Adulting

I just dropped A-bear off at school for his second day of second grade. This morning slipped away about as fast as summer seems to have disappeared. The vine maples are turning and there is an undeniable crispness in the air that I’d bottle for later consumption. This is, without a question, my favorite season of any year.

Right now I’m sitting at my local coffee shop trying to get the words flowing. Back at base camp, I’ve got about fifty unfinished projects demanding my attention. Some of them should be addressed before the weather gets colder or wetter or windy. Others, they’re just part of the process between the start and the end.

That’s what most of much of this is, isn’t it? The milestones that mark our lives are more often than not just piles of folded laundry or a freshly mopped kitchen. Transitory tasks completed in a moment and lost to time as quickly as a season.

This autumn I’m okay with that, I’ve made my peace. Don’t curse me, don’t condemn me to live through interesting times.

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A Creative Update

It’s about time for one of these. I know last winter I posted about restarting my Patreon and then went radio silent for a long dark time. Having a neurological scare like I did will tend to do that to just about anyone. But wow! It’s like summer out there. My kids are home from school, and I have been writing.

What’s the WIP?

I’m about 3,000 words into an exploration of a multiverse that fragments along the borders of possibilities. My protagonist is learning the ropes from someone more experienced than herself, and I’m poking artists for cover work.

Plus, I’m enjoying writing this story. Infinite possibility imbues the freedom of breaking one’s own rules. No datum, no Amber, no center means I can turn the dials well past eleven to see what happens when the first one is set to -∏, and the next one shows “blue.” Let’s run this baby at Ludicrous for a while.

So, the reason I’m writing this post is to determine who, if anyone, is interested in reading this as a series. Most of you are probably going to see a notification from Patreon or WordPress and immediately move said email into the trash bin, but I’m willing to twist the setting on the possibility that at least some of you will a) read the post and b) reply with anticipation. Even if that’s beyond the boundary of what is possible, get ready, new stories are coming soon.

WIP

The ball is metaphorically rolling up here in the thankfully gray Pacific North West. Much has happened since my last update. I ran across the Grand Canyon after a Mark Watney-esk road trip to into the heart of the early summer heat of the desert South West. A-bear and J-bug are now both out of school (yay me! another year of education down) and Tess is plugging away at the Zu.

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What I’ve Been Reading

“The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Pacific Northwest” and other similar. Over the last month or so I’ve actually gone through a stack of gardening books like this one. The library has been my friend.

One of the questions I’ve wanted to answer for myself is “Could Mark Watney have done better for himself if he’d grown his potatoes in towers?” The hypothetical answer is yes, he missed a real opportunity for closed-loop sustainability caloric efficiency given his habitat’s space limitations.

I’ve also re-read “The Martian” (at A-bear’s request). Still a great story, and yes the book is better than the movie.

Finally, I’m on book seven of Roger Zelazny’s Princes of Amber series. It’s rolling along well and Wil Wheaton was an excellent choice to read the Murlin segments of the story. One of the things I really enjoy is how you can see the author’s development reflected in his characters over time. Zelazny was arguably a lot more misogynistic and self-centered, much like Corwin, at the beginning of the saga, then nearer its end. Life seems to have tempered his protagonists and that’s refreshing.

Sitting here, I’m thinking that I really need to keep better track of what I’m reading. I’ve gone through a considerable stack of paper books and a few electronic titles as well, but right now I can’t recall a single title. Maybe I’ll resolve to get back on Goodreads or something.

What I’m Writing

I’ve been sort of reviewing the idea of a multiverse through which we can negotiate space-time by pinching possibilities together. Something like a nearness of world’s theory realized in a modern setting. Think Pratchett’s Long Earth series but in a chaotic, non-linear network of possibilities that can and will become weird. Yes, it’s walking along the rim of those deep Slipstream canyons, but that’s where all the best views are.

I’ve passed on a couple of non-fiction pieces mostly because the amount of work necessary for doing the story right far exceeds the compensation. Writing is not an expensive hobby. If your business model requires me to absorb its costs to produce content we’re not going to have a deal. C’est la vie.

Hey There Spring and News

It has been a wet, wet, moisty wet first season so far, but today the sun is out, and there is a seasonably light breeze blowing over the island. I’ve spent so much time focusing on my house, my yard, and my head that my writing has necessarily taken a back burner.

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For a health status updates, you should know that I now, after years of searching, have a diagnosis that isn’t one of exclusion. Functional Neurological Disorder which is, in equal parts, both a blessing to know and an epic gut-punch to know about. I guess my dreams of becoming an internationally renowned opera singer are on pause, unless or until stuttering with a growl and facial tics ever comes back in vogue.

For somewhat obvious reasons I’ve yet again missed an opportunity to submit to Clarion West, but I will remain sanguine about it and hold onto all the work I did for submission until next year. C’est la vie n’est pas? At least I didn’t have a stroke.

What I’m working on:

Currently, I’m two chapters into a short-ish story about engineered genetic specialization as a sort of currency set in the caldera of Mount Olympus. The title eludes me at the moment, but I’m having lots of fun with it. I’ve also forged on with a couple of novel-length outlines which include “Friend of Bees,” “Winter City Above the Clouds,” and re-writes to “Distance.”  I’ll pick all of these up when I’ve got the short done or when I’m stuck on the short story.

What I’m reading:

It’s been a while since I’ve done anything review-y, but I should probably pick that back up again.

I’ve just finished the complete audio set of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s Series. Unfortunately, I couldn’t locate a copy of Sharpe’s Skirmish, but I have and have listened to all the other stories in that extensive series. Add to this, I’ve been entertained. It’s always a bit of a soap opera, but I guess I like that and Cornwell‘s action scenes are a study in the best way to write those sequences.

Also, I received a recommendation for “The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell as a colonization space opera that’s going to make me think. I’m about 2/3rds of the way through the audible version of the story, and there have been a handful of reflective moments, but I’m not giving this work the whole can of beans.

Finally, after reading Tobias Buckell’s multi-nominated work “Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance” I decided to dust off my cover of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig. Both of these are worthy reads, but for different reasons. Although, it is my opinion that they’re improved in juxtaposition.

What’s next:

Bees, garage door, more painting and work on the van to name a few big projects. I’ll be headed over to Puget Sound Overland and Coffee at Mule Expedition Outfitters on the 28th of this month with my van to talk about overlanding and maybe find a full-length gear shelf for my roof. Also, I’m going to try to get to the coffee shop at least once a week for some writing time. Likely Wednesdays, but it will vary.

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Refactor

This morning has been productive. I did some work with the bees (corrected an issue with the installation I created … sorry girls), took Aral to school, spent some time at the coffee shop talking with friends, even made a decision regarding the usefulness of yet-another-EEG.

I think the most important takeaway from this morning are some rules I wrote for myself for my writing. Since last year’s river of rejection left me feeling all my attempts to write were worthless I’ve had a very hard time doing the necessary. Still, I’ve got ideas, whole worlds that are banging on the inside of my skull demanding to get out. But I haven’t done what I need to write any of this down and that’s a problem. I need to start writing again as a practice, but the rules I follow regarding this craft also necessarily must change. I can’t write and write only to feel like what I’ve written is a piss poor result for all that time.

New rules are written. They’re simple and the mean that my practice becomes a much more self-contained experience.

Rules to Live By:

  1. Stop seeking criticism from people with no skin IN YOUR GAME. The rule is to write what you want, what you know, and what you’ve planned as fast or slow as you can.
  2. Build the world for “Distance,” “Winter City,” and “Friend of Bees” and other stories methodically and from scratch. Share and talk about ideas only with people you trust.
  3. Begin each story by outlining its plot and understand how it fits into the timeline.
  4. Take your time, spend as much time reading/editing what you’ve written as you spend writing.
  5. Get good at editing your own work.
  6. Remember that publication is only a milestone along any story’s trajectory. It’s not a goal, nor is making money. Keep this in mind when it feels like you’re wasting your time. You’ve written books, and not a lot of people can say that.
  7. Love your stories.
  8. Stop caring so much about a world that doesn’t give two shits about you.

Ginnungagap

This morning over tea my wife and I clicked through a new life insurance policy questionnaire. She has meant to increase her level of coverage because what her job offers wouldn’t be a flash in the pan if she left us. I’ve been avoiding the conversation for all the usual reasons.

I’m loathed to consider my own demise. I’m even more frightened at the thought of the death of people I love. I’m afraid enough that I’ve never really bothered to name these fears.

And so here we are. What this blog seems to be to me is a crossroads, a place of decisions.

“Fear not death for the hour of your doom is set and none may escape it.”

― Volunga Saga

I’ve been reading (with my ears) the Saxon Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell. I’ve admired his protagonist Uhtred of Bebbanburg because of his unshakable belief in fate. Right now I’m on the second to the last book in the series, and even though Uhtred is an “old” man, by the standards of the time, he still feels the weavers’ hands on his thread. His faith in the Norns frees him to focus on whatever is before him. He is undistracted, always sharp, relentlessly moving through his own life with singular purpose.

“Destiny is all, Ravn liked to tell me, destiny is everything. He would even say it in English, “Wyrd biõ ful ãræd.”
― Bernard CornwellThe Last Kingdom

I find myself wanting for that surety.

I also marvel at the Cornwell’s voice. How he deftly transports his reader into his Uhtred’s vision of the world. Past the moral ambiguity of his actions and into the faith that the Fates weave his future. Yes, I love his action scenes. Sure enough, I feel my heart pound and my fires are stoked when Uhtred stands in the shield wall or when he faces Ubba beyond the hazel bows I feel his singular focus and the accomplishment of his victory. Cornwell is a master of character. Even when Uhtred is beset by ambiguity, self-doubt, or worse remorse Cornwell finds the way back to certainty. “I touched Thor’s Hammer,” and suddenly we know that Ginnungagap will consume all, the only thing that matters is what lies before us. The enemy beyond the iron clad edge of an ash shield.

“I touched Thor’s hammer, then Serpent-Breath’s hilt, for death was stalking us. God help me, I thought, touching the hammer again, Thor help us all, for I did not think we could win.”
― Bernard CornwellThe Pale Horseman

My fears? They are nothing other than the usual. Helplessness, loss, grief, oblivion; add to this I lack faith, there is no eternal Hall waiting for me when I die. Despite this I know there is the Ginnungagap and so I narrow my gaze and touch the hilt of my sword.

rePatreoned

 

Inspired by a couple of other artists who’ve used the new year as an excuse to put some polish on their Patreons I’ve done the same. It’s an imperfect system, sure, and there’s every possibility that the company will again pull the carpet from underneath creators, but it is also a direct line to readers. Add to this that there doesn’t seem to be any other similar platform my choice is easy.

Income from writing is excellent. However, that’s not really the point. This year what I’m much more focused on is finding people who are willing to give me some of their interest. Since leaving my comfortable salary position back in 2013, I’ve made about as much forward progress as I can manage on my own. I need some outside direction, someone standing in the audience who can tell me when I’m missing my marks. That’s why I’m going back to Patreon. I’d love to see 100 $1 supporters, all with strong opinions.

Over the past five years, I’ve been lucky. A handful of my stories have been published in some small press locations. Reviews, even the negative ones, have become a sort of ambrosia. By completing that feedback loop, they feed me.

In the same way that applying to Clarion West will allow me to leverage my desire for that validation while becoming a better writer, Patreon will be another avenue to reach readers. I’ve just got hustle a little harder to make it work.