Tag Archives: podcasts

Winter Sunday Stats #3: Back to Work Blahs.

One of my New Year’s goals is to be more consistent with the Sunday Stats posts, so I’m getting this up even though I’ve posted already today and it’s late.  I’m going to keep it short, considering that school and a normal work schedule start tomorrow, and I think it’s going to be a busy January.

On Writing: From now on, the writing section will come first.  I’ve been working on a new short story this week (“Jamie’s Story,” until I come up with a better title), from an idea I jotted down on the long drive home from NYC over Thanksgiving weekend.  So far, the story is at 4,928 words (all new this week except the first 400).  I hope to finish it by the end of the week, and keep it to 7,000 words or less.  I haven’t done any work on Meet the Larssons or Project Hometown this week.  This week I’ll get back to MTL for sure; continuing the Project Hometown snowflake outline may wait until I’m done with “Jamie’s Story.”

On Running: Nothing much this week.  We spent a couple of days at a nearby hotel with a lovely pool where they show movies for kids on Friday and Saturday nights, so I didn’t run at all this weekend.  I had a couple of decent treadmill runs during the week, for a total of 7.21 miles.  Not good, but at least I moved a little. Back to a routine this week, too.  At least I registered for the Shamrock Shuffle.

On the iPod: More of Metatropolis, but no podcasts this week.  I’ve got a few new episodes of various podcasts on the iPod that I’m looking forward to catching up on this week, though.

That’s it for the stats.  Not a bad week, on the metrics — 4,500 words of fiction and two runs — but there’s certainly room for improvement.

Winter Sunday Stats #2: Guess I Have to Shave Tomorrow.

Sigh.  Five days off, and now back to work in the morning.  It’s been fun.  I’ll do a holiday wrap up soon, but the Unfocused family had a very nice Christmas.  Some quick stats:

On Running: Nothing today, but only because I put in 7 miles on the treadmill on Friday and 6.32 miles dodging ice and giant puddles outside on Saturday when it hit 60.  By the end of my run yesterday, the arch of my left foot was killing me, and despite Tylenol and some ice, it’s still sore.  I’m pretending it isn’t plantar fasciitis, and will try to run on the treadmill in the morning.  I’ve been slacking and it’s time to knock it off.

On the iPod: Most of the podcasters I listen to regularly seem to be on vacation for the holidays, which left me with some space on my Mini for the 9-hour audiobook Metatropolis, edited by John Scalzi.  I have listened to the stories by Jay Lake and Tobias Buckell, and I’m partway through Elizabeth Bear’s entry.  I’m enjoying it; I’ll try to post a review when I’m done.

On Writing: The usual excuses — work during the lead up to Christmas, family time during and after — abound, but I’ve gotten a little done on both of my works-in-progress since last Sunday.  I moved the needle on the revision of Meet the Larssons, if only from 107 to 110 pages revised.  Those three pages of the first draft now have eight pages of new, handwritten material sandwiched between them, though, so it’s more than it looks.  The outline of Project Hometown is up to 10,587 words.  My next step is an expanded plot synopsis, which I’ve essentially already done, so now I’m moving on to detailed character charts, although I’m not entirely sure what that means beyond figuring out the birthdays and descriptions of the main characters — I wrote up their goals, motivations, and storylines a couple of steps ago.

I’m thinking through my New Year’s goals and resolutions, and will of course post them when they’re ready, sometime around Groundhog Day.  I saw fellow Absolute Write forum denizen Jen at Scribbling has already posted her ambitious writing resolutions for 2009; maybe I’ll just copy hers, but cut everything in half.

Winter Sunday Stats #1: Brrrrrrrr.

Baby, it’s cold outside.  It was 6 below zero (Fahrenheit) at 9am when we left the house this morning for the Christmas Pageant and concert at church, 3 below when we left at 2pm, and is still 3 below now at 7:30pm.  That’s before wind chill.  We did have a salt truck come up our street last night around 11 while I was shoveling, but it has been so cold that the salt doesn’t have any effect.

Tomorrow, it’s supposed to go up to 11.  It goes to 11.

I did the world’s longest post yesterday, so I’m going to keep this short.  Here we go:

Running:  Not much lately, and none today — too much going on this morning.  Today was the Christmas Pageant at church, and Unfocused Girl gave an outstanding performance as the Archangel Gabriel (“Gabe,” to her friends, the Archangels Mike and Ralph).  It was also the annual Christmas concert, and Mrs. Unfocused was the soprano soloist; she sang Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium, and then Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, as a soloist and with the choir.  She was — as usual — mesmerizing; she’s got pipes.

Yeah, I’m bragging on my wife and daughter.  Deal – it’s my blog.

iPod: I’ve been getting an education in writing science fiction and fantasy from the Odyssey Writing Workshop podcasts.  Odyssey is a six-week residential writing program for science fiction and fantasy writers, and they’re putting a number of lectures by established authors and editors from the workshops out as podcasts.  I don’t recognize all of the speakers, but they’ve mostly been very interesting.

Writing:  Not so much.  I’ve gotten some good work on the outline of Project Hometown (almost entirely during my commute), but I’m still mired in the character synopses for the minor characters.  I haven’t gotten much done on the revisions of Meet the Larssons, because evenings have been a little jammed.  I’m still on page 107 of the original manuscript, but I’ve written several pages by hand to be inserted there, so I’ve made at least a little progress.

As a side note, Agent Kristen at Pub Rants has posted her own statistics for the last year, and they’re very impressive.  Most impressive are these two:

2
number of new clients

35,000
estimated number of queries read and responded to (and yes, that is up from last year)

Two new clients out of 35,000 queries.  She’s just one agent of course; there are 424 agents listed at the Association of Authors’ Representatives website. Still, those are intimidating odds.  Happy New Year.  Time to get back to the revisions.

Happy Hanukah, everybody!

Fall Sunday Stats #10/Revising Meet the Larssons Days 7 and 8: Sipping a Latte, Listening to the Cinnamon Bear.

I’m typing this out a bit at a time while we’re decorating the new, artificial Christmas tree.  I’ve got a pumpkin spice soy latte from the Starbucks around the corner, and we’re listening to The Cinnamon Bear, a children’s Christmas serial from the days of old time radio.  We listen to The Cinnamon Bear every year, usually one episode a day, but this year we kept forgetting to hunt down the CDs so now we’re catching up on two weeks of episodes all at once, thrilling to the adventures of Judy and Jimmy as they search through Maybeland with Paddy O’Cinnamon, the Crazy-Quilt Dragon and their friends as they try to recover the silver star for the top of their Christmas tree.  “Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the silver star,” as Judy always says. (One caveat:  I linked to a set of the CDs on Amazon, but it isn’t the same set we have, which isn’t available anymore, so I can’t vouch for the sound quality.)

Junior pointed out that in real life, it really is Christmas, because we have our silver star for the top of our tree.  What do you put on the top of yours, if you have one?

How many miles did you — oh, never mind: Yeah, I skipped the run altogether today.  Junior is sick (still?  again?  who knows?), and was a lot needier than last Sunday morning.  Also, we went to two holiday parties last night, which were great fun and left me a wee bit tuckered out.  I did get a couple of 4+ mile runs in during the week and Unfocused Girl and I went to taekwondo yesterday for the first time in three weeks, so I haven’t been a complete lump.

What’s been playing on the iPod? Among my regular podcast subscriptions, J.C. Hutchins has a cool series of video podcasts about a mysterious silver case and a sinister videogame release; Mur Lafferty released episode #106 of I Should Be Writing (“Don’t Panic!”); and Escape Pod has pushed out several episodes of flash fiction from its Flash Fiction Contest (the winner:  “Mission to Dover,” by Gideon Fostick).   Each of these podcasts is available through the link to the podcaster’s site and through iTunes.  Last week I posted about Writing Excuses, which I found from the recommendation of another blogger (unfortunately, I’ve forgotten who — it was a blog I came across during some semi-random surfing).  That same blogger also pointed me to The Kissy Bits, a podcast from 2005-2006 about writing romance.  The host, Kiki, is an aspiring chick-lit author.  I don’t know who her intended audience is for the podcast, but in the episodes I’ve listened to (#8 through the final episode, #17, which are all available on iTunes; all episodes, including #1-#7, appear to be available on her blog), she has done a nice job explaining to those of us who don’t read romance novels the different character archetypes, plot skeletons, and given solid advice on writing the “kissy bits.”  I plan to listen to the first seven episodes this week.  In one of the blog comments, Kiki says she may come back with more episodes in 2009 — I hope she does.  As always, I appreciate any recommendations (and if you make a recommendation in the comments, I won’t lose it).

How’s the writing going? Not badly at all.  The One-Pass Revision of Meet the Larssons is going slowly but well.  I’m through page 105, and I just finished what used to be Chapter 10 and is now Chapter 3.  I’m still doing at least as much rewriting as editing, but I now have several pages in my “done” pile that have just a few minor edits instead of looking like I broke open a fountain pen on top of them.

Actually, just two, but still.  Here they are:

photo-23

The outlining for Project Hometown is going well, too — up to 6,125 words as of Friday evening.  I hope to finish all of the minor character synopses this week, and then move on to the expanded plot synopsis.

As I mentioned before, the Mrs. and I went to two parties last night:  one given by neighbors, the other given by friends we know through my office.  At the party given by our neighbors, my wife ran into Mary Osborne, a woman she had met at this neighbor’s house a few months ago; they got to talking, and the Mrs. found out that Mary is also an unpublished novelist, so the Mrs. introduced us — we were on our way out, so we only had a minute to chat, but it was an interesting experience, because since I’ve started writing I haven’t met any other unpublished writers, except for the members of the one crit group meeting I attended.  Mary’s got two books finished and her website — which has the first chapter of each available for download — just went live.

What was interesting about the whole experience is that if I had been left to my own devices, there would have been no chance at all that I would have learned that Mary was a novelist.  Because I’m not very good at conversations that go past “what do you do?”  If you’ve got a day job and write fiction at night, or early in the morning, or whatever, you’ve got to be really confident in your writing (or really disenchanted with your day job) to say “I write novels” or “I write science fiction” or “I write chick-lit” in response to that question.  Maybe Mary does.  I don’t.  Someday I will, but not yet.

One more thing: Saint Lucia Day was great.  The cinnamon rolls were very tasty (and we had to change our sheets because of all the crumbs), the coffee was delicious, and Unfocused Girl was very cute in her Lucia gown and battery-powered candle-bedecked crown.  Here’s a picture to prove it:

dscn10611

Then we sat around watching the Swedish chef on Youtube.  Here’s a sample:

Bork bork bork!

Revising Meet the Larssons, Day 6: The Value of Crit Groups.

I got back to MTL tonight, but I’m so tired from going out last night and getting home late that I was only able to slog through eleven pages (87 down, 413 to go).  Of the eleven (not quite half of old chapter 10/new chapter 3), I cut four pages entirely without adding replacement text.  I’m worried that after all this cutting, I might have a very tight, well-written short story instead of a novel, but I know I have at least as much to add in the middle and end.

About six months ago, I attended my first ever writers’ critique group meeting.  I found a relatively new group through Meetup.com, signed up, and posted the chapter I slogged through on Sunday and Monday for comment at the meeting.  I had no idea what to expect, but I went into it with a fairly open mind.  I was a little concerned by the one guy who posted a forty-page memoir excerpt (we had a ten-page limit) that was all one paragraph, but based on the other samples posted his was an anomoly.

Putting aside the run-on memoir guy (who didn’t bother to read anyone else’s work in advance of the meeting), most of the other writing was pretty good, and certainly the general level of quality was about where I was or better.  The people in the group seemed perfectly nice, and respectful of each other’s feelings.  Still, I haven’t been back, and I haven’t really been able to put my finger on why.

As I’ve said before, I’m looking for new-to-me podcasts about writing and other subjects to expand my listening.  I recently saw a mention on someone else’s blog to two podcasts for writers that I hadn’t heard of before (I’m really sorry if it’s your blog — I lost track of the post and can’t find it through google — please claim credit in the comments and link to your original post).  One hasn’t put out a new episode in a couple of years; I’m listening to the back episodes now and will post about it when I’m done.

The other is Writing Excuses, in which hosts Brandon Sanderson, Howard Taylor, Dan Wells, and other semi-regulars talk to each other and other writers about different topics of interests to writers.  Each episode is only about 15 minutes long (“Because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart!”), and they aren’t limited to science fiction or fantasy topics.  Writing Excuses is in its second season, all of which is available on iTunes or on the blog at the link above (CDs of the first season are available for sale).  Occasional problems with sound quality aside, Writing Excuses is an interesting, informative, and often funny podcast.  The hosts are younger writers (well, younger than me, anyway) at different stages of their careers (some are just beginning to earn a living by their writing, while Sanderson is very well known and just took over the Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series).

In episode 5 of season 2, the Writing Excuses team discussed critique groups.  Several of the hosts talked about how important their writing groups had been to their development as authors, but one mentioned that one thing that can drive him crazy is a writing group where the participants don’t just tell you what did or didn’t work for them, but offer you suggestions on how to fix your story.

Bam!  That was exactly what was wrong with the group I tried last spring.  The leader of the group and a couple of the other attendees didn’t just want to tell me what they thought was weak, but they also had very firm ideas about how I could make it better.  And I hated their ideas.

One member of the group gave me a couple of useful notes during the meeting, then handed me a markup of my chapter at the end.  I took it home, but I was so discouraged from the meeting that I never looked at it.  The only reason I didn’t throw it away was that Mrs. Unfocused did read his comments, and said that they made sense to her.

This evening, before I got started hacking away at old chapter 10/new chapter 3, I went back and reviewed his comments on old chapter 9/new chapter 2 and compared it to my own edits from earlier this week.  As it turns out, I had come up with about half of the same edits on my own.  But the guy also noted that one two page, explanatory section read like an office memo and bored the crap out of him (he said it more nicely than that), and I had left it in the revised version of the chapter almost completely untouched.  I reread it, then reread what Holly says about this point in the One-Pass Revision Process (link is in the sidebar, under “On Writing”):  “If the scene just tells the reader about your world or its history, or lacks characters, conflict, and change, put a note in your spiral-bound notebook telling yourself which important points of worldbuilding you’re cutting, and draw a big X through the entire scene.”  So I cut it.  By itself, that one suggestion was worth the hour-plus I spent at that group meeting.  I don’t know that I’d go back — I really don’t want suggestions on how to “fix” it, but I very much appreciated the comments on what the readers did or didn’t like.

Forgive the typos — need sleep.  Just one more thing:

Saltwatch 2008-09:  Days after Dec. 1 without seeing a City of Chicago salt truck:  11.  Have you seen a salt truck?  Should we put pictures of the salt trucks on the sides of milk cartons?

Fall Sunday Stats #6: Enough About the Election. Let’s Talk About Me.

I’ve been jammed at work the last couple of weeks, and haven’t had the time or inclination to post.  Finally, Mrs. Unfocused suggested that maybe I wouldn’t be so darn grouchy if I got back to writing.  A few days ago I started working again on the short story I began in late October and my mood improved, so last night she told me it was time to post on the blog.

Yes, dear.  Nothing like being insufferable to motivate your loved ones to remind you about your hobbies.

Thank God, the election is over.  The right guy won — hell, we all won, didn’t we? — and now I can stop biting my nails and thinking about big issues and go back to being completely self-involved.  With that in mind, let’s get to the stats.  I’ll try to cover the last two weeks, since I know you’re curious.

How’s the running going? Not badly.  Today was a little slow:  10.19 miles in 1:31:55, a 9:01 pace, although that includes 2-3 minutes spent for a bathroom break at a Starbucks along the way (yeah, I know, TMI; the runners understand).  Last Sunday was better:  10.07 miles in 1:24:22, an 8:22 pace.  Both days were cold — it had just climbed above freezing when I started my run this morning, and it wasn’t much warmer last week — and I’ve been running into a headwind during the second half of these runs, which isn’t any fun.  I have good winter gear, but there are going to be plenty of days from now until spring when it’s going to be too cold or snowy or icy to run outside, which is why I’m so glad that we finally bought ourselves a treadmill.  We moved into this house six years ago, and I finally wore Mrs. Unfocused down to the point that she thinks it was her idea, so she did the work of finding a used NordicTrack Apex 8000 on Craigslist last Sunday.  I checked it out on Monday, bought it and got it moved that night (before she could change her mind), and used it for the first time on Tuesday morning.  It’s not super-fancy, but it has all the basics and a few frills, and most importantly, a 3.0 continuous horsepower motor, which keeps it moving smoothly.  So far, it’s been great.

What’s been playing on the iPod? During today’s run, I listened to:  Phedippidations #161 (Gifts for the Holiday Runner, hint hint honey); Accident Hash #278 (Blame Chance); Escapepod #183 (Beans and Marbles).  I didn’t finish the Escapepod episode — the cold weather kills the battery on my iPod even when I wear it under my jacket, and it died about 10 minutes before I finished my run.  Since my last post, I’ve also listened to:  Adventures in SciFi Publishing #66 (Elizabeth Bear and Tobias Buckell) and #67 (Tobias Buckell — I’m going to have to read something by Tobias Buckell soon, it seems like the guy is everywhere); Metatropolis (edited by John Scalzi, with stories by Scalzi, Jay Lake, Elizabeth Bear, Karl Schroeder, and — believe it or not — Tobias Buckell; I’ve only heard the Jay Lake story, which is pretty damn good, so I’m looking forward to the rest of it); I Should Be Writing #104 (Interview with Benjamin Rosenbaum); and The Takeover #7 (The Office Romance, Part 2).

I have two favors to ask in connection with the iPod; please leave any suggestions in the comments.  First, let me know what you use to listen to your iPod when you’re running or exercising — the standard issue earbuds, or something else?  I have a pair of nice noise-cancelling headphones I use for airplanes, but for running this year I’ve been using Sony MDR-A35 phones, which insert into the ear like earbuds but go over the head like headphones. They’ve been fine but they’re unusable during a Chicago winter — if I put them over my hat, I have to leave my ears exposed to the cold in order to hear anything, but if I put them under my hat, the hat pushes them into my ears hard enough to hurt.  The last two weeks I’ve been wearing the earbuds that come with the iPod, and they just don’t fit; I had to take off my gloves half a dozen times during my run this morning just to put the left piece back into my ear (the right one didn’t fall out at all).  If you wear an iPod while you run or exercise and you have a solution for this, PLEASE let me know.  Don’t force me to run with nothing but the voices in my head to keep me company.

And speaking of company, if you listen to any interesting podcasts that you want to recommend, please feel free.  I’m particularly interested in podcasts about running, writing, indie music that doesn’t sound like bad imitations of the heavy metal bands I listened to in 1985, and podcast fiction.  I don’t have vast amounts of time to listen to podcasts, but I’d like a little more variety.  If you’ve got a suggestion, please let me know.

What about the writing? Of course, the writing.  Since Fall Sunday Stats #5 two weeks ago, I put another 2,500 words into the short story I was working on (almost all of it in the last four days) and finished the first draft.  The Mrs. liked it, which soothes my ego and means it gets an immediate first pass edit.  I want it in shape to send out by the end of the month.  One of the short stories I sent out came back with a form rejection on October 30, and I’m going to send it out to another market sometime this week; I have only one story out on submission until I do, which strikes me as inadequate.  I have another short story sketched out, and I’d like to get a draft of that done by the end of the month; if it isn’t done by November 30, it will have to get back-burnered, because I’m going to start the revision of Meet the Larssons by December 1 (if not over the Thanksgiving weekend).  I’ve left MTL alone long enough; I’ve got some distance, and it’s time to get back to work on the novel.

I’ll try to be a little more regular about posting, especially since my one year anniversary is coming up on December 17.  In future posts, I’ll share my suggestion for the Obamas’ puppy, host (maybe) a contest, and (of course) kvetch about not getting enough writing or running done.