Hi, everyone. I wanted to let people know that this-coming Thursday night, March 22nd, 2012, at 6 PM SLT (Second Life Time), I will be reading my story “D Is for Dragon” live.
Second Life Time is the same as US Pacific Time, so that’s 6 PM on the west coast, 9 PM on the east coast, and 10 PM if you live in those extreme eastern provinces in Canada. You can probably do the math to find your local correct time.
The reading will occur in the Workshop building, on the second floor beside the traditional meeting circle. Our area is in the Pen Station region. The reading is a voice event, so attendees are encouraged to come with their “ears on” and their microphones off. Since the event is also being recorded, we request that you refrain from using audio “gestures” or other devices that create ambient noise.
If you get on, my name on Second Life is “Sathor Chatnoir.” Contact me or “Timothy Berkmans” (our host for all things podcasterrific) for a landmark to the event site, or click on that link above (on “Workshop building”). Show up early (15 to 20 minutes, I’d say) so you can adjust your settings for voice.
The recording (or perhaps a cleaner one) will appear on our podcast in the next couple of months.
Those of you who are not already on Second Life can get on (For free!) by going to the web site (See that handy link earlier in this sentence?), downloading the software (For free!), and creating a character (For free!). Those of you who don’t want to be on Second Life can wait for the podcast. (For free!)
Those of you who <sniff> don’t want to <sniff> hear my story (that I worked so hard on), I <sniff> understand. Really. It’s <sniff; wavering voice> OK. <sniff> Really.
For free! Did I mention that? (For free!)
This always happens.
I fully intended to post this during NaNoWriMo, but . . . somewhere in the shuffle, I forgot about it until last week . . . and then it was Christmas. So here I am a couple of days after Christmas posting something I intended to post on November 7th.
I had to put my current novel on hold for NaNoWriMo because I simply couldn’t think too much about it and do 26 stories at the same time. But someone posted a link to a video on YouTube that distracted me for several hours during NaNoWriMo, and may have directly contributed to the fact that the story I wrote on November 7th (“G Is for Gravesite”) was the shortest (finished) story of the bunch.
This is the video. I created a playlist of all five parts. It’s Dan Wells‘ presentation at BYU’s Life, the Universe, and Everything writing symposium on February 13, 2010. It is his seven-point outlining scheme.
(For some reason, WordPress refuses to let me embed a playlist. I’m working on it. For now, this is the first of the five videos.)
So I watched this, and was pretty much overcome with the desire to use this to figure out exactly what the plot(s) is(are) for my novel Perdition’s Flames. Not to mention the other novels in the same series. Maybe if I can figure out the seven points of the first one, I can come up with the seven points of others, as well.
It came as quite a surprise to me when I sat down to actually do this that I already knew exactly what each of the seven points was going to be for the plot of the novel. Not so much for subplots and character arcs. Those I still need to work on.
This always happens. I find yet another reason to stop writing and start over. I think perhaps what I’ll do instead is to continue writing and use this for the rewrite. There are only a few more scenes, really, and I already know what has to happen in them. I don’t have any subplots, and two of my characters have kind of disappeared, but hey. That’s what rewrites are for, right? :)
I keep searching for useful tools to help me plot and plan. Truth is, it’s all in my head, but every time I try to put it on paper (figuratively or literally), I end up frustrated. One of these days I’m going to find a useful tool, dammit! :)
Alternatively, they come to me when I can least do anything about them, like while I’m in the shower or driving. Luckily, keeping a notepad and pencil in the shower (hey, don’t judge me) and a digital voice recorder in the car have solved those particular problems.
Today, I need to finish something else up. But I keep getting side tracked by this little voice in my head.
Every year, I participate in NaNoWriMo, which if you do a little looking around on this site, you’ll find several references to. The goal during National Novel Writing Month is to write a complete novel of 50,000+ words in just the 30 days of November. You can plan and plot and world-build and character-develop all you want before that; but the entirety of the words of the novel itself must be composed between midnight of November 1st and midnight of December 1st.
Last year, I ripped NaNoWriMo a new one, to put it indelicately. I wrote 78,000 words, then went on to write another 15,000 words or so to get my time travel novel (Killing Time) done.
But this year, I have four unfinished novels, dammit. I don’t need to start another one. But I want to participate. And yeah, I could use the month to concentrate on finishing one of the unfinished novels, but…well, I don’t want to. I think part of the fun of NaNoWriMo is the thrill of writing something new.
For the last month or so on the podcasts Escape Pod, PodCastle, and PseudoPod, they have run promos for a series of 34 stories co-written by four well-known authors (Tim Pratt, Jenn Reese, Heather Shaw, and Greg van Eekhout) that are collectively called “The Alphabet Quartet.” Each story title starts with a different letter of the alphabet.
You may be wondering two things right now. One: Why are there 34 stories if there are only 26 letters in the English alphabet? Two: What do all these disparate, seemingly unrelated facts have to do with the price of tallow in Ecuador? I’ll take those in order.
One: There are 34 because although there were originally 26, some of them were published elsewhere, and the magazine that agreed to publish them (Daily Science Fiction) wanted original works, so the quartet wrote brand new ones to replace the ones that had already been published elsewhere. But those of us who contribute to one of the three Escape Artists podcasts (listed above) get all 34. Because we’re special.
Two: I’m about to tie it all together. Stand back. Watch me.
I’ve been trying to come up with some ideas lately for shorter works that I can play with. Stuff that doesn’t require a bunch of world-building, character development, and plotting. When I heard about the Alphabet Quartet, my brain seized on the idea of writing 26 stories, each one beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. It was a cute idea. I filed it away.
A day or two later, a rhyme from Sesame Street long past (which was also featured in the film E. T.: The Extra-Terrestrial) popped into my head: “A is for Apple. B is for Ball. C is for Cat that sits on the wall.”1 It played over and over in my head.
Eventually, I put the ideas together. To wit: I should write 26 short stories, each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet, but the titles themselves should make a little doggerel rhyme of that sort.
I jotted down a few ideas in Evernote. I tried to come up with single-word titles beginning with each of the 26 letters of the alphabet in such a way that each three-letter combination formed a ‘stanza.’ But the words had to be evocative; that is, they have to conjure up several ideas. They have to give me a spark. And I have to be able to rhyme the final word of the third line of each stanza with the second title. Think that sounds easy? I’m not a poet. :)
Oh, here. This will explain it better than I’m doing.
B is for Bard;
C is for Clowns that creep through the yard.
D is for Dragon,
E is for Earth;
F is for Forgetting what some things are worth.
G is for Graveside,
H is for Him;
I is for Innocence wrapped up in sin.
J is for Justice,
K is for Kiss;
L is for Lightning: a strike or a miss.
etc. You get the idea.
The third line of each stanza will give a clue to what that letter’s story should be about. And I’m not saying that these are by any means the final choices. Each alphabet word gives me a number of ideas. I especially like “C is for Clown” and “U is for Uranus.” Those are the two for which more or less complete story ideas popped instantly into my head.
So, the idea that came to me while I was trying to do something else—which then inspired me to write this post, which further keeps me from that something else—is that if I write 26 stories of about 2000 words each (on average), that’s more than enough words to win NaNoWriMo, and it gives me a finished “work,” even if it’s not a novel.
Now, if you remove the four days of holiday at the end of November (where we here in the US celebrate Thanksgiving)…well, golly! That equals 26, doesn’t it?
I think this sounds suspiciously like my brain done went and ambushed me with a plan! :)
- The irony of this is that I can find no reference of this anywhere on the Internet. I distinctly remember it, yet I’m probably wrong. It would be amusing in the extreme if my misfiring memory of something that never existed sparked this idea. When I get home, I’ll see if I can find ET and watch that sequence to see what it actually says. The one screen capture I saw online shows Drew Barrymore standing in front of a TV on which is displayed “B is for Banjo,” and it is on a wall.
And then I ran up against another snag, but this one didn’t have anything to do with writing. Or at least not directly.
I use a MacBook Pro 17″ (I call it The Shiny™) to do all my writing, and I use a lovely application called Scrivener to do it in.
After an ill-timed mishap involving a falling laptop, a cat, a bottle of Coke Zero (Elixir of Life™), and a USB cable (insert your own interesting story here) . . . I think something was a little wonky with The Shiny. It would play sounds if I had the headphones in, but not through the speakers.
Now . . . I need my sounds. I share a house with someone who goes to bed at 8:00 (because she gets up at 3:00 AM for school), so I wear headphones much of the time, but you can only wear them for so long, you know? I mean, ear-sweat is not a topic to discuss in polite company, so I won’t.
On Saturday I took The Shiny to The Apple Store where I had an appointment with a lovely Genius1 named “Mike.” Of course, when demonstrated for Mike, the problem miraculously went away (and the nearby patrons all got an audio demonstration of my abiding love for A-Ha as their 13th album began to play at high volume), in the way problems since the Dawn of Man™ have gone away whenever demonstrated for the person who is intended to fix it. I can easily imagine two Homo habilis dudes sittin’ around the campfire, chillin’, makin’ flint spearheads. Og can’t get it right to save his hairy neck, but when he tries to show Zug, it works perfectly every time. Of course, as soon as Zug leaves, Og can’t make a single correct blow on his flint with the striking stone.
I also imagine this was immediately followed by the first-ever (l)user joke and the first-ever 3-hour wait on a tech support “hotline.”2 But I seriously digress.
Because of all the symptoms I described for Mike, he suggested—gently, I might add—that the problem was almost certainly hardware-related and that even though nothing showed up on a hardware diagnostic he ran, I should leave The Shiny in the capable hands of Apple so that they might fix whatever might be wrong once they crack it open. <wince>
After assuring Mike that I do, indeed, do regular backups (I use Time Machine—as opposed to a time machine, which would be awesome—and it runs hourly, plus I ran it about 11,394 times in the 15-minute period leading up to the time I needed to leave the house to get to the Apple store on time), I handed The Shiny over and . . . and . . . and left it there. Alone. <twitch> <lip-quiver>
He assured me I’d have it back in about a week. Maybe less.
Since all my writing is on there, I have, of course, been absolutely inundated by ideas. Poughkeepsie3 must be practically empty by now.
Of course, on top of not having Scrivener to write in, I have had to go several days, now, without podcasts.
Podcasts, to put it bluntly, are why you have not heard about me on the national news. You know, along the lines of
MAN, 46, GOES BERSERK IN ATLANTA TRAFFIC, SLAYS 32
“Morons! It’s the pedal on the RIGHT!” — Insane Atlanta man
I can’t stress enough how much of a calming influence they are on me. (I might be exaggerating just a bit.)
Luckily, I have a backlog of some podcasts I’m catching up on, and I’m in no danger of running out of them any time in the next week. But this means I’ll get behind on the ones I regularly listen to. But I’ll catch up. I always do.
So, anyway . . . That’s how my weekend went.
(I’m not <twitch> twitching, yet, am I?)
- I’m not being facetious or snarky—that’s actually what they call their support techs. I do wonder, though, if there is a clause in the employment contract with Apple that requires all male Geniuses to grow a beard, whether they really should or not. I’m just sayin’. . .
- I can only imagine that the poor drummers’ arms got tired relaying the hold music. . . “Short and hairy and young and lovely, the girl from the next cave goes walking upright, and when she passes, each one she passes goes, “Aaaah!”. . .
- There is an old story, probably apocryphal, which claims that Harlan Ellison used to get asked the question, “Where do you get your ideas?” just one time too many, and he finally answered, “Poughkeepsie.” It’s been attributed to others, and some stories say it was Schenectady instead. I’d probably say Walla-Walla.
They occasionally have guests on the show to talk about various topics. The guests in the most recent episode (Season 5, Episode 28: E-Publishing) were Tracy Hickman and David Farland (a.k.a. Dave Wolverton).
All of that link soup is merely a lead-in to tell you the source of the quote I’m about to use from the podcast. It was one that stood out for me the first time I listened, so I restarted the podcast, listened to it again, and this time transcribed what Tracy Hickman said.
Dan (I think) asked Hickman what advice he would give for self-publishers to be successful. His answer was as follows.
Forget about the idea of mass audience. Get rid of the idea of mass audience and deal with individuals. You need to contact people individually, and that’s why things like virtual tours—virtual blog tours—are so important. You need to get in touch with the readership. You need to find the audience. And you find that through the gateway of people’s blogs and personal connection with them. I think that the old time of the old school book tour where you go and fly to some book store in San Francisco and sit there with ten people is done. I think people don’t do that anymore. And book stores—brick and mortar stores—are having enough trouble as it is. What is the case, though, is that you have to concentrate on reaching your audience one on one, and that means going on virtual book tours. That means having a website that is open to people communicating with you, and engaging your audience in a conversation. If you engage your audience—not in a sales conversation, but in an intimate, personal conversation—then they will read your words, and your words will come to life. Your words do not live or breathe until someone reads them and puts life to them and so you need to have the intimate, personal connection with them. So it’s not about mass audience. If there’s one piece of advice I’d give to anybody: it’s about you making a connection with every individual who is going to read your book—at some level—online. [Emphasis added]
And that’s a very good point. I can write and write and write and (I hope) get better and better . . . but until and unless someone gets2 to read my words, I might as well be shouting into a hurricane for all the good it’ll do me.
The “personal connection” thing I think I have. After all, I have this handy-dandy website right here just waiting for people to read it. I have samples of my work up for people to read, and I’m relatively easy to contact (or will be when I get the email for this site working like I want it). So there you go.
I just thought it was important to put those words in bold up there somewhere that I could find them to remind me why I write: because I think I have a story to tell that other people might find interesting.
Oh, and if you’re not already, do listen to the Writing Excuses podcast. If I had to recommend just one podcast for aspiring writers like myself, it would be that one. I’ve learned a lot from Brandon, Dan, and Howard.
- Where that number is 81, plus five new evaluations ongoing for “new” ones (to me). Of those 81, I’m “catching up” on 10 of those (i.e., I am downloading new episodes, but listening to them from episode 1, and I’m not up to current, yet). A good many are monthly or on indefinite hiatus at the moment. Of the full 86 (counting the five in evaluation), a whopping 26 deal with writing, reading, books, fiction, language, grammar, and the like. And that doesn’t even count a few that could have gone either way, so it’s probably closer to 30.
- “Gets” sounds like it’s a privilege, and some might consider that arrogant. I don’t mean it that way, though. Anyone who reads my blogs or any of my work does so because they chose to do so. I meant it as a stern reminder to myself that no one can choose to do so unless I choose to make them available.