Friday, March 24, 2006


I've been thinking about the novel I've been working on, and I think I've finally put my finger on what's been bothering me about the tone of the book. In looking back, all of the memorable characters I've created have been funny. More precisely, they've had a very dry sense of humor, and that's come through in the writing. I'm not saying that I write slapstick or even comedy -- I don't -- but all of the characters that I've truly liked have been able to look at the world and find something ironic or humorous to say about it. In my current story, I've tried to take a very serious approach to the tale. That comes about originally because one of the main sub-themes in the book was going to be that the protagonist (a teenager) would basically have to prostitute herself to make her escape from the world she's on. That's a serious subject, and really isn't something to be kidding around with. So, I've been trying to emphasize the tragic nature of the protagonist, one way to increase the dramatic tension in the story.

There's nothing wrong with this, and it can work quite well -- but it's not me. Yes, I can write okay stories in this mode, but they aren't what I consider to be my best work. I think the reason I haven't been as pleased with the plot so far is that I've cast the character with the wrong personality. Yes, she's a reluctant revolutionary. Yes, she is a natural leader whether she wants to admit or not. Yes, she's had a hard life. But she can still maintain a sense of humor about it! Some of the best scenes I've written so far have had that humor come through -- but it was inappropriate for the character I'd been developing. I found myself having to write scenes where she says (essentially), "I can't believe I actually said that!" Ya think she's trying to tell me something? : )

So that's definitely going into the next re-write. As most of you know, I've never tried to write a novel before, only short stories. One thing you gotta say for short stories: It's a heck of a lot easier to make major changes like this!

Monday, March 20, 2006

A Double Woo-hoo

Since my computer was in the shop last week, I didn't think to check to see if the latest issue of the Journal of the Traveler's Aid Society (a gaming magazine I read that has gone to an online format) was out. I checked tonight, and sure enough it was -- and not only they, I found not one, but two articles of mine in this issue! And not only did they buy the text to both articles, they bought the artwork I drew for one of the articles as well! This will be a fat paycheck... That means that so far I've sold everything I've submitted to this magazine. It helps greatly that I'm a long-time reader of the magazine (I have, I believe, every issue since it was started in 1977). Because I've been reading the magazine for so long, I know exactly the kinds of things they buy. It definitely pays off to do market research before writing the article instead of the other way around.

I can think of a few times when an author has had two articles in the same issue of this magazine, but it doesn't happen very often. I recognize that it has more to do with fitting articles to the available space than anything else, but still, it certainly looks good for me! Time to update the sales page of my author website, I guess. I'm pretty psyched!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Back Online

I finally got my computer back form the repair place today. It took them five days to replace the keyboard and network card (a five minute operation) and reinstall the system software (a one-hour operation). I took it to them on Monday, the first day of our spring break, and got it back on Friday -- the last day of spring break. So much for getting caught up with my projects over the break! Oh well, at least the wireless card works now, which is a major boon. I've restored all of my data to this machine from my wife's computer, so now it's just a matter of reinstalling my software. Hopefully things should go a little more smoothly now. Nevertheless, it's not as bad as it could be. I just picked up the 16" x 20" print of last year's art nude photo from the photographer (8 months late, grumble). She said her whole drive crashed, so she had to take it to a data recovery place. They recovered all 35,000 of her photos, but the file names were nothing but numbers. She now has to sort and rename all 35,000 photos. Ouch...

All these computer troubles make me appreciate my Neo even more. It's always ready, doesn't crash, and does nothing but what I need it to do. It really is the perfect writing machine. I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Happy Birthday, Sunshine!

Today my daughter turned three. We've been playing this up as a big day for several weeks now -- she's a "big girl" now! When she woke up this morning, she was thrilled beyond imagining that it was her birthday. And not, as with most kids (and adults), because she was going to be getting presents. She doesn't remember her second birthday, so really didn't have much of an expectation there. In this case, it was all about status. As a three year old, she's no longer a baby. The first thing she said when she woke up was, "I need to throw away my paci's!" After all, big girls don't use pacifiers. And sure enough, she tossed them one by one into the trash can.

She's been a delight all day long. At one point, she just burst out with, "I'm so happy!" What a hoot! Sure, she loved the cake and presents when they finally came, but having a milestone special day was what made it for her. Everyone has commented on how adorable she was today. We brought cupcakes to her school to share with her friends. She took a cupcake and presented it to each of her friends, giving each one a kiss on the cheek as she did so. What a sweetie! She is just too cute for words.

Happy birthday, sunshine. I'm glad you came along our way. I love you!

Monday, March 13, 2006

I'm Back (more or less)

Things are starting to settle down a bit (though that's about to change, see below), so I'm going to try to start posting quasi-regularly again. I've decided that I'm not going to try to post every day, though, but I think once or twice a week is pretty reasonable. I want to keep this blog focused on writing, to the greatest extent possible, and sometimes there's just not much more to say other than, "Yep, wrote some today." I know some writers post their daily word counts, but I've always found that rather dull. I am planning on trying out the Write Way Pro software, so I'll post a review of that later on.

The big news, however, is that we found out my wife is pregnant! The baby is due around Halloween. We're cautiously excited. We don't have a terribly good track record with this, as we've lost two out of three babies, so anything could happen. She goes to the OB for the first time on the 27th, so we really won't know much more until then. It's a huge change for our family, but we're well and truly pleased. Here's hoping!

In other news, as of 1 March, I'm officially a free agent and no longer employed by NASA or Arizona State University. That's a huge relief to have that particular monkey off of my back. Sadly, my boss at ASU and I have some pretty serious disagreements as to the level of the last activity I wrote for her. She seems convinced that most teachers are incompetent (she doesn't put it quite that way, of course, she calls them "beta teachers", as opposed to the good "alpha teachers") and so couldn't handle anything other than a mindless cookbook-style activity. I like to give teachers a lot more credit than that -- my experience has been that with only a very few exceptions, most teachers are highly-trained, highly-motivated professionals. You have to be to want to teach in today's educational climate. Ultimately, since she is the customer and I'm the consultant, she can do what she wants with the activity, but one would think that as a consultant, she's paying me for my expertise (something she lacks, though she is loathe to admit that). We'll see how they make the final product turn out, but if they change it too much from my original, I may ask that my name be taken off of it. We'll see.

And the last bit of news, my computer apparently got a virus (I assume -- neither Norton nor McAfee ever detected anything) that made the machine no longer recognize .exe, .bat, or .com files. Pretty hard to troubleshoot in that case! I was able to access the hard drive over the network, and backed most things up, but I realized this morning I did not get my archived writing folder. That hurts pretty bad. I have hard copies of everything (NEVER rely solely on electronic backups), but that still means a lot of retyping if I ever need that material. One of the pieces I lost is an article I've sent off to a magazine that includes three maps -- each of which took me several days to make. I have the hard copies of those as well, but if the editor decides he wants changes to the maps, I've got a lot of fast work ahead of me. If he does, I'll have to decide whether to ask him to send me electronic copies back. While I realize these happen -- and so does he, I'm sure -- it does seem very unprofessional to me. I'll have to check my old CD-ROM backups to see if I have these, but I doubt I do. My older stuff should be there, though. My current work in progress is safely on my Neo (including my research notes), so I didn't lose anything there, thank goodness. I hate machines. :)