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Adam Israel
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21st-Jun-2013 10:11 pm - Clarion Write-a-thon
Scarf

It should be no surprise to anyone who knows me that the Clarion Writers Workshop is a thing near and dear to me. Attending the six-week workshop in 2010 was a milestone in my writing career. The annual write-a-thon, where writers commit to writing goals and ask friends, family,and strangers to pledge money to go towards funding the workshop.

Saying “please give money” is something I do on very rare occasion, but this is something worthwhile. The Clarion Workshop is one of very few programs in the world for writers of genre fiction. Hundreds of students apply every year but only a handful get in. The instructors are among the most experienced authors in the field. Donations go to keeping the workshop running and supplying scholarships for students in need.

The write-a-thon runs for six weeks, along side the workshop in San Diego. It’s an act of solidarity with this years class of writers and, as extra motivation, a public accountability of my goals.

This year, I will spend the write-a-thon finishing my first novel. I’ll be writing, by hand, 30,000 or so words, and transcribing the results into Scrivener along with the first 50,000. By the end, I will have a complete draft ready to be ripped apart, revised and rewritten. I’ll even blog regular progress updates, which is more than I normally manage.

If you can sponsor me, one dollar or ten, you will have my gratitude and the satisfaction of knowing you’re making a difference in the life of up and coming writers of science fiction and fantasy.

 

[Crossposted from Adam Israel. If you'd like to comment, you can do so either here or there.]

Scarf

I’ve always liked stories about mundane things. Everyday people who might be ignored or worse, shunned — garbage men, teachers, farmers, butchers, prostitutes, factory workers — who find themselves in extraordinary circumstance and rise up to the challenge.

The annals of history are filled with stories of the famous, the successful, the victors. Finding tales about those broke their backs to make a living is harder. It’s not glamorous work. No one does it to become rich or powerful. They’re born into it, forced into it, marginalized into it. Their stories deserve to be told, too.

dustbowl

There’s a reason why Crossed Genres is of my favorite small presses. They have a long history of supporting diversity in it’s many forms. Their latest project is Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction From the Margins of History, and it could use your help. They’ve made their initial Kickstarter goal so the anthology, edited by Rose Fox (who I have tons and tons of respect for) and Daniel José Older (who I’m sure is equally awesome), but still have a bit to go for their stretch goals.

They are nearing the next goal, to add another 10 stories/50,000 words to the anthology. The bigger the book, the more diverse it will be. A no-brainer, right?

I think we can push it further. The third stretch goal will add original black & white art to every story, and if they make it to $50,000, the last stretch goal, they will produce a professional quality audio book.

I’m all too familiar with Kickstarter fatigue. I feel it myself. This one is from an established publisher; Bart and Kay have been around for a while and have a proven track record behind them. If you’re interested in the kind of stories they’re telling, please give them a look.

[Crossposted from Adam Israel. If you'd like to comment, you can do so either here or there.]

13th-Mar-2013 06:28 am - 9
Scarf

For months, we kept the animated film “9″ (2009) on the DVR. I kept telling myself that I’d sit down and watch it on the weekend, and inevitably being too distracted to do so. We came home a few nights ago and discovered the DVR had deleted several of the oldest recordings, including 9. That made me sad, because I really did intend on watching it soon. Kind of mad, I fired up Netflix and watched it that night.



A rag doll that awakens in a post-apocalyptic future holds the key to humanity’s salvation.



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[Warning: spoilers ahead.]

9 is a visually beautiful film with a haunting story of survival and redemption but at only 79 minutes, I don’t know if it had enough time to fully develop the characters to their full potential.


My first reaction after watching was that I wanted to see it again. I want to get to know the characters more. Especially the ones that had the least screen time, like 2, who first discovers 9, but it whisked away in the jaws of the cat monster a short time later. Most of the story focuses on 9, the last of the dolls to awaken.


There’s a subtlety to the storytelling, I think, that I hope will come through more in rewatching. The story of humanity’s last chance of redemption, through the journey of its destroyer’s soul, split into tiny rag doll representations, is a delightful example of my favorite kind of genre story.


It’s not a perfect movie but it was enjoyable and made me think. I set out to Twitter immediately afterwards to find someone to talk to about it. That’s a win in my book, at least.



[Crossposted from Adam Israel. If you'd like to comment, you can do so either here or there.]

29th-Jan-2013 12:31 am - A Month of Letters
Scarf

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Mary Robinette Kowal started a delightful challenge, in 2010, to go correspond via letter for an entire month. That has grown to become A Month of Letters, which runs for the whole of February. During the next month, I and the other 6,000 people who’ve signed up to participate will be writing letters, post cards, and doing other creative things and dropping them into the mail.

I love to write longhand, and this gives me a wonderful reason to do so. That’s where you come in. I’m looking for more people to write to — the more the merrier. If you would like to receive a genuine, hand-written letter from yours truly, send me your address. Email me, message me on Twitter or Facebook, or use my contact form.

This is an opportunity to rekindle friendships and make new ones, without the limitations of Twitter or the haste of email. Let’s write!

[Crossposted from Adam Israel. If you'd like to comment, you can do so either here or there.]

16th-Jan-2013 01:39 am - Finding my footing
Scarf

As writers, we fill our toolbox with things that help us in our craft. I’ve been experimenting with a few new things of late, trying to boost my productivity. Two of them in particular are making a difference.

I haven’t been involved in many word wars — timed writing sessions with one or more other writers. Set a short time limit, say 15 or 30 minutes, and write until it’s over. I started doing that last week, with my online writers group, and had one of my most productive days. These sprints are like a mini-deadline and it’s easier at times to shut out distraction in small increments. To that end, I’m taking carving out small small blocks of time throughout the day to write, especially on days when I might not be able to dedicate an hour or two contiguously. I’m going to get an egg timer to give me an external countdown to the process as well.

I ordered a cute egg timer from the states, but it was broken and I discovered the hard way how expensive custom and duty fees can be when something is shipped via UPS cross-border. I may just find a decent kitchen timer that can do double-duty.

The second trick is an organizational one. I’ve seen it referred to as the DASH method — Direction, Acceleration, Strength, and Health.

Direction is knowing what I’m going to write before I start. I make short lists of every chapter, broken down by scene, of what that writing needs to accomplish, usually no more than four or five bullet points. That mini-outline forces me to think through every chapter before I put down a single word. When I do sit down to write, I know what my end goal is.

Acceleration is getting started and finishing things. I’ve been pretty slow, plodding along and being frustrated with my progress. I would take so long, writing and rewriting, that I made almost no progress. Now, almost as a mantra, I remind myself that the point of a first draft is getting the ideas down on the page. Making the grammar fluid and pretty can wait for revision.

Strength refers to bolstering your mental clarify and physical strength through a better working environment. I am all about that. It’s been a slow process to make my office a comfortable space but we’re almost there. We have our bookshelves up and my cork board, filled with quotes that inspire, hands next to my desk. When I do need a change of pace, I switch to the coffee shop up the road.

Health is a reminder to take care of myself. Figuring out what doesn’t work (and drives up anxiety) and fix it. Get enough sleep. Realize that if I’m stuck on something, I probably just need to work it through to figure out what I’m missing — brainstorming, doodling, talking it through with someone else.

Last week wasn’t the most productive, with a funeral, doctors visit, and other distractions, but I had two great days.


Project: Black Mirror
New words written since last week: 1,980
Average words/day: 248

I’m working through some existing scenes that need at least some work vs. writing new words. It’s slowed me down a little but it needs doing. I’m printing off each chapter as it’s finished and putting it into a binder. When I do finish, I’ll take that binder and a red pen and go sit somewhere for an afternoon and begin the revision process. Until then, the printed manuscript goes and is another reminder of what I’ve finished so far.

[Crossposted from Adam Israel. If you'd like to comment, you can do so either here or there.]

7th-Jan-2013 01:43 am - Back in the saddle, week 1
Scarf

Part of my new and improved resolve to Finish Things is accountability, and to that end I’ve created a master spreadsheet for the year where I’m tracking my daily writing, good things that happen (h/t Christie Yant), projects I want to work on, and deadlines I’m working towards. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.

I’m trying to work every day while I’m involved in a project. Writing is, or should be, what I spend the most time on, at least at this stage in my current WIP. The non-writing tasks, like research, outlining, etc, are limited to what’s necessary to finish the draft. Research is my way to procrastinate. I did a ton before I started writing, I’ll do more after the first draft is finished, but at some point I actually have to write this thing.

I don’t want to take away time from writing, so I’m allowing myself to spam the world with statistics once a week.


Project: Black Mirror
New words written this week: 2,031
Average words/day: 338

Project Targets

It’s too soon since I started tracking daily stats to say if I’m going to hit my deadline or not. This first week has sort of been the warm-up, shaking off the rust of not writing at all for a couple months. I started at 364 days, no words one day (but outlining a new chapter), and ended today at 845. I think I’ll settle at a comfortable, consistent pace. There’s wiggle room in my deadline, but not much. My end goal, as soon as the first draft is done, is to revise and have a draft ready for submission by my birthday in late July.

[Crossposted from Adam Israel. If you'd like to comment, you can do so either here or there.]

5th-Nov-2012 12:12 pm - Con report: World Fantasy 2012
Scarf

Andrea and I drove up  to Toronto — or Richmond Hill, one of its northern suburbs — for World Fantasy 2012 on Friday. This was my second World Fantasy (the first being Columbus two years ago) and Andrea’s first.

The hotel(s):

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, one of the overflow hotels. That hotel itself was pleasant, albiet slightly incompetent. One elevator was out of order the entire stay. Andrea was trapped between floors in the second elevator on Saturday and had to be rescued by the fire department. I heard the same thing happened on Sunday, leaving guests to trundle down the stairs with their luggage.

The second overflow hotel was separated by a six lane highway under construction, and it looked like the sidewalks were torn up. Add to that the steep ramps  between the panel rooms and this spoonie fears there were some serious accessibility issues for those worse off than I.

The panels I attended:

  • Faith and Fantasy
  • Defining Urban Fantasy
  • They Call Me The Wanderer
  • Bibliofantasies
  • The Lexicon of Horror
  • Reality Made Fantastic, or Fantasy Made Real
By and large, the panels were well-moderated (although there were frustrating exceptions). One thing I enjoy about the panels universally is the cross-pollination of ideas. I figured out how to fix three stories during panels, and gave me a new way of approaching stories that I’m stuck on.
The readings:
  • Readings from EPIC, edited by John Joseph Adams: Aliette de Bodard,  Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Patrick Rothfuss.
  • Readings from The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination: David D. Levine and Genevieve Valentine
All of the readings were well-done but the standout here is David Levine, who’s reading of “Letter to the Editor” was absolutely stunning.
The people:
Ultimately, going to the con was about seeing friends, new and old. It was a gathering of half of the Inkpunks. My Clarion classmates John Chu and Karin Tidbeck were in attendance, where we celebrated the launch of Karin’s short story collection Jagannath. There are so many other people I met, was reacquainted with, or caught up with. I couldn’t begin to name names without leaving someone out. There were more that I missed, only saw in in passing, or didn’t spend nearly enough time talking to.

There’s a certain buzz one feels on the heels of a con. Like a battery, warm and slightly overcharged, ready to be put to work.

[Crossposted from Adam Israel. If you'd like to comment, you can do so either here or there.]

Scarf

I may burst with glee. Tomorrow is Nikola Tesla day. Today, the Mad Scientist Journal published my secret history of Tesla, “Man Out of Time“. I even have word that someone on Facebook commented that they thought the story was a “great idea to run a game/one-shot on”. Katie Nyborg did the fabulous illustration for the interior.

How much does this mean to me? Well, Tesla is my hero more so than any other historical figure ever. While other kids my age were dreaming of cars and getting lucky, I spent my high school years in the electronics lab building things and wishing one of them were a Tesla Coil. To research this particular story, I bought both poetry that Tesla had translated and his transcribed journals from the time periods covered at Colorado Springs, where part of this story takes place. It was important to try to place the events as close to historical fact as possible before veering off, as well as understanding how Tesla might have handled himself.

This story was also one of my Clarion application stories, if you’re curious about that sort of thing.

 

[Crossposted from Adam Israel. If you'd like to comment, you can do so either here or there.]

5th-Jul-2012 09:23 am - Independence
Scarf

Yesterday was Independence Day back in the states. We already had our fireworks over the weekend, and I worked through Canada Day on Monday and had yesterday off instead. Among the joys of American/Canada relations are mixed holidays.

Our plans were a little more focused. Yesterday we saw an apartment, and made a deposit, and transfered utilities to our name. This was kind of a big deal, because for the first time in more than three years, we’re in a position to start a new chapter in our lives. We left our house in May 2009 to stay with my Dad and help him recover with his surgery. We came to Ontario the following August and moved in with Andrea’s Mom. Then there was that six month’s being kicked out of the country thing. All told, we haven’t lived together and alone for over three years.

It’s about damn time. We pick up the keys today and I can’t wait to feel the weight of them in my pocket. It’s a burden of responsibility I’ve been missing.

We’re going to be close enough to still help out Andrea’s mom. We’re in an even smaller town then we’ve been in, but we still have a 24 hour coffee shop and the library, while tiny, is right across the street. It’s a three bedroom downstairs apartment with a small fenced-in back yard for the dogs. Internet’s already ordered. Now we need to get ourselves appliances and furniture. Priorities, right?

Andrea has some pretty cool ideas about how to arrange things and I can’t wait to show off the place once we get it all furnished. It’s going to be an awesome creative space.

[Crossposted from Adam Israel. If you'd like to comment, you can do so either here or there.]

2nd-Jul-2012 08:14 am - Clarion Write-a-thon Week 1
Scarf
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Total Avg
582 171 309 473 91 0 783 2,409 344

A little bit of a rocky week, especially Friday. Ideally, I’d like to average 1,000 words/day. That’d be awesome. Life creeps up, with unavoidable things like responsibility and sleep but I have a secret that I’ll share with you. Lean a little close. That’s it, just a little closer.

It’s a little maddening to miss your goals. I live by my TODO list and I hate leaving things unfinished at the end of the day. You can’t beat yourself up over it, though. Make adjustments, if it’s a chronic problem (like overcommitment). In the end, though, it comes down to one thing:

Sponsors

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Several of you have made donations totaling $175 dollars, blowing away my personal expectations for fundraising for Clarion.

Statistics

I know Scrivener Fu. And I use Project Targets like a boss. I fell short on my word count last week but I know exactly what I need to do to stay on target. Week two is already ahead of schedule:

Yesterday Today
Resetting my Session Target each morning, I know the minimum I need to write to maintain my pace, and any overage will work in my favor the next day.

Overall, I’m quite happy with the way things are going. I’ve been doing a fair amount of revising, which is slowing things down a little bit but it needs to be done, especially if I want to start tormenting beta readers with a draft of this monster later this year.

Write-a-thon goal:

[Crossposted from Adam Israel. If you'd like to comment, you can do so either here or there.]

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