Month: May 2010

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-05-31

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Book Review: Devices and Desires

by K.J. Parker.

I love books in which the characters drive the plot. This is a book in which the characters are the plot.

The main character of this book, Ziani Vaatzes, is an engineer who makes the mistake of making improvements to “already perfect” specifications.  He’s condemned to death, but escapes–without his family.  Vaatzes realizes he wants his family back, and goes about making a machine to make this happen.  It’s not an actual machine; it’s a logical machine, made out of people, politics, technology, and probability.

Vaatzes will do anything to get his family back.

I’m going to go deep for a moment and say that the series–three books–describes a machine rather than a plot.  It’s interesting reading the chapters in which Vaatzes isn’t the main character, because in the first book, all the characters are cogs in a machine with only the appearance of free will.  Perhaps in the other two books, things will get out of Vaatzes’s control, and the story will turn back into a plot.  There are only a few places in which things do not occur as Vaatzes anticipated; he gets things back on track.

The intricacies of the machine–human beings and the way they work together–are fascinating, and the writing is superb:

They had told her that Orsea was in the arbor behind the chestnut tree.  She called his name a few times, but he didn’t reply, so she assumed he’d gone back inside.  Then she caught sight of a flash of blue through the curtain of trailing vine.  He  hadn’t answered her because he was asleep.

Like an old man, she thought, snoozing in the afternoon.  Orsea never slept during the day; indeed, he restned sleep on principle, the way people resent paying taxes.

Vaatzes is the embodiment of the idea that the ends justify the means.  He feels bad about what he’s doing and wishes he were someone else, so he wouldn’t have to do what he’s doing, but he isn’t about to stop himself.  I’m looking forward to the other two books.

From an interview with the author:

The Engineer trilogy started with a Bridgeport universal milling machine, a seventy-year-old miracle of engineering with which a competent machinist could make anything from an earring-back to a battleship. Its owner, who was teaching me to use it, spoke a strange language, where the words seemed familiar but had new and radically different meanings.

To him, ‘tolerance’ wasn’t an abstract. You could stick a definite article in front of it, or make it plural. A tolerance to him was the degree to which you were allowed to deviate from an unattainable ideal, and it was quantified in ten-thousandths of an inch. One ten-thousandth this side of the line was OK; the other side, and the thing you’ve been working on for two days straight turns into scrap and goes in the trash. It’s not often you get three complete books handed to you on a plate like that. All I had to do was go away and shuffle the words around.

Note: K.J. Parker is the pseudonym of an author who generally writes very different books but is keeping it a secret. How exciting!

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-05-24

  • Yay! REALLY unusual words. I've never heard of a bunch of these. #
  • @ChuckWendig Huh. I just made that last night, with mini dried shrimp. in reply to ChuckWendig #
  • I am freeeeeeeee! Fulltime freelancing has begun. #
  • @averagebetty Cap vs. no cap post-colon: Use house style guide or sheet; if no guidance provided, make sure it's consistent. in reply to averagebetty #
  • @averagebetty I just read this yesterday–you MAY use the cap post-colon if it's a complete sentence after the colon. But your discretion. #
  • This morning's goal is to complete the rewrite of Ray's story through C8, then clear out inbox (brag sheet, critique blog, org signing). #
  • Chapters done. "She used the bathroom, washed her hands, and looked in all the drawers while the water was still running." #
  • Mission impossible! da da da da… #
  • Working on brag sheet (finally). #
  • @ianthealy Riiight. Didn't you just tell me that S-Team was four years old, and you're getting a story published in thousand faces? in reply to ianthealy #
  • The PPW May Brag Sheet is up at #
  • Down to the last two e-mails, which are going to have to wait until tomorrow! #
  • @ianthealy Are you *hairflipping* me off? in reply to ianthealy #
  • @ianthealy Or is it what happens when you buy a toupee, wait for it to increase in value, then sell it again? in reply to ianthealy #
  • @averagebetty Yay! You can't help but profit by good grammar. in reply to averagebetty #
  • Dropping another story off at the post office today, which will make six stories and one novel out for subs. #
  • That's the second time a potential client has asked if I'm on Skype. Dear fate, I get it. I'll talk to Lee about it tonight. #
  • Chapters 9-12 for Ray's. "Oh, great," a voice from the top bunk said. "I'm trapped on a pirate ship with someone who gets sea sick." #
  • Looking at an old story to see if I can should send it out again. Not as bad as I feared. Messing around with awkward constructions. #
  • Apparently, it's now un-American to ask companies not to shit where they eat. #

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Book review: Heir of Autumn

by Giles Carwyn and Todd Fahnestock.

You can’t tell from the cover.  You can’t tell from the description.  You can’t tell from the blurbs.  I have yet to read a review of the book that captures what I’m talking about–but it’s the reason I keep recommending this book to people.  Certain people.

People who like to snigger.

Not at the book, as such.  At the humor buried deep in the book.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will provide one example, because it’s on the first few pages.

One of the main characters, a beautiful foreigner who grew up on a pig farm, uses sex magic.  This is explained logically, is used seriously, and is a major plot driver.

This doesn’t stop the authors from having gleeful Beavis and Butthead moments.  “Yeah!  Yeah!  Sex magic!”

Here’s a quote:

Shara’s father called her a whore the day she left home. After ten years, that was what she remembered most about her parents. She could still hear the hate in her father’s voice as he passed his final judgment, could see him scowling in that chicken-scratched yard while her mother stood by, head bowed, saying nothing in Shara’s defense.

“If I am a whore,” she said to herself, “what a magnificent whore I will be.”

Not elegant.  Not lyrical.  But I keep trying to foist this book off on people who I think will get it–the compelling surface-level fantasy and the hidden, over-the-top humor.  A hipster book for fantasy geeks.  I love it.


I am twiddling my thumbs, waiting for work to come in. I have things lined up, but they’re not for right now.

I’m ready for right now.

I have bids out on eight or nine projects, with nary a nibble (mostly because they’re not ready to pick people yet, looks like).

Thus, I have completed eight chapters on Ray’s book in two days, sent off one story, and started revising another.  I am doing more research into my eventual markets.  I am not sitting still.

Why do I feel like I’m just sharpening my pencils?

My boss.  She doesn’t like me to sit around.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-05-17

  • Trent Reznor has a pot belly. I seen it. #
  • @DaphneUn Looking forward to Nia tonight 🙂 in reply to DaphneUn #
  • @doycet Yay! Grats. in reply to doycet #
  • Just got back from first Nia class. Like the best parts of college, oddly. #
  • @DaphneUn Good luck! in reply to DaphneUn #
  • @mtfierce There's the need for food, the need for heroin, and the "need" for attention. An inexact word over which to argue. in reply to mtfierce #
  • @mtfierce Grooooaaaan. in reply to mtfierce #
  • I will work hard on getting edits on two projects done, so I can do some new writing. Yay! #
  • Editing the chocolate story means listening to Vampire Weekend! "When your birthright is interest, you could just accrue it all." #
  • And Iron & Wine "On Your Wings" – "God, give us love in the time that we have…God, every road takes us farther from home." #
  • Jesca Hoop Big Fish "I'm a seed, I'm a seed, I'm a seed/From a dandelion wish." #
  • Done editing the chocolate story. Except for the formatting. Guhhhh. #
  • Okay, formatting done. Now I need fancy paper. #
  • @knippling Bug mom to pick a Grandparent camp week. I will only turn over the chocolate story in person. #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-05-10

  • Cats wave their tails to show they're angry and likely to attack. Yet another reason our cat hates our dog? #
  • I just made 2 peanut butter cup cheesecakes for Cinco de Mayo. Somebody please confirm that Mexicans like peanut butter, 'kay? #
  • @DaphneUn Do you think Trixie will dance for me the next time I'm up? I am sooo cuted out by little girls in tutus. And hula skirts. in reply to DaphneUn #
  • @ChuckWendig wrestles with himself as a writer. " I burned the pinky with hot coffee as an example to the others." #
  • Chapter 2 (finally) of Ray's story went down very well. I read to the end of the chapter. Then Ox sneezed and scared the crap out of her. #
  • Once again, I didn't get everything done that I wanted to do. Nevertheless, time for a shower. #
  • It looks like someone hacked my gmail. PW changed; sorry folks! #
  • @IanTHealy Reading comments. Your namesake is an ass. Of COURSE you can have his ship. #
  • @ianthealy Inserted blue language: "Ye clatty, spuffing pavees! I'll kick you in the cacks if ye don't turn loose me door!" in reply to ianthealy #
  • @ianthealy You're not being overly picky on comments. Good stuff. in reply to ianthealy #
  • @ianthealy I love Cowboy Beebop. (I still haven't seen all of them yet, though, so don't spoil them for me.) #
  • Hellyeah! RT @ChuckWendig Forget Stephen Baldwin. Let the Glory go to Joss. #
  • @Three_Star_Dave I initially read that as "baby pants." in reply to Three_Star_Dave #
  • @doycet To create a company-oriented voodoo doll, simply make a small pillow decorated with their company logo; stuff with shredded EULAs. in reply to doycet #
  • Watched Sherlock Holmes last night. Loved it. Needs 2 sequels, with a death scene atop Reichenbach falls at the end of the second movie. #
  • Robert Downey Jr does a very good OCD, by the way. #
  • Don't waaaaaannnnnna be good today. #
  • Blog: Recipe: Pork Meatball Banh Mi #
  • @Knippling Congrats to Jasmin! in reply to Knippling #
  • @ChuckWendig And where is the recipe for these sriracha almonds? in reply to ChuckWendig #
  • Blog: Smiley's Bakery: Good food, annoying space #
  • @ChuckWendig Dang, the AB recipe looks good, too. in reply to ChuckWendig #
  • PMS depression successfully defeated by Lee's (bbq) ribs, grilled corn, and Levity beer. Sorry, got nothing done this weekend. #

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Some of my rookie mistakes.

Ian wanted to know what some common, fixable rookie mistakes were, and I realized the list I was writing would make a good blog post — because they’re my rookie mistakes.  Not that I’ve really stopped making them, but at least I can spot them and go, “Perhaps not.”

  • Writing a very similar story to the author’s favorite writer without realizing it.
  • Too many characters in the opening (and no clear hero).
  • A convoluted plot with no point.
  • Overgeneralization instead of providing details (show, not tell).
  • Trying to be clever and dropping in “hints” of backstory at inappropriate moments, just because it was the first time I mentioned something related.
  • Spending waaaay too much time describing characters’ outfits.
  • Writing an interesting beginning and dropping off into blandness, because I can’t figure out how to revise.
  • Writing main characters that nobody can empathize with.
  • Action scenes strung together without any concern for meaning or giving the reader a break.
  • Unrelenting seriousness that takes a perfectly good plot and turns it into unintentional melodrama.
  • Trying too hard to be funny.
  • Writing an absolutely evil character with whom I cannot empathize.
  • Writing main characters without flaws; o woe is me, why are all these terrible things happening?
  • Writing passive characters.
  • Stacking endless prepositional phrases in an effort to sound poetic.
  • Trying too hard to sound “fancy” when a plain, clear, direct style would be much better.
  • Describing something, then deciding I had a better description for it, and leaving both descriptions in.

And that’s just what I can think of off the top of my head.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-05-03

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