Monday, July 30, 2007

Post Edge ...

The Canadian magazine of the fantastic, ON SPEC, requires manuscripts to be sent by mail. Likewise, a SASE must be enclosed for a response. There are two choices for postage for the SASE:
1) procure Canadian stamps
2) get an international reply coupon (IRC)

I stop by my local PO and, after confirming Canadian stamps are not sold in the U.S., casually ask for an IRC, only having a vague idea of what it might be, look like, or cost. Sorry, I was told. None available. Try a post office in town X or Y.

I call the PO in town X, the one closest by, and the conversation is something like this:

Me: Do you have international reply coupons?

Civil Servant #1: International what?

Me : International reply coupons.

CS1: [to someone in the PO] Do we have international reply coupons?

CS2: Oh, no, [something unintellible about bats]

CS1: No sir, they're not -- what? They what?

Me : Uhhh...

CS1: Here, talk to her.

CS2: [in polite but limited english] No sir, no IRC's since the changes. Okay?

Me : Thank you.

Okay, town Y is a bit bigger. I call the PO there and am told this:

CS3 : Oh, IRC's? Nawww, we haven't had those since the rates went up. Actually, I don't think they exist anymore. Yah, you can't get them.

I wish I were making this up.

Some research is needed. The USPS has a handy International Mail Manual. Section 372 clearly describes the IRC, it's price ($2.00) and a little background on recent changes (the old ones expired on 12/31/2006). A little more digging uncovers the previous price ($1.85).

Okay, now to find a PO that knows what these are. A nearby city has a location that I think is a main branch (Hey, "Downtown". That must be the big one). I call and am informed, yes, they have IRC's.

Hurray! I make the trip in the afternoon and find the "Downtown" branch is a tiny hole in the wall. Erm, okay. Enter and greet the two civil servants standing behind the counter and inquire about the IRC. They look at each other.

CS4: Do we have those here?

CS5: Yes, Dave brought some from the main branch.

CS4: Aren't those the old ones?

CS5: No. They're the new ones. But I have to look them up. [Opens a stapled stack of copied pages.]

CS4: Jeez, where are they? Are they in the safe? [Wanders to the back.]

CS5: They're back there. I don't know how much they are now.

Me : [Trying to be helpful] I think they're two dollars.

CS4: Are they in the safe? I'd have to do a transfer to you, right?

CS5: I have to look them up.

CS4: I've never seen one; never sold one in ten years here.

CS5: We sold them all the time at the main branch.

Me : [Wishing I was at the main branch.]

CS4: [Disappearing behind a wall] I think this is them. Are these it?

CS5: I'm looking it up. [Goes to the computer to punch in something.]

CS4: Do I have to transfer these to you?

Me : [Notices a line of people forming behind me. Pretends interest in a pamphlet on the counter.]

CS5: Okay, they cost $1.85 each. [To me] How many did you want?

Me : [Sinking feeling about the price] Uhm, just one. Isn't that the old-

CS5: [To CS4] I found it! It's [some number code]!

CS4: Wait. What am I doing with these?

Eventually CS4 and CS5 confer beyond the wall, conducting bureaucratic business out of site in case I prove to be an agent of W.A.S.T.E. Finally, the IRC is produced. It is indeed the new one (expires 12/31/2009) and, remarkably, really is the old price of $1.85.

I pay for the IRC and slip out of the PO under the watchful, malevolent gaze of the eight people wondering what the hell was so special about what I just bought that it took so damn long.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Meme Or Writhe ...

Last Book Read: Finder by Emma Bull

Matt Jarpe is a science fiction writer. His debut novel, Radio Freefall is due out soon. And, he tagged me.

I like playing these blog-chain-letter games once in a while. Tagging ten other people is a bit of a burden. I will fulfill my tagged-state obligations, however, and provide the information below. If anyone would like to take up the torch, be my guest.

-Start Copy-

It's very simple. When this is passed on to you, copy the whole thing, skim the list and put a * star beside those that you like. (Check out especially the * starred ones.)

Add the next number (1. 2. 3. 4. 5., etc.) and write your own blogging tip for other bloggers. Try to make your tip general.

After that, tag 10 other people. Link love some friends!

Just think- if 10 people start this, the 10 people pass it onto another 10 people, you have 100 links already!

1. Look, read, and learn. *****

2. Be, EXCELLENT to each other. *****

3. Don't let money change ya! ***

4. Always reply to your comments. ****

5. Link liberally -- it keeps you and your friends afloat in the Sea of Technorati. ***

6. Don't give up - persistance is fertile. **

7. Give link credit where credit is due.**

8. What the world needs is content. Provide it. *

9. Link without expectations of reciprocity. It is better to give than to get.

-End Copy-

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Writer Writes ...

Rick O. is a writer, occasional commenter here, and my best friend. He is in town visiting from the left coast, and I invited him to contribute a guest blog post.

"A writer writes. You may have already figured this out, but when an instructor first said this at a session of the Gotham Writers’ Workshop in 1999, the words unleashed a world-altering revolution for me.

"Until then, and like so many other would-be writers, I thought that one was only an authentic writer when they’d had something published. Sure, you might waste hours scribbling a perfectly clean paper full of confusing pen scratches or clog the precious hard drive of a balky computer, but this doodling amounted to nothing more than a hobby. Or maybe a self-indulgent escape from real responsibility. I was certain that you weren’t a real writer unless at least one other human being had acknowledged the value of your labor by bringing the words into print in a public forum.

"Yet here was a woman I respected, not the least for her own impressive achievement in published fiction, telling me that the mantle worn by Faulkner, Hemingway, and Vonnegut could indeed be mine. All it took was action. On my part.

"How frightening. After all, it was much easier to stifle myself than to take responsibility for my own dream. If the only requirement to call oneself a writer was to spend a little time each day writing, what could stop me from doing it?

"I’m embarrassed to remember all the excuses.

"But her words resonated with me, and took root in a way that was impossible to ignore. Through an amicable, if cool divorce, a separation from an emotionally unfulfilling if financially lucrative job, and an exchange of coasts, I couldn’t escape the simple truth of this other writer’s statement.

"All it took to be able to call oneself a writer was to take time to write every day. That’s it. Take a moment to think about this yourself. If you write today, you ARE a writer. Even if what you write never gets published. Even if no one else ever reads a word.

"This truth still animates my daily work, and one of my goals is to spread the word. I have now been published, and occasionally even read, but when a newbie or wanna-be asks me what it takes to be a writer I’m happy to tell them. A writer writes.

"Keep on writing!"

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ex-Size ...

The most recent short story I completed is set near Toronto. I had OnSpec in mind for the first submission try since the magazine is published in Canada. Their guidelines are very clear on maximum word count: 6,000.

My story clocked in at 6,371.

A little daunting. I had already pared it down quite a bit. Could I get rid of another page and a half? Looking at it another way, 16 words per page had to be cut. That seemed possible.

Red pen in hand, I went at it. Something strange happened. I enjoyed editing. Usually I can't stand it, not because I think every word is perfect the moment it flows from my fingertips. Just that I want to move on already to the next thing. But I buckle down and do it, again and again and again.

This time, it was like a game. Word search with a scalpel. Tight sentences became snare drums. I looked hard then harder eventually cut two whole sentences. The words helped, but not enough. Like party crashers, they weren't missed after they were gone.

A new strategy for editing? On the next story, I'll pretend I need to cut the text down by a certain percentage and see if it works.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Account Ability ...

That time again to check the quarterly goals. Past time, in fact. I took an extra week to compensate for the vacation in June. As the CEO, CIO, and COO of this company, I can change deadlines at will.

And hey! Good news:

FY07 Q4 Goals
-Finish editing 'Chasing Midnight', SF novel.


-Edit, polish, agonize over, edit again, and submit a new short story.

-Start process for new novel: 20,000 foot view, theme, basic idea, etc.

Now, while the Asimov's rejection finally did arrive*, there was good news this quarter with an accepted story. Overall, investors are happy and have gone to the beach to sip the beverage of their choice. Join them in the comments with your beverage of choice! Mine would be a very cold, pale-amber colored craft beer.



Okay, enough celebrating. Back to work!

FY08 Q1 Goals
-Edit, polish, agonize over, edit again, and submit TWO short stories.

-Continue process for new novel, preparing for NaNoWriMo in November.

-Pull 'Chasing Midnight' out of the compost and see if it is nutritious humus or just worm food.

* The response from Asimov's arrived 120 days after submission.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

66K ...

Chasing Midnight is the name of the book. I've been working on it for over two years. From a sliver of an idea from a dream I had, the crappy draft was born. This expanded to the official crappy first draft.

I had high hopes when I finished scribbling in red ink. I thought there were enough ideas to get this second draft in shape. And the editing went well, in the beginning.

Later, there was more cutting than writing. The last few dozen pages had big 'X' marks. Sentences, paragraphs, a whole chapter: wiped out! It was necessary, certainly. But I had hoped the end result would be the supposed minimum for marketability: one hundred thousand words.

I've got 66,006 (at least, according to MS Word, which is probably counting page numbers, headers, and 'typos' it fixed).

The good news: it is done. The bad news: what do I really have at this point? Is there more there there? Will a major third draft (shudders) get this to the holy grail of 100k? Or do I have a trumped up novella with pretentions?

For now, it goes off the desk to sit/rest/stew/age/marinate. At least I know to do that much and not give up on it, yet.

Have you all done that? Walked away from a novel knowing that it just wasn't going to work? I've done it twice (well 2.5 times). This one was going to be different.

Or maybe the next one.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Pardon Our Appearance ...

Sorry for the delay in posting.

So, hurray and huzzah for both Littlebird Blue and myself had stories accepted in the Sporty Spec anthology! Very cool.

The reason for my absence was a family vacation down to D.C., Virginia, and the Bronx (long story). It was quite a trip. We had a list of must-see sites. Having been down there many times over the years, I had just one goal: the Library of Congress.

My adventure is chronicled in the book link above. Even if I didn't have time to browse, I absolutely had to have an LOC library card: