Archive for March, 2012

On the Death of a Man

I’ve been to Lovecraft’s grave.  My wife and I were in Providence for a long day and included it on the list of things to see and do.  Earlier in the day we’d climbed the steep roads of College Hill on a Lovecraft walking tour, visited the Athenaeum where Poe romanced Sarah Whitman and Lovecraft went to feel closer to his writing hero.  Later that night we got to enjoy WaterFire, one of the best reasons to visit the city.  Mid day had us driving blindly along winding roads in the Swan Point Cemetery with only vague directions.  There were no signs leading to the main Phillips monument, or to the smaller gravestone added decades later that said “Howard Phillips Lovecraft” and “I Am Providence.”  Ultimately it took someone waving us down, another pilgrim to the grave site.

It’s a simple stone, paid for by fans who felt he deserved something more than just the family obelisk that towers over it.  Fans graffiti it, leave tributes, or just stack a few stones on it.  The cemetery discourages them all.

We stood for a few quiet moments, took some pictures, and left.

I’m not sure how well you can read the tombstone there, it was a bad sun angle for photographing etched stone, but he died March 15, 1937.  75 years ago, today.  It was a painful death of intestinal cancer and malnutrition.

It’s hard to know what to say about Lovecraft.  Alright, it’s not really.  I have a book of his personal letters, just a portion of what is one of the most extensive lifetime epistolaries known, and what they show is a man with all his flaws.  He wrote about his stories, his ideas, his poems.  He also wrote about his prejudices, many of which go well above and beyond what can be excused by waving our hands and saying “it was a different time.”  He was racist, xenophobic, and slightly technophobic, even as he loved science.

He was, in short, not a man I think many of his modern fans would get along with over the course of a long conversation.

He has fans still today not for the man he was, but for the things he wrote.  He crafted short stories and poems that could only be described as weird and horrific.  He built on the ideas of Poe and Chambers, and in doing so created a subgenre of horror defined by his name, Lovecraftian.  Created a Cthulhu mythos that has spread beyond just stories and entered into the general public awareness.  His continued influence over the horror genre speaks to how his ideas so enthralled readers.  Because he wasn’t a great writer.  I always hate to say that, but it’s true.  I still go back and read him, though, not for his prose but for these dark themes he created of being so powerful they can only be seen as gods, but who don’t care at all about the men who worship them.  Horrid things that would bring about apocalypse without a second thought.  It’s an odd bleakness that speaks to something deep in the psyche.

And three quarters of a century ago, this man died.  A man of flawed opinions, of dubious skill, but of boundless imagination that still grips us today.

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Bee-gicide

My basement is now full of unpainted supers rather than unassembled supers…and that’s where things are coming to a standstill for the time being.  Unfortunately our initial order of supplies came with the wrong size frames for the boxes we ordered (I was initially certain I ordered the wrong size, but a look at the invoice had me in the right).  Fortunately the company’s customer service absolutely awesome, so I should have replacements by next week.  So awesome I’m not going to mention who they are because I don’t want google searches to potentially bring up my story of wrong frames.

It’s a good thing they’re acting fast on a replacement, because the members of the club who overwintered nucs are reporting they’re shocking close to transplant ready.  Last week I talked about nucs vs packages, an overwintered nuc is just what it sounds like, one that was split off from the parent hive in the late fall and has developed on their own for the last several months.  These overwintered nucs typically spend most of the winter dormant, but that’s because they also spend most of the winter being much colder than they were this year.  Since we won’t know where our nuc is coming from or whether it was overwintered until we get a fateful call one day, this doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll get our bees earlier than expected.  But we may, and I want to be ready to go with all woodware assembled.  Fortunately we have a few preassembled frames in the right size so even if the bees came tomorrow we could keep going for a week or so.

In last night’s beekeepking class we learned about regicide.

Okay, no we didn’t.  But that’s how I portrayed it last week on the blog, and at several points on Twitter.  It turns out the number of times that a beekeeper will go into the hive for the purpose of killing the queen are quite low.  Even in those times where the queen must be removed for the good of the hive, the master beekeeper running the class (yes, that is a specific title with well regulated testing requirements to earn it) says she’s more likely to move an old queen to a nuc just to see how she does.  Though this master beekeeper also runs 80 hives in two locations, not the two hives we’re starting at or the four hives that Fairfax County caps us at1.

Last night’s class was really about the beekeeping year.  About how we’re going to be sweating our asses off in protective clothing in late July and early August to harvest the honey.  Fighting the temptation to stick our noses in the box whenever we want.  Feeding bees when they’re hungry and leaving them the hell alone when they’re pissed off and being overly protective of their brood.

It’s work, but it’s worth it.  In two weeks they’re talking about bringing in a mead-maker to discuss the process of turning our honey into sweet, sweet wine.  Unfortunately we meet in a public school, so no tastings allowed.  It might not happen, but it might, and that makes me happy, cause that’s what I wanted to do to begin with.


1 The same Fairfax County ordinance that caps us at 4 hives for our lot size also dictates how many farm animals one is allowed to have.  It does this by creating the terms “animal unit” and “bird unit.”  For those interested, Fairfax County at the time I wrote this blog post defined an animal unit as 3 cows, 5 sheep, 3 horses, 5 goats, 5 llamas, or 5 alpacas, and a bird unit as 32 chickens, 16 ducks, 8 turkeys, or 8 geese.  Now you know.  The rules are more complex than that, and this isn’t a legal blog or official advice, so go check it out for yourself in FCZO 2-512 if you’re really curious.

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World Building Question: What Time Is It?

Here in the United States, except for most of Arizona and Hawaii, we’ve gone into Daylight Saving Time, when we shift our clocks forward an hour so we can take advantage of more sunlight in the evenings after work.  You know what DST is, because while the whole world doesn’t use it, probably 95% of this blog’s traffic comes from countries that do.  However, DST is not universally applied internationally.  The US and the UK shift a few weeks apart, and Australia observes DST opposite the rest of the world due to flipped seasons.  It also picks different dates.  This video explains the history of DST and how things just don’t line up all that smoothly, and even the odd DST observing and non-observing enclaves within Native territories in Arizona:

So last week we here on the east coast of the United States were 16 hours behind Sydney, Australia, now we’re 15, and in another few weeks it’ll be just 14.  And just when it looked like we were catching up to the Aussies, it’ll all reverse and go back to 16 hours in a few short months.

Alright, so what’s my vague justification for talking about DST under the auspices of World Building?  It brings up an important question when it comes to non-earth worlds:  What time is it?  How granular is time?  In a less advanced civilization there may be just four broad times: morning, midday, evening, and night.  If you’re not trying to plan specific and detailed events, that’s all you really need, and it’s more about our perception of time than actual hours.  “Morning” changes by hours a year, to when it starts, when it ends, and how long it is, thanks to lengthening and shortening of a day and by ones latitude.

A more advanced society requires more advanced time keeping.  Broad subdivisions of time independent of the rising and setting of the sun come first.  We call these hours on earth, and arbitrarily divide a day into 24 of them.  There are 24 because the Egyptians liked to use base 12, and split the equinox day into equal halves, twelve portions of daylight, twelve portions of darkness.  Why 12 when we have 10 fingers?  Because they counted knuckles, not digits.  It’s handily a mathematically significant number because there are more factors of 12 than 10, but it’s largely arbitrary due to one culture’s affinity for a number and later cultures’ affinity for that culture.

Once a society becomes more advanced, it needs more granular time.  This won’t necessarily lead straight to minutes, but could be quarters of the longer time blocks, or perhaps eighths.  Even modern society we tend to use only halves and less frequently quarters for most of our daily activities.  Sixty minutes on earth come from old methods of hand counting from cultures that lacked calculators and needed ways of tallying numbers larger than ten using the digits on their hands.  It’s the old 12 knuckles on one hand, multiplied by 2, 3, 4, or 5 on the other.  Thumbs need not apply.  We further divide things into seconds, again with 60 per minute.  After that, time becomes decimal, belying the fact that smaller units of times than seconds weren’t really necessary until after the scientific revolution.  Thus we end up with milliseconds and picoseconds.

There are some who suggest that all of time should be decimalized the way subdivisions of seconds are.  A day would be 10 hours of 100 minutes of 100 seconds, which the length of each being determined by taking the period of revolution of the earth and dividing by the correct number.  While there’s a certain logic to this decimalization, there is so much cultural momentum to overcome that decimal time will likely never be more than just a novelty.  We see this here in the United States as various movements fail to convert the country from imperial to metric measurements.

We further complicated time of day with time zones, designed so that noon in each part of the world roughly represents the midpoint between sunrise and sunset, but rarely actually does.  There is some push to eliminate those just as there is a push for the decimalization of time.  This is more successful as there are already organizations, such as major world navies, who see the benefit of referring to an exact moment of time by the same numerical representation wherever you are in the world.  Thus 0300 Zulu is 0300 Zulu whether a ship is in the Atlantic, Pacific, or Indian oceans.  It’s handy for any organization attempting to synchronize around the planet, or even beyond it, something that wasn’t necessary or possible until very recently.

So let’s pretend we’re world building time on the earth.  The day was divided into 12 units (and the night an additional 12) because 12 was a culturally significant number for an early culture, in no small part because it represented the number of segments on the fingers of one hand.  Hours and seconds were divided five times farther because early cultures would use this counting-to-twelve method on one hand, then use the fingers on the other hand for the multipliers 2x through 5x.  Subdividions of seconds are the only units of time that are decimalized because they are only useful to scientists who prefer decimalization because it makes math easier.  These divisions have nothing to do with when the sun rises or sets, and even arbitrarily shift by an hour at a time.  The earth itself is divided into 24 major time zones (we won’t even start with the minor half and quarter hour zones) one per hour of the day for offset, though these are slowly going away in favor of a universal time.  And this is all before we’ve put down our first settlement on a planet that rotates at a different rate than earth, which will further complicate things.

So we’re back to the original question.  What time is it?  It’s a complex question that will deal with the history of your planet and culture, cultural norms, scientific advancement, and ultimately may cause debate and confusion on a planet shrunk by high speed communication.

And this is without even asking two far more complicated, but legitimate, world building questions: What day is today? And when is lunch?

Railway station clock picture by Wikipedian Petar Milošević, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  French decimal clock picture by Wikipedia Cormullion, and also licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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Get the Popcorn Ready

It’s time to watch the battle lines form and opposing sides to form.  The DOJ is threatening action against Apple and five of the six big publishers, suggesting collusion in the pricing of eBooks.  Even though the issue is complicated and the sides are the DOJ vs Apple and the publishers, I suspect within a few days the narrative will be presented as Amazon vs iBooks, as this looks to be a battle between the Wholesale and Agency pricing methods.  However, I’m sure it’s also going to morph into questions of why eBooks are “so expensive” and play into the standard debate of whether or not traditional publishers still have a place within publishing.

The agency pricing method is a product of the last round of scraps, which saw the combined force of Apple and the publishers on one side, and legitimately Amazon on the other.  The iPad was a new piece of technology, iBooks looked to be the first Kindle competitor Amazon would take seriously, and Apple offered the publishers a more lucrative pricing arrangement whereby the publishers set prices for books and got better revenue splitting than Amazon offered at the time.  It was a move that stabilized publisher profits and writer royalties, though in doing so created a model unlike how books were distributed to brick and mortar locations.  Not that Amazon’s old Wholesale pricing method was exactly the same, either.

The crux is just how the Agency model came into place.  Apple offered it to the publishers, knowing that it would result in higher eBook prices than Amazon was offering, but also knowing that the publishers would readily agree and use it as ammunition to strong-arm Amazon into the same changes.  The publishers at the time felt that Amazon was undercutting prices on eBooks, even to the point of taking a loss on best sellers.  This created arbitrary price points that were lower than could sustain profitability, but were also training consumers that these were the prices eBooks were “supposed” to be.  To that extent there probably was some collusion that happened, these companies worked together to set a price point that they were able to enforce on Amazon through the power of their collective bargaining might.  Amazon didn’t want to lose the publishers to Apple, they folded, and today we have the Agency model ruling the day.

What specifically launched all this was a quote by Steve Jobs in his recent biography:

We told the publishers, “We’ll go to the agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30%, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that’s what you want anyway.”  They went to Amazon and said, “You’re going to sign an agency contract or we’re not going to give you the books.”

That’s pretty damning when read on its own, but it’s also the kind of bravado that Jobs was well known for in life.  On the flip side you have the CEO of Barnes & Noble allegedly testifying to the DOJ that abandonment of the agency model would likely give Amazon the power to create a monopoly.

When you boil the fight down to Apple v Amazon, it’s hard to take sides.  As a reader, I don’t want to see book prices set arbitrarily high.  As a writer, I don’t want to see them set arbitrarily low.  In the end, what I care the most about is writers getting the royalties they deserve, whether purchases come from a printed copy or from a digital edition.  Right now the Agency model protects those better than the Wholesale model did, but neither protects them as well as the model actually used in bookstores.  The model whereby an author gets the same royalty for a hardback whether bought full priced on day one of sale or for $1 on the ultra discount rack eighteen months later.

The central issue of all of this is the question: how much should an eBook cost.  And it’s a question with lots of strongly held opinions.  Amazon’s original theory was $9.99.  Apple and the publishers put into place a plan similar to the way print books are priced, with a premium for books that are in hardback, on recent releases, and from well known authors, with lower prices on older or back catalog releases.  Compounding the issue are two variables: the recent move by the self proclaimed “indy” authors to undercut novels put out by publishers by putting their novels out there for 99 cents, or even free, and lack of consumer understanding on just what portion of a book’s cost is related to the physical production.

Go into any discussion about the pricing of eBooks, and there will be a lot of them over the next few days, and you’ll inevitably see the question as to why eBooks are “so expensive.”  After all, the argument goes, the publishers are saving money on printing and distribution, so why aren’t those savings passed on to the consumer.  In large part it’s because these savings aren’t that great.  The costs of publishing a book are largely tied up in those things that don’t go away with eBooks.  Things like acquisition, editing, and advertising.  Digital distribution even has its own unique costs that offset the savings from printing and distribution.  Questions about why eBooks aren’t cheaper also don’t get into the above mentioned premium that the publishing industry has always put on new publications, especially by established authors.  A premium that has largely been understood in the past, and that exists across all media.  A new movie, a new DVD, a new game, a new CD, they’re all going to be more expensive than the movie in the second run theaters, the bargain rack DVD or CD, or the game from last year.

The Agency method also standardizes prices across formats, which is something that you don’t need to worry about with books.  If I comparison shop between Barnes, Amazon, and my local independent book seller, I may get three different prices for a book.  I can pick the cheapest one, and I can read it without any worries.  However with three major formats for eBooks, comparison shopping is limited by my ability to then read the book I picked up.  Finding a book cheaper through the Nook store isn’t going to do me a damned bit of good when I have a Kindle.  So if one company, say Amazon, consistently undercuts the other two, it’s going to push people exclusively to the Kindle.  One company can control the market by being the most able to sustain a loss.

This discussion is understandable.  And it needs to happen.  This is a new economy, and people are now paying money for things they feel less of a physical connection to.  You have a digital song, not a CD.  You have a file, not a paperback.  It’s probably fair that people pay less for these items, as they have fewer options of what to do with them.  I can’t sell back an eBook to a second hand dealer to recoup some money, for example.  It’s likely going to take a few more years for a pricing model that is fair to the electronic distributors, the publishers, and the writers to get sorted out.  This DOJ warning (and it’s good to stress it is only a warning at this stage) may end up being a very positive move towards finding something that is more evenly equitable for everyone involved in the production and distribution of intellectual digital property.  But it’s not going to be pretty along the way.

Final note, since I’m a day late on posting this due to yesterday’s technical difficulties, Apple has now responded:

But this allegation just strings together antitrust buzzwords.. Nor does this “Kindle theory” make sense on its own terms. For example, if Amazon was a “threat” that needed to be squelched by means of an illegal conspiracy, why would Apple offer Amazon’s Kindle app on the iPad? Why would Apple conclude that conspiring to force Amazon to no longer lose money on eBooks would cripple Amazon’s competitive fortunes? And why would Apple perceive the need for an illegal solution to the “Kindle threat” when it had an obvious and lawful one which it implemented – namely, introducing a multipurpose device (the iPad) whose marketing and sales success was not centered on eBook sales?

All we as readers and entry level writers can do is watch this play out.  If I had to pick a side…damn, it’s tough.  I’d stand with the Apple/Publishers side, largely because I’m concerned that this is happening so close to Amazon’s push to change revenue distribution with those publishers and distributors it believes it can push around.  That’s going to be pretty standard for me.  I’m usually going to side with content producers, because I am one, but I suspect there will be content producers on both sides of this.  As you may have figured out, this post is largely me just trying to make sense of it all myself.  Ultimately this fight will affect us all, but so many of us are going to have so little say in the resolution.

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Technical Difficulties

I was going to make a blog post today.  Then this happened.

Maybe tomorrow.

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Packages and Nucs

Another night of beekeeping class, another post about what I’m learning.  There are a few ways to start a new beehive, but for us newbies they’re focusing on two: packages and nucs.  Packages are boxes of bees.  Really.  They put about three pounds worth of bees in a box, add in a queen and a can of sugar water, and send them about their merry way.  It’s actually possible to order these through UPS, though my coworker tells me it’s not a good way to make friends with your local driver.

Weird physics: put three pounds of bees in a closed one pound box, have half the bees start flying, how much does the total box weigh?  Four pounds.  It’s one of those have to think about things, but even though the bees are flying, their weight is still part of the entire closed system of the box.

Our bee club puts in orders for bee packages from Georgia, which is still not technically Africanized, even though AHBs have shown up in one county.  One member of the club goes down and helps put packages together, then drives through the night to deliver them to club members.  Alright, about a week and a half ago I got a Google hit “How not to be creeped out by bees.”  That person should not read the following math.  The bee package guy makes two trips a year.  Each time he brings back 900 packages.  Filled with 3 pounds of bees.  At about 3500 bees to the pound.  That’s a total of around NINETEEN MILLION BEES!  So, yeah, if you’re creeped out by bees, don’t think about the fact that you could be on I-95 sometime in the next month behind a truck carrying about 9.5 million of them.  And don’t think about the fact that that truck full of 9.5 million bees might tip over, because that never ever ever happens.  EVER!

Drive happy.

The steps for installing a package include letting the bees hang out in their box for a few days on a lot of newspaper, as they can fling poo up to three feet (yet another bees are better than apes argument shot) spraying them with water and syrup every few hours before finally going through about ten PowerPoint slides full of steps to introduce them into the hive.  You stack supers, you nail down the queen’s apartment, you fill bags with sugar water, you check several times, you rearrange things.

Then we went through the steps for installing a nuc.  This is what we’re going with.  A nuc is a mini colony, already started, and living on five frames in a cardboard box.  To move a nuc into your hive, you take out five of your frames, put in the five bee-ful frames, and then go have a beer because you’re done.  I feel like we’ve made the right decision.

Next week we learn about year two with the hive, which apparently starts in August.  I think that’s the class where they start outlining methods and reasons for regicide.

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Walking Dead, Can We Talk?

Spoiler warning: While I can’t say for certain which episodes I’ll be spoiling, I’ve watched through the March 4 episode, Judge, Jury, Executioner.  If you’ve not watched that far and you continue beyond this point, then I hold no sympathies if you are spoiled about anything.

You have been warned.

I’m not here to talk to you about Dale dying.  It fit the episode nicely to kill off the moral center of the survivor’s group right when they’re debating if morality still applies.  I’m going to miss the character, but I also applaud you for recognizing that in a post zombie apocalypse world, folks’ll die.  And sometimes we’ll meet characters and never see them again, not knowing whether they’re alive or dead, like Morgan and Duane from the beginning of the first season.  It’s our second death among the original survivors this season, with a third rumored (and spoiled excessively online) before the season comes to a close.  I hope you never lose that willingness, because that’s part of what horror should be, that feeling that none of the characters is safe.  Even a little girl who would be safe in any other story.

No, I’m here to talk with you about something else.  I’m here to talk about Rick’s descent towards the dark side.  Well, no, that’s the wrong way of putting it.  It wasn’t a descent into the dark side, it was a rather sudden arrival in the dark side.  Much of your last two episodes are about a new survivor named Randall from a nebulous group of Others, who may or may not have a mysterious list of Rick’s band and walk through the woods barefoot carrying teddy bears.  When Randall impales himself on a decorative fence, Rick makes the humanitarian decision to bring him back to the farm rather than letting zombies devour him.  Then he spends most of two episodes thinking up any number of plans to kill him.  Drive him 18 miles out and leave him with his hands and feet bound, clear zombie bait.  When that fails, hang him.  When that’s too inhumane, shoot him in the head.

Who is this Rick?

Look, I understand the need to present questions of moral ambiguity in this situation.  I’ve finally started watching Battlestar Galactica, and there’s been all sorts of weighing sacrifice versus survival just in the opening three-hour miniseries.  I’m okay with a show that explores those questions, gets all dark, and really makes me think about what I would do in a given situation.  So what’s my problem with Rick?  I think it’s that he’s not President Roslin, whose hard choices define her character.  No.  He’s Anakin Skywalker.  A character who we are introduced to through his valor that who makes a sharp transition to darkness.

You did this well once.  His name is Shane.  I’ve watched him take step after step towards the dark side until he’s suddenly blowing Otis’s knees out to provide the zombies a nice meal so he can get away.  Here’s the difference.  I’m with Shane.  I followed him every step along the way.  Each time he made a decision, I’ve thought “yeah, I probably would have done the same,” even as I realize it’s dragging him farther and farther from norms of morality.  Even in that scene with Otis…yeah, I might have done the same.  He didn’t know Otis that well, he’s trying to save Carl’s life, and it’s likely that otherwise Otis, Shane, and Carl would all die.  One life to save two.  It’s brutal, but I can understand it.

Rick?  I’m not on board with that descent.  It was so rapid, and not based on any series of logical steps.  That’s what makes him Anakin.  He snaps, and one day he’s wiping out sand people, or spearheading the torture and cold-blooded murder of a kid who has really done nothing to threaten the group.  Yes, an argument can be made that he’s listening too much to Shane, he’s too concerned that he needs to be seen as a more forceful leader for the group.  But you did that already.  Remember?  When he puts a bullet in the head of zombie Sophia?  That was him stepping up into a more protective leader for our band of misfit survivors.

This is an over correction that doesn’t feel in character, and wasn’t preceded by a series of decisions that, while not necessarily logical, might at least be understandable.  That’s the central need whenever a character we the audience are meant to identify with commits acts we can’t.  I got it with Shane.  I didn’t with Rick.  And that’s left me turned off, even while you’ve corrected for a lot of the problems I had with the first half of the season.  I notice that next week’s episode is called “Better Angels,” and I hope that’s a good sign.  I don’t need Rick to be a paragon of virtuous thoughts and deeds.  That’s not the point.  I just need him to be a character whose motivations I understand, especially when they result in dramatic changes in the character.  Go nuts with your dynamic characters, it’s what I want out of your show, just fewer of these wild and unexplained mood swings would be awesome.

Now lets get back out there and kick some zombie butt.

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Flash Fiction: Epithets

Another Friday, and again Chuck Wendig has thrown down the gauntlet.  This week’s challenge:

Go to Your Favorite Music Player. Dig out your digital music collection.

Maybe this is iTunes or Spotify, or use Pandora if you’d rather go that way.

Hit SHUFFLE, then “Play.”

Translation: pull up a random song.

The title to this song is the title to your story.

Use the song for inspiration, too, if you feel so inclined.

My iPod must have known what was up, because I hit the shuffle button and up came the Paul and Storm song “Epithets.”  Target length was 1000 words, but I shot for 500.  The story is after the break.

Read the rest of this entry »

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State of the Writer: March 2012

2012 Goal: Query Nickajack.  February started with 57k words in the manuscript and ended with 65k words.  Yeah, 8000 words over an entire month isn’t the kind of pace I’d hoped for, but that saw the end of Act 2 and then a stop-work order until we can get the entirety of Act 3 outlined.  It’s a more holistic approach to outlining than we’ve done in past acts, because the third act is rather more important and we needed to have a strong feel on our end point.  Currently we’ve got 11 chapters outlined for the act, it’ll probably top out at 13-15, then we’ll get down into outlining scenes and I can start writing again.  I’m seriously chomping at the bit to write the denouement of the book, but that’s my dessert.  I must keep in mind the musical question: How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?

Another part of the slow-down was a short story I wanted to throw together for an anthology that closed its doors yesterday.  Got the concept two weeks ago, so that meant for a short turnaround.  Been awhile since I’ve sent off a short story, and I did so with less trepidation than usual.  Not sure if this is confidence in the story or confidence in myself.  It does feel better to write an introductory bio that includes actual published real-book credits.  Anthology in question promises all responses by the first of April, so by next months State of the Writer I should have news.

In my State of the Writer for February I talked about how we were heading into the shortest, coldest month of the year.  How’d that work out for everyone?  I don’t know if our February here in the DC area was the warmest on record, but it’s certainly the warmest I can remember, even when compared to Februarys spent further south.  Which, after the last two winters, was a nice change of pace.  What wasn’t so nice was all the pollen and mold the warmer weather kept floating through the air and into my nose, leaving me more useless than usual most of the month.  That was another part of the slowdown on Nickajack in the first half of February.

On my reading goals for the year, I assigned myself to read three Steampunk novels to see what others are doing with long fiction in the genre.  I finished up Boneshaker last night, which I have mixed feelings about.  This isn’t a book review blog, or I’d go in a little more depth.  To keep it short, I thought the book had one too many things going on.  Specifically the one thing too many was the zombies.  I was interested in the plot about the destruction of Seattle, a boy trying to learn about his father, a mother trying to save her son, and a shadowy figure ruling a lawless wreck of a city.  Each of those plots would have had a little more time to shine if the constant threat of zombies wasn’t lurking around like…well, like a pack of zombies.  That said, I know they’re working on a movie, and I suspect that a lot of what I wasn’t fond of in the book will actually make it a better movie.

Next book on the pile is Spring Heeled Jack, though I might take a break from my assigned reading as I still haven’t gotten to Snuff yet.

Looking ahead to March.  Outline, outline, outline.  Write, write, write.  Thus is the life of a novelist.  I’m hoping we can get our outline done by the 9th, and if we do I might still get the first draft of Act 3 finished by the end of the month.  Probably looking at 25-35k words based on how long chapters have been to date, which will bring the whole first draft in at 90-100k words, perfectly on target.

Then we’ll step away for a few weeks.

Then we’ll edit.

Oh joy.

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