Saturday, August 28, 2010


115 / 1000 words. 12% done!

The red is for FAIL. Good night.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Dangers of Waiting on a Submission

It's four weeks now since I've submitted my novel package, and my nerves are seriously starting to jangle. This is not solely because of the manuscript. Work has cranked up from "sleepy" to "very busy", and all of my weekends lately have been booked solid. Aside from blog posts, social networking and a few paragraphs here and there, I haven't written a damn thing worth mentioning since August.

Is the manuscript to blame for that? Partially. I'm always hesitant to start working on a new project while I'm waiting to hear back about an old one, especially one that I would likely be called on to revise if (fingers crossed!) the editors show any interest. It's going to be that much harder to get back into the "grim darkness" mindset if, for example, I'm writing a silly fantasy story about cows called "Knights of the Udder Side".

But that's a crappy excuse and I know it. I am not going to improve if I do not write. I am not going to get published if I do not write. And it is going to be much harder to get back into writing mode from a full stop than it is if I keep writing something, even if it is the stinking cow story. (It's not going to be the cow story. Well, probably not.)

I have another full weekend starting tomorrow, but today I'm not at work and I don't have any obligations after lunchtime, so I'm going to write. I may not write anything good, but I am going to break 1,000 words today come hell or high water. I'll update later tonight with my success; or lack thereof...

And I've just realized that I have no guarantee that my submission even made it through the publisher's spam filter. Lesson learned: Always send a brief, harmless little confirmation email along with a submission, noting that you did send something in, and would the publisher please reply if they didn't get it? Much too late now for me to send anything without being a nuisance, but maybe in another month?

That's enough of that. Ignore that terrible fear-snake writhing in your guts, Dave! Now is the time to write!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Games Day 2010

So I had a great time attending Games Day in Baltimore this year. Thanks to all the staffers from Games Workshop and Black Library who worked so hard to put this frankly insane event together. Lots of shouting, crazy costumes, and people running around dragging tape measures and screaming "CANNONBALL!!". (If you play Warhammer you'll get the reference.)

Some highlights from the event, with quality cell phone camera illustrations:

The crowd standing in line to register for the event. Point of clarification: You have to buy your ticket, then you have to register, then you can go inside. The guy in front of me didn't find this out until he'd already made it through this line once. Learn from his mistakes!

The best costume I saw all day. Actually there were a lot of high-quality costumes this year, and I'm very hopeful that Games Workshop will post up equally high-quality photographs in a few weeks.

An Eldar helmet and pistol at life-size scale (or close to it). I'm consistently amazed by the amount of effort the Games Workshop guys put into this stuff. I also freely admit that I would have walked off with this case if I thought I could get away with it.

Some of the models behind the big event! I don't know who Matthieu Fontaine is, but he's a hell of a painter/sculptor.

A Titan-scale Ultramarine, brought in to promote the upcoming Ultramarines movie. I'm trying to keep my expectations low for this, but they've got Terence Stamp doing voice work. How can you not expect awesomeness?

As promotional items go, nothing beats a free hat. This came courtesy of Relic Entertainment, the minds behind all of the recent Warhammer/Warhammer 40,000 video games. If anything's ever going to get me back into MMORPGs, Dark Millennium is it.

A shot of Dan Abnett during the second Black Library seminar. Mr. Abnett read an extract from his upcoming book Prospero Burns (you will want to buy that), answered a bunch of questions from the audience (did you like Eisenhorn? Ravenor? Then you can start hoping for more to come), and generally charmed the hell out of everybody.

The first seminar (which I failed to photograph properly) was four authors for one, with Gav Thorpe, C.L. Werner, Mike Lee, and Nathan Long all reading excerpts from their upcoming novels. They also took audience questions, and I actually got autographs from Mr. Thorpe and Mr. Werner (both of whom I heartily apologize to if I came off as an ass).

Last but not least, the loot! Games Days are a great way to grab some books (and miniatures) that aren't out in stores or on Amazon just yet. I was a little disappointed that I couldn't get my hands on The First Heretic (I looked at the previews for the UK Games Day by mistake), but I think I've got enough here to get me maybe halfway through the wait.

If I don't burn through the whole pile in a week. Which let's be honest, I might do.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Super Surprise Deadline Doom!

I found out through Facebook today about the StarCraft II writing contest, which has been running for who knows how long and which I would love to enter and oh God the deadline is on Monday. I've got a five day work week and a convention on Saturday, so getting an entry together for this contest is going to be a little like jumping into NaNoWriMo on day thirty.

But what the hell. I enjoy a challenge.

* * *

Today's writing output (on a different work in progress):

647 / 1000 words. 65% done!

Below par, but respectable (by my standards). Tomorrow I'm going to have to make par though, or I'm just plain doomed.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Testing, Testing, 1 2 3...

I'm thinking about running progress updates on this blog again, and I wanted to give the NaNoWriMo Word Meter over at a shot. It's a beauty of a word tracker, because it's really nothing more than some CSS you can post into a web page and get a stable word count image; it doesn't depend on staying up and running. You don't even have to have it link back to them, although it's only polite to give them credit.

So, let me know what you think about the aesthetics here. First up, here's my work in progress, if I assume it'll end up being 5,000 words:

1418 / 5000 words. 28% done!

Here's what the manuscript I sent to Black Library ended up being. 10,000 words was the minimum:

13223 / 10000 words. 132% done!

And here's what I've written today, with a daily goal of 1,000 words:

152 / 1000 words. 15% done!

Hrm. Looks like I've got some work to do...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Whoops (and Musings on Malcolm Gladwell)

So today it's been two weeks since I sent my novel package to Black Library. This is the point where the OCD starts to kick in. I'm not checking my email all day yet (that starts at around week five), but I'm still hoping for a response every time I open up my inbox. Even though the idea of getting good news about a 13,000 word document in two weeks is absurd. Ask any publishing editor, I dare you.

Still. The OCD is strong in the Force. It makes me doubt myself. Makes me read over the submission guidelines again. Points out the sentence that reads "Please e-mail all submissions as a single attachment". Reminds me that I split my submission into three attachments. Laughs at me as I bang my head against a wall.

There are six more weeks before I reach the fail date for this submission. I'll probably keep documenting my growing neurosis here as time passes. Admittedly, this is a horribly unprofessional thing to do; but there are much worse ways I could be shooting myself in the foot, so what the hell?

(To any of the God-Editors who might be reading this: know that I humbly prostrate myself before you, and beg your forgiveness for any offense I may have caused. But I don't make blood offerings without a signed contract.)

* * *

Penn & Teller, of all people, recently reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell and his assertion that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master of, well, anything.

My secret identity is a math geek, and he decided to run the numbers. If I practice writing for an hour a day (reasonable for a man with a wife and a day job), and if I assume that I haven't put in any practice at all up until now, it would take me 27 years(!) to become a master writer. I'm 27 years old now. If I'd been writing every day since birth, I'd have become a master sometime last month!

Clearly grade school was a waste of time.

If I further assume that being a master writer will guarantee fame, fortune and high sales (which is not necessarily true), and if I quit my day job to spend eight hours a day doing nothing but writing, I would just about be ready to write the next Great American Novel at thirty, and could conceivably get it published by thirty-two.

Unfortunately I need to eat occasionally over the next three years, and since I don't have a winning lottery ticket in my pocket (wait, check... nope, nothing there), I need to hold down a paying job. So it's an hour a day, every day, in pursuit of mastery; and I hope you'll all join me when I'm a sexagenarian and kicking off my world book tour. I'll be touring with Neil Gaiman's head in a jar.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Crab Feast

Yesterday was the annual Rotary Club Crab Feast in Annapolis, MD, where for sixty dollars a head you get all the Maryland blue crabs you can eat, plus corn on the cob and some tasty barbecue from Adam's Ribs. You might pay sixty dollars for a mere dozen crabs at a good seafood restaurant around here, so this is what they call a Good Deal. My family has made attending the feast a tradition over the last few years, and aside from the occasional scheduling conflict it's always been a blast.

The Maryland blue crab is one of nature's miracles. It is both a meal and a puzzle box. To eat a steamed blue crab, take the following steps:

  1. Remove the crab's claws and legs. Set these aside, because the main bulk of the meat is in the body and that's getting cold even as we speak.
  2. Flip the crab onto its back. There will be a vaguely triangular crotch plate on the bottom. Pry this up and off.
  3. Flip the crab again, then rip the top of the shell (the red part) off and set it aside. This will make a handy receptacle for the inedible bits or, if you wish, a dandy skull cap.
  4. Take a plastic or metal knife and cut the crab's face off. It is not essential to wear this as a mask. It would only be a mustache anyway.
  5. Remove the gill meat (sometimes called ladyfingers), as they have been filtering the crap in the Chesapeake Bay and will taste terrible.
  6. Remove the guts from what's left of the torso. There is some disgusting yellow goop in here that you can use as a sort of sauce.
  7. If you're from out of state you probably excused yourself from the table a few steps ago.
  8. Break the torso in half. Squeeze, split, or break apart each half to get at those precious few ounces of delicious crab meat.
  9. Completists can, at this point, crack open the claws with a cracker or mallet to get a few more ounces of meat. The remaining legs should be discarded unless you want the meat for a recipe, in which case a rolling pin will squeeze it out. And if you're in a hurry, foist the claws off on some sucker and go after another torso.

A puzzle, a meal and a light workout. Who could ask for more?

* * *

The sideshow at the Crab Feast is the campaigning, at least in an election year. Theoretically nobody is supposed to be campaigning, but who's going to enforce that? Especially if a former governor like Robert Ehrlich turns up to shake a few hands.

We didn't get to see Ehrlich (he turned up after we'd left), but we did get a candidate for lieutenant governor, who shall remain nameless (not that you won't be able to work out who I'm talking about if you really want to). He and his self-proclaimed mouthpiece walked up to our table and introduced themselves, at which point Mouthpiece bragged that the team had just gotten Sarah Palin's endorsement.

Now let's be clear: Maryland is very much a blue state, especially off the Eastern Shore. An endorsement from Sarah Palin is not necessarily a liability, but you can't lead with the damned thing.

The Candidate explained that he was a former Marine and a former FBI agent, and that he and his running mate intend to fix the budget by cleaning up fraud and waste in the state government. At this point the trickster god convinced me to ask the Candidate if he was going to cut spending or raise taxes.

The Candidate looked at my second head with a blank expression. He hadn't quite caught that, he explained.

"Are you planning to cut spending or raise taxes?" I asked again. The Candidate stared at me again, then raised a hand, explained that he had a bad ear, and asked me again what my question was.

I told him not to worry about it, and he excused himself.

(For the record, according to the campaign website the answer was "cut spending", sort of. The site promised no tax increases, and that the state's senior leadership would take a 25% pay cut.)