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Winter Sunday Stats #9: Back to Real Life from AWP09.

DATELINE:  Sunday, February 15, 2008.  I started this post on Sunday but didn’t finish it until Monday.  I am too lazy to go back and correct all of the “yesterdays” and so on, so please read it as if I posted it on Sunday.

I spent so much of the last twee days tweeting on Twitter (tworry, it twounds twike I twave a tweech imtweadement) that sitting down to write a longish blog post seems like an impossible task.  Like writing a novel.  And like writing a novel, the only way to finish is to start (I’m feeling profound tonight).  Let’s get to the stats.

On Writing: This week, I did all the things that writers do that aren’t writing.  I talked about writing.  I listened to other people talk about writing.  I talked about talking about writing.  I even made some notes about ideas I had for my writing.  I did not, however, do any writing, except for 171 words of flash fiction for a contest held during the Association of Writers and Writing Programs 2009 Conference, which I attended.  I didn’t win the contest (I told the story of a successful bank robbery from the point of view of the robber in the form of a series of Twitter tweets; can’t imagine why I didn’t win).

AWP 2009 was a very interesting experience.  Because it isn’t just a conference for writers but also for people who teach writing, there were a lot of academics, and a lot of the panels were directed towards teachers instead of writers.  If the conference hadn’t been here in town, I might not have gone.

I’m glad I did, though.  First, I was able to hang out with a couple of friends who I haven’t seen since the early 1990s — one a successful author, and the other with her first book coming out soon.  I’ll post a link when it comes out.  I got to know some of the people in my novelists’ discussion group a little better, which was nice; they’re a fun group.  I even managed to overcome my usual shyness and reticence and talk to a few new people at one of the receptions and at the book fair.

I got into a couple of conversations with literary criticism PhDs that I frankly didn’t understand — I wouldn’t be concerned about that, but one of the conversations involved some kind of deconstruction of The Simpsons, and I still didn’t get it.  So I walked away and drank with a trio of writers who teach at a community college in Minneapolis — they were a lot more accessible.  One of them looked just like Cory Doctorow.  In any case, everyone was friendly.

The panels on writing were interesting overall.  About 2/3 of the panels were either about teaching writing or literary criticism, and another significant chunk were readings by or tributes to authors I had never heard of, which made it pretty easy to choose what to attend.  On Thursday and Friday, I went to interesting discussions about writing first novels, writing about Chicago neighborhoods, mining your experiences for fiction material, writing historical fiction.  Two of the panels I wanted to attend (publishing your first book and writing flash fiction) were so popular people were sitting in the hallway hoping to hear some precious, precious wisdom through the open doors.  In each case, I decided I wasn’t that desperate for advice and got more coffee or hunted around the exhibitor tables looking for candy (there was a lot of candy).  I was sorry I skipped the panel on “Shameless Self-Promotion” — mostly intended to discuss internet and social media strategies — if only for the Q&A period, in which (I am told) every single “questioner” got up and spouted his or her elevator pitch before asking an obviously irrelevant question.  Everyone I spoke with who attended thought this was hugely annoying, but who did they expect would attend a panel on shameless self-promotion other than shameless self-promoters?

Friday night I mooched free drinks at the University of Utah reception and went to the “Literary Rock & Roll” readings by Z.Z. Packer, Joe Meno, and Dorothy Allison.  I am embarrassed to admit that I’d never heard of any of them, because I am ridiculously under-read.  Allison, author of Bastard Out of South Carolina, was up last, clearly the headliner.  She read a short story called “Frog Fucking.”  I’m not going to describe the story — assuming I even could — except to say that I don’t know that I will ever look at baby carrots the same way again.  It isn’t about intercourse with amphibians.  She said up front that she liked the name of the event because she always wanted to be Janis Joplin, and she read like I imagine Janis would, in a throaty growl with a heavy southern twang.  I wanted to bring her a bottle of Jim Beam.  Packer and Meno were great, too.

Saturday was the best of the three.  I started off with a panel called “Truth or Consequences in Nonrealist Fiction,” which included multiple references to Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In, which has already been recommended to me, as well as an extended discussion of the writing of Samuel R. Delaney.  I bushwacked my way through The Einstein Intersection when I was 13, hated it, and have avoided his books ever since; I may give them another try.

Next up, I fought my way into an overcrowded panel on “Reading to Write:  Top Ten Ways to Read Like a Writer.”  I have no idea what this panel was about, because I stopped paying attention when one of the panelists told us to read the last page first.

After lunch and wandering the book fair, looking for free copies of literary journals, I went to “Writing in the Windy City:  Local Writers Reflect on Making It in Chicago.”  The panel included the director of StoryStudio Chicago, where I go for my novelists’ support discussion group.  It was an interesting discussion — I especially enjoyed the professor from an MFA program at an art school railing on MFA programs attached to English departments.  Toward the end, during the Q&A, there was a discussion about making room for your creative work; I’m not sure exactly what prompted the comment, but a woman near the back raised her hand, stood up, and said something like, “I was a visual artist, had an idea for a book, wrote the novel.  Four million copies sold worldwide.  Do whatever you want.”  Then she sat down.  Later, someone told me that she was Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife.  So there you go.

Next was “The Steady Gaze:  Writing Frankly about Sex and Sexuality in Fiction.”  During the Friday night readings, Joe Meno read immediately before Dorothy Allison’s “Frog Fucking.”  There was a sex scene in his story, and it went something like this:  “She took off her yellow tights, and then we did it.  Afterwards…”  My immediate reaction was that I would write a sex scene in pretty much the same way, so I went to “The Steady Gaze” to push my writerly boundaries.

Not to listen to people read pr0n for 75 minutes.

Well, mostly not.  You will be shocked to learn that the panel, held in a large ballroom, was full.  It was interesting, and stretched my boundaries a little, but I suspect that I will still write sex scenes more like Joe Meno than Dorothy Allison.

After that, where else could I go but “Then She Lit a Cigarette:  Strategies for Rethinking the Fictional Gesture”?  The point of this was that writers have characters light cigarettes when the author can’t think of anything else, and this type of stage business doesn’t advance the story or tell the reader anything interesting about the character.  The take-away:  When you describe gestures, you should make them count.  Richard Bausch was one of the panelists — his readings were terrific, I’m ordering one of his books today — but his off the cuff comments were absolutely hysterical.

That was the end of the conference for me.  I do want to mention two interesting conversations I had Friday night, that may help me rethink some of my writing.  When I was talking to the writing teachers from Minnesota, I described “Jimmies” to them.  One of the Minnesotans said it sounded like what I was writing was “slipstream,” or “the new fabulism.”  Since these categories are at the boundary of literary and genre fiction, it’s possible that I should try submitting to some of the literary journals that are interested in slipstream instead of the science fiction and fantasy outlets I’ve tried so far.

Later that night, I had dinner with that college friend with her first book coming out soon (well, I had dinner — it was 10:30, she’d eaten hours earlier and was just keeping me company).  I described Project Hometown, the novel I’ve been outlining off and on the last couple of months, and she suggested that it sounded like a young adult novel.  I thought there was too much adult material in it for it to be YA, and she said that really anything can be addressed in YA these days.  Since she’s a YA writer herself, I took that comment seriously, but also with a grain of salt, until I went to the panel on writing sex scenes and heard one of the authors on the panel read the sex scene from his successful YA novel.  So maybe it will be YA; it’s something I have to consider, at least.

On Running: I had one run on the treadmill on Tuesday, and that’s it.  Too busy getting out in the mornings during the conference, and Junior (who spent much of the week with a noxious stomach virus) stayed home from church on Sunday morning, so instead of going for a run, we made monsters out of cardboard and went to Starbucks.

On the iPod:  I don’t have an iPod anymore.  It’s broken.  *Sob* I need to get a new one.  I have, however, purchased the entire second season of Battlestar Galactica from iTunes to watch on my laptop during my treadmill runs.

That’s all I’ve got.  Feel free to follow me on Twitter, although I probably won’t be as active as I was during AWP.

Winter Sunday Stats #7: Watching the Ads, Having an Argentine Malbec.

… because I’m an effete liberal snob.  Actually, I’ve enjoyed the game a lot more in the last couple of years since we got the HDTV; I do love the Super Bowl ads, though.  I’m very curious to see how they change this year, considering our current high-speed train trip to economic armageddon. If I had to pick a team, I’d root for the Steelers.  First, all of America is Pittsburgh now, given the economy.

Second, I’m not going to cheer for any team that never plays home games in the snow.

On to the stats:

On Writing: Not much accomplished this week, due to massive amounts of work for my day (and night) job.  I got a few pages further on the revisions of Meet the Larssons, up to page 208.  “Jimmies” was rejected not once but twice — one market had it for six weeks, the second for less than 24 hours (love the markets with the fast turnaround) — and is now back out on submission again.  I try not to get too wrapped up in the short story submissions; it’s a cold cruel world out there, and editors of even small webzines receive far more manuscripts than they could ever accept, no matter how good they are.  Still, I’m particularly fond of “Jimmies,” and I think it’s the best short story I’ve written so far.  More than anything else, I feel like it deserves a home.  I suppose I could just post it here, but that will be my last resort.

I also made the mistake of typing out a 1200-word summary of a post-apocolyptic science fiction novel.  I’ve put a lot of effort into outlining Project Hometown, and expect that to be my next novel when I get further on the revisions to MTL, but this other one — I’ll call it Project Werewolf, even though it isn’t about werewolves — looks like fun.  It’s the shiny new object.  Pretty.

On Running: Today it was warm enough to run outside, which was wonderful (even though my winter running gear doesn’t fit quite as well as it did this time last year).  I took it slowly because of the ice that was still on the ground, but still managed 7.12 miles in 64 minutes (8:59 m/m) — not what I’d like to do, not even what I’ve been doing on the treadmill lately, but reasonable for my first run outside in over a month, especially considering the ice, stoplights, etc.  My mileage for last week was just over 20 miles, which is where I want it to be regularly, at least until half-marathon season.  Two of my mid-week runs were in San Diego along the harbor, which beats staring out the window on the treadmill hands down.  All in all, a pretty good running week.

On the iPod: I’m still working my way through Scott Sigler‘s Ancestor — just two episodes left.  I picked up Infected at the bookstore this week, figuring Scott’s given me enough free entertainment.  I haven’t listened to much in the way of other podcasts this week while I’m listening to the audiobook.  I have noticed that I haven’t received a new episode of Escape Pod in my iTunes feed since January 9.  Usually the editor/host, Steve Eley, puts out a new episode every week, and based on the download numbers in his last metacast, EP has the second or third largest circulation of any science fiction magazine (including print).  There’s no information on the website about a hiatus, and several of the pages are disabled, including the forums. Steve took a hiatus last fall, and gave advance notice in the feed.  Since there wasn’t any mention in the last episode and there’s nothing on the site, I assume this wasn’t planned, and I hope he’s all right.

Final Note: Just saw the commercial for the new Star Trek prequel.  My shouted “Yes!” startled the children.

Winter Sunday Stats #6: Breaking Through 200 Two Times.

As you all know, it has been a pretty eventful week.  I’m not going to spend a lot of time dwelling on it since I’ve already posted about it, but — just in case you’ve been living under a rock or something — I’ll give it a quick mention:  I posted my two-hundredth entry on this blog on Thursday.  Not too shabby, I should think.

There was that big thing in Washington, too, but that’s over and wasn’t about me.

On to the stats:

On Writing:  The writing stat for the week is 62, which is the number of pages of Meet the Larssons I have revised since last week’s post.  I have revised 204 pages so far, which is the second milestone “200” I broke through this week.  I just hope I can get through page 300 before blog post #300.

The price of burning through 62 pages of revisions is that I didn’t do anything on the outline for Project Hometown or to finish the draft of “Jamie’s Story.”  I’m going to be traveling most of this week for work (someplace warm!), but I may have a little time to write in the evenings.  If I do, I’ll probably work on “Jamie’s Story,” although I may just bring pages of MTL to mark up.

On Running: Today wasn’t bad.  It was 4 degrees (F) when I started my run at 11am (it’s up to 7 as I write this), so once again I was on the treadmill.  I ran 7.37 miles in an hour even (8:08 m/m), which is pretty good.  I got a couple of short runs in during the week, including my first hill workout in over a month.  I didn’t make 20 miles for the week, but I’m definitely getting back into running shape.

The only hitch is that my knee did something odd and painful last night.  I’m not even sure what I was doing — possibly standing up from putting in the DVD for family movie night (Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban, if you’re wondering) — but nothing memorable.  The pain lasted a little while, fading over about 15 minutes, and felt like it was possibly a pulled tendon or ligament on the inside of the leg, just below the joint.  It didn’t bother me during my run this morning, but it felt very stiff when I was done.  Stretching helped, and I’ll ice it tonight.  But the long plane ride tomorrow makes me a little nervous.

On the iPod: I liked Scott Sigler’s Earthcore so much I downloaded his next book, Ancestor, this week and started listening to it, and I’m already sucked in.  Scott’s entertained me enough already for free, so when I get back from my trip I’m going to pick up copies of Infected and Contagious at the bookstore.  I also listened to I Should Be Writing #109 (interview with Scott Sigler — these new media types are everywhere when they’ve got a new book out), Writing Excuses, Season 2, Episode 15 (Knowing When to Begin), and Phedippidations #170 (Thoughts from the Road).  I also downloaded a boatload of 80s music the other night, because I was in a discussion with the Siren about a Facebook quiz about the 1980s and realized I didn’t have “I’ll Melt With You” in iTunes.  As it turns out, the 80s music is excellent to write to, because it’s so familiar it doesn’t require any processing power.

Things are getting a little chaotic here.  We’re all in the basement right now.  Unfocused Girl is playing some kind of game on the Warriors website — it looks like a variation on original Adventure — and cackling like a madwoman.  Junior suddenly decided that his old train table — which we stood on end and moved against the wall months ago because he wasn’t playing with his Thomas trains anymore — was the most precious thing in the world, and got hysterical at the thought that we might give it away (in reality, the Siren just planned to break it down and put it in the crawl space until he was really done with it); he’s only just calmed down.  Time to wrap this up.

Winter Sunday Stats #5: Surviving the Big Freeze.

It’s 8 degrees here as I start this post at a few minutes before 9, but my Dashboard weather widget says it’s going to get to 19 today.  When it breaks 20, I’m going streaking.

In the house, of course.  While everyone else is at church.  You think I’m crazy?

Junior just woke up singing “Hosty the Ho-Man,” his own version of “Frosty the Snow Man” but starting every word with the letter H.  Now it’s “Dosty the Dough-Man,” which may be more age-appropriate.

Yesterday I took the kids to the best child’s birthday party ever, for one of the girls in Unfocused Girl’s class.  The Green Eyed Siren was still sick, running what seems to be her 453rd straight day of fever, so she stayed home to rest (and post on her new blog).  Why was it the best birthday party ever?  First, the whole family was invited, which meant that Junior didn’t have to stay home and be miserable.  Second, the party started at a production of Dr. Doolittle — the girl’s parents had bought out a section of the theater — which, given our kids’ current obsession with animals, was a guaranteed hit and even kept Junior in his seat.  Finally, after the play, we all (50+ people) adjourned to girl’s parents’ lovely Italian restaurant for a full buffet dinner, including an open bar.

Let me repeat that:  a child’s birthday party, with calamari, pumpkin ravioli, and an open bar.  There were chicken nuggets and french fries, too, so even Junior had something he was willing to eat.  Not that he did, much.

I didn’t get to make much use of the bar myself because I had to drive, although if I’d realized we were going to be there for close to three hours I’d have allowed myself a glass or two of wine early on.  The only downside to the party was the length; it was a little rough on Junior, since there was no place to run around.  All in all, though, they had a great time, and I was generally able to relax.

Because the Siren felt so crummy, we had to cancel on an old college friend and her daughter.  The last time we saw them, the daughter was an infant; now they’re here for her college interview.   Instead, we watched The Librarian:  Return to King Solomon’s Mines, from the best (and only) adventure movie series where a liberal arts geek (22 university degrees!) is the hero.  The kids loved it, because it’s an Indiana Jones knock off with less gore.  It’s the second in the series — we have the third on our DVR as well, and may watch that later in the weekend.

On Writing: I haven’t gotten much done on Meet the Larssons since I posted on Thursday night.  I’m still on page 142, but there are three handwritten pages attached to it now.  I will finish rewriting this chapter eventually, but it’s a rough one.  I’m pulling out a major turning point in the original story, and instead building up later conflicts with some foreshadowing (which is what I’m in the middle of) and a dinner date that was canceled in the first draft but is going to proceed in the rewrite.  Not having gone out for a romantic dinner with the Siren in a very long time, I’m afraid that writing that scene will tax my (already limited) creativity.

I haven’t worked on “Jamie’s Story” at all this week, because I’m trying to make more headway on Meet the Larssons.  I expect to go back to it in a week or two, once I’ve gotten through this chapter.  Same with Project Hometown — I need to get back some momentum on MTL.

I am especially glad to have joined my novelists’ support discussion group this week, because the Absolute Write forums have been down for days.  I don’t spend a lot of time on the forums, but it’s the only online forum where I have spent any time at all, and I notice the lack (as have other AW bloggers, like Amy, who found the explanation — the host is having server problems, but it appears to be taking longer than expected to fix).  I got a full week’s fix of writing conversation on Monday; unfortunately, we only meet once a month.

On Running: Definitely a better week.  I got in two mid-week runs, plus a trip to the gym to lift with a 10 minute run at the end of the workout, and a Taekwondo class with both kids.  Today, I cut my run a little short, but kept the speed respectable (by my recent standards, anyway):  5.0 miles in 40:23, an 8:05 m/m pace.  The office is closed tomorrow, so I should be able to squeeze in a run tomorrow too, if I get up at a reasonable hour.  All in all, I’m moving past my slothful November and December and I’m happy with my progress.  If I can get my weekly mileage up to 20 miles per week, I’ll be even happier.  What would really make me happy would be to run outside, but it’s just too damn cold even for the winter running gear I have.  I’ll run outside at 20 degrees, but that’s about my limit.

On the iPod: I finally finished Scott Sigler‘s podiobook Earthcore, which was excellent.  In the Q&A after the last episode, he says he’s working on a sequel; this was several years ago, so I’m going to track that down next.  During my run today, I listened to I Should Be Writing #108 (interview with Grammar Girl); Grammar Girl #148 (writing your first novel) and #149 (top five pet peeves of 2008); and Writing Excuses, Season Two, Episode 14 (Writing Habits).  I had never heard of Grammar Girl before listening to Mur’s interview, so a hat tip to Mur for pointing me in her direction.  GG has a short weekly podcast, and the couple of episodes I’ve listened to so far were fun and a lot less sleep-inducing than Ms. Haggarty’s English class sophomore year of high school.

Now we’re off to The Diner for lunch:  omelettes for the Siren and me, soup and possibly a cheeseburger for Unfocused Girl, and chicken nuggets and french fries (no lettuce, no barbecue sauce, nothing on the plate other than the nuggets and fries and especially nothing green touching the beige food, please!) for Junior.  And coffee.  Lots more coffee.

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.

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!

Fall Sunday Stats #8: Long Weekend.

Miles run driven: 1610, round trip.  After a great Thanksgiving dinner with old friends, we spent most of Thanksgiving weekend in Brooklyn, in my old neighborhood.  Park Slope was on a gentrifying, yuppifying trend when I left in 1987, and it has continued on the same path since, which means it has MUCH better restaurants than when I left.

I am proud to say that even though the yuppie sports bar (which my little group of juvenile delinquents always called “The Fern Bar” in a tone that was positively dripping with disdain) is still open and was only a block from the apartment we rented, we didn’t eat there.  I remember swearing an oath in blood with several of my friends that we would never give The Fern Bar our custom, once we were 21 and old enough to get in.  I kept my part of the bargain.

Instead, I showed the kids the house I grew up in (from the outside), the pizza place I used to go to, and various places I used to hang out.  The kids put up with my blathering on about my childhood with good grace; they were just happy to see their grandpa and try a few new things.

Much to my daughter’s chagrin, she and Junior liked New York pizza a lot — perhaps even better than Chicago pizza, which caused me to laugh maniacally in the middle of the Smiling Pizzeria.  They liked the park and the little local bookstore with the feline-in-residence.  And the place that sold Smurfs back in the day now has entire walls covered with Thomas the Tank Engine products (I did find one Smurf on a shelf of unboxed figurines for sale; I think it was Sultry Smurf, but I’m not sure.  Mainly, they liked the big park.

On the last day before we left, we went into Manhattan to meet my mother; before we went uptown to the Museum of Natural History, the Mrs. suggested we take the kids to Forbidden Planet, the science fiction/comic book store where I used to blow all my free cash.  I didn’t argue, and Junior and I had a great time; Unfocused Girl was less impressed, although she ended up with some good stuff, including a Thor graphic novel (and since Junior can’t read, all the comics that he asks for end up inuring to her benefit, too).

I think they liked seeing where I grew up, even though they didn’t like the crowds and I rambled on a bit long a few times.  Probably the thing I said that caused the most consternation was my description of stickball, which we used to play in the street, since they know that if I caught them playing anything in the street, they would be in serious trouble.

How about the writing? I have finished my edits of “Jimmies,” and expect to submit it this week.  I plan to start revisions of Meet the Larssons, but I have (surprise) to go out of town for work for several days this week and may not get much done until the weekend.  Blah.