. I don't have to report tomorrow, which is good because I don't imagine they'd like having me there any more than I'd like being there. But there's no guarantee my luck will hold for the rest of the week.
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
Let's say you wanted to introduce someone to science fiction. But not just anyone: someone coming from a decidedly lit-fic background, someone who's going for a MFA or references Nabokov when discussing their own work. Assume a reasonably open mind, but no background beyond what you can't help absorbing from popular culture. (I'm modeling this hypothetical person on the library writers group I've started attending, which is open to genre but whose producing members so far write anything but.) Let's say this hypothetical person asked, "I don't know much about science fiction. Where should I start?"

Five books seems like a good number. Trying to represent something as big and variegated as a genre with a mere five books is an exercise in absurdity, of course. But trying to bring in a bit of everything that counts as science fiction would produce a list so unwieldy you might as well not have a list at all. Remember, you want your hypothetical person to actually read them, not be overwhelmed into giving up before they've started.

I found it surprisingly easy to come up with a list. Not necessarily my favorite books, but books that a lot of other books are in conversation with. Books that can carry the flag for significant portions of the genre; not that all books like that are just like this, but if you like this, you might like those /*broad sweep of arm*/ as well.

Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress
Isaac Asimov, The Caves of Steel
Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Lois McMaster Bujold, either Shards of Honor or The Warrior's Apprentice

Moon Is A Harsh Mistress stands for the whole "consensus future" that used to be such a staple of SF and still turns up occasionally, the small-l-libertarian idea that we will colonize space, and it will look more or less like this. It also gives us the sentient computer, and a host of smaller but useful ideas like funny-once versus funny-always. Caves of Steel gives us the Three Laws of Robotics, which arguably every robot book since has been in conversation with one way or another. Ender's Game gives us aliens, and the concept that we have fought the monster and the monster is us. Hitchhikers is there to show that SF can be both fun and funny, and because sending anyone into a foray into modern SF without understanding the significance of the number 42 seems like an act of cruelty. ;-) And Bujold because any recommendation list that comes from me is going to have Bujold on it if I can possibly help it, but also to show the depth of characterization and plot and worldbuilding that modern SF is capable of at its best -- and how SF can be in conversation with other genres, as well as itself. The choice of titles depends on whether that particular reader would respond better to a strong female character or a coming-of-age story (the library writers group has one of each).

Yes, I know that I'm leaving out vast swaths of the genre. There's no cyberpunk, for example. And no a lot of other things. But remember, five books. Only five. And the goal here is to suggest things that will be accessible to someone with no SF background; some of the more outre explorations of the genre might have a bit too much learning curve for a first taste.

And of course any recommendation list is going to reflect the recommender's tastes and priorities.

So, what do you think? Agree, disagree, yes-but? What would your own list look like?

Around the Block

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 02:25 pm
lizvogel: Run and find out, with cute kitten. (Run and Find Out)
I haven't been able to write a word for... I don't know how long. Too long. Even the easy thing (Green Ring) won't move forward. (I suspect Green Ring may be at about the 1/3 point, because it's that kind of stuck. But nothing else wants to move, either.) It seems to be a focus issue; I can sit and stare at the screen, but the work just slithers out from under my attention like a wet bar of soap.

The only thing that I've gotten words on at all lately (usually when I'm trying to sleep and am pinned under a cat and can't reach a pen anyway) is something that's about fifth down the to-write list, and I've got more than enough on the front burners already. But it was the only words I've gotten lately, so yesterday I went ahead and started The Kitten Case.

It's fighting me, too, in patchy and absurd ways. (Really? Afternoon or morning? You're going to hang up for half an hour over that?) I had to skip past the opening scene to when developments start happening, and will have to go back and fill in character-establishing later -- perhaps much later. But words did happen, and I even like some of them.

I'm not as happy as I would normally be about producing really quite a decent chunk of words, because I'm afraid this too is going to go thus far and stop dead on me. I'm trying to cash in on some of the NaNo-productivity from a few years ago; I'm working on the "work" laptop, and trying to treat it as work: get up, sit down at desk, produce. Wash rinse repeat. And cobbling together something like the NaNo progress chart that I liked so much. We'll see if it works.

'Cause something has to.
lizvogel: text: I have more userpics on Dreamwidth (more userpics on Dreamwidth)
There's no way you can tell somebody "Your problem isn't important enough to fix", no matter how nice you try to be about it, that isn't going to leave them feeling like a second-class citizen.

I'm trying to suppress the rant about "upgrades" that break things that used to work fine, and standard support policies of "it's your browser, not our code." The pang of interacting with the site under these circumstances is harder to suppress. I expect I'll get used to it eventually; life, after all, is full of pangs. But the last three things I thought about posting here were panged to death.

I bought a permanent account the last time they offered them, because I hoped to make Dreamwidth my forever home, social-media wise. Now it feels more like a party at which I'm tolerated, but not particularly welcome.

Cat Haiku

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 12:11 pm
lizvogel: cute cat in 'yoga' position (Cat Yoga)
Pink flash in water
Rainbow arc gleams in sunlight
Milo is drinking

Gleaming in the sun
Depth of fur with diamond tips
Milo in sunbeam

The Sickie Posts

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 06:26 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
No sooner do I get Chapter 2 moving in something that feels like it might possibly be the right direction, than I come down with the Cold From Heck. Not Hell; I've felt worse, but my nose is aspiring to emulate Victoria Falls and I'm definitely running a fever. My ambition for anything beyond lying on the couch with a paperback I've read before is decidedly curtailed. Though I did somehow manage to pick up whole wheat instead of white when I was at the store for supplies the other day, so maybe I'm sicker than I thought. ;-)


In other news, I neglected to mention here that I tried out a new writers group last week. It's through the local library, and seems to have potential; at least, it's using a methodology I prefer (distribute & mark-up in advance, free-ish discussion in person). And they're open to genre, for all that the two pieces up for critique were both lit-fic. I didn't exactly find myself among my tribe, but there were some intelligent things being said. (There was also some gender-essentialism on the topic of writing characters whose plumbing doesn't match the author's, but I decided not to die on that hill when I hadn't read the piece under discussion. And what might be an established-writer-tells-how-to-write vibe, but it was mild enough that I'm willing to see how it plays out long-term.) Anyway, I figure I'll give it a try for a few months and see how it goes.


Assuming I'm ever well enough to leave the house again. Ghah, where's the kleenex?
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Where bought: Foods For Living

Good aroma, a little tangy.

Solid texture, snaps crisply but melts readily once you start chewing.

Flavor is a little tart, smooth and sweet. Fills the mouth nicely. Aftertaste has beaney overtones, suggests that more would be a good idea.

Overall: What can I say? It's Dagoba. Good, reliable chocolate; not the best ever, but definitely in the upper percentiles.
Green Ring: 565
A Cold Day In Spells: 1410
Falling From Ground: 1
old-mission stories: 2428
Haley mission story: 1

Total new words in February: 4405

Well over quota (3000 words), though I could wish it wasn't so dependent on the old-mission stories. They're feeling more and more like fanfic for my own stuff, and fanfic doesn't count for quota purposes. (Also, that number includes the two four-digits bursts, and while those are great, the purpose of the quota is to encourage steady work, which I definitely did not do.)

Still, it's words, which is good.

The one word of beta-editing on FFG doesn't really qualify as "some of it had better be on the Mars novel", but I have been poking at it a bit, and I've at least devised a revision strategy that feels promising. Now I just need to apportion some time and concentration to put it to work.


Having said elsewhere that I wasn't going to manage the AAR database trawl, I promptly went and did it after all. It was discouraging at first to see how many names I recognized (and had therefore already tried), but there turned out to be a decent list of new prospects. And I did query 1 agent, albeit not one from that list.

Submitted 2 stories. Doing fairly well at keeping things out there. I've got two that are "resting" right now, one of which I'm running out of places to send; I may just hang onto it until the market I should have sent it to last year opens up again in a few months.

So, all told, quotas met, goals reasonably approximated. Not bad for a month when real life is so determinedly kicking me.


For March: I'm gonna say 3500 words, because I need to start getting the numbers back up but real life isn't going to let up any time soon. Get the Mars novel moving again, at least to the point of figuring out what Chapter 2 should look like and getting some new words done on it. Start researching/querying the agents from the AAR list. Keep putting stories out there until some editor comes to their senses and buys 'em.

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