O Canada!

Some of you reading this blog will already know that I’m Canadian; for those who do not, I guess this is your moment of revelation. :)

Since it’s Canada Day, here’s a list of Canadian SF/F authors. You may or may not have previously known that they’re Canadian!

And here’s a list of Canadian inventions. Same thing. I’ll bet there are many things here you didn’t know you should thank Canada for! (To name just a few: basketball, zippers, acetylene, IMax, odometers, Robertson screws, Trivial Pursuit, and of course, the tuck-away-handle beer carton.)

Finally, some Canadian slang and terminology. Not all is in widespread use across the entire country (it’s a BIG country), but all of us use some of it!

Happy Canada Day!

Numbers and Sand Castles

If you follow this blog at all, you’ll probably have noticed how v e r y s l o w l y the “percentage complete” number on my progress bar for The Murder Prophet seems to change. I’ve been working on a complete edit of this novel since early in the year (maybe even late last year?) and although I keep thinking I’m approaching the end, it sometimes (often!) disappears out of sight over the horizon again.

This is because rewriting and editing are messy jobs. You might think first draft writing is messy–and you’d be correct about that. First draft writing is like starting with a big pile of wet sand and trying to build something out of it. But if you’re lucky, at least you keep building up. The sand castle grows, takes shape, forms and reforms and sprouts turrets and towers, gets a moat and a defensive wall and doors and windows and finally a flag on the top. It may still be rough around the edges and missing some bits and your hands are still covered with sand, but it’s standing and you can point to it and say I made that.

The rewriting and editing parts of the job are the really messy parts. You have to scrutinize your castle and evaluate its foundations. You may have to lift it to put a basement under it, and hope that all the jostling doesn’t cause it to come crashing down. Some of those turrets have to be torn off and rebuilt, or scrapped and replaced with gables or a hipped roof instead. The moat’s too wide or too shallow, the wall needs doors and a portcullis, and you may have put the wrong flag at the top. In the end, your castle will be bigger, stronger, and more defensible. But the remodeling job is huge.

This is one of the admitted problems you can run into with NaNoWriMo novels. Unless they’re well-planned (and many–or most–of mine are not, and this one was especially not), it’s very easy for the story to run away with the writer. Or maybe the writer’s brain runs away with the story. At any rate, if your building plans are sketchy or non-existent, you usually end up with a castle that needs more than the usual amount of renovation. Sometimes whole rooms are left out. Passages lead nowhere. It might even be on the wrong plot of land. And these are the problems that you don’t even know are there until you start exploring the place with a flashlight and a magnifying glass, taking notes about everything that is wrong. The exploring and note-taking take a long time, and the fixing usually even more.

Which is why it’s so difficult to predict how long such a rewrite/edit will actually take. In the case of this novel, I was down to the last sixty-odd pages of type-ins, when I realized that I had forgotten to address a rather major issue relating to the actual world/setting of the novel and the characters in it. I’m glad that I thought of it on my own instead of having one of my first readers hand it back to me with a note saying “but what about ?” However, it pushes that elusive end-of-the-project goal a little further out of reach again.

I’ll get there. The four thousand words that I’ve added so far have improved the novel immensely, and with luck I’ll continue to make it better. But I hesitate to change that “85%” complete to “90%” just yet.

Well, maybe I can make it “86%.” Just to feel like I’m making progress.

*The great sandcastle photo is by remoran

The Longest Distance

old typewriter keys …is the title of the short story I’ve just finished. “Finished” as in first-draft finished, but finished nonetheless.

This was one of my “zombie writing projects” columnist Chuck Heintzelman talks about in the May issue of The Scriptorium. No, it’s not about zombies. It’s been existing in a half-alive, half-dead state on my hard drive for, if you can believe it, about ten years. And I’ve finally found the impetus to pull it out, dust it off, read it over, and finish the darn thing.

It’s a time-travel story of sorts, although not in the usual way. On Facebook today I posted a list of things I had to look up during the writing of this story. They included: history of sound recording, history of nail care, Victorian slang, history of photgraphy, Occam’s Razor, Babbage’s Analytical Engine, Max Planck, The Glass Menagerie, Vietnam War, blackbody radiation, Victorian fashion. I must also add: streetmap of London in the 1900s, wars in Africa, and various dates in UK history. It’s been an interesting journey.

Now I shall let it lie fallow for a few days, spiff it up, and give it to someone to read. I’m very happy to have finally finished it.

It’s Official

I’m pleased to note that I am the new Webmaster for SF Canada, the national association for Canadian speculative fiction professionals. We have a newly-built website that is in the process of becoming our main home on the web. Right now I’m busy trying to find my way around it and figure out what needs to be done, but it’s an exciting job. I have some plans for new things I would like to bring online at the site once all the basics are covered.

The new site, if you’d like to visit, is at www.sfcanada.com although it’s still in the growing stages of getting content added.

Back to work

old typewriter keys It’s been a bit of a hiatus, both from editing and from blogging, the last couple of weeks. Last week was the kids’ spring break, so I really didn’t expect to get much work done–and I was correct.

But today was back-to-school, so it was back-to-work for me as well. It’s a grey, rainy day here, which I hope explains why I was actually nodding off over the manuscript a few times! I did make it through a chapter or so, however, and input some changes into the master document, so it was a decent beginning. I expect this phase, which consists mainly of adding all the details I haven’t added before this and polishing up the writing, to take about two weeks if I can work on it consistently.

Photo courtesy of mconnors

The week behind, the week ahead

Last week I did nothing on the novel editing. Nothing. I have a fresh copy of the manuscript all printed and waiting patiently for the not-so-gentle attentions of my red pen, but it spent the week unscathed.

Instead of editing, I was running the book fair at my son’s school, which ultimately results in a lovely pile of new books for the school library, and I spent one school day doing Writers In the Schools presentations at another local school. While both undertakings were highly successful, they precluded any notions of working on the edit, and although I might have squeezed in a bit of time on it here or there, I honestly didn’t try. My brain was not in the right place and had too much other stuff filling up the forefront of it to believe that I’d really accomplish anything useful.

One very nice thing that happened at the school presentations was that I read the opening of my middle-grade novel, “The Seventh Crow” to three classes. In each case they listened with rapt attention and begged for more, so that was a very encouraging test-run.

The upcoming week should be a different story with regard to the editing. I hope to work at it every day, but I don’t really have any idea of how quickly it will go or where I want to be on it by weeks’ end. Have to wait and see on that one. I also have to look to the March issue of The Scriptorium this week and try to write some more on a story I want to submit by the end of March, as well as keep moving on Third Person Press work, so…it’s going to be busy.

However, if you read this blog with any regularity, you already know that’s the story of my life… ;)

*Photo by malko at sxc.hu

Phase Two Edits–Complete!

Photobucket Today I made it through the last of my editing notes, added the last bits that I knew were needed, and called it a wrap on phase two of the novel edit. I’ve added about 7000 new words during this phase, which was good.

One more phase to go–the one I call “making it pretty.” This means I’ll be line-editing the whole thing and looking for places to add description and sensory images, deepening characterization, and just basically polishing the entire thing until it (hopefully) shines.

I’m getting tired of looking at it, but I find this upcoming phase of revision is usually very satisfying, and not as much hard work as the last phase. It’s a strange mix of right-and-left brain work that I generally find invigorating. I have the school book fair and a school visit coming up in the next week and a half, though, so I don’t expect to have a lot of time to work through it until those things are over. I’m going to posit another two to three weeks to get to the end, which is not bad. I’ll be quite pleased if I can make that deadline.

ROML* Rolls Over Another Week

Photobucket While I still have two days left to log writing time for this week, they will be the weekend, so I think it’s highly unlikely that I will get to my goal hours this time around. Maybe it serves me right for getting cocky about how well last week went (614 minutes) and upping my goal by half an hour. When I think about it, though, it was mostly *Rest Of My Life issues that kept me from writing.

I’m really not sure what I can do about that except try to plan better (the things I CAN plan) and try to find catch-up time when the planning doesn’t work.


In other news, I came to a huge and sad realization last night. I need to get rid of some books.

I’ve been buying books since I was in university and the city offered a variety of used book stores, of which I would make the rounds almost every weekend. The book acquisition habit has continued over the years, and although I do get more titles from the library these days (especially when trying an author for the first time) I still like to buy books. Part of me would like to count the number of books in the house–and part of me is afraid to do that.

However, when I was doing some pre-housecleaning housecleaning in the bedroom last week, I realized that I have at least 50+ books in that room alone waiting to be read or in various stages of being read. And when I do read them–I have nowhere to put them if I want to move new to-be-read books into that space. Every bookshelf in the house is already packed or over-packed. I don’t see us adding a new room to the house just to hold books. Sooooo…the only conclusion is that I have to get rid of some. And while we’re planning a Great Purge of the house this spring, the idea of sorting through the books and moving some them out of here is more daunting than all the rest of the things that I know need to be done.

*Sigh* I wonder if I could convince my husband to add on that extra room…

Photo courtesy of mzacha @ sxc.hu

A Thing of Beauty

The image on the left is a thing of beauty.

Having started the month of November flat on my back and in pain with a slipped disc, there were times when I thought I might not get to say “I did it!” this year. However, with the help of the voice recognition software, it worked out. At 50k words, I’m maybe halfway through this novel, and I quite like it so far. I’m setting a tentative date of January 15th to try and finish the first draft. With Christmas in the offing that would usually be unrealistic, but the silver lining of my slipped disc experience is this: my shopping is 90% finished. Knowing I likely would not be very mobile even by December, I interspersed my novel-writing with online shopping and have arrived at this enviable place.

It’s too bad I can’t be in this place without major health interventions, but I’ll take what I can get.

Thanks, Tor.com!

As some of you may know, October was Steampunk Month over at Tor.com. The month was jam-packed with interesting blog posts, steampunk tips for DIYers, beautiful free wallpapers, and tons of giveaways. I didn’t stumble upon things until at least partway through the month, but then I entered every giveaway after that.

And, I won one!

My copies of Jay Lake‘s Mainspring and Escapement arrived in the mail today, quite promptly I must say. Also included in the parcel were a Tor bookmark and a handful of buttons, so it made a nice little prize package.

Jay Lake prize package from Tor.com

I was especially pleased to win this prize, because I am a big fan of the columns Jay Lake writes (often with Ruth Nestvold) over at IROSF (I always snag this one to proofread when I can!). If you are not familiar with the columns, I recommend you click over and check some out. They are available in the archives, many under the “features” tab, and are easy to find. Sadly, I haven’t had an opportunity to read enough of his fiction, so I’m really looking forward to these books. They may even jump the line in my TBR pile, since I just finished reading George Mann’s The Affinity Bridge last night and need something new to add to my being-read list.