Monthly Archives: August 2011


I might consider giving real money to someone with a good answer to, “How is your novel coming along?”

I know the people who ask this question are trying to be nice and involved in my life, and I’m glad that they do ask for that reason. I just never feel able to produce a satisfactory answer.

I could try for literal, “I’ve written 500 words today and 5000 words since the last time I you asked.” Or I could go for dramtic, “I haven’t killed myself yet.” I could go for self-deprecating humor, “I haven’t killed myself yet, so better than the last one.” I could go for humor, “I outsourced the entire thing to China. They kicked out a great book in a few days, but now I need a translator.” Or I could go for polite, “Great! thanks for asking.”

I usually opt for polite, but any way you slice it, despite the long hours I spend on my work, I don’t feel like I’m doing much. Writing just takes a lot of perseverance and patience. According to the big pros, if nothing’s happened after a few years, stay the course, you’re not ahead of the pack, but you’re not lagging behind either. According to this survey by Jim C. Hines, 11 years is not a bad goal to shoot for.

So, I guess the moral of this story is that you should take time to have a glass of wine, relax, and enjoy life. Your big break might not even be on next year’s calendar.

Trivento Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

I like Cabs. I like them fruity. I like them oaky. I like them young. I like them aged. France, Australia, California, or South America I like Cabs.

This Trivento Reserve is a fine Cabernet, especially for its quite reasonable price. It can be had for $9 here in Iowa, and I’m not the only one who likes it. Wine Enthusiast gives it a well-deserved 90 points. Lately, this has been my go-to Cab, both because of the price and flavor. I could go into all the details about the fruit flavor, the umami, or the sweet cherry finish, but I think I can best some up my feelings on this wine by what I said after I pour out the first glass to breathe. I noticed a drop running down the side of the bottle, wiped it off with my finger, licked my finger clean and said, “Yum.”

Being a responsible party, or What would Cory Doctorow do?

Looks like a responsible party to me

Recently, I read an article about Cory Doctorow’s wife Alice Taylor. The Daily Mail contacted Ms. Taylor about running one of her photographs. When she quoted a price they though was too high, they decided to run it anyway, for free.

This article served as a friendly nudge that I should be more careful about photographs I use on this blog. Now, up until a couple days ago, I’d been using mostly images which were (hopefully) obviously in the public domain, in that they were over 200 years old (or at least looked that way, that’s where the hopefully came in.) However, the last couple of days, I’ve been sort of lax.

So, today, I went through and replace the few photos I thought might have copyright issues with free images from It’s not as easy a Google image search, but I know the images are properly licensed.

Social Media has a few gray hairs

I was reading a report today that claimed the average age of a social network user was 40 years old. Now, I knew there were lots of old women on Facebook sharing pictures of their grandkids, but I had no idea that the average age was that high. When you take out sites like LinkedIn, the number doesn’t skew downward. The average Facebook and Twitter user is somewhere between 38 and 39 years old.

Now,I admit I’ve dismissed Social Media on several occasions as being a haven for kids, but it turns out I was totally wrong. In my defense, I’m a bit anti-social anyway. Seriously, I didn’t get into computers to be more social. Still, today there are are even social sites for anti-socials, like 4chan–No, I know what you’re thinking, but if there is any goodness in your heart, don’t check them out.

I guess the moral of this datum is that you might not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but you can teach him to send a friend request.

Research and Technology

As a writer, I often find myself researching things which I suspect will get me placed on some kind of watch list. This morning, for instance, I am going to find out how to build an electromagnet strong enough to demagnatise a hard drive, pretty innocuous compared to some of the things I’ve been researching, like chat logs of groups wanted by the FBI, but something that might turn some heads.

Mostly in doing research like this, I am trying to build a veneer of plausibility. For instance, after I study electromagnets and figure out how my character built his, I will probably not be able to duplicate it. Then again, I’m not a motivated fifteen-year-old. I have a friend who’s an engineer, and I’m pretty sure he will say, “That wouldn’t work. However, if you use these different materials…” at which point I will zone out and start thinking about something else. Not every detail has to be perfect, just good enough so that the vast majority of readers don’t question it.

Details exist to help the story along. Beyond that, they don’t have to be perfect. Sure, hopefully the reader will learn something from what you’ve written, but if they are really interested in that topic, I hope they pick up more than a fiction book.

Recently, I read Robert J. Sawyer’s WWW: Wake. I don’t usually read “serious” books, and I wasn’t sure what I’d think of Wake, but I had gotten to know Sawyer through his excellent information on writing. I found the book fascinating, and I learned a lot about Shannon Entropy, Information Theory, and cellular automata. However, when Sawyer wandered over into my field of expertise, Computer Science, I could tell that he was making up a lot of it as he went along. Still, I was okay with that, because I was reading a story about characters, not a Computer Science textbook.


***This post was edited for Sunday morning grammar.

A Nice Milestone

I know that numbers aren’t the best way to track success in writing, but when I get a good portion of the way through a novel, I like to think I’ve accomplished something. As of today, I’m 20,000 words into the novel I started at the end of last month. This isn’t the most I’ve written in a month, nor the least, but I think it’s a significant amount.

Now, I just have to slog through the middle of the novel.


Those who fail to understand history are doomed to repeat it. As Benedict Arnold said as he marched the U.S. Forces into Canada, “The Quebecois will greet us as liberators.”

Though brilliant, I can't take credit for that one. Gore Vidal wrote it.

I think a good part of being an artist is understanding not only pop culture, but the pop culture of the past. In the spirit of this belief, I’m going to present a series of educational pieces, featuring these proto-memes.

Like it or hate it, if you lived through the 1960s, you know this song. Now I share it with the younger generations.

Life steps in.

Stephen King writes a thousand words a day minimum. Ian Fleming wrote three hours a day before going for a swim and spending the rest of the day in the bar. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote for exactly forty five minutes a day before going to his job reading gas meters.

I may be a little mixed up on that last one.

I have a much humbler goal. I try to sit down and write, one or twice a day. My goal is 500-1000 words, but if it doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world. It’s not like my writing makes real money, not the money you can live on. Not even the money to buy a bus ticket.

However, some days, I don’t even make that. Things are busy with my day job, or I have to do some side job for anther writer or I have to help someone with their website or I have to deal with personal stuff. Some days, I even get too tired at the end of the day to write. Occasionally, I even want to relax or have fun.

I used to think that this was the end of the world. Writing is, after all, hard work, and only the dedicated survive to get published. But in the end, I figure it’s all about happiness. If the writing’s not making you happy, go find something else to do for the night. At least you tried, and it will be there tomorrow.

Chateau Simard Bordeaux 1999

On hearing that I’d had a bad day, my friend Jose, prince of a man that he is, pulled a bottle of this wonderful Chateau Simard Bordeaux down from the shelf and put it in a bag for me. I know that I really should save it for a rainy day or a special occasion, but today seemed rainy enough, so I opened it.

Wow, this is the smoothest wine I’ve ever had right out of the bottle. The nose is mineral, but very faint, almost a mineral water. If my color-blindness does not deceive me, the core is a deep ruby. On tasting, a strong but elusive cedar hits mid-palate. Any tannic qualities are smooth to the point of non-existence. Other than the cedar, this wine screams subtlety. It holds a faint hint of the fruit, but has also started to pick up the leather and tobacco flavors  of a more mature wine. However, the mature flavors are subtle, more like walking into a study which as been closed up for several years and contains only the memory of the aromas, rather than standing too close to a dirty biker. The long finish of crushed leaves and mineral is palpable.

Back to where I started from

I will not, however, be collecting the $200.

Tonight, after a few months hiatus, I’m going back to the writing group which I moderated for a couple years. There are three writing samples up for critique, but I am skipping Dylan‘s as I just finished a huge beta reading project for him which contains the chapter that he submitted.

This will be my first time reading one of the authors tonight. She is younger and very imaginative. I know critiquing her will be difficult. On one hand, I want to give her the best advice possible. On another hand, she has talent and I don’t want to discourage her. But on another hand, she might as well learn to take criticism now, because if she sticks with the writing game, she’s going to see plenty.

I just realized that I have three hands, which is kind of awesome.

I guess I’ll just have to play it by ear and use my own judgement. I hate it when I have to do that.

Now imagine me waving at you with three hands. Breathtaking, isn’t it?

Follow Up:

Last night was an overwhelmingly positive experience. It was great to be back with my writing crew. I was so pumped when I got home that I could barely sleep.