Checks, Books, Bar Graphs

Well. Got my advance check for The Ghost Brigades today. Guess that means I really do have to start writing it.

More to the point, however, is the fact that I feel ready to write it, which is to say I’ve reached a sufficient point of knowledge regarding certain key scenes and events that I can place them on the line and use them as guidepoints to write toward and past. And even more specifically, I know exactly what’s going to happen in the first two chapters, so writing them will be a relative breeze and it will give me more idea about where subsequent chapters need to go (I also know what I want to write for, say, Chapters Seven, Fourteen and Twenty, although less specifically, but that’s fine too — if you write like I do (i.e., make it up as you go along) you want flexibility).

There’s a trend in the last few months for writers to put up a bar graph in their blogs showing how much they’ve written in a book and how much they intend to write, but I will be having none of that nonsense myself, thank you very much, partly because I have no idea how much I’m going to write, although I suspect it’ll be in the same area as Old Man’s War: 95K words or so. But I don’t think I want the pressure of a bar graph. I’ll let you know when I actually begin; I’ll let you know when I finish and I’ll probably kvetch somewhere in the middle. That should be enough.

Before someone asks: Yes, I’ll probably ask for beta readers, but not before I’m done. I’ll probably keep the numbers small. I will let you know when that happens.

My Daddy Went to Penguicon and All I Got Was This Massive Copyright Violation


There’s actually an interesting backstory to this t-shirt, which is that over the weekend I called home and Krissy said that when she asked Athena what she wanted to do while I was away, Athena said that she wanted to have them dress up like goths. She’s a real live Kindergoth! Isn’t that precious. So I saw this shirt in the dealer’s room and had to have it. Athena’s wearing it to school today, complete with black fingernail polish. It’s even money I get a call from the school office.

Penguicon: It went well. I was scheduled for four panels and ended up actually doing six, the two I added being “Dancing for Geeks” — hey, shut up, I took two years of dance — and the Penguicon writers workshop. For the former we taught folks how to find the beat and then move their feet in something other than an awkward shuffle, and it went well, I thought. For the second one, I did my editor bit and read seven stories that were being workshopped, pretended that they had actually been submitted to me for publication and then told the workshoppers why I rejected their work. As being rejected is as much a part of the publishing process as being accepted, I thought that was useful, and by and large I think the people in the workshop agreed, although, of course, I may be wrong on that. There was one writer whose story I barely read out of the first page because there was an error I just couldn’t get past — I explained what the error was and how this was an example of how some editors have weird little tics you can’t predict, and this was one of mine — and I can’t imagine that particular writer was very pleased with me. Still and all, overall I think it went well.

The panels I was supposed to be on went well too, in a general sense. Cory Doctorow (who was the Guest of Honor), Matt Arnold and I had a very successful panel doing a blue-sky on what would be involved in writing collaborative online fiction; my thought about it would be that doing something like a wiki-story is entirely possible but that people were more likely to be touchy to changes in personal creative writing than changes to, say, an article in Wikipedia, and that since the writing would be a public performance, there could be a possibility of the story getting derailed as people simply started to try to top each other. Cory, who did an online collaborative fiction piece with Charlie Stross, talked a little about that experience as well.

Then came the panel on “The Blog and Its Uses”: This had me, online cartoonist Howard Tayler, and David Klecha, who had blogged from Iraq. Howard and I talked quite a bit about how blogging has made a difference in our professional lives while David talked more about how it works on a personal level (particularly in terms of communicating from a war zone). They taped this one for posterity, so who knows — you might be able to hear it online someday. This was followed by the “How Do Writers Pay Their Bills?” panel, in which we (me, Joan Vinge, Kevin Siembieda, M. Keaton and Kathe Koja) talked about day jobs and our opinions of them, and also about the generally bad pay of creative writing (as opposed to corporate writing, which pays rather better but is of course generally far less creative). This one was also taped.

My final panel was on “The Future of Science Fiction,” which given some commentary here recently, was on point. To be entirely honest, I think a great deal of the future of science fiction — the written portion of it, at least — will rely on its marketing, and I mentioned that at the panel. M. Keaton who was also there (as well as Joan Vinge, Tim Ryan and Jeff Beeler) also talked about the need for a rebirth of the “pulp” strata of science fiction to serve as “minor league ball” as it were, to novels and some of the higher end magazines, which I thought was an interesting point. Overall, I thought the panels were well done; a couple of panelists would lose their mental and narrative thread in the midst of speaking and would then wander a bit aimlessly before getting back on point, but I suppose to some extent that’s inevitable. By and large, however, generally informative. My panel pace at the con kept me from seeing many of the other panels, although I did pop in on Cory’s panel on folk art and copyright as well as his keynote address on Digital Rights Management.

I also got to spend some time with Cory, meet his smashing girlfriend (whose first convention this was; I’m sure she found it interesting), and gab with him about a bunch of stuff. Cory is on his way to Chicago next week for the Nebula Awards, as his novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is nominated; I’m not going to that so I was happy to to get some time to gab with him here. Cory’s guest liaison was Anne KG Murphy, who I met earlier this year at ConFusion (she was the convention chair there), so it was great to see her again as well (it was she who dragooned me into teaching geeks to dance, since she’d seen me dance at ConFusion). Anne also played Buffy in a live-action re-enactment of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer musical episode “Once More With Feeling”; the presentation was both interesting and something that I later had a really interesting time trying to explain to a couple of nongeeks (“So… they were watching the episode and re-enacting it at the same time? Why?”).

So in all, a grand time. The only drawback for me was the fact that there was a freak snowstorm on Saturday and Sunday in which I had to drive home; I managed to make it home just fine under the concept that making it home was better than trying to get home fast. But I can’t hold that against the Penguicon people. They have no control over the weather, so far as I know.