Tag Archives: Work

The Week Before Vacation.

As usual, the couple of weeks before our family beach vacation are a complete nightmare at work.  This year, it’s complicated by a couple of looming deadlines that are actually in the middle of the two-week trip.  There was nothing I could do about them, so I’m stuck with a fair amount of work during the first week at the beach.  If I used emoticons, I would be typing a lot of colon-shift-9s.

One of the deadlines is a writing gig:  the first draft of my chapter for a legal treatise is coming due.  I’ve done a fair amount, but still have a lot to grind through.  I think I’ll be glad I did it once it’s done, but right now I’m kicking myself for agreeing to it.

As a result, the novel is stalled for another few weeks.  Project Hometown is at 14,479 words but I’m not likely to make any progress until the chapter is done.

Let me recommend a writer’s blog that is actually updated regularly, and provides valuable advice:  Jeremiah Tolbert, a science fiction writer and the managing editor of one of my favorite podcasts, Escape Pod. His latest post describes his insane-jealousy-inspiring week at Launchpad, the conference put on by NASA for science fiction writers to help them get the actual science right.

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.

Friday. Finally.

This has been an exhausting week, and I will be delighted to put a bullet in it, roll the body into a shallow grave, kick some dirt and leaves onto it and leave it behind in the woods. But first I’ll spit on it.

Perhaps I exaggerate, just a bit.  After all, nothing bad happened. I got a boatload of work done, I continue to be not laid off, my paychecks continue to clear, everyone close to me is healthy.

And yet, so much of the last five days I’ve felt like I’ve had a finger stuck in an electrical outlet, with the current constantly running through my system, jangling my nerves and toasting my noggin. I think by the end of today, though, I’m going to be able to pull my finger out of that socket, at least for a little while, and breathe.

I think it turned around a little last night. I had to leave work early for the conference with Junior’s teacher (which went extremely well; my goofball boy has really started to bloom, academically speaking, in the last three months, like a switch flipped on), and then we all went out for dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant we’d never tried before. Everyone got something special:  Unfocused Girl and I had the osso bucco, the Siren had some kind of fancy pasta dish (I was too intent on the lamb to notice what, but it was tossed at the table in a big bowl of parmesan), and Junior had (as usual) pizza, but it was a special handmade pizza. Then we went home, put the kids to bed, and I spent an hour finishing a project I’ve spent the last two weeks on and finally getting it to the client.  I’ve got a lot to do today, but I think I’m going to get most of it done, with a minimum of pain (HAH!), and get out of the office at a reasonable time (double HAH!), maybe. I see a glass of wine in my future. Maybe a bottle.

No actual writing so far. A little outlining, and re-reading parts of Meet the Larssons to determine which scenes are salvageable, and which just need to go. No writing this week (or last, or the one before that), but I’m starting to see how to get back into the rewrite.

If I can pull together 15 minutes over the weekend, though, I may try banging out the start to a short story on Write or Die, just to keep those muscles from atrophying completely.  Hat tip to Amy for the link, and to Dr. Wicked for the creation.

Writing and Getting Paid For It.

I’ve gotten very little done on any of my personal projects in recent weeks.  Really, since the AWP Conference in February, I don’t think I’ve gotten any further in the Manuscript Slog through Meet the Larssons.  I did outline more in Project Hometown — I now have a spreadsheet with the first 25 scenes laid out, which covers all of Act One, for those of you who believe in the three act novel structure — but haven’t touched it in a couple of weeks.

The primary reason for all this is that I’m working my ass off at the day job, which, as I’ve said before, is often a night and weekend job, too.  Ordinarily when I’m this busy, it’s because of one big project; this time, it’s because a number of projects have heated up at once.  I’m doing fine, but it has required a little more proactive time-management than I’ve needed the last couple of months.

So I’m doing plenty of writing.  I knocked out six pages of scintillating prose in less than two hours this morning, and I am 100% certain that my payment will be made by direct deposit on schedule.  I also talked through edits on a 40-page piece with a co-author, and made significant headway on the first draft of a more substantial work.  On the downside, it was all non-fiction (yes, I’m sure), and all of it is client work.  All of it will be paid for, it will all have my name on it (albeit at the end instead of the beginning), and at least some of it has the potential to end up with a slightly larger audience than the typical readership of this blog, so I don’t mean to complain.  I’m just offering it as an excuse, even though I suspect I’m the only one who thinks I need one. In any case, if I haven’t been commenting on your blog lately or you’ve been wondering where I’ve been or why my page and word-count meters in the sidebar haven’t budged in weeks, that’s why.

I’ve got a meeting of my novelists’ support discussion group on Sunday.  They already think I’m the least serious writer in the room (there’s a reason for that; but since I’m the only male in the group, I think they keep me around just to add a different perspective).  I hope I can spend enough time this weekend reviewing what I have done so that I sound like I at least have a WIP when we meet.

What else since the last time?  I think the only other writing-related news is that “Jimmies” got rejected again.  This time, though, the rejection was personal, with significant, easy-to-understand comments about the story and why the editor didn’t buy it (including that the editor thought it read like a YA story, which the ezine doesn’t publish).  Once I get through this patch at work, I’m going to reread the story with the rejection letter in mind.  I’ll try to edit with the comments in mind, and then I’m going to look for a YA short story market.  It’s worth a shot.

There’s still time to send me cookies (homemade chocolate chip or oatmeal scotchies are the best) or single malt scotch (I’m partial to The Macallan 12 y.o.) before I give out my allotted eight Proximidade Awards, although you should remember that the award is for those who do not seek self-aggrandizement, so be tactful.

Surviving the Asteroid Strike.

An enormous asteroid struck my firm today, in the form of a mass layoff.  A little over 5% of lawyers in the U.S. offices, and the same proportion in Chicago.  There were staff layoffs, too; not sure how many staff — call it 20 in Chicago who were given their walking papers.  All departments were affected.  The announcement emphasized that it was purely an economic decision; in better times, we’d have kept these people.

I survived, and still have a job to go back to in the morning, but I admit to being pretty shaken up.  I found out about the impending layoffs last night, and was reasonably confident that I wouldn’t be included, but not totally confident.  I kept waiting for the knock on the door, or the phone call from our department head, or an email, telling me to pack my stuff and go.

I exported my contacts to a file and emailed them to my personal email account, but there wasn’t all that much else for me to do.  I spent most of the day in my office with the door closed, because every time I went out in the hall the people I saw had the same weird expression on their faces that I was sure was on mine.

My secretary was fired.  I think I know why she was on the list, and it pisses me off since the only person affected by this issue was me, and I didn’t care, but nobody asked my opinion.  She was good at her job, and I hope she finds another one soon.

The survivors are shell-shocked.  This happens less often in large law firms than other businesses — I’ve been in practice for 14 years, and have never experienced a mass layoff; even during the 2000-2002 tech wreck, my old firm fired people one by one over time, and only in particular practice areas.  But there has been a steady drumbeat of layoff stories on the biglaw blogs for a couple of months now; The Firm held out as long as it could, but you can’t fight this economy.

After an asteroid strike, the dust and debris kicked up by the impact obscures the sky, sometimes for months, blocking the sun and creating an artificial winter.  Maybe that’s why this winter has been so brutal, from all of the asteroids falling to earth.

My Wife Isn’t Speaking to Me, Except to Mock. Sweet, Sweet Mockery.

We just had an enjoyable night shouting at the weird smiley cranky man on TV.  I was sorry to hear about those damn community organizers and how they’re destroying the fabric of democracy, but maybe it isn’t as bad as all that — apparently the cranky man loved the community organizers before he abhored them (Thanks, Boing Boing!).

I’m traveling on Election Night, and Mrs. Unfocused is … displeased with me.  We have spent four presidential election nights together; this would have been the fifth, and the first where we were really enthusiastic about the candidate that might actually win.  She is very, very displeased with me.

So she’s told me to tell you that you’re all invited over to watch the returns on November 4, while I’m out of town.  We have a few nice bottles of wine we’ve been saving for special occasions; she’s going to break them out, win or lose (it’s possible we opened one of these evening already, and may even have almost finished it).  Also, she’s an excellent cook, so you can look forward to lovely hors d’oeuvres — probably all of my favorites, including the bacon-wrapped dates.  Damn, those are good.  Enjoy.  I’ll probably call in a couple of times during the evening, but she won’t stay on the phone long with guests in the house.

And Boy, Are My Arms Tired.

I got back late last night from an overnight trip to California (business, not pleasure), and I’m completely wiped.  I didn’t have a chance to get any work done on MTL while I was gone, but I will say that it’s amazing how much work one can get on a four hour plane ride.  Both ways, I had my laptop open the entire time (except for those pesky takeoffs and landings), and burned through a lot of email and to-dos for work. The lack of distractions is wonderful.

When American Airlines finally gets its act together to set up Internet and cell phone access in-flight, I will never get caught up when I fall behind, and a little part of me will die.

Back to the Larssons.

June, quite simply, kicked my ass. Between May 28 and July 3, I spent 16 days on the road, and generally worked my keister off the rest of the time. It annoyed the kids, (Unfocused Girl, in particular), messed up my running schedule, cut my week at the beach into a weekend, and dumped extra work on the already-overburdened Mrs. Unfocused.

It also, unsurprisingly, took whatever discipline I had about my writing and put a bullet through its kneecap. How bad did it get, you ask? I scrolled back through the archives to find the post announcing I had hit 75,000 words. Here it is: Spring Sunday Stats #2, my post from May 18. That day, I added 2,200 words to my word count, and finished at 75,945.

Where am I now? This evening I wrote just over 1,000 words, and finished at 80,718. In the last eight weeks, I have managed to write a little less than 4,800 words. Before 6pm this evening, that number would have been 3,800, mostly consisting of two or three hundred word bursts typed on the train during my commute.

The travel did most of the damage. I’ve had very little downtime on these trips — there’s been a lot of sitting around in conference rooms, but very little time when I’ve been off the clock — and even on the plane traveling to and from my meetings, I’ve either been working or catching up on my sleep.

Even when I’ve been home, though, I’ve had a lot of trouble getting back into Meet the Larssons. I think writing on the train, which I’ve been doing for months, has been part of the problem. Instead of using the train time to supplement my writing at home in the evenings and on the weekends, it became my primary writing time. The problem is that my commute is too short to give me time to think about what I’m writing, or to get my head back into the characters and storyline. Without the longer blocks of time at home, my writing on the train gradually decoupled from the broader arc of the novel, and it got harder and harder to keep going.

I finally figured this out over the Fourth of July weekend. When I realized what the problem was, I started rereading the early chapters of MTL, to try and get back into the book. It worked beautifully. I have a page of notes after reading the first four chapters, knocked out 1,000 words tonight that start bringing back ideas I had for the book back when I started writing it, and have half a page of notes for the next chapter. I may keep rereading, but these early chapters may have been enough. Now I just need to recapture the discipline I had developed back in March and April, and I may yet have this first draft finished by Labor Day.

Also, you may notice that I have revised my word count goal in the meter in the sidebar from 100,000 to 125,000. I think that’s more realistic for this draft than the 100,000 I’ve been working with; there are close to 20,000 words in the first eight chapters that I expect to cut in the first revision; they contain important backstory, but I don’t think they work as part of the narrative, and clearly I’m not 80 percent finished telling the story. 125K is a good enough estimate for the first draft, and I’ll try to take it closer to 100K in the next draft.

Finally, not that my comments on your blogs are anything special, but if you’ve noticed I haven’t been commenting on your blog posts, it’s because I haven’t been commenting on (hardly) anything. I just haven’t had the time or the energy. I have been reading your blogs, though, and will try to stop lurking and start participating a little more now that my travel schedule has slowed down a bit.

Update on the To Do List.

Last night, as part of responding to a meme-tag from Freshhell at Life in Scribbletown, I posted five things from my to do list for today and promised to report on how I did. Here’s the report

1. Go for a run in the morning.

It wasn’t pretty, but I did go for a run this morning. I was slow as molasses, even slower than I was on Sunday. Despite the day off yesterday, my legs — my quads, mostly — ached and had nothing to give me. On Sunday, I ran 9.57 in 1:22:37 (an average pace of 8:38 minutes/mile); this morning, I ran 3.64 miles in 35:21, an average pace of 9:42. I’m not entirely sure what happened, excepted that I lifted at the gym on Saturday (including squats) for the first time in three weeks, and may have taken too much out of my leg muscles.

2. Submit TTB to another magazine (snail mail again).

I took care of this on my way to the office. It cost $2.53 for first class mail (no surprise there — it’s a 63-page manuscript).

3. Take my glasses to the optometrist to have new lenses installed.

Yup, got this done at lunch, dropped off my regular glasses and my sunglasses just before the deluge started. I’m hoping they’ll be done by Friday; I’m traveling next week, and I’m stuck wearing my spare glasses until then, and I hate hate hate traveling with only one pair of glasses.

4. Make significant progress on a couple of briefs I need to get through by the end of the week.

I did all right on this one. I got a first draft finished this afternoon on the easier one, and spent most of the evening (when I wasn’t watching Barack’s victory speech or Hillary’s “victory” speech) working on the hard one. Lots more to do, but I got them off the ground, which was what I needed to do today.

5. Write 500 words — just 500 lousy words! — of Meet the Larssons.

Yeah, well, you can’t do everything. Nobody’s perfect. I wrote 350 words, all of them on the train. I got jammed up with work (see no. 4, above). I’ll try again tomorrow.

So there you have it. I have to say, I almost certainly would have turned off the alarm and gone back to bed this morning if I hadn’t posted about going for a run, so thanks for the social pressure.

Response to Weekend Assignment # 203: Road Trip!

This week, work grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and gave me a good, hard shake. Now that the week is over and the long, President’s Day weekend has finally arrived, I’ve got documents to crunch through this weekend on three different cases before Tuesday. I had intended to take a couple of days off from blogging to work on the novel. Instead, I’ve written a whopping 704 words since Sunday night. Yippee. I’d like to get 2500 words written by Monday night, to take my word count up to 35K, but I think that’s unlikely.

What I need, of course, is a ROAD TRIP. The kind where you get in the car with your significant other or your buds, throw a backpack in the trunk, and just drive. These days, our road trips are a little more planning-intensive, requiring car seats, DVDs, CDs, laptops, chargers, toys, books, markers, etc., etc. They’re still great, just slightly less spontaneous.

This week, Karen over at Outpost Mavarin has given us the freedom to go on any road trip we want, so long as it’s a driving trip. If we could take the time, where would I drag my Unfocused Family? I’m assuming that this is supposed to be a three-day weekend kind of trip, not a two-week, Brady Bunch-style, driving trip to the Grand Canyon. But that still leaves a lot of territory to potentially cover. Milwaukee? Great museums and public garden, I love the brewery tours, and it is home to my favorite bar in the entire world. Cleveland? I’ve never been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so that might be fun, and educational for the kids. St. Louis? I guess we could see the Gateway Arch, but I used to have a number of cases in and around St. Louis, and I never really warmed up to the town. Bad memories, I guess. Springfield? Detroit?

Any of those would be real possibilities, but if you handed me a three-day pass for the trip, I’d really like to take the Unfocused Family to Louisville, Kentucky. Shortly after we graduated from college, Mrs. Unfocused (then the Unfocused Girlfriend) and I took a trip to Louisville for a few days. We were going through a bit of a rough patch, as unemployed recent college grads can, and decided that a weekend away together was what we needed. Unfortunately, neither of us knew how to drive, so it had to be somewhere we could get to relatively quickly by train or bus (since we also did not have enough money for plane tickets).

We worked off of an old copy of Let’s Go America, and finally decided on Louisville. We took an overnight Greyhound bus (an experience in itself, which I would not care to repeat), and spent a wonderful few days seeing Louisville on foot and by bus.  If were to go back, this time with our own car and the kids, I’m not sure what we would do differently.  We would take them to Churchill Downs, and Colonel Sanders’s grave, and whatever else there is to see, like this, but best of all would be the chance for Mrs. Unfocused and me to revisit the place where, 17 years ago, we decided we had to make things work, and set the foundation our marriage four years later.  And to get another Churchill Downs Kentucky Derby mint julep glass to replace the one Unfocused Junior broke a couple of years ago.

That’s enough lollygagging for me.  I’ve got work to do, the Family Tae Kwon Do class (if no one’s sick this week) and then maybe a little time for Meet the Larssons. Have a good, long weekend, and if you haven’t yet, don’t forget to check out the February Blog Chain.