Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Must-Have Tool for Sci-Fi Writers

This November, I'm doing NaNoWriMo for the first time. My project is a young adult science fiction book that's been kicking around my head for months, and I'm pretty excited to try to write it all in one intense flurry. I'm also excited to see if the book turns out as well as the muse keeps saying it will. In order to find out, I'm putting the fantasy aside for 30 days. I'll probably only lose out on a few thousand words of it, since lately it's been flowing like 2-day-old concrete anyway.

The tool I mention in the topic is Celestia. This free (as in speech and as in beer) software is a real-time model of the universe, complete with ability to create new solar systems out of vacuum and model those too. How many light-years is it to Sirius? Punch in Sirius and you get a distance counter. From there to Alpha Centauri? No problem -- zip through the stars and sit at Sirius while you punch up Alpha Centauri instead.

For my project, I needed to know (at least, this is what I was looking up when I found Celestia) what the communication lag is between Earth and Ceres on a specific day when two people would be trying to communicate. It's a 20-second lookup in Celestia.

The only downside is that since I've been playing around with this software, space documentaries are starting to look really familiar. It kills the suspension of disbelief when you can look at the amazing shot they somehow filmed from space and say, "Hey, they made that simulation in Celestia!"

Monday, October 27, 2008

Until November 5th ...

I'm back on track again, having gotten over both my issues with the current chapter and the most recent local plague. The site redesign is finally complete. Now I'm going to spend the next week succumbing to my inner political junkie and therefore not blogging, so that I can keep my oath to myself (and my friends) not to use my blog as a personal political pulpit.

Happy voting, and I'll see you on the other side of November 4th.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I'm stuck.

I won't say blocked, because that's not the case, but I'm stuck. After thinking about it all day, I think I even know why it is that I'm stuck: I'm afraid to write this part of the book. What seemed like a perfectly reasonable premise when I started this project now feels radical, like it's going to make everyone who reads it angry. I don't honestly feel that this is the case, although there are people in the world who I'm quite sure want to be angry and will jump on any excuse to scream about something, but my internal political-correctness censor is screaming at me for what I have to write in order to get from the introduction piece of the book to the climax and finish.

I think I've been encouraging this behavior from that stupid censor in my head. I've been changing words from what I mean to some other nebulous thing in order for people not to think I'm talking about something real. In my fantasy novel.


So, no progress on the book this weekend. Tomorrow I plan to go through the manuscript and tell my subconscious censor to go to hell. I'm changing those words back to what I mean. Hopefully that will shut her up long enough for me to get through this chapter, which I suspect will not be nearly as controversial as she insists it will.

In the meantime, I'm going to go over to Holly Lisle's site and reread her article about exactly this situation. Over and over and over again. Until it sticks.

On a side note, the site design is finished; I'm now working on the code to get it to work on Blogger. Dear Google: It would have been incredibly helpful if you had included ANY documentation on the coding involved. Unfortunately, that happy circumstance is not the case, so it's trial and error which is incredibly time-consuming. Within another week or so, my beautiful (in my oh-so-humble opinion anyway) design will show up on the blog. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Happy Sad Day in Hockeytown

Sad: Today was the Red Wings' season opener and we lost 2-3 to the Maple Leafs despite a couple of nice chances right at the end.

Happy: We were treated to the sight of several legends of Hockeytown past carrying the new 2007-2008 Stanley Cup Champions banner onto the ice for the banner-raising ceremony.

Here's to another great season for Detroit: Go Wings!

Writing Status: I'm working pretty hard on my website design at the moment. I did manage to get about 500 words written, a chapter reorganized and the rest of its scenes expanded from the few words in the outline to a real synopsis.

Is it Friday yet?

Stranger than Fiction

My brother brought me Stranger than Fiction to watch last weekend, which I highly recommend to writers and non-writers alike. He and my sister had to force me to watch it, since I haven't been watching much of anything lately -- not to mention that I generally don't like the movies Will Farrell makes. I'm delighted to say that I was dead wrong on this one. Mr. Farrell played a beautiful part, and by the end of the movie I was sure of two things. First, I'm not crazy -- I'm just a writer. Thank you, Emma Thompson. Second, I'd do just about anything for that assistant.

As an aside, this movie featured what I'm pretty sure is the best pickup line I've ever seen. You can find it in the quotes section of the article I linked above, but it's buried in the middle of a scene. Go watch the movie instead; you'll know it when you see it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


A little while ago, I was reading this incredibly informative post over at kt literary's blog about why she rejected or requested partials for the queries in her pile, and I came across this one:
Query from a YA with a YA. An important bit of writing advice you pick up with experience: use ellipses sparingly, if at all.

I experienced a brief moment of panic as I realized that I had committed this newbie writer faux pas all over my manuscript. Onto my revision checklist went "get rid of ellipses!" and then I started thinking. I've been writing, albeit not novels, my entire life and I never used ellipses the way I do now. I wondered, in an absent, back-of-mind sort of way, where on Earth I had picked up that particular habit.

Then I hopped onto Gmail to chat with a friend for a few minutes, and our conversation went something like this:

Me: Found this great site ... think you'll like it ...
Friend: Yeah ... saw that yesterday ... it was pretty cool

The ellipsis mystery was solved. I asked all of my text-conversant buddies, and every one of them said they constantly used ellipses to denote a pause in their conversation.

I read another publishing industry post about ellipses fairly recently (sorry, I couldn't find this one when I went to look for a link -- I do a lot of surfing) asking, "Authors, what's with all the ellipses?" or some such. I think this is your answer: Gmail ... AIM ... Yahoo ... Jabber ...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

First Post!

"Never tell me the odds!" --Han Solo

I've always loved this quote.

Today I was talking to a friend about my grand plans for becoming a fabulously wealthy bestselling author (the introduction to the conversation was his grand plan of winning the lottery, so I felt justified). After we each dreamed out loud for a while, he turned sober and gave me the reality check any good friend would: "You do realize just how much competition there is for that, right?"

In other words, "You might be better off just playing the lottery instead."

Thankfully, I was not driven to depression by this grim reminder of reality. Yes, I realize that the odds of achieving bestseller status are astronomical. I don't mind. I assured my friend that I would be incredibly happy to simply get published at all, and the odds of that happening are much more manageable: only several thousand to one.

I wouldn't have it any other way. If I wanted a sure bet, I'd be publishing my story on this blog. Somehow, that just doesn't cut it. I want it to be hard. Those standards brought us the Lord of the Rings, the Belgariad, the Dragonriders of Pern. They let us get to know Honor Harrington, Pug, and Alvin Maker. The idea of my book sitting next to those I've known and loved all my life is ... well, it's indescribable.

So don't tell me the odds. I know they're a million to one. I have to try anyway.