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It is finished!

More later when I’m more awake, but I just wanted to announce that I just finished the 1st draft of my first novel, tentatively titled Singularity Deferred. It’s 105,600 words long (about 25,000 longer than I anticipated), and 388 MLA-formatted pages.

I’m happy, pleased, proud… and exhausted! I’ll figure out what kind of ritual celebratory act I want to perform tomorrow; right now, I want to celebrate by sleeping. :)

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Clickity-clack!

(Post originally published on my other blog, GrogMonkey, back on Jan. 27, 2011. Still trying to figure out how to divide the work between the two blogs. I only have a couple more to cross-post in a batch after this one.)

One of my English Masters program classmates posted on Facebook that he recently bought an electric typewriter, and posted pictures. My initial knee-jerk reaction was, “Heh, cool.”Then my first reasoned mental response was, “Wait, what the heck is a typewriter for? Why in the world have a typewriter? Would he actually use it? Do they still make ribbon??”

But in the back of my mind that “Heh, cool” was still echoing around. There’s just something romantic, to a writer, about a typewriter — the tactile sensation of physical objects (keys, be they on swinging arms, daisy-wheels, or IBM character balls), changing the physical world (ink on paper with the barest impression of the letter pressed into the surface of the paper). Much in the same way guns are romantic and carry a mystique, being able to physically affect the world from a distance with an object commanded by your hand. (OK, does the gun metaphor make sense to only me?) Anyway, to someone who all but worships at the alter of the written word, having a machine that manipulates reality to force words into the material world is powerful, heady, and visceral.

Needless to say, I really like this typewriter idea.

It’s not the same with a computer. Sure, you press buttons and words appear on a screen, and that’s powerful in its own way. And knowing that those words, heck, these words, can instantly be seen by someone mrs away or even by millions of people (heh, ok, not these words by millions, but you get my point), is awesome and sublimely powerful! But in a very abstract way. A higher-order way that requires a certain amount of sophisticated thought to really appreciate the power of kinetic force translated into 1s and 0s and retranslated into understandable language by a remote viewer. The typewriter affects a more immediate, primal connection in the mid-brain, in the right-brain, and in the “gut.”

OK, enough babbling — typewriters to a writer is just freakin’ cool!

Naturally, I’ve started looking for one. :) eBay, of course, has many for very cheap prices! Craig’s List has a few listed, for a little more ($50 to $100), but has the benefit of locality so I can see and try before I buy. I’ve looked, and people still make ribbon for a great many machines, and cheaply priced, too!

The problem is, of course, besides the unnecessary cost when I could spend that money on a week’s groceries, is space — we have no space in the house for unnecessary luxuries like that. And it is an unnecessary luxury, sadly. After all, after I typed a story on it, I’d still scan it in to an OCR program so I could edit it on the PC; no way I’m retyping something line that. I hate retyping stuff! With a passion. But, that experience of putting thought and imagination, fresh from the brain and never before exposed to the light of day, tattooed into the surface of the page, is a cathartic, almost shamanistic experience! Well worth the time to scan the result, page by page, into a doc file.

I didn’t always have this feeling about typewriters, back when I had no choice but to use them, in high school. Ugh! Writing on them was miserable! I always wrote everything, both fiction and school papers, longhand (something my pasty and soft hands actually can’t do for more than a minute any more). I’d erase and edit and erase and edit, and then have my proficient mother type the school papers for me. The fiction tended to stay in many lost notebooks.

I had a HS typing class, which I was miserable at. Miserable both in skill and mood. Much to my current chagrin! Twenty years later of obsessive computer use both for business and pleasure, I can type more than 60 w.p.m., and with little error, but in such a way that would make a touch-typist roll with laughter.

Perhaps the years of being disconnected from the physicality of creating words has turned my hate for the machine into a nostalgic adoration. Truly, Baudrillard-ian nostalgia for a thing that never existed. But, I feel it none the less. And I do hope I can find the space and money to get my own typewriter so I can feel that connection and embody that stereotype of the classic 20th century portrait of the earnest writer. But I think I owe my wife a scrapbooking table first….


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Rothfuss coolness


The last couple of days has hit me with a couple of instances of coolness regarding a writer I like… whom I’ve not actually read yet! Patrick Rothfuss, author of the fantasy bestseller, The Name of the Wind, and its sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear. These are his only two published novels so far, and I’ve not actually read either yet — although, The Name of the Wind happens to be sitting atop my stack of books-to-read. (Link to my other blog I’m still migrating posts over from.)

If I haven’t read any of his fiction, how can I like him? Well, for nearly two years now, I’ve been reading about him, and especially lately, have been hearing him on a lot of podcasts and reading his interviews. I like the guy. I’m looking forward to liking his writing, as well, soon.

Anyway, one of those podcasts, I listened to this last week: Adventures in SciFi Publishing, number 118. As the interview guest, he spoke a lot about various topics, about writing and getting published, and his trials and tribulations with editing — very inspiring. But one thing he said that really got my attention, was his revelation that he didn’t know a simile from a metaphor, and has to think about the difference between an adjective and an adverb. This was shocking to me because, well, personally, I love grammar. :) But apart from that, it seems to me that every writer I’m familiar with appears to know more about grammar than I do. How is it this acclaimed, best-selling, beloved writer by intelligent and educated fantasy readers, could possibly not know 5th-grade grammar concepts? Me knee-jerk reaction was of shock and disappointment.

But, after a moment, I realized: Who flippin’ cares if he doesn’t know the mechanics. He can obviously write extremely well from instinct, from natural talent, from the experience of reading other peoples’ writing, from (as he described) listening to his own words and how they feel, if they simply sound well put together. In a way, I envy that.

Though, he also teaches creative writing. And I have to wonder, surely he has to know basic “stuff” in order to at least help teach basic skills and what to avoid. I mean, how can you teach new writers to avoid adverbs, especially “-ly” adverbs, if you have a hard time remembering what an adverb is? For example. And I wonder, was he being intentionality overly self-deprecating in the interview? Oh well, not really important.

The second piece of interesting coolness was his latest blog posting describing his experience trying to book a last-minute book signing in Iowa City. It’s an amusing tale just in general. But what amused me more, was that the store that finally booked him, and quite happily, was The Haunted Bookshop — a primarily used book store. I lived in Iowa City for a year, about a decade ago, and I used to shop at that store all the time. I remember going in there right before each of my twice-a-month 8-hour drives to Missouri to pick up a new audiobook.

Really, it’s kind of silly, but the fact that he talked about this store, and posted a very familiar picture of the place, made me smile and chuckle for a couple of days. Ah, nostalgia-from-serendipity!

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Farm-grown Spam

SF novelist Jim Macdonald has an article, “Fence Your Stolen Content at Amazon.com“. He discusses the threat of e-books as becoming the new breeding-ground fir spammers and search engine scammers:

“With the cost of self-publishing approaching zero thanks to e-publishing, and with content-farms being depreciated by Google, it seems that spammers have taken to e-publishing.”

As someone seeking to start a career with e-publishing as a significant cornerstone in the foundation, this bothers me a lot. As a user of the Internet since around 1995, I’ve seen the war against spam and pernicious Web advertisers get messy. As someone who has worked in IT in some way since 1998, I’ve been on frontlines fighting spam and blocking advertising. And, as a Web designer, I’ve had to fight hard to get sites as high as legitimately possible on search results while competing with unscrupulous content farms.

As someone who has spent his entire adult life, both personally and professionally, fighting with spammers and scammers, the prospect of having to continue the fight as a writer, wearies me greatly.

On the glass-half-full side, I have seen a great deal of improvement in the last 15 years in the war over e-mail spam. There was a time, before client spam filters and ubiquitous e-mail server filters, when I considered giving up e-mail altogether as the ratio of spam to ham in my inbox was 75/25. Now, the amount of spam I get barely annoys me.

The current hated weapon is the content farm. Do a search on Google for nearly anything and many of the hits you’ll get back will be to About.com or Suite101 or similar pages that have simply copy-and-pasted a page of generic info about your desired topic, and then filled it with product links and ads. Sadly, the war against these isn’t going too well.

And that’s the threat Macdonald sees in e-publishing — do a book search on Amazon.com for a particular topic, and find several cheap e-books… that have the same generic, boilerplate content as seen in similar pointless works across the ‘net. The legitimate author becomes a squeak in a sea of static.

Things change, and e-mail spam is a surprising example of things changing for the better. I have hope. Sadly, I don’t think it’ll improve until it gets much worse — and I have the impeccable timing to jump right into the fray.

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Stories for sale!

for saleNow, for your e-book reading enjoyment, I’ve put some of my stories (both previously published and new) up for sale on this site!

Maybe it’s an experiment to see if it goes anywhere, maybe I’ll be able to pay rent. Maybe my hopes and spirit will be dashed upon the barren rocks of disinterest. We’ll see.

But if you’re someone who like to support artists directly (especially poor, struggling artists) instead of corporate stock holders for media conglomerates, consider buying a couple stories — or the low low priced five-story collection! They work great on iPhone/iPad’s iBook reader, Kindle, Nook, and other readers.

So, check the story page out and take a look at samples of the tales, won’t you? Your patronage will be appreciated!

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