Tag Archives: project hometown

Spring Sunday Stats #9: Five Weeks To Go.

I realize it’s been a couple of weeks since I posted, but I’m insanely busy at work, the last days of school have lept us hopping, and I’m staring at 40 like a deer in the frakking headlights.  In five weeks, I turn 40, and I’m trying to figure out whether I qualify for Social Security yet.

Meanwhile, did I mention that my dad is finally retiring at the end of the month?  He’s 72, and has worked 6 days a week since roughly the Kennedy administration.  You can bet I don’t complain about my hours too much when I’m talking to him.

I’m going to have to keep this short — the kids just got back from playing with the neighbors (from what I can tell, the younger boy from across the street hit Junior in the ass with a whiffle bat, which pissed him off, so he and Unfocused Girl took their sidewalk chalk and came home).  Next up, stats and the usual whining.

On Writing: Project Hometown now stands at 8,640 words, which means I’ve written 4,218 words in it since my last post.  I also submitted the revised and greatly reduced “Jimmies” (now down to around 3400 words from 5200) to a semi-pro online market.  The editor is posting some of her comments on slush submissions on Twitter, which is simultaneously fascinating and unnerving.

I have to admit that the outline I did for Project Hometown over the winter has been an enormous help, and is largely responsible for me being able to make any progress at all.  I want to recommend the Snowflake Method again to anyone who is interested in putting together a detailed story outline and character information before starting a new project.  After writing Meet the Larssons with nothing more than a few pages of notes I threw together just before I started and having so much trouble with the first draft and then the revisions, I’m very happy with the results from outlining first.  The extra work up front is really paying off for me now.

On Running: Pretty good day today.  The weather was ugly – gray, cool, drizzly – but not actually that bad for a long run.  I did 10 miles in 1:27:08, which is better than I’ve done through most of the spring, although not as good as last week.  I had two mid-week runs (one intervals, one not) on the treadmill at the gym over lunch, for a total of 18.86 miles for the week.  Not perfect — I’m shooting for 20+ per week — but considering what the last few weeks have been like, perfectly acceptable.

Last week my Sunday time for 10 miles was even better:  1:24:06, on a beautiful, sunny day, warm but not too warm.  I’m working on improving my stretching and easing back on the painkillers, which seems to be working.  The ITB pain in my hips that was bothering me all through March, April, and most of May hasn’t come back except for the occasional twinge, which is good.  My hamstrings are still incredibly tight, but I’m working on them.

Junior’s looking for me, so it’s time to go.

Spring Sunday Stats #8: Staring Over the Edge at 40.

It’s Memorial Day, in memory of the soldiers, sailors, marines, and others who have died for our country, including the 4300 Americans who have died in Iraq.

My father came in from NYC on Thursday and stayed until lunchtime today, his longest visit since I moved to Chicago for college in 1987.  We had a great time; the highlight of the weekend was the long afternoon at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  He’s retiring at the end of June, and I hope that this is just the first of many longer trips.

I had a very frustrating week (starting with the Sunday/Monday Frequest Flyer Fail), but seriously, what else is new?  The work piled on, and I seemed utterly unable to get anything actually accomplished, just felt like I was on a treadmill from hell.  Thankfully, it was a short week.  I worked at home on Friday, and managed to get a few open loops closed out before the weekend.  This post is late enough, so let’s go straight to the stats.

On Writing: Between work and my father’s visit, I wrote next to nothing, just 150 words in Project Hometown on the train home from work on Thursday.  I did write my piece of a viral story yesterday, maybe 200 words, which was fun.  I’m not sure if today counts as part of the past week, but since it’s a holiday, I’ll claim it; I wrote 362 words in Project Hometown this afternoon.  The total is now 4,422 words.  I think that’s far enough along to post a meter.

I’ve been sitting on “Jimmies,” and need to get it out.  I also had an idea for a new short story last week — a time travel story I like much better than the last time travel idea I had — and may take a shot at that sometime soon as well.

On Running: 20.5 miles for the week, best in months.  I dealt with my frustration by running early Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings, even though I was exhausted.  Not long runs, just 3.75 miles each, but that got me 11.25 miles during the week, plus 9.25 miles on Sunday at a respectable 1:19:32, or 8:35 min/mile.  A great long run, much better than the last few weeks.

This weekend, I registered for the Men’s Health Urbanathlon in Chicago this October, a 10.5 mile race with a handful of obstacles thrown in to make it interesting (climbing over a wall, running up and down the stairs at Soldier Field, scrambling over parked taxis, etc.).  This is the third year the race has been held in Chicago; I’ve registered each time, but both of the last two years have had to blow it off for work.

This year I was confronted with something new:  For the first time, when confronted with the question “Age on race day” I had to answer “40.”  In seven weeks, I’ll be in a whole new age group.    So long, 35-39!  Luckily, Mike is doing the Urbanathlon too, so if I collapse on the course someone will notice and call the Siren.

I also signed up for the World Wide Half Marathon, part of the World Wide Festival of Races, also in October.  This is a virtual race series — everyone runs on the same weekend, but separately – which started with the Half Marathon in 2006 as an idea spread through the Phedippidations podcast.  It’s a lot of fun.

What I haven’t done yet is register for one of the nearby half marathons in June. Gotta get off my ass and deal with that.

That’s enough of this. I’m going to watch Lego Cake or Death again.  We’ve watched it about 10 times this weekend with the kids.

Spring Sunday Stats #7: Frequent Flyer FAIL.

As I write this, it’s 6:10am Monday morning and I’m in Dallas, Texas, at the airport Marriott, getting ready to fly to Jackson, Mississippi for a deposition. I’m waiting for the 6:30 airport shuttle, because I dragged too slowly this morning and missed the 6am.

Instead of a suit, I’m wearing weekend clothes: running shoes, shorts, t-shirt, and a sweatshirt. Not because of some agreement with opposing counsel to keep this dep casual, but because I had to check my luggage for the first time in years (other than checking at the gate). I had 3 bags last night: my briefcase, my roller bag, and a file box of documents, exhibits for the dep. I had to check either the box or the suitcase; since the box is awkward, I thought I’d probably check the box. Once I got to the airport, though, I decided I’d go ahead and check both.

What I didn’t realize is that the airline would check the bags through to Jackson. When I landed in Dallas, I went to the baggage claim, waited, and when neither my suitcase nor my box came off the belt, had a little chat with the lost luggage guy. He informed me that my bags had arrived in Dallas, and were sitting on the luggage ramp, waiting to be loaded onto the plane to Jackson in the morning. Unfortunately, only the ticket agents possess the ancient magical power to contact the baggage handlers and cause them to retrieve my luggage, and they had all left for the evening to attend a coven meeting or whatever. The lost luggage guy, it seems, was there only to assist with lost luggage: inaccessible luggage of reasonably certain location was outside his balliwick.

I spoke to his supervisor on the phone (the one that can’t connect with the baggage handlers), who told me the same thing. As I hung up and walked away, Lost Luggage Guy said, “Have a good evening!” and I jumped over the counter and punched him in the face.

All right, I didn’t punch him in the face. I did suggest that having a good evening was probably not on the agenda.

I’m going to finish this on my iPhone on the airport shuttle, so please forgive the typos.

I was traveling much of last week (shout out to Peoria!) for work, and had a busy weekend before flying out last night, and it shows in my stats.

On writing: only about 650 words in Project Hometown, including the 500 or so I wrote on the plane last night. I’m on scene 3, and may finish it on the way home tonight. This week, I plan to send “Jimmies” off again, in its drastically reduced form (now 40% off!).

Update: I’m at the airport, back on my laptop. My attempt to regain custody of my luggage has failed, because the airline has it set to go on an earlier flight.  What happened to the post-9/11 idea of not allowing luggage onto a plane without the passenger?  I got myself onto the early flight, too, so at least I’ll have more time in Jackson to deal with any further SNAFUs.

On running: I was too tired while I was in Peoria to run; those were long days.  I had one short run on Tuesday morning, then did 10 miles on Sunday morning in 1:32:30, a leisurely 9:15 min/mile pace.  I need to register for a half marathon to motivate myself.  Also, I think I need new running shoes; my Saucony Grid Stabil 5s — best running shoes ever — were discontinued a couple of years ago, and I pulled the shrink wrap off my last pair more than 6 months ago.  I tried a pair of the Stabil 6s and hated them — they felt awful, stiff and yet too thin — but now those have been replaced as well, hopefully by something better.

That’s all I’ve got for now.  I’ll update tonight with the final report on my luggage, and whether I take this deposition wearing shorts.

That Was Weird.

My novelists’ support discussion group met tonight, and for the first time I didn’t want to talk about how the novel is going.  As I casually mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’ve put Meet the Larssons aside for a while, to gain some additional distance and to work on Project Hometown (which needs a better working title, I know).  Tonight, I really felt how big a decision that was, and started to regret it.

I took a two month break from MTL when I finished the first draft last October, but that was in triumph, and I was giddy with the flush of accomplishment.  This time, I’ve been screwing around with the revisions for close to six months and have nothing to show for it except 350 pages of manuscript covered with blue scrawl (bad) and 150 pages that haven’t been touched yet (worse) plus notes for scenes that haven’t been written yet (worst).  This break isn’t a well-deserved rest, it feels like an admission of defeat.

Revision is hard work, and requires more organization and consistency of effort than writing the first draft.  For the last several months, I haven’t been able to commit to that much self-discipline because things have picked up so much at the office; I’ve been traveling a lot, blah blah blah.  I can make all of the excuses for myself that I want, but they’re all bullshit.

What it really comes down to is that as I reworked the book, I lost the voice of Jake, the main character.  I couldn’t get inside his head any more, and with a book told entirely in the first person, being stuck on the outside is problematic.  He became flat, and passive, and finally I just wanted to stop.  I still expect to come back to Jake and Meet the Larssons in a few months.  Maybe in August when we’re on vacation, and I’ll have a little more time; maybe when I finish the first draft of — or get stuck in the middle of — Project Hometown.  Whatever.  Oh no, poor writer-man, lost his character’s voice! Author FAIL.

I outlined Project Hometown pretty thoroughly over the winter, about 40 pages worth of synopses, character backstory, plot notes, etc.  I’m hoping to move this draft along more quickly, and maintain a better story arc than I did with MTL.  The main characters are all a little angsty, but I’m hoping the process of writing it will be less angst-ridden than MTL was.

Angsty Writer Poetry

Little Unfocused Me

Lost his MC

and didn’t know where to find him…

Spring Sunday Stats #6: Feeling Flabby.

I’m back with the first Sunday Stats post in a while.  Before we get to the main part of the post, which is all about me (like so many things), let me take this opportunity to wish the Siren and my mother, Unfocused Ma, a very happy Mother’s Day.

The Siren, the kids, and I just got back from a nice Mother’s Day brunch with the Siren’s mother and brother.  I actually made an appearance at their church this morning, because the kids’ choir had a performance.  Junior has pretty emphatically gotten over the stage fright he suffered from in his younger days, and, like Unfocused Girl, gives signs of having inherited at least some of the Siren’s musical talent.

On to the stats:

On Writing: I made the decision a couple of weeks ago to put Meet the Larssons on the back burner for a while.  I’m not trunking it, but I need some distance from it.  I was getting bogged down in the rewrite, and I was starting to bore myself.

Instead, I started writing Project Hometown, the novel I outlined over the winter.  I’m 3,192 words into it; not great for a couple of weeks worth of work, but not terrible.  The real problem is that I fell out of the habit of writing every day, and my authorial muscles have atrophied.  As I said in my previous post, I have become an undisciplined wretch.  I’m slowly starting to get back into the groove, and since I did so much work on the front end I’m optimistic that as I get back into the habit of writing, the story itself should come more easily than MTL did.

On Running: 10 miles this morning, in 1:33:16.  Like last week, today’s run was slow and painful.  My legs have felt terrible for the last couple of weeks:  my hamstrings are tight, the tendons alongside my hips are sore, I occasionally have bizarre pains in my knees just from crossing my legs.  I’m not entirely sure what the problem is, since I kept up my running pretty well through the winter and crummy first half of spring thanks to the treadmill, but I have some ideas based what’s changed in my exercise habits over the past year.  I think the primary issue is that I’m lifting weights much less frequently, and doing fewer exercises when I do; in particular, I almost never do any real strength training for my legs. Running works some of the muscles, but ignores others, leading to significant muscle imbalances; if I did more strength training for my legs, they’d probably hurt less.

I’m also, for a variety of reasons, more pressed for time than I was a year ago, and find myself skipping the post-run stretching as often as not.  Today, for example, I had to rush to get showered and dressed as soon as I finished my run in order to get to the church in time for the kids’ concert.  I didn’t stretch at all, and by the time I got out of the car in the church parking lot, I was so stiff I had to limp all the way in.  The stiffness worked itself out, but that kind of negligence is going to cost me, and probably already has.

Time, time, time.  That’s what it always comes down to.  As it is, I’ve stripped away as many distractions as I can.  I read less than I used to, and I watch almost no television.  I suppose I could drop Facebook and Twitter, but keeping up social contacts, even over the interwebs, feels like it’s worth doing.  I want to spend more time with my family, not less; I still need to work for a living, and I don’t get enough sleep as it is.

I don’t think there’s really an answer here, just a constant rebalancing of competing priorities.  I can live with that if I keep reminding myself that it’s a long race, and if I can keep from hitting the wall or blowing out a knee, I’ll get to the finish line eventually.  Not a particularly deep thought — I have a t-shirt that says “Life is a marathon, not a sprint” which sums it up nicely — but then, I’m not a particularly deep person, so a personal philosophy that fits on a t-shirt is probably about right for me.

Winter Sunday Stats #10: Things Are Looking Up.

As I often do, I’m starting this Sunday Stats post on Sunday morning, and I’ll fill it in during the day as I get things done (or not done).  What’s unusual is that I’m starting this in bed at 7am, because I woke up at 6:30, still full from the night before.

Attentive readers may remember from post #200 a month ago that the Green-Eyed Siren and I have not been out to dinner, just the two of us, in a long time.  Thanks in no small part to your many suggestions in the comments, we went out last night and had a terrific time.  We found a French restaurant we’d never been to in a neighborhood where we used to hang out (back in the last millennium).  There was a wait for a table, but they took my cell number and we walked over to a nearby bookstore/wine bar and spent a happy hour talking, drinking, and picking out books.  Funny but true: without knowing it until we got there, we walked into the store intending to look for the same book, Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair.  The Siren had seen an extended review of it on Necromancy Never Pays, and I had heard about it during the last meeting of the novelists’ support discussion group.  By itself the hour at the bookstore would have been the best night out we’d had in a while, but we were very glad to go to dinner.  The food was great, the company and conversation was better.  And it was nice to see that all of the restaurants in the area were crowded — maybe the economy isn’t in total collapse yet.

We figured out that the last time we could remember going out to dinner alone was the night before Mother’s Day, 2006.  It’s possible that there was one time after that, but we couldn’t place it.  Certainly not in 2008 (let alone 2009).

So we’ve promised each to do it again much sooner, but the deal is that first we have to read the books we bought last night.  I suspect we’ll be doing a lot of fast reading in the next couple of weeks.

Thanks again to those of you who suggested “research” for the dinner date scene in Meet the Larssons.  I still think having the date canceled was the right thing for the story, but at least I could write it now if I needed to.  It would be better, however, to have more data.  One night out is a pretty small sample…

On Writing:  Putting aside mouthing off to the Siren about Project Hometown last night at dinner to keep her laughing (although I didn’t think the mugging scene was that funny, may need to rethink it), I didn’t get much done this week.  It may have been a short week, but it was a busy one at The Firm.  I finished a chapter in the manuscript slog through Meet the Larssons, and I’ve outlined the first six scenes of Project Hometown.  As Randy Ingermanson describes it in Step 8 of the Snowflake Method, the scene by scene outline is best done in a spreadsheet, which is how I’m doing it.  Randy recommends just two columns:  one to identify the point-of-view character, and one to describe the action.  I have columns for POV character, the characters involved in the scene, the location, the time, a description of the action, and finally, any interesting character development or reveals.  Of the six scenes I’ve outlined so far, two are not described at all in the five page outline I drafted at the beginning of January.  That will happen more as I get deeper into the outline, but it was a fun surprise to see things I hadn’t thought about before come out so early on.  I haven’t gotten any work on either novel done today (just this nearly 1200 word blog post, which should probably tell me something), but I may be able to work on one or the other this evening, if I can stay awake.

On Running:  A not-very-long long run today, just a little over five miles in 42 minutes (8:18m/m pace) on the treadmill at home, due to a late start.  In 5 weeks, I need to knock nearly 7 minutes off that distance for the Shamrock Shuffle (time last year around 35:50).  I think I can do that, but I’ll have to start speed work this week.  I haven’t been able to get to the gym at all — I really need to get a little weightlifting in every week if I’m going to keep my weight down — but I managed a couple of good weekday runs despite not nearly enough sleep, both on the treadmill.  We did make it to Taekwondo yesterday, and Unfocused Girl broke a board with an elbow strike on her first try.  Junior wasn’t able to break his, but he’s still little and hasn’t been practicing that long.  He’s motivated now, though.

On the iPod:  For the treadmill runs, I’ve been watching Battlestar Galactica (Season 2 – I’m way behind, so please don’t post any spoilers!) on my laptop.  The Siren bought something called a SurfShelf, which fits over the treadmill control panel and lets you secure your laptop with a good view of the screen and easy access to the keyboard.  Obviously I’m not going to type while I run, but it’s great for watching videos (and occasionally reading blog comments) as the miles go by.

In other news, I twisted my own arm hard enough that I finally cracked and bought an iPhone.  Yes, I love it.  I will probably by a Shuffle for running, but the phone has allowed me to start listening to podcasts again while I walk to and from the train, or while I’m driving.  This week, I started to catch up, and listened to:  I Should Be Writing, Special Episode #42 (James Patrick Kelly interviews Kim Stanley Robinson) — I didn’t finish this episode, because I was listening in the car and the sound quality wasn’t quite strong enough to overcome the engine noise (Kelly’s questions were fine, but I kept missing Robinson’s answers) so I’ll have to finish it today; Grammar Girl #156 (What Is the Plural of Scissors?) and #157 (When to Use a Comma with “Too”); Writing Excuses, Season 2, Episode 18 (World Building Governments) and Episode 19 (Do Creative Writing Classes Help?); and various episodes of NPR’s Planet Money.  Auria Cortes from the blog Murder She Wrote recommended the Writers on Writing podcast.  Intending to give it a try, I looked on iTunes, found a podcast called “Writers on Writing,” and downloaded a couple of episodes (interviews of Amy Tan and William Gibson).  I’ll let you know how I like them, but the iTunes feed for this XM Radio-produced podcast only goes up to Oct. 30, 2008.  AC’s recommendation didn’t sound like she was talking about a discontinued podcast, so I checked the interwebs and found another podcast called “Writers on Writing,” which looks like it comes out three times a week and has for a while.  On iTunes, though, it’s called “Pen on Fire,” probably because of the other podcast.  So there you have it, two writerific podcasts for the price of one.  I’ll listen to them both and let you know what I think.

Winter Sunday Stats #4: Running Out of Excuses.

It may have been a quiet week in Lake Woebegon, but there’s been nothing but utter chaos here at Stately Unfocused Manor, to mix my pop culture references.  School started!  Work kicked back into gear!  Snow!  Sleep deprivation!  People pissing me off!

And yet, I managed to make a little progress on the things that keep me sane.  It’s time to stop kvetching every week about how busy I am, how I need to do paying work, spend time with the children, and make occasional eye contact with the Green Eyed Siren (f/k/a Mrs. Unfocused) so she doesn’t mistakenly call the morgue to have me carted away, and get back to regular writing and running again; otherwise, I may as well plant my ass on the sofa, open up the chips and start watching television again.  Anything good on?  Are reality shows still big?

On Writing: I bled all over revised another 15 pages of Meet the Larssons (through page 125/500), and hand wrote another seven pages to be inserted.  All that, and I’m still working on what used to be Chapter 11, because apparently it was way to damn long.  I’m still using Holly Lisle’s One-Step Revision Process, and it is going much more slowly than I would have liked.  I suspect that I should have tried to restructure the novel first, then started the rewrite.  I’m not that fond of writing by hand, either.  On the other hand, as painful as it is, the process seems to be working, albeit much more slowly than I expected.

I also wrote another 1,166 words (for a total word count of 6,094) in “Jamie’s Story,” which has gotten away from me a little bit.  I’m determined to keep it under 7,000 words — the story only needs that long to be told — but I’m certain to run over before I get the draft done.  It will need a fair amount of editing — the narrative voice is inconsistent, for one thing — so there should be an opportunity to do some cutting.

I haven’t done anything further in Project Hometown, because the spreadsheet of all the scenes needed to tell the story, which is going to require a little more thought than I’ve been able to put into it.  I plan to pick it back up when I’m done with the draft of “Jamie’s Story.”

Anyway, I’m done with the excuses.  MTL needs to get finished.  My January 31 target is out the window, so now I’m just going to gut it out as best I can.  If I need another made up deadline I’ll deal with that later.  But I need to finish the manuscript slog so I can get to the typing in (essentially the second pass of the one-pass method), and finish it.

On Running: For a number of reasons, mostly related to my inability to go to sleep at a reasonable hour (and one 7am conference call), I didn’t manage to crawl out of bed early enough to get a run in until Friday, and even then I only managed a little over 20 minutes before I had to get off the treadmill, get dressed, and shovel snow.  So yes, my excuses are (1) iggle wazums me was tired, and (2) it snowed in Chicago in January. I did run for an hour this morning on the treadmill, 7.21 miles (an average 8:19 pace, which isn’t bad considering the lack of training).

In other exercise-related news (which is what you get when I don’t have enough to say about running) Family Taekwondo started back up on Saturday, and Unfocused Girl and I (with much trepedation) took Junior along.  Over the last year, we have tried getting Junior interested in TKD half a dozen times, and each time, he would just sit on the side and mope until class was over, or actively interfere with the Green Eyed Siren’s attempts to join the class.  Finally, we just decided to give up until he turned five.  Now he’s five, and on Saturday he did a great job.  He was tired by the end, but he worked hard, paid attention, and behaved well.  We were all very proud of him.  I hope his new attitude lasts; he could use the lessons in discipline, coordination, and becoming a badass.

On the iPod: I got back to some of the usual podcasts on my ancient iPod Mini: recent episodes of Planet Money; I Should Be Writing #107 (“Goals”); Adventures in Science Fiction Publishing #71 (Bear McCreary);   Escape Pod #184 (“As Dry Leaves That Before the Wild Hurricane Fly,” a fantastic steampunk Santa story by Mur Lafferty); Escape Pod #185 (“Union Dues — All About the Sponsors,” another solid entry in the Union Dues superhero series — like all of them, it’s very dark); and Escape Pod Flash (“Standards”).

Then I stopped listening to anything else, because I finally downloaded Scott Sigler‘s first podcast novel, Earthcore, and fired it up on the Mini.  I’m not sure why I never listened to any of Scott’s novels before.  The first time I heard any of Sigler’s fiction was the piece he did for J.C. Hutchins’s Seventh Son:  Obsidian series, “Eusocial Networking,” which was gripping, scary, and left just enough to the imagination.  So far (I’m on Chapter 17) Earthcore is engrossing, and I haven’t been able to listen to anything else.  If it were a book, I would have finished it already.

That’s it for this week’s update.  Time to quit whining, drop the excuses, and get my sorry keister back to work.