Monthly Archives: May 2008

Fly Free, TTB!

This morning I stopped at the post office (how quaint!) to submit, by snail mail, the story formerly known as “Test Tube Beneficiary” to one of the Big Three science fiction magazines. The magazine’s guidelines say they respond within about eight weeks; adding a few days on either end for the mail, I should get a response sometime around the week of July 14, which also happens to be right around my birthday.

Considering the odds against TTB getting accepted, I concede that the mailing was poorly timed.

I finished the typing in the last rounds of edits late last night (the Mrs. and I both prefer marking up hard copy), wrote the cover letter, and then fussed for 45 minutes over getting labels printed for the big envelope and the SASE. When I was finally done, Mrs. Unfocused remarked on the fact that I was wearing my Converse Chuck Taylor high-tops (not one of my original pairs from 1987, but a pair I bought last year for an 80s-themed party), which I hardly ever wear. “Great,” I said. “Now I have an official authorial superstition: whenever I’m about to finish a story or a novel, I’ll have to find my Chuck Ts and make sure I’m wearing them for the big finish.”

On reflection, though, I think that should only apply if the magazine to which I submitted TTB this morning accepts it. There’s no reason to start a superstition over a rejection.


M Is for Her Many Falls on Her Head.

Back in January, the whole Unfocused Family signed up for a family Tae Kwon Do class at the local YMCA on Saturday mornings. After a few weeks, it was clear Junior wasn’t ready for it (he had just turned four), and he and Mrs. Unfocused dropped the class.

Last weekend, after Unfocused Girl and I were working on her white belt form in the backyard, to prepare for her yellow belt test later this spring. Junior said he wanted to take the test, too, and after I explained that the test was part of the class, he said he was ready to try it again. The Mrs. and I were reasonably certain that he would forget all about it, but if he decided he wanted to try again, we’d be happy to start him back up in class.

On Friday night, Mrs. Unfocused and I went out for the first time in weeks months quite a while, to see Don Giovanni with some friends. It is possible that the Mrs. had a couple of drinks at dinner. It is also possible that she woke up with a bit of a hangover.

This made it extra special Saturday morning when Junior announced that he wanted to go back to Tae Kwon Do. I offered to take both kids and let the Mrs. stay home, but she insisted on coming along so I wouldn’t be outnumbered. Unfortunately, because we hadn’t planned on her or Junior going along, she didn’t have time for breakfast or even coffee.

It was the perfect class for them to start back up with, because instead of practicing kicks or punches, self-defense moves, or even forms, yesterday’s class was all about falling. Falling forward. Falling backward. Best of all, we worked on falling sideways, which involves throwing out your arm as you hit the ground and bouncing your head off of it.

But it worked: Junior paid attention, and participated in most of the class; he wants to go back next Saturday, which is great (especially considering his swimming lesson later in the morning consisted largely of holding onto the side of the pool and screaming “Mommy! Mommy! I want Mommy!” over and over again, but that’s another story).

So here’s to Mrs. Unfocused, and all the other mothers out there who hurl themselves head first into all sorts of things for the sake of their kids. Happy Mother’s Day!

P.S.: Just to avoid Mrs. Unfocused having to comment about this herself, I will disclose that the rumors are true: she did buy her own Mother’s Day present this year. But five years ago, I did buy her a red Kitchenaid stand mixer for Mother’s Day, and she’s still using it, so I figure I’m covered.

What Jammed Up TTB?

I started “Test Tube Beneficiary” on January 13, 2008, by creating a project for it in Scrivener and typing out the basic idea for the problem facing the protagonist, and the solution. I thought it would be fairly short, and relatively easy to write — a nice diversion from the novel when I needed a break.

I finished the first draft on March 22. It came in at 12,210 words, firmly in “novelette” territory, at least according to the categories recognized by the SFWA. After my second pass through it, it dropped to 12,100. After I made changes based on suggestions from Mrs. Unfocused and more of my own edits, it grew slightly, to 12,400 words.

That’s where things stood when I printed it out on April 29, for the final proofread. I went through it over the next couple of days, made a dozen or so picky changes, and handed it to Mrs. Unfocused.

She read through it on Saturday afternoon. When she was done, she asked me a question about the actions of one of the supporting characters. She didn’t understand the motivation of this character, because if he did what I had him do in the story, shouldn’t he also do X? Having that character do X, unfortunately, would have required me to completely change the ending, and would have defeated one of the core goals I had for the story.

The problem was that she was absolutely correct. I had taken a shortcut: to avoid going through a lot of rigamarole that wouldn’t be any fun to write and might be boring to read, I had forced one of my characters to do something completely contrary to his interests, and then refused to carry that behavior through to its logical conclusion. It had nagged at me a little when I did it, but I didn’t think too much about it, and who was going to notice, anyway?

My wife, apparently. It wasn’t until her third reading of the story, but it was obvious once she asked the question that another reader could certainly have the same question the first time through. I had to drag myself kicking and screaming to the decision, but I finally made up my mind that I had to change the character’s actions in the story in order to preserve the ending, which meant writing out the rigamarole I wanted to avoid.

Sunday night I plugged another 800 words into the middle of the story; it’s now at 13,200 words. I now need to go back through it and fix all the places where those changes ripple through, which I will try to get done this weekend.

The thing that bothers me the most is that if this is what I’m going through with TTB, the editing process for Meet the Larssons is going to really, really suck.

I Just Flew in From the Coast, and Boy Are My Arms Tired.

I flew out to cold, rainy Southern California yesterday, and got in late tonight, very glad to be back here in Chicago, where it’s sunny and warm.

Well, it’s dark and warm, because it’s the middle of the night. I was going to say that I’m so tired that I feel like a zombie, but then I took the “What Are Your Chances of Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse?” survey. The unfortunate result:


Somehow, the whole “zombie” reference doesn’t seem so damn funny anymore. Click the badge above to take the survey yourself. Thanks to Sex Scenes at Starbucks for pointing me to it.

Spring Sunday Stats.

Weather in Chicago: warm (mid- to upper 60s) and sunny, the first weekend day in God knows how long with decent weather.

Miles run: 7.85 (according to my Polar RS400), in 1:04:13. That’s my longest run in months. I’m still not running regularly enough, either to keep the screaming heebeejeebees out of my brain or to be ready for the Solider Field 10 Miler in three weeks, but I’ll get there.

What I played on my iPod Mini during the run: Seventh Son, Book One – Descent, by J.C. Hutchins, Chapter 16 and part of Chapter 17.

Words written on Meet the Larssons this weekend: As one of the characters in Seventh Son says, “Two words: Jack and shit.” A combination of distractions, nice weather, actual legal work for which I am paid, a sudden realization that I needed to add a scene to Test Tube Beneficiary before it could be called done, and suddenly the weekend is over. I’m traveling to California for business tomorrow, which means I may have time to get a couple of hours of uninterrupted writing, or quite possibly, none at all.

Short stories submitted to professional markets: Umm, none. The edit formerly known as “final” is done, on paper, and just needs to be typed in. The problem is that the new scene has almost certainly generated changes that ripple through the rest of the story, which means that I need to do one more edit. Damn, damn, damn. Damn.

Hours of fun with the kids: Around 7 today. Junior and I were on our own all morning, and then all four of us spent the late afternoon in the backyard, before dinner and getting the kids ready for bed. Unfocused Girl and I worked on the tae kwon do form for our yellow belt test, coming up at the end of this session of classes at the Y, and Mrs. Unfocused joined in, while Junior held up a pad and demanded that we all punch it. All in all, a pretty darn good day. Yesterday was pretty good, too. I love spring.

Don’t Tell Mrs. Unfocused…

She missed all the fun tonight. The Mrs. had to go to a meeting, and after the usual crying, screaming, and clutching at her ankle as she closed the door behind her, I got hold of myself, wiped off my face, and started looking for something to amuse the children. I found this, still in the original packaging, sitting on the kitchen counter.

No, I don’t know why it was sitting on the kitchen counter.

Anyway, we opened it up and had quite the party. Much laughter ensued.