The New Job Post

I started a new job today. For ten years, I’ve worked at Hi-School Pharmacy in Vancouver doing IT support, but it had become clear to me over the last year that I didn’t have a future at that company. We weren’t getting raises, there was no opportunity for advancement, and in the end even the new projects started to dry up.

So now I work at Allion Test Labs in Beaverton. It’s a cool company, although it’s hard to describe exactly what it is they do…the short version would probably be “testing consumer electronics,” although it’s a lot broader than that. I’ve only just started, so I don’t really have a feeling for how the day-to-day is going to go, but everyone I talk to there enjoys their job and is happy with the company. That’s a lot more than I could say at Hi-School, and I could get used to working at a place like that.

There are downsides, of course. Working at Hi-School for so long, I got a real fine sense of what was allowed and what wasn’t, what rules were actually followed versus what the employee handbook said. I knew under what circumstances I should put off taking lunch, for instance, or when I could take off for the day 15 minutes early. I’ve just got to re-learn all that, and it takes time.

It also means that I don’t get to go to Norwescon this year. It’s in just three weeks, and I won’t have enough vacation saved up to make it. I kind of had a feeling this was coming, so it wasn’t a shock, but I’m still disappointed. Oh well; there’s still Westercon, WorldCon, and OryCon. It’ll be a busy year on the convention circuit.

I’m also hoping that this will be an opportunity to dig back into my writing. I tend to write with more discipline when I have less time to put off writing, and with this job I definitely have less time. Enough time, to be sure, but it means that I have to prioritize writing like I really haven’t for awhile. I think this job could be a good opportunity, in more ways than one.

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Month of Letters

Because I’m a shameless follower of people far more awesome than myself, I’m throwing myself into Mary Robinette Kowal’s “A Month of Letters.” Every day in February, I will do three things: write a letter to someone, send it in the mail, and then check my mail in the evening. There’s just one problem, though: I don’t have enough people to write to. 

Hopefully, this is a problem that will solve itself later in the month, but for now I have barely a week’s worth of letters to write. Mary posted her address publicly but she’s going to get about a billion letters, so I want to take the road less traveled by. This is where you come in.

If you’d like to receive a letter, hand-written by yours truly, then please, give me your address! I’ll try to write to everyone who gives me an address, so just think…the next time you go out to the mail, you might actually have something fun to read rather than the usual junk and bills. That’s the whole point of this endeavor, after all, so although it’s not required, it’s more fun if you write back.

The deets: if you feel comfortable disclosing your house address, you can always just drop it in the comments, although I doubt most people will be okay with that. So, you can send me a direct message on Facebook or Google+, or email me at thetenthword at gmail dot com. I look forward to hearing from you, and writing to you.

Hangin’ with Obama

It’s been a long time since I posted something, I know. You can expect some changes coming to this site in the near future, not the least of which is the return of regular updates, and not just updates on writing. Updates on, just, you know. All sorts of stuff.

In that spirit of other-stuff-ness, I was watching the very first Presidential Google+ Hangout (must be capitalized!) today while I was working, and it was a surprisingly awesome moment for me. Not because I’m a huge fan of Obama, although I think he’s a decent president at least, and not because what he had to say was groundbreaking, but because of how personal it was.

That deserves some clarification too. Obviously there’s no way that I had privileged access to any sort of executive communication, so if I could watch this hangout, so could millions of others. And when millions of people are watching, the president is never, ever personal, or intimate, or familiar. He pretends to be those things, just like every president since TV was invented, but that’s not what I’m talking about either.

What I mean is this: there were eight other people in that hangout (seven, if you don’t include the event coordinator). They were carefully selected for their demographics, but they were real people. One of them cut Obama off while he was talking. One of them disagreed strongly with his position on foreign aid. That could’ve been me, or you, or anyone.* Maybe I’m just naively enthusiastic, but that seems incredible to me. Technology is changing our government, and it’s changing it for the better.

*Full disclosure: it never could’ve been me. I don’t have the stones to argue with the president while millions of people are watching, and I’m at least man enough to admit it.

The Light at Tunnel’s End

Ahaha! I’m DONE!

Yes, after a week of furious copyediting, I finally have in my hands the final version of Fugitives from Earth. It’s definitely not my best work, not anymore, but I’m not embarrassed to sell it to other people, and I’m oh so very relieved that I don’t have to think about the story anymore.

And the layout’s done, too. Let me tell you: Word is horrible at making print-ready documents that aren’t term papers. It took a fair bit of wrangling the page settings, margins, text wrapping, alignments, and who knows what else to make it look good, but at least it was mindless work, so I got to watch movies while doing it. Didn’t get to do that while I was writing the damn thing.

So, now I’m eagerly awaiting the proof copy from Createspace. I have my hopes that’ll be a quick green light, and I can order my print copies for OryCon, and not a minute too soon. Never again will I let myself get this close to the wire.

Finally, this blog is about to come full circle. I realize that I haven’t been posting as often as I did in my heyday, but I’ve got plans for this year’s NaNoWriMo. Yeah, it snuck up on me too, but whatever–I’m starting a brand new novel, and along with it, I’m starting a brand new posting schedule for The Tenth Word. You can also expect some layout changes to accompany the book’s release, just two and a half weeks away!

The Countdown Has an Ending

Holy crap I’ve been a bad blogger. Over a week without a post? And my posts have been getting more and more irregular? That’s a problem. In fact, coming up shortly I’m going to be re-examining this whole blogging thing. I like having this personal web space, but if I can’t keep it nice and updated, what’s the point?

And more than anything, I need to find some new things to talk about. I’m starting to bore myself talking over and over again about the novel countdown. Yes, it’s stressful, but that somehow doesn’t make it automatically riveting.

Fortunately, in regard to Fugitives from Earth, the stress is about to end (or at least, mutate). It turned out that the only person with the time to do the copyediting, who was willing to do it for free, was me. My wife put in a valiant effort, but she’s even busier than I am, and I still don’t have hundreds of free dollars to spend on the novel, especially since I still have to get it printed.

So that copyediting is a little over half done, and I have every confidence that the novel will be finished (at least in terms of the story) by this weekend. That’ll leave me a few days to do the formatting, and plenty of time to get my review copy before ordering actual printed books for OryCon!

It’s kind of unreal that it’s so close; I’m looking forward to going back to being an actual writer. I feel like I’ve been doing less and less work per day as this novel’s drawn itself out and out. I definitely don’t want to have a major deadline like this if I can ever help it; doing some other creative work would’ve helped to lessen the pain a bit, and kept me from losing my good habits.

Anyway, the next time you hear from me, by this weekend, I should have the novel well in hand. Then I can start the non-writerly parts of self publishing. Yay!

The Joy of Constrained Creativity

So, did I accomplish my goal of getting the novel’s final creative revision done by Friday? You might remember that I promised to set myself on fire if I did not, but…I did not. However! I decided to delay my frustration-induced self-immolation for another week because I did accomplish something equally noteworthy: the cover!

Fugitives from Earth Front Cover
Now I figure another three to four hours of work will finish up the creative revision, and then it’s just copyediting and layout. I’m encouraged by reports from fellow NIWAns that layout won’t be crisis-level hard, since they’ve got templates, tips, and tricks that’ll make it easier. The trick will be to take care of the submission stuff early enough that I can get a full gallery/test copy mailed to me, correct it, and then get a bunch more mailed to me for the con.

So, that’s enough of a countdown post for today. I want to briefly talk about an awesome experience I had last week: it’s called Fiasco.

I imagine that plenty of you writers out there play or have played tabletop roleplaying games. If you’ve played more than once or twice, you probably know that some RPG systems have a lot of stats, mechanics, and die rolling, and will thus tend to play more like wargames. Others put more of an emphasis on story and character, with mechanics that influence gameplay without dominating it. And then there are a few indie games that have few to no mechanics, so as not to get in the way of the story.

Fiasco is one of the latter. It has rules, but those rules exist just to put some interesting restraints on gameplay. Without over-explaining, I’ll just say that character relationships are determined by a series of die rolls, and the characters themselves naturally evolve out of those relationships. For example, in our game, two players had the relationship “mutinous.” They were on a 1930s-era Titanic-esque ocean liner, so we decided that they were officers on the ship. One of those guys would be a criminal, since his relationship with another player was “mutual criminals.”

And then the game took off. We decided two players were working with pirates to hijack the ship, and the third player was the straight man, a crew member who stumbles on the plot. Over the course of the games 12 scenes, the players killed the captain, accidentally framed each other for the crime, barricaded themselves in the bridge, accidentally shot a passenger, and blew out the engine. It was the most fun two hours of recent memory.

I bring this up partially just because I had so much fun with it, but also because I think that, more than most RPGs, it’s a great tool for writers. It doesn’t have a game master, so everyone gets to participate in the plot. You’ve got a framework, constraints that force creativity, but don’t stifle it. The theme of the game is, generally, “small people get over their heads with fatal results,” and that informs the action as well.

The world of writing is similar. The constraints are generally self-imposed rather than external, and obviously there’s a wider variety of stories to tell, but the thinking process is the same: “Next scene. What would be awesome?” I think Fiasco is an awesome creative exercise for writers, particularly ones that wouldn’t roll a D20 if their lives depended on it.

Anyway. I hope to have more triumphant news to report by the end of the week. Also, NaNoWriMo approaches! So much to do.

P.S. Might be fun to do a Fiasco hangout on Google+. Anyone interested?

The Tension’s Mounting

I realize these countdown-style blog posts are probably getting a little familiar. The truth is, they’re getting a little too familiar to me as well. This is probably typical, but I’m starting to feel more and more that Fugitives from Earth is like an anchor around my neck. I want to move on and create something new, but I just can’t seem to get away from it. And now that things are getting so close to the wire, I have that extra bit of stress that it’s all going to be for naught.

Lovely. It hasn’t been a great day all around, so I apologize if that shows.

So without giving in to despair or frustration, here’s the situation:

  • I need to finish my final “creative” revision. As I indicated before, this mostly just means that I need to search for all the words that end in “ly” and replace them with something that scans better. That’ll be finished by Friday or I’ll set myself on fire.
  • The cover needs to be done. Not done done necessarily, but I need to have a rough version for the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association trade show on October 14th. Actually, it needs to be done a week before that, so it can be integrated with the rest of the NIWA books on a post, bookmark, and other such things.
  • The copyediting needs to be finished. My wife just got a promotion and her fall term just started, so I’m going to have to help out here. I really wish that I could afford a professional copyeditor, but unfortunately my wife didn’t get a promotion quite that good.
  • I need to do the layout. I’m hoping this won’t take too long, since I can follow directions, but I also have a strong feeling it’ll surprise me. The advantage of being in a group like NIWA is that many of them have done this before and I can leech off of all their hard work. After all, what are friends for?
  • Finally, I have to submit the whole bundle to CreateSpace and get my review copy. Once I have that in hand, I’ll look through it, find a bunch of errors, fix them, and resubmit.
  • Then, I buy a dozen or two dozen copies, have them sent to myself, and sell them at OryCon! I’ll also upload the ebook version to Smashwords.
Not too much for the next four to five weeks, right? Sure, no problem.