Rejection slips

I got two rejection slips from agents today, for a grand total of three.

Ya know, I was feeling mildly bummed1 until I counted… Three ain’t bad. I’ve promised myself not to get worried until the count reaches thirty and at two queries a week, that’s months away.

One was a form rejection.

The other was this very kind personal letter, saying (s)he enjoyed reading the pages I submitted, but it didn’t catch the imagination.

Does that mean my missing is getting closer? It’s the first personal response I’ve gotten.

Part of me is thinking, “Aww, that’s really sweet and all, but you don’t have to reassure me. At this stage in the game, even ‘you SUCK’ is unlikely to keep me from writing.” You know, trying to be kind to the delicate ego of the budding author.

Part of me is wondering if (s)he was serious.

Still, it was personal, and I’m heartened a lot by that no matter what.

1As in, “Oh… well fudge. Anyway, gotta lick this envelope and get my ass to the post orifice sos I can send me out my next batch o’queries.”

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

Writing in public, especially places like coffee houses, has an interesting reputation.

J.K. Rowling wrote at least part of the Harry Potter series in various coffee houses.  John Scalzi thinks it’s an attempt to get laid.  (I have never once gotten a proposition while writing in public and want to know where in hell he’s going, cause I could do with… Well, nevermind).

Me?  I like writing in bars, pubs and coffee houses.  Oh sure, if I’m working on an emotionally difficult scene, or if I  need scads of research on a topic, I’m more likely to be found in my writin’ chair that a former partner insisted we buy when shopping for living room furniture.  (I’m still grateful he overrode my inner Scrooge.  I’m sitting here in it now, and I spend a lot of time blissfully working from it).

So what is it that drives the introvert out in public to write?

For me, it’s a change of scene, and a lack of a wireless connection.  I write on a Palm Pilot with one of those little foldable keyboards.  No net surfing — just basic word processing.  If I have research to do, I do it before I go out to write and store it in a file on my Palm (I’m really fond of Quickword, by the way, and highly recommend it).   I live about 1/4 mile from a pub, and just the act of walking to there will often be enough to get the creative juices flowing.  I get ideas best moving forward.  Even as a little kid, I’d get my best ideas for stories riding my bike.

Sure, like everyone else, I wanna be a richnfameous writer.  Then I take a sip of wine while I’m working, look out the window and realize that while Jo Rowling and Neil Gaiman have made it, and that’s really cool, I’m doing something they can’t.  (Not sour grapes.  I’d rather have extraordinary professional success!  But hey, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the little things, too).

Audiobooks v. "Real" Reading

Like any writer in the world, I’m a compulsive reader.

Unlike many readers, I’m also an audiobook addict.

My delight in being read to started in the womb, from what I’ve been told. My mother read to me while she was pregnant, and after I was born, read to me for at least an hour a night for much of my very early childhood.

This did not interfere with me learning to read. In fact, I think it was rather the opposite. While not a precocious reader (I learned in first grade), I caught on to the idea of letters and sounds very swiftly, and became an unusually fast reader.

But in spite of the stacks of books I took home from the library every week, I still enjoyed being read to. When I was fifteen and had mono, I was too weak to read (which was a frustrating experience), Mom very patiently read the entire novelization of E.T. the extraterrestrial to me. (Hey, it was all I was up to. Me being too sick to read was dangerously ill, let me tell you!)

Some people are concerned that if you get into audiobooks, you won’t read “real” books as much. I’ve not found this to be so. When I go to the library, as I do most weeks, I will check out an audiobook. I also check out four or five print books at the same time.

I do love the audiobook experience for many writers — Terry Pratchett being tops on the list. There are Discworld novels I’ve never read in print, but have enjoyed very much in audio. (Just finished Making Money, as it happens. It’s a fun romp, and has a very funny answer to many of the Vetinari fans!) For that matter, I’ve never held a print copy of Anansi Boys in my hand, much less read it, but it’s one of my favorite books. I find that being read aloud to often has a dimension to the experience that enhances rather than takes away from the experience of reading.

Reinhard Engels, in his Audiodidact podcast, had an interesting thing to say about audiobooks that I rather like:

Some people seem to think that listening is qualitatively inferior to reading. That the written word is somehow a purer medium. This is nuts. If anything, it’s the other way around. We think of the written word as this old fashioned, quasi sacred thing in comparison with say the internet, but writing was once high tech too. Writing is just a very lossy compression and storage technology for speech.

There’s an extra dimension, though, that I think it should behoove the writer of fiction to pay attention to. The very best writers’ works translate very well to spoken word. If you can’t read it aloud well, it’s generally not very good writing. I’ve started using it as an editing test with good results. This essay, for instance, has had some changes made because you can read the sentence, but cannot say it. <grin>I have placed information vital to the survival to the Rebellion in the memory systems of this R2 unit. My father will know how to retrieve it…1

Audiobooks need not be expensive. My public library has audiobooks for download, even! Check with yours. Many do. I am sorry to say that they have not been licensed with iTunes, which is a pain, as I cannot transfer them to my iPod without the rather expensive (in time and money) hack of burning them to a CD an importing them that way. Still, I have a laptop and can plug it into my house’s stereo system if I want to listen while moving around the house. I was a member of Audible for about a year, and found it a less expensive way to enjoy audiobooks.

I encourage anyone who loves to read, though, to try audiobooks. It doesn’t have to be for fiction. I find them a great way to learn while doing another task that does not require my brain but does require my hands. You can download lectures on lots of subjects, you can learn a language, or you can just have fun.

1Carrie Fisher once commented that she hated this line, as it is stilted and difficult to deliver well.

The Four Hour Work Week

Several friends have pointed me in the direction of the Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss. I’m not linking to it, because you can get it from your library easily enough. In fact, in a week or two, I’ll give my copy away for the price of the postage. A lot of the info in the book is available free on his blog, anyway.

I have to wonder if the author (who does, indeed remind me of a young Woody Smith) had read “The Man Too Lazy to Fail” early in life and then decided to choose a way to put it into practice.

Overall, it’s a good book — loaded with information and written in a blog-like style, so the concepts are easy to digest.

I found the title a little misleading. No-one capable of doing this has the personality to sit on his ass most of the time, and the author doesn’t. Though I confess I take his claims of greatness and achievement with a slight grain of salt. Good self promotion requires a bit of yarn telling ability and glossing.

In spite of the occasional raised eyebrow, “naughty boy” smirk, and headshake at the “Dig me” stuff, the concepts in the book are quite sound, and the underlying theme is the most important part:

Live Consciously, because you do not have to be superrich to have the life you want.
How do you want to spend your time?

Travel? There are ways to do that without spending much money, and he give some interesting ideas.

Family? He gives some strategies that can work for some people to reduce time in the office. (You’ve gotta be willing to be a bit of a rule breaker for some of them. Just sayin’). I happened to have a job that requires my ass in the office from 8-4:30, so well.. I quit and am doing something else. (Yes, I’m insane. Tell me something I don’t know).

Self-development? Okay, this guy acts like he’s “rode out West on a covered wagon, shot a wild Indian and shook hands with the Prez”. Still, even allowing for a certain bullshit factor, the guy really has packed a lot of living and learning into less than 30 years.

“But what if I don’t want a four hour workweek. What if I want to work long hours on what gives me deep satisfaction, as per Heinlein’s definition of happiness?”

Well, that’s part of living consciously, now innit? I mean, jeez, I wouldn’t want my writing limited to four hours a week!

A.A. Milne Meets Gene Rodenberry

“Bother”, said Pooh. “Eeyore, ready two photon torpedoes and lock phasers with the Heffalump. Piglet, meet me in transporter room three.”

— Probably Stolen From Nancy Buttons. Most of my other sigs are.

I incautiously sent my son an email with this sig line. I have now been requested to write a story about it.

See, I’m on my way to becoming the next Neil Gaiman. I get writing prompts from my kids. (Oh, let me have my fantasy, dammit).

Writing Improves Parenting Skills

Okay, the title of this post is a lie. It doesn’t really.

But today I had the pleasure of pulling out something from At the Foot of the Throne to show my son that was relevant to his schoolwork.

For social studies, he must draw a map of the route he walks to his school from home. His first attempt was most certainly a first draft — as a first draft oughta be! I took one look at it, winced and used Gmaps Pedometer to map out the route, so he’d have a clearer idea of what it looks like, and told him to draw his map from that guideline. (The point of the exercise is legends, labels and scale, so I don’t think it’s cheating).

He had used up the graph paper he had on his first draft and asked me if I had any more.

I’m a fantasy writer. Yes, I have graph paper! How else do I…

draw maps?

I pulled out my At the Foot of the Throne notebook, and opened it up to get the graph paper, but I also showed him this:


I can’t show this in the size and detail1 that will make it easy for you to read it or understand it, but since he was learning about cartography in school, I asked him to read the legend and explain about the two countries. He did pick up right away that one was stronger in mineral wealth than the other, and that other had lots of farmland, but didn’t necessarily pick up on the political significance of such a fact.

I was kinda hoping he’d ask to take the map to show to his class to show about geopolitic… But he didn’t. Ahhh, vanity.

Still, it was nice to have the mapmaking tools right on hand for him so that he can do a good job for school.

1 For those of you who think that the map looks suspiciously like a Civilization II game, it’s because I used the same algorithms. I was stuck on creating the two countries, and my partner of the time handed me an appletini and advised me to, “Play Civ on paper.” It worked very well indeed!

Garbage Soup

My son is an odd duck.

Whenever we have a meal with chicken with the bones in (roasted whole chicken, Mama was too cheap to buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts, you name it), he requests that dinner the next day is garbage soup.

Garbage soup is not actually a specific meal.  What I do is toss the bones of the old meal and any leftover meat into a pot of water and let it simmer most of the day to make a rich stock.  Then about 20 minutes before dinner, I strain out the bones, pick out the meat, toss that into the pot and start getting creative with whatever I have in the fridge and pantry that wants eating up.   Carrots, potatoes that need eating, ginger, garlic, onion, you name it.  Then I season it however I get a wild hare across my butt to do so.  Sometimes it has pasta in, sometimes rice.

This is a meal we usually have while watching some science fiction show.  (Mama’s been on an Andromeda kick lately.  Bless Netflix for its regular delivery of Tyr!)

While the frugality of it pleases me, I find it amusing my son is so fond of the dish.

Being a writer is a lot like making garbage soup.  You’re taking the leftovers of life and turning it into a nourishing, savory dish.  It’s such a frugal thing, saving the dribs and drabs of what you see around you — the little throw-away moments of life, and recycling it into something to feed the soul.