Writing Draft 5

Once more, my friends, unto the breach.

I am now getting back to the book, seriously. Recently, I read a couple of books that convinced me that I needed to evaluate what I am now calling The Vessel of Ra scene by scene. So, I whacked my manuscript up, threw away about five scenes, and marked what I thought was truly, truly lame.

I had a good crowd of beta readers who gave me similar feedback on a lot of this material, so I have a good grasp on my deficiencies and what I need to do to fix them. It seems that the following are things I should address:

Octavia's crazy slippery personality.
Show the conflicts between Drusus and Octavia.
Give readers the background on Binders that they need so they don't have questions (in short, do not rely on the ESP method for writing...)
Make sure that I minimize the anachronisms.

So, before I sent those first fifty pages off, I want this book to be ship shape. Right now I'm tarring the boat.

Next post will be some recent reads.

The Return of the Iowa Native

I think I should be able to get back to posting here more often. The time of being pretty much tied to my adult life seems to have stopped, somewhat abruptly.

Just to put an end to some melodrama, none of the digestive tests showed any kind of hernia. So, I will continue taking about 3 different kinds of meds to manage my reflux. This does seem to be working. I am also getting the CPAP figured out to optimality. No operations, and hopefully, less med in my future.

I think it's safe to say that the Florida job search is now over, and I do not have a Florida job. I went pretty far in one search, but on Friday, those of us who were interviewed were going to be busted down to 2 candidates who would be interviewed by the college pres. Since I didn't get a call today, I'm certain I'm not one, because the interviews are on Wednesday. That's okay. As cool as it would have been, there would have been a lot of headaches and deprivation in moving down there as well. We'll see what the fates put out for us next year, but this year, I'll get back to focusing on my writing and my current job.

Kirkwood decided also not to replace my dean, which was another job I was going to apply for. There's been a re-organization and a new boss, so no need for that to take up my time.

After all that, then, I have run very hard to stay in the same place. :) I can concentrate again on getting my novel in its best shape for those agents that want pages.

So. Back to being the mild mannered comfortable shoe at work for another year, at least. It was nice to be the red pumps someone wanted to buy while it lasted. And back to writing, laboring in obscurity. Man. I wants me some immediate gratification. How come that never happens?

Updatery

My goodness.

So, here's what's going down:

THREE medical tests to check out my acid reflux in closer scrutiny. I have a new gastroenterologist, and last week I had an esophogram, this week I have manotremy, and next week I have endoscopy. He thinks I might have a hiatal hernia, so we're looking to see if that's a true thing or not. IF it is, maybe we can do a bit of repair, and my reflux would reduce. That's all a big maybe, but we live in hope.

TWO phone interviews for a new job. I'm happy to stay at my current job, but I wanted to try out my interview materials for a deanship that might open here, and I'm beginning to look toward our Florida move, which might happen in as few as three years, so I thought I would apply for some very attractive Florida openings. Two of those colleges decided to do the equivalent of a phone interview, so cool. Advantages and disadvantages. We'll just see how things play out.

ONE book. At this point my spring break plan is to write like a maniac, now not so much as to get the book out the door, but to get as much done as possible. If there's anything having the book read told me, it's that we're some distance from solicitation to those 4 waiting agents, BUT I'm on it. My latest trick is to whack the book into scenes and chart the scenes into series, and then figure out where to add, subtract, and deepen. Sounds easy when you look at that sentence. :)

So, keeping busy. Hoping you're all good.

Agent Carter

It's like this. Direct TV and my local ABC station are at an impasse. I can't get Agent Carter on telly anymore. I can get it on the computer, but therein lies the rub. I live in Blairstown, Iowa, where there is a little old man who cranks our Internet in a building somewhere, a la Metropolis style. I have tried to continue Agent Carter, but it takes me about two hours to watch one episode on the web. I have watched through the Dum Dum Dugan/ Howling Commandos episode.

Yeah, I should just move. Or we should have the state pass laws for faster Internet in rural areas.

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That said, you know what? Agent Carter is smart and fun to look at for a vintage fan like me. The hair and the clothes are excellent, authentic, and perfectly fitting. The mood that the show creates feels very authentic to the 40s, without stereotyping or diminishing the era. Hayley Atwell plays her role well, and the dilemma of being a working woman in post WW2 US in accurately portrayed. Sexism aboundeth, but we know Carter will persevere and triumph. After all, she gets to be head of SHIELD.

Mind, there is an excellent support cast as well. It's a smart, funny show that takes on a serious issue of the time, and doesn't pull dramatic punches. People you don't expect will die do die. in this subtle espionage series. And good guys and bad guys blur from time to time.

I hope you have an easier time of seeing Agent Carter than I do. I hope to catch up this weekend.

The San Francisco Writers Conference

That was cool.

Let's talk about pitching and writer's conferences, shall we?

I've never been to a conference that has been about the business of writing before. I have been to many Science Fiction and Fantasy conventions. Now, I do like SF/F conventions. What I like about them is that I can be among fellow fans and I can hang out with other authors. Most of the other authors I've met are friendly and I've really enjoyed their company.

The SFWC was about two things: education and contacts. When I say education, I don't mean the same kind of stylistic education you'll get at Paradise Lost or hanging out with your critic buddies, or you'll get by climbing a mountain to see Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress. Feedback and writers groups are good too, but this was a new beast.

I learned a lot about the industry this weekend, things I hear talked about occasionally at science fiction and fantasy conventions, but not a lot. I talked to Stuart Horwitz, who has two books on revision that a composition teacher could love, and he didn't try to sell me anything like a time share. I pitched to the agents who were interested in the kind of thing I do, and 4 out of 5 asked me to send them pages. I wore a business suit and was treated like a professional by a real person in the room talking to me. I met many people who acted like professionals. In short, it was the first time I've been in an environment as a writer where my skills as a professor were the same skills I needed.

Now, there are some barriers to attending a conference like this one. Once again, I paid for it by using Kirkwood's very generous professional development, because I thought it would be the next logical step in my writing development. I was not disappointed. However, I think many writers might find the conference fee prohibitive. It is not unlike the fee for most academic conferences, so I was less fazed than someone else might be. Also, the business like atmosphere might be a turn off for some. And unlike myself, who teaches on a daily basis, some writers might not want to memorize a pitch and try to convince an agent, and possibly be rejected by an agent face-to-face. I was okay with it, and I theorized that I might be able to use some of my teaching abilities to make a favorable impression.

Overall, I'd recommend doing this sort of thing, but I'd recommend it to a writer who

1. has their book done, or at least heavily in revision. The more you know, the better your pitch will be, and the more composed you'll be.

2. isn't a total beginner. There's lots of programming at SF/F conventions and other genre and craft workshops for you to go through first. Seriously.

3. can handle themselves professionally with strangers, or at least can pass some of the time as a not a nerd. I play a professional on tv...

In short, if I hadn't been to VP, to Taos, to a ton of writer retreats and writer education seminars, if I hadn't written as much as I have since 2009, I probably would have wasted my money. I'm getting interested rejections and full reads. I think that this is about the optimal time to go. Something will eventually break, and if you present well personally and you have good pages, this is the kind of place it could.

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I had a fantastic time. Our pitch team, me, Chris Cornell, and Debbie Goelz, supported and bolstered each other, gave each other pep talks, and allowed us to practice our pitches and our material. It was much more fun than doing it alone. San Francisco, where this is held every year, is a Fan-freakin'-tastic city with awesome places to eat, and things to see. Man, if I'd had anything left at the end of the conference day, I can go to Japan town and do box karaoke. There's a Walt Disney family museum. Lots to see and do. I believe sometime I'll go visit with the husband when I'm not conferencing and take some advantage of it. I even lost weight because everything is uphill both ways. The Irish coffee is to do die for in that town, and I could see Alcatraz.

Now, it's my hope that I will not need to return to San Francisco looking for an agent, but I think it's a good place to learn. I will try something like this again, if all goes as planned, as I hope to pitch at the Writer's Digest conference in August. The conference made me feel the most like a real writer that I ever have, and, more importantly, I felt like I was taken seriously. My confidence has received a real boost.

The Wind Up and the Pitch

Feverishly working on my prep for the San Francisco Writer's Conference. Also trying to get stuff around for a department retreat, and some Florida job aps before I go. Before any rumors fester into fact: I'm find being at Kirkwood. I just saw a couple of things that looked very good to apply for. Like publishing, I don't expect miracles.

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So. You can expect a big ole report on SFWC in about two weeks. Maybe multiple part reports! I'll get to see some awesome VP buddies, so that'll be good, and I hope some other writers I know. :)

Um...right. Better get back to all that stuff. I swear, some day you guys are gonna get a report on what I'm reading right now. Or Agent Carter. Really.

This entry was posted on 2/3/2015, in General.

The CPAP Experience

For those of you, like I didn't know previously, CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. After my first night, I would have thought Continuous actually stood for Crappy, but that problem went away very quickly.

The reason that I now use a CPAP machine is that I have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition where airways collapse while you're sleeping, which means you stop breathing for a short time. This can lead to stroke, heart conditions, high blood pressure, general exhaustion, and a host of other possible conditions, such as hypothyroidism, acid reflux disease, and depression. Hmmm. The missing link, because I have hypothyroidism, acid reflux disease, depression, and general exhaustion. I'm pretty sure that they're not all from sleep apnea, but there you go.

I use a pillow pack mask. Like many of you, I thought that a CPAP mask came in one flavor: the Darth Vader special, that covers your mouth and nose. Not so. You must be a mouth breather to rate such an ensemble, and it turns out that in this matter, at least, I can keep my mouth shut. Here's more or less what my mask looks like:

881_large_image

I know. Suitable for wearing to glamorous occasions. That said, it is the least invasive of the CPAP options. Two little nose plugs are strapped onto your head, and air is blown continuously into your nose. If you open your mouth, the effect of getting the pressure down your airways is negated.

The CPAP is not uncomfortable for me. I do have some trouble with the hoses, which I sometimes lay on, and getting up at night (usually once or twice, like most people). Then it has to be turned off and taken off, but I have a pin on the left side which helps me re-affix the mask without turning on the light. Sometimes the mask gets a little askew, but I readjust.

Have I noticed a difference? Well, the super secret CPAP squad who are monitoring my usage for the first month tell me that my airways shut down a mere 1.5 times a night now, instead of the 10 times an hour they were shutting down before. Remember, kids, 10 times an hour is a pretty mild apnea. Some people shut down 100 times an hour.

Do I feel peppier? When I first wake up, sometimes. However, I still fall asleep in the car. NOT while I'm driving, but I would like that to stop. Overall, the thing is improving my health, and I am getting used to it. Sometimes I can imagine that it is not there, and sometimes it feels fairly comfortable. Other times I wake up pretty dry, and I think it's a pain in the ass.

What can you do to make your experience with a CPAP better? There is a humidifier attached, which I use. I also tie my hair back at night to keep it out of the way of the straps. I already use Flonase because of my dust allergy, but if you don't, it's recommended that you could use a nasal spray to help keep things from drying out. And when you start using the CPAP, you can reduce your level of air pressure for a while.

How expensive was it? Well, that depends on your insurance. Mine has helped me set up a monthly payment plan, so overall I'm pleased with that process.

Regardless of whether you have a harder adjustment time or an easier one, the CPAP is not something you should blow off. Many CPAP owners decide they do not like the machine, and want to give it up. I say that it's better than having a stroke or the issues that come with it. Of course, if you're lucky enough not to need one, that's best.

Vintage Update

Well, the semester has almost started! And I am happy about that.

Recently, I heard from Emma Curtis at the Costume Supercenter.com. She pointed me in the direction of 1920s and 1950s hair tutorials on her site. Just check out my vintage page under hair, and visit the site for some fun costumes, vintage and otherwise.

And Then, Draft 3 Was Done

Draft 3 is done. As part of draft three, however, I threw out the final quarter of the novel. I still have a complete novel, but the last fourth is really a first draft.

Right now, I'm engaged in what I'm calling draft 3.1, revising the new ending to send it out to my critique friends. I've already been getting feedback on the first 3/4 which is very helpful.

Of course, as usual, the best laid plans of writers are often waylaid. In my case by 120 extra students, and 15 teacher interviews. I will try to get as much done as I can by the conference, but realistically can I get it done? That's the question.

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Today I purchased my new CPAP. I'll be sure to write a review. Why? Because I found that I didn't know much about them before all this, and that information might be helpful to someone else out there who is underoxygenated. Yup. I love making up words.

2014 in Writing

So...I'm looking at the Submission Grinder, and I'm discovering that I submitted 11 shorter works 53 times last year. I'm looking at Query Tracker, and I'm discovering that I hit 52 new agents with Abigail Rath. This year I rewrote a novella (which still needs another rewrite), wrote a new novel and have revised it almost 3 times, and wrote six new short stories.

I had several stories held for upper tier consideration, second and even third looks. I had some requests for full manuscripts.

I made my first professional sale. Blatant plug: Buy The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk when it comes out in July. You know you want to. Or maybe you know I want you to, if we get all Freudian about it.

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What can I take from this? Well, in no particular order

1. I worked really, really hard at producing writing this year.
2. Revising is a lifestyle.
3. I am a submitting machine.

Now, in terms of controlling what I could, I did good. :) I would have liked more sales, or an agent. I would have liked to have finished The Poison of thy Flesh in terms of having it ready to send out. But I look at the amount I've done, and I can't say that I really did a lot of procrastinating. Nope. Productive is my middle name this year.

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Where am I at in my quest to gain the extra 6K I need to get my 10K Outliers hours? Yes, I am still on my quest to get those 10K hours that Malcolm Gladwell suggests to master an art. I've been at it for 4 years, and this year my magic number has totaled 2232. I wrote 516 dedicated hours last year, fewer than the first 2 years, but about the same as last year. That I did all the above in 516 hours makes me feel pretty good.

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So, in 2015? Well, I'm going to get Poison smooth, get its supporting materials in great shape, and send it out. I'll be visiting two pitch conferences in addition to all the queries by mail. My goal to produce a short a month will continue, and it's still my hope to get a serial up on Patreon.

After Poison, I'll be ripping into that weredog novella again, and then I'm thinking I will revisit the trolls in Decorah YA. Then, on to the second Klarion book. Plans of course can change.

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How about you? What are you up to? What do you hope for in 2015?