Monthly Archives: January 2010

Book #3 – Hart & Boot

Book #3 – Hart & Boot & Other Stories by Tim Pratt

As I said over on the reading list, I very much enjoyed Pratt’s The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl. I liked the Western aspect of that book and, considering the cowboy figure on the cover of Hart & Boot, I was intrigued. The blurb on the back of the book quotes Tim Pratt’s writing as being Gaimanesque, and while reading this collection of short stories I realized why I didn’t care for Gaiman’s American Gods. American Gods, or at least that modern world filled with the old gods, was *not* a great collection of short stories. I never cared for the overarching plot. Pratt’s stories (or at least 11 of the 13 in this anthology) inhabit similar territory and do so in satisfying, tasty chunks. I will admit though that I wasn’t as pleased with the last two stories.  One was more on the sci-fi end and the other… I couldn’t get into it at all. I tried, really I did, but it couldn’t hold my interest.  This might be due to my current position as a writer. We’re heavily in the world building stage and I wasn’t able to fall comfortably into either of those stories. My sci-fi/fantasy cache is full.

More at the 2010 Reading List.

Since February is short, I’m thinking about juggling the list a little. Tolkien read-through is starting again  and my next book is Stephen King Goes to the Movies. It’s thick. I’d also like to read a couple of Pratt’s on-line stories tomorrow to round off the experience.

Quick Update

Closing in on 10K on Zeta Iota. I’ve got about 1200 to go. Might use next week as a clean-up / where’s-the-manuscripts week. Or not.
I have NYF on the weekend and league draft Monday night.
I’m considering staying awake to watch the Federer/Tsonga match.

Lessons About Writing that I Keep Learning

If I sit at my computer with my current WIP open for six hours and have 162 words to show for it, I need to go talk to Eric about the scene I am theoretically writing. Obviously, my brain doesn’t have enough to work with. Mulling occurs, but it’s more productive than 27 words/hour.

Every book is different. Writing 12,500 words in a month might have been the "clean" word goal for Pas de Chat. It isn’t for Zeta Iota. (I don’t even remember how it worked for the Weordan novels…)

Every writer is different, part I – Writer X writes 1600 words a day . Writer Y juggles four different projects. Writer Z wakes ready to wrestle words to words to the ground. I am not Writer X, Y or Z. Those writers are doing their things, and I’ll do mine. It’s all good if it works.

Every writer is different, part II – Writing a quick and dirty first draft works for many writers. For me, having a 50,000-70,000 word manuscript that needs *that* much editing is daunting. Daunting in a paralyzing gonna-go-back-to-bed-until-the-nasty-book-goes-away kind of way. It’s better for me to write a chunk, edit a chunk, move on. The pitfall of that method is the temptation to over-edit, but I’d rather deal with that than being overwhelmed. Again, it’s all good if it works.

Probably just confirmation bias…

On a scientific level, there is little evidence linking weather change to arthritis pain. On an anecdotal level, I suffered for four days while the Phoenix metro experienced a pretty decent storm. Pain in my hands and knees set in Wednesday and didn’t let up until Saturday night. That’s the worst flare-up I’ve had in a while. It wreaked havoc on my exercise plans and my will to do much more than be miserable.

Today, I went out and played some ultimate with the Intel/Freescale/Other guys. Felt decent, though it took a while for my hands to remember how to catch a disc. Quan (of Intel disc) has put together a team to play at New Year Fest next weekend; Eric is a late add. They wanted to scimmage at least once and I went to provide an extra body if needed. I’ll be helping with Frisbee Central next Saturday and playing with one of the PHX-ation teams on Sunday. I’m looking forward to it.

Book #2 – The Ten-Cent Plague

Book #2 – The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America by David Hajdu

I feel lucky to have grown up in the environment I did, at least reading-material-wise. My mom, though dismissive of fantasy literature, never disallowed anything I wanted to read. Granted, I never brought home The Joy of Sex or anything particularly racy, but I read plenty of horror literature. This was probably due to my mom being a reader of science fiction and some horror. I grew up reading what was around me. I never read too many comic books, but the attitude of my mom was that any reading was good reading. I also attended a Lutheran grade school and I don’t remember any "banned" literature. In fact, I seem to remember copies of Mad magazine being available. I might be misremembering and was generally oblivious, but I never had the feeling that anything was off limits. Again, maybe there was just never any challenge to the system.

On the periphery of my knowledge, I knew there was past controversy over comic books. I had no idea that it put hundreds of artists out of work, that it substantially changed the content of comic books for many years, or that the controversy had absolutely no basis. I had never truly understood the meaning of *panic*. Sure, I encounter and roll my eyes at alarmist headlines all the time. I know there are groups that take exception to many things, whether there is basis for the attitude or not. But I have strong faith in the freedoms that the US is based on. I suppose it is because of those freedoms that panics can happen.

David Hajdu provides a firm history of comics from the turn of the 20th century onward, placing the certain types of comic within their historical context. Comics are very much a product of what is going on socially and culturally. Until the late 40s and early 50s, there was the usual amount of objection to comics, but when juvenile delinquency started to rise in the late 40s, comic books took the blame despite no scientific evidence that comics caused delinquent youngsters. At the same time, comics had swung around to horror and hardcore crime. It was easy pickings for their attackers.

The one thing I would have like from the book is more emphasis on the second half of its sub-title: "How It Changed America." It certainly changed comic books, for a while at least. (Hajdu leaves off in the 50s. Via WikiPedia, it would seem that the Comics Code has, thankfully, eroded over time.) Instead, considering the book’s Epilogue, it would seem that the better subtitle would have been "How Changing America Changed Comic-Books." It would be nice if Hajdu had distilled down the lessons that might be applicable to current controversies like video game violence (speaking of influencing the young) or vaccines and autism (speaking of panics with no scientific basis). Maybe it’s the up to the reader to work that out for themselves.

As for other questions about reading this book:

Since I’m not a great fan of comics, why did I choose this book? I saw it, I think, on someone’s weRead to-be-read list, and it looked interesting.

Did I learn anything craft-wise? Hard to learn much from non-fiction. This history includes many names being thrown around and it’s interesting that I didn’t care about keeping track of them after a while. I suppose that says something about how much one should worry about a cast of thousands.

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The Plan is going well. Next up: Tim Pratt’s Hart & Boot & Other Stories.

12.5K for a 5K?

Thinking about running the Skirt Chaser 5K. Running a 5K, or the like, was on my now defunct 101 things list and I’d still like to do it. I’ve been running again and 3 miles isn’t a hardship. Anyway, I had looked at the Skirt Chaser last year, and this year Casey (the social instigator) is gathering up the usual suspects to do it. And it occurs to me that this is a good carrot opportunity.

Back when I wrote Pas de Chat, the plan was to write at least 10K a month with a goal of 75K in 6 months (basically 12.5K a month). That’s not a huge number, but considering that Eric and I talked every day about Pas de Chat, like we’re doing with Zeta Iota, it might be a semi-reasonable number. I’m probably doing more intra-draft rewriting with this book than with that book. So, I ‘m thinking this: 12.5K by the end of the month. Then I sign up for the Skirt Chaser. I basically started this book on the 8th and have around 5K done.  That 7500 and clean-up in the next week and few days.

Seriously, nothing to see here.

Quick Monday night update:

Ran father than I have in ages. Despite creaky body.
Realized there are no more Mikasa stores.
Got lazy and took the day off. Two of my EQ2 characters now have cool swords for their walls.
Watched Dead Presidents. (An oddly linear movie.)
Received rejection #2 for Model Species.
Talked Rifts v. 40K RPG. Going back to Rifts.
I plan on reading before heading to sleep. Double coffee at 7pm should help/hinder.
ASU kid is back to classes tomorrow.