Home - is where I want to be / But I guess I'm already there /I come home -
she lifted up her wings /
Guess that this must be the place...
- Talking Heads, "Naive Melody"

Monday, December 30, 2013

Looking Ahead

I hope everyone has enjoyed the holidays. We'll be spending a very quiet New Years this time around - we're driving back from visiting my family in Pennsylvania, and will be much too tired by the time we get home to do anything but fall over.

In the final days of the year, I officially met two of my modest goals: The Prometheus Tapestry went out to my beta readers this morning, and I finished reading another book, bringing my total for the year to twelve. One book a month isn't great, but I feel like it's something I can build on next year, and again--it's better than I've done in some recent years. Maybe as the kids get older, I really will get my life under more control?

In between final editing passes these past couple of mornings, I've been motivated to set up a list of goals for next year. I don't want to lose momentum or bog myself down with too many commitments, so I'm taking a leaf from The Happiness Project and trying to focus on one area each month, each one with a handful of tasks that I know for a fact can be accomplished in a weekend.

January's focus has to be on (groan) finances, where I have a list of things I've been putting off. In the maintenance zone are exercise, where I just want to keep up with what I've been doing, and writing, where I will focus on researching the new book. Throw in a couple of social events, and the month will be over before I know it.

Which is good, because January is usually pretty gross.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Farewell to 2013

Happy Birthday to our sweet boy, who turns six today.

Happy Boxing Day to the rest of the world.

I finished the book a few days ago--been too busy to write even a short post about it. I've been giving it a final nip-and-tuck pass before sending it off to my crew of beta readers.

We had a very nice holiday, an apartment full of guests, and the kids had a blast. My oven died on Christmas Eve, but we worked around it. I'll be traveling for most of the next week and unlikely to have a chance to post here, so I will take this opportunity to wish every happy holidays, and may 2014 be full of joy.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

2013 Wrap-Up

I haven't been so good about goals and tracking this year. Maybe that's something I need to get back to doing. Still, as we zoom toward the end of the year, it's a good time to see where I've been.

I finished last year feeling a pretty deep-seated depression, despite all of the good developments -- new job, Taos, etc. I'm not in that place any more, which is pretty great.

I have gotten exercise back into my life in a firm way. Did not meet my speed/mile goal, but I'm back to being able to do three miles in something like comfort. I lost ten pounds and then gained half of it back due to love of bagels. Having spent an interesting year there, I have stepped away from fandom. I went back to Twitter (now that's useful).

I read 10 new books, which is downright pathetic but still better than I did the year before.

I queried a lot of agents for Fury's Flight, I technically sold the book, and although after all was said and done nothing came of it, that was certainly an educational experience. I wrote nearly all of a brand-new novel, and may yet finish it by the end of the year. There have been low points in that process, but I feel a level of commitment to and comfort with my craft that has been missing.

I turned 40, and while I haven't had what I'd call a crisis, I do feel like I've been doing some emotional work related to aging. The crows-feet and gray hairs are multiplying; there's some required coming to terms with things that are never going to happen in my life. There's parenting, which I don't talk about much here, but which is certainly a big (stressful) part of my life.

Mostly for next year I want to keep going in this groove. I'll send the book to beta, revise and submit it. I'll write another one. I'll keep running, and maybe get my average time up.

2014 needs to be the Year of Budgeting. My God, we are horrible at this basic life skill, and I have recently discovered a  yen to travel (see: turning 40). 

That's really all I can think of. Happy holidays.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Crawling Toward the Finish

By an odd coincidence, the book starts in early December. 95,000 words at the moment, although that is slightly illusory--I have a bunch of NaNo dreck to trim out near the end, which is likely to lose me a thousand or two, and the rest of the fight scene to write, which I hope will make up for it. And this is in OpenOffice, which has some weird glitch that over-counts vs MS Word.

Of course, wordcount is not the be-all and end-all, but we have so little else that can be measured. I can say, "I believe I have two weeks of work remaining, assuming I get down to cases and don't waste too much time," and that has meaning to me, but not to anyone else.

Basically, I should have this damn book finished by the end of the year. While my beta readers whet their knives, I will finish what is likely to be my final fic (since it's half-done, I might as well tie it off) and then move on to the next novel in my queue. That was going to be one involving fey conflicts in post-Civil War Boston. At the moment, I feel like that's got too much in common with the one I just finished, and that I ought to do some SF instead, in which case it will be the Film Noir with Aliens. That should involve a lot of fun research, if nothing else.

Saturday, November 30, 2013


To make it is still satisfying, even on my fourth go-round. Even more satisfying is the feeling that the book has almost come together, that it just needs a few more turns around, a bit more kneading, and a dash of salt to be decently close to what I want it to be.

Which might, of course, still be utter dreck. I regularly look at the mash-up of ideas here, and while I could (and perhaps someday will) write at great length about why they all make sense to me, there is no guarantee that any reader will agree.

December will be spent less in pursuit of wordcount and more in pursuit of cleanliness. There are some hand-wavy bits in this draft still; the ending is only half-written. I'm sure I have overlooked many opportunities to work my metaphors. I had ideas three quarters through, which now need to be seeded into earlier chapters.

Business as usual. In other news, we had Thanksgiving, and it was marvelous. My menu was almost exactly the same as it has been in previous years. This may be what adulthood looks like.

And I just broke all of my progress bars with this post. Boo.

The Prometheus Tapestry

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Home Stretch

Having done the thing with the scene charts, I realized that I kind of forgot to include an Act 3 in my planning. I burned a couple of days figuring that out and then figuring out what to do about it, and then had to do some rewriting to allow for a different sequence of events. Just part of the process. I'm not stressing out about it, which is unusual of me. If I miss my not-NaNo goal, well, I've still gotten a huge chunk of writing done in November, and am on track for end of year delivery to my betas.

That means it's time to line up the next project, right? RIGHT? I have two projects in my mental queue. One of them I drafted in a previous NaNo, the other is just a germ of an idea. It would be efficient to work on the first one, but that book also has some things in common with the one I'm working on now, so maybe it would be better to shift scenes there, or to do some other kind of change-up in my writing. Something to think about as we head for the new year.

The Prometheus Tapestry

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Not-NaNo Week 3

And just like that, it seems that I am almost done. I barreled through my plot with unexpected speed, and now find myself facing the final conflict, which will leave me far short of what the genre demands as standard wordcount these days.

That's okay. I've got this. This is where the toolkit comes in, where the scene grid and the spreadsheet have a chance to shine. I don't have to rely on gut feelings, though those get sharper with practice. I can break it down, color code it, draw pictures. This bit here? Could use some action. This bit here? Slow it down. Did I ever actually explain how that one vital world-building element works? Whatever happened to that secondary character, or that theme I wanted to bring up?

I continue to learn more about my own process. The first drafts are digressive and full of conversations with myself, with frequent interpolations along the lines of "maybe I should...." or "should this character...?" The second draft answers the questions, but tends to be underwritten. I nail events and characters down, but sometimes forget to include important descriptions, or shortcut to a resolution without giving it enough build-up (or I wuss out and fail to resolve something I prepared ground for). In the third draft, I correct as much of that as I'm able to from my own close-in perspective.

Still planning to have this to the Taos crew for beta-reading right after New Years.
The Prometheus Tapestry

Monday, November 18, 2013


Feeling all sorts of wibbly about the book as I head into the final conflict. Worries include, but are not limited to:
  •  Have I any business even trying to write this sort of character
  • Is every thought contained herein unbearably peurile and risible
  • Do all of my stories sound alike
  • What am I doing trying to cram so many ideas into a single novel
  • How many times have I listened to Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces today

The cure for wibbling: get back to writing. I may well have no business doing this, but all I can do is do it, and give it to my beta readers, and possibly die of embarrassment, which isn't really any big deal.

The Prometheus Tapestry

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Not-NaNo Week 2

Did anyone get the number of that week? I'm sure it was doing at least 120 when it passed me. Life continues to be life, to feature homework and the day job and bedtime tantrums and school lunches and museum trips. I finally found the gym at the new office and have been there two days in a row. I have been working hard on the book, and am generally happy with how it's going. I'm going to have a lot of threads to juggle in Act 3, but at the moment this inspires interest rather than dread.

The Prometheus Tapestry

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Not-NaNo Week 1

Today is one of those mild, damp days that we sometimes get here in November. I remember a Thanksgiving like this when we lived in Worcester, the kids running around outside without jackets. The weather invites melancholy, or perhaps it's the much-interrupted night of sleep as 3yo battles some congestive virus or other.

So far, I am keeping the writing pace up. Yesterday was rough--I realized early in chapter 15 that I had made a wrong turn, and spent much of the day considering that. It didn't take too much fixing, however, and I hope the make progress again today. Over the halfway line now.

The Prometheus Tapestry

Monday, November 4, 2013

Movin' Right Along!

I sent my stuff to Angry Robot today. It felt a little weird working on the synopsis again after all this time, but I was reminded of the fact that I really, really like that book. Maybe it isn't publication-worthy after all, maybe it doesn't have a market, but at least I wrote something that I still enjoy looking at two years later.

The Prometheus Tapestry

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Not Exactly a NaNoWriMo

I had planned, way back at the beginning of 2013, to do NaNo again. I've done it before (as recorded elsewhere on this blog), and I find it really useful. According to my original time-table, of course, I was supposed to be done with this revision already, but I'm not unhappy with where I am.

The rewrite is chugging along nicely. There have been missteps and wobbles, and a recurrent fear that I will run out of Plot, but so far I've recovered from those and kept going. Most importantly, I'm having fun writing this story. Given where I was, say, six months ago, this is monumental. I wonder if one of the worst things that happens when we don't write is that we start to fear the process.

So I won't be doing an official NaNo this month, but I intend to keep up my current schedule. If I do that, I will hit the 2/3 mark by the end of November, and be on track to finish this draft for New Years.

In addition, I've started preparing a submission package on Fury's Flight for Angry Robot's open door period.  I'm being productive, I feel good, and I'm happy with what I'm doing; there really isn't anything more a writer can ask of the universe.

The Prometheus Tapestry

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Modest Dreams

I am a child of the 80s, and I grew up on "Cathy" cartoons and the dawning certainty that "having it all" only worked for those wealthy enough to pay other people to do the gross parts. I don't have many illusions these days, but I do have this stubborn dream of being one of those people who have their shit together.

Definitions of this state are no doubt wildly individual. I think sometimes I would settle for getting through a week without realizing that I've forgotten a birthday, missed some important school communique, or fretted about future finances. Perhaps even that is unrealistic.

At least Byron is behaving well (for my purposes). I was pondering last night on the fact that I don't remember when I decided to use him in this book. It spent so long on the back burner, and I didn't take good notes of my early process.

The Prometheus Tapestry

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sometimes it is not so easy

After gliding through several chapters with gleeful ease, I have entered a swampy mire. The territory I just crossed so blithely seems fraught with the dullest of dangers, and the way beyond it is suddenly unclear. I suspect the cold virus is a contributing factor, as are the needs of the day job, but my wordcount has slowed dangerously. 

That said, to ask the question is often to answer it. I note with satisfaction that I am quicker than I used to be at identifying problems in the work. If I feel like something is wrong, I know that I can trust that feeling, and that I will find a way around it.

The Prometheus Tapestry

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Things You Will Never See on This Blog

  • How to "do" social media
  • The word "branding" unaccompanied by a vulgar epithet
  • YA, NA, MG, or the rest of the marketing alphabet soup
 This post prompted by too much time on Twitter.

The Prometheus Tapestry

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Been a busy week here. Mr. This went off to Viable Paradise, and my mother came out from Pennsylvania for the duration to help out. We managed to keep busy without running ourselves ragged--buying her a new tablet, going to the kids' appointments, hitting all of our favorite bookstores in Cambridge, doing the usual chores. And I got some writing done!

The Prometheus Tapestry

I am throwing out enormous swathes of the last draft. I know there are places where this one still needs polishing, but I'm happy with the first act, and excited about the next part.

I expect exasperation from the week to come. I'll have a lot of work to catch up on when I go back, and we're moving offices a week from tomorrow. We shall see if I manage to maintain momentum. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Funny Kind of Vacation

Dave has gone off to Viable Paradise, which he reports is going well so far. My mother is here to help with the kids, and we're having a fine time of it. I even managed to get some writing done this morning. Chapter 6 still has some work to be done stitching and revising pre-existing material, but once I've finished that, Act 1 of the book will be complete. That ought to take me to right about 25k words.

I think I've figured out a way to add life to the mid-book, which was looking a bit too straightforward. One of the nice things about gaining experience in writing is that I have come to have greater confidence in my ability to solve problems. I might not know the entire path, but I am certain that I will know the way by the time I get there. 

Of course, the more of this I write, the more certain I am that it is fundamentally too weird for anyone else to ever want to read it, but that bridge is a long, long way off. 

The Prometheus Tapestry

Monday, October 7, 2013

Old Stomping Grounds

I could really just dispense with saying "busy weekend" ever again. Weekends are always busy, and they probably will be from here on until the last of the kids can drive herself around, at which point I will find things to fill them up out of sheer habit. Saturdays have the farmer's market for a few more weeks, eldest's dance class, errands to run and cleaning to do. Sunday mornings are lately for bread baking, watching Agents of SHIELD (giving it a B so far), writing and/or critiquing.

The afternoon on this particular rain-drenched Sunday was occupied by a trip to Worcester and the Higgins Armory Museum, soon to close for lack of funds. We haven't been back to Worcester much since moving. I never really did bond with the place, and I don't have any emotions about the Higgins closing beyond a rueful shrug. The visit was pleasant. I took some pictures of things that might come in handy for the novel, but mostly shepherded the kids around the play area. The enormous vinyl building blocks, from which endless castles could be constructed for summary destruction, were a big draw.

I feel like I should say something profound here about cities and identity, given that Worcester's main identity has always seemed to be "that city with an identity problem." It continues to muddle along with much change, at least not much visible from a car window.

I've been slightly battered of late by ideas for things I can put into this book. I only hope to do a halfway competent job of it.

The Prometheus Tapestry

Friday, October 4, 2013

First mile marker

Someone keeps clicking the Cool button, so I guess someone is reading this.

It's been a good week for writing. After a long period that felt like I was hammering rocks into slightly smaller rocks, the characters seem to have clicked for me. I've made some choices that I needed to make in terms of the magic system and imagery. I've hit the 10k mark and then some, with 88 days left before the end of the year.

I'm doing any number of things with this book that worry me a bit. It's the first book I've ever written with a single POV straight through. That POV is one that doesn't have much in common with my personal life experience. There is a fairly large and diverse cast to juggle and to do justice to. There is the matter of introducing and reinforcing that system and that imagery in ways that register as significant (and hopefully interesting) without planting a flag and yelling, "Hey, look over here! SYMBOLISM!"

But challenges are good for us, right? I've also been doing some critting, which is always useful to me (and hopefully to them) as I turn a sharper eye on my own output.

The Prometheus Tapestry

Monday, September 30, 2013

Tiny little pile of words, getting bigger every day.

The Prometheus Tapestry

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Now is the time on Sprockets when we post a lot, just so we can see the tiny bar get bigger.

The Prometheus Tapestry

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Slow, slow, slow

Still working on that second thousand words. I hope that once I get through revising this first scene, this will feel less like engraving stone. I'm pretty sure it's a better scene than it was the first time around, so that's something.

In random other news, one of my goals for this year was to lose ten pounds, and I actually did it! I'd like to repeat this trick next year. Perhaps counter-productively, I've been trying to get back into baking, especially bread. As was perhaps inevitable, I've drifted away from the fandom pursuits that were taking up a lot of my time last year. Prolonged observation has cemented my suspicion that I'll never really belong to that kind of community. I did "meet" some nice people.

Today is rainy and cool, and I'm making cinnamon scones while I work on this scene. Life is good. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Starting Over, Over

I will make no promises this time, but I suppose I ought to keep my accountability somewhere. Starting the next draft of the next book, which is going to mean a lot of layering, a lot of rewriting, and probably a lot of hard decisions. Also poetry. I'm excited about it.

The Prometheus Tapestry

I have hesitated over what to do with this blog, the way I hesitate over pretty much all social media. I'm a cautious person, and I tend to keep my thoughts to myself. Better to keep one's mouth shut and be thought a fool, etc.--the Internet makes it awfully easy to make an ass of oneself, and who cares about my opinion anyway? It seems not even de rigeour but an outright requirement nowadays to do so, though. We shall see what eventuates.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Summer slipping away

July was a blur, though that might have been due to the heat.

The book stands at just over 75k words, so still pretty far from goal there. While visiting Erie last weekend, I had some productive thoughts on what I need to do in the second draft, which is great, but doesn't help much for right now. The only thing I can do for it at present is get through the basics of the plot. I still plan to have it beta-ready by the end of this year.

Other than that, I've sent out a couple more query letters for Fury, read a bunch of comic books and an actual book, saw a movie with D*, and that's about the end of my ambition.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Happy Birthday

Well, here we are. So far 40 doesn't look any different. About the same amount of existential dread as usual, still trying to figure out how to get my life in order. I did buy a car yesterday, but not a fun mid-life crisis car (used Civic to replace our totaled one).

Have not made much progress on the writing front. I'm cutting back on social media this week in hopes that I will actually get moving on this research, although I'm having grave doubts about the entire book concept right now. Still sending query letters for the last one.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

State of the Marvel Universe: 1967

I'm reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which dovetails neatly with both this project and with my recent read of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. It's actually difficult to enjoy Chabon's work when I'm so conscious of the extent to which he's being kind to his subject matter. "What is the why?" It's what's missing from nearly all of these books.

Dinner table conversation at our home has introduced the idea that most people read these comics through a lens of nostalgia, either for their own childhood or an imagined one, and that they are therefore generous with their interpretations. Most people who read them (if they do read them, and don't just nod to the received wisdom) are not 40-year-old women, or writers themselves. There are things about these comics that I like, but that's not the same as them being well-written. Anyway, back to the wrap-up.

I spent most of this issue year thinking that 1967 was the year Marvel killed romance. Jane Foster got written out of Thor. Pepper eloped with Happy. Peter continued to aggressively not date either Gwen or MJ. After 20 issues of teasing, Steve went on a date with Agent 13 only to learn that she was too committed to her work with SHIELD to have a relationship. The FF was something of a bright (less dismal?) spot: Johnny and Crystal dated and argued, and Sue got pregnant. Ben and Alicia continued to wallow in "how can she possibly love me" angst. The X-Men had most of the action. We saw new life breathed into the Jean/Scott/Warren/Ted/whothehellknows situation. Warren's ex-girlfriend showed up. Bobby and Hank continued to date their girls in a low-key fashion.

The overall tone edged darker, with more self-sacrificing villains and a couple of deliberate kills on the part of Our Heroes (at least in theory, since we know Mandarin and Red Skull aren't actually going anywhere no matter how many times you blow up their lairs). The stable of employees continued to expand.

In other respects, Spider-Man continued to be a leading light, with strong stories and a hefty supporting cast. The continuity tightened up; rather than unspecified periods of months between issues, each one led into the next. That's good for pacing, and makes it easier to keep the subplots simmering.

After an enjoyable run in the latter half of '66, Thor went off the rails. Jane got shuffled off-stage. Sif joined the cast and set up a love triangle with Balder (yawn). We finally got back to Thor's secret identity for a few panels here and there, but there was no coherence or direction, and the stories were dull.

The Hulk only appeared in two archived issues this year, but those suggest that he remained directionless as well.

Tales of Suspense turned out reasonably good action, and the art was good, but none of the stories were memorable. Steve's long-teased romantic plot stalled, and he didn't have any other ones. With his supporting characters married to each other, Tony was bereft of subplots as well. 

Stan's stranglehold showed its first signs of slipping as Roy Thomas took over scripting the Avengers. Hercules got added as a team member. Black Widow got some fleshing out, despite still not being on the team. Quicksilver learned to fly, and it looks like Ant-Man is going to be a regular again. As with most of the others, there was no center to the book, nothing propelling it forward but a series of villainous encounters.

Fantastic Four introduced the Kree and broke new ground by announcing Sue's pregnancy. The plots were solid and actually cohered around a theme--with Blastaar, Him, the Kree, and the Psycho-Man, the team faced a steady stream of threats from Beyond Human Ken. While I'm not thrilled with the Inhumans, they gave the team other people to interact with. The college subplots vanished.

X-Men was also under Thomas' writing care, with decent results. He did seem to grasp the idea of character motivation. The X-Men finally started to get origin stories! And personal histories! The plots were okay. I swear Roth's art got worse, and perhaps editorial thought so, too, because they kept shuffling the book to different artists.

So, a mixed bag of a year, with improvement in some areas and back-sliding in others.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

State of the Marvel Universe: 1966

1966 saw a lot of changes to the artistic line-up. This is the year Kirby really broke through, in my opinion; previous to this I'd been wondering what all the fuss was about.

Spider-Man leaves Kirby's hands for those of Rick Romita, Sr. We get a slew of relatively intricate, family-dependent plots. Word balloons start overtaking the panels, but overall it's a good year that sees a lot of world-building, and the introduction of Mary Jane Watson, for good or ill.

Buscema joins the Tales to Astonish crew as that book disintegrates in confusion (literally, the archives are full of holes).

Journey Into Mystery has Thor sharing his true identity with Jane, gets a title change to Thor which will play HAVOC with my screen shot archiving system, and descends into an annoying slog with Hercules. It gets back on track with the expedition to Rigel and Ego, the Living Planet, and Kirby is in brilliant form.

Gene Colan takes over drawing Iron Man's half of Tales of Suspense. I like Colan's work. There is a pleasing amount of angst and stabs toward characterization. Captain America is still trying to find a direction; they tease a love interest in the past and possibly one in the future, and connect him up with Nick Fury only to scotch the idea of Cap working for SHIELD, but at least he's got something to do other than punch Nazis.

The Avengers get political. The team dynamic seems to be settling down, though the roster remains unstable. Hank Pym reappears as Goliath, and is still difficult to like. Pietro and Wanda spend much of the year absent. Black Widow is kind of an ally now.

There are lots of introductions in the Fantastic Four, with the establishment of the Inhumans and the iconic milestone that is Galactus (argh). Kirby does a lot of good stuff, and in the second half of the year they try some more intricate multi-threaded plotting, which works well with such a large cast. They introduce the Black Panther and Johnny's roommate Wyatt in a decent-for-the-times stab at diversity, but the writing of Sue is just awful, and Alicia's only appearance is to play midwife to the Surfer's appreciation of humanity.

The X-Men are handed over to Jay Gavin and continue to meander along. Jean goes to college. It's not horrible, but there's nothing interesting about it.

Overall, plots are stretching out a bit more. The universe as a whole gets bigger with the addition of Olympus and the fleshing-out of the Inhumans adding yet another branch on the super-powers tree (to go along with radiation/chemically-enhanced humans, magic, and mutants), and the exploration of sub-space. There is an uptick in the acceptable level of violence, where you get more of the bad guys mowing down innocent villagers, or the Red Skull mind-controlling a guy into shooting himself.

A lot of this stuff is just not well-written. There's a lot of inconsistency, sometimes within a single issue. The characters are still embryonic. "Because Stan said so" crops up in plotting and character motivation. The women characters are uniformly appalling. They had a lot of potentially-interesting concepts and characters at this point, but really weren't doing much with them. The art has improved a lot, though.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


I have too many places on which to post things. To some extent I compartmentalize -- Twitter tends to get writing stuff, Tumblr gets fan stuff, Facebook gets stuff about the kids, and G+ is where I keep my collected screenshots of superheroes tied up in ropes and tentacles. This blog used to be mainly about cooking, but while I do still cook, it's nowhere near what it used to be in my life. I don't remember when I last used some quiet moments to leaf through a cookbook. Maybe it's just that disconnected quiet moments are all I get, most days, or maybe it's a failure of discipline.

I will have to get on the stick about that, so I'm posting my schedule here, and also so I don't lose the damn thing. The working title for the book is Prometheus, because I have to call it something other than "that thing I'm doing with Byron in it."
  • May/June - Research. I have several books on Byron to read, and a new copy of The Death of Arthur.
  • June/July - Finish first draft (abandoned at 45k last year)
  • July-October - Second draft
  • November - NaNoWriMo (It's how I fill my queue; I skipped last year, but I already have an idea to use this time around)
  • December - Polish and solicit critiques
Those normally take a couple of months to come back, during which I can do research for the next novel (a sort of urban fantasy set in New England just after the Civil War). And so on. 

State of the Marvel Universe: 1965

Background: Last summer I watched The Avengers. Then I went and watched the rest of the Marvel Phase 1 movies, and then I watched The Avengers again. It struck me that with not just this movie but most comic movies, we were getting characters and stories that are literally fifty years old. I got curious about this longevity, and decided to look in the comics to see what they might tell me about how these characters started, how they evolved, and maybe why they've lasted so long. So I've been reading along, and as I get to the end of every issue year I write a "state of" summary. It occurred to me that some people might find them amusing (or not).

The books I read for this year are: Amazing Spider-Man, whatever books the Hulk appeared in, Journey Into Mystery, Tales of Suspense, Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Uncanny X-Men
So, 1965. One of the things that sticks out to a reader is how tiny the shop was back then. Stan, Jack, Ditko, Heck, a couple more who show up near the end of '65, a handful of colorists, and I think three letterers. That was Marvel.

In terms of the stories, all of the pieces were in place that we recognize today: the heroes, the major villains (and a host of forgotten ones), and their supporting casts. I knew the universe was pretty static, but I wasn't expecting this extent.

In 1965, Marvel characters still barely qualify as such. Labels substitute for backgrounds: doctor, scientist, disgruntled circus performer, Communist. Motives begin and end with "because heroes", "I would like to be rich", and "I just like being evil okay." Thor has a signature formality to his speech, Cap a certain stolid patriotism, but everyone else sounds like Stan Lee. Fine details of appearance were restricted by the available printing technology. Character backgrounds are sparse and mostly occupied by dead relatives.

It occurred to me that this might not be a deficiency if what you're really after is reader self-insertion. It's not "good writing," but it gets a particular job done. Maybe if you're an adult writing adult characters for an audience composed (or thought to be composed) largely of pre-teens, maybe they assumed that any depth or significant time spent on character problems out of costume would have been wasted.

I'm not even going to start on the state of their writing WRT women at this point, or else I'll be here all day. I suppose I should be glad that they had any women characters at all, and that they were allowed to do something other than be taken hostage. I swant someone to track down Stan Lee and find out why he stringently avoided the word "woman" in favor of "female." Efforts to set stories outside the US are cringe-inducing.

For all the crowds that showed up for Reed and Sue's wedding, the universe feels thin; there isn't much of a supporting cast in any of the books. We see the teams being domestic among themselves, fighting among themselves, and fighting villains, but seldom interacting with anyone else on an ongoing basis. Spider-Man does a better job of this than the rest of them, because he spends so much time out of costume. Most of the supporting cast for other solo books are dedicated to love interest/triangles. So for Journey Into Mystery, Thor's got Jane and he's got his family in Asgard, but a big chunk of the family scenes revolve around the Jane Problem. Iron Man's supporting cast is just Pepper and Happy. The Hulk doesn't have one at all. Captain America has Bucky in past-set stories, and Rick in present-day stories, and that's it. Secondary characters shouldn't just be there to be kidnapped, rescued, and mind-wiped; they add depth to a setting and round out the main characters by letting us see them in a variety of circumstances. That's missing.

Plots were rudimentary; for the most part, they didn't draw out longer than two issues. Kind of funny to me that despite the serial format--which has been used to produce some long-ass novels--they didn't trust either their medium or their audience to support actual long-term stories. Bad guy appears (or breaks out of jail, or gets hired by some other villain), attempts some crime. There's a fight. After a more or less protracted exchange of blows/fire, a defeat and retrenchment, the hero wins the fight. Almost everyone has a romantic interest or two, and Peter and Tony have recurring job woes, but it's more furniture than plot, because nothing significant happens as a result of these features (other than the creation of the Scorpion, I suppose). The Hulk, oddly, got some of the most intricate and extended sequences, but his characterization was all over the place. It took forever to find a place for Captain America as anything beyond a Nazi-puncher.

I'm told that I should be judging these books against what had gone before, and against their DC contemporaries, which would make it clear where Marvel was breaking ground in art and story, but there are limits to how much time I'm willing to put into this project. I see flashes of promise, and I quite like some of the art, but in terms of story-telling I'm calling this bad to mediocre.
So that was 1965.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Too Busy Living

I keep meaning to make this entry part of my weekend, but the days are so busy it seems I don't generally have time. Not that we actually do anything -- cleaning and errands seem to eat up as much time as I'm able to give them. Now that the weather is better, the kids are keen to go outside. So am I, to be honest. Still, even though I haven't had time to blog any recipes or anything lately, I can at least keep track of the goals and so forth.
  • Got two responses to the six query letters I sent; one request for a partial, one form rejection. It typically takes at least a couple of weeks, so I am going to try to hold out for the rest of the week before I send another batch out. In the meantime, I am paddling about in the shallows of the book I started last year, getting my brain back into that space. 
  • Continuing the year's comic book theme, started reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I'm having a hard time getting into it. 
  • Ran four miles (slowly) this morning, and this weekend I'm supposed to check out a local yoga class. I haven't been to one in ages. I've cut back on bagels. If the scale doesn't budge in another week, I'll have to find something else to cut back on. 
I'm thinking hard about taking a half day at the end of the month to address a bunch of little things that need doing. Haircuts and financial planning are tough to slot into an evening or a Saturday.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Getting Back on the Horse

Kind of a tired metaphor, but no worse for being a bit dusty. And I have personally fallen off a horse, unlike many other things one might fall off of and substitute into the phrase. Among other changes I'm trying to make in my life, I thought perhaps I should try to get back to blogging.

I was going to try to get back into doing the Baking with Julia project this month, but then I misread the date for the first April recipe and didn't make time for bread on the weekend I did have. The next recipe is madeleines; I don't have a pan and have never had the slightest urge to make those, so maybe I'll just go back and make one of the many things I've missed.

What I have done is send out three query letters. It's the strangest sensation, looking over my spreadsheet of agents, catching up with the names I agonized over so extensively last time around. A couple of them have moved on, have changed agencies or moved web sites. I feel... not exactly blase, but unconcerned about the effort. I'm doing what I can do to make this happen. I'll send out a few more later this week, and get back to researching the new book. There's no reason I shouldn't have a decent draft of this thing by the end of the year.

Probably related to that, my fandom activities have slacked off. I'm still reviewing comics, and I survey new fan-fic daily as part of my little side project, but I haven't written any in months now, and very little of what I see interests me enough to read it. We'll see if Iron Man 3 rekindles my enthusiasm.

Monday, April 1, 2013

March Status Report

Things continue to meander along without much sense of urgency.
  • Gym attendance has been good. Back up to the point where I can do three miles, though not particularly fast. Still not losing any weight.
  • Finished JS&MrN, read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Howl's Moving Castle, and a boatload of Marvel comics from 1966 (the writing was mostly crap, though the art was better).
  • In anticipation of the new Iron Man movie, I've developed a side hobby of tracking fan-fiction statistics.
  • Wrote a new query letter and started fixing up the synopsis.
  • Visited some blogs and sites I used to read before the Great Funk of 2012 hit--I used to read a couple dozen food and writing blogs, and at some point I just stopped.
Overall, I'd say that things are moving in the right direction, slowly.

Main goal for April: Be in position to start sending out query letters. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

It's What Month Already?

That was quick.

I thought perhaps I should post an update after my depressed and depressing year round-up. I'm happy to report that the mood has passed and I've been much more like myself. I've even got A Plan for at least the first half of the year. For most of February, this involved doing critiques I owed to other people, one of which was on a deadline. Now that I'm finished with that one, I can keep going with the others at a slower pace. In a couple of months I should be able to devote more time to research for the new book.

I've been going to the gym at least three times a week, though it's showing no results so far. I'll have to grit my teeth and cut back on bagels, boo.

In my usual stop and start fashion, I've been reading. I will finish Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell this time, dammit.

And there's the comics project, which is turning into an actual project, because I can't do anything on a casual level. Basically, since we have this unlimited subscription to Marvel Digital, I'm reading "not exactly all the comics." I've picked a handful of books/characters and started reading as far back as the archive goes. I'm curious about the way the characters and the storytelling evolved over the decades, about shared worlds, about what makes a good story or a good character. If nothing else, it's making for more dinner table conversation.

So that's my life right now. This particular weekend has been spent hunkered down due a major blizzard. We were lucky; never lost power. Still, I've been in this apartment since Thursday afternoon except for shoveling, and am feeling just a wee bit claustrophobic.