Win some, lose some

Restructured the something I pulled out of the drawer a while ago, and lost some 400 words in the process. While it always makes me sad to part with words, sometimes it helps prepare for more words being added. Knock on veneer, thank you.

A discussion this weekend on the joys of reading made me realize that I don't like reading short stories because they are ... well, short. When I come at the end of the text, I usually feel like I started out with this big-ass gift-wrapped box only to find it contains one single lonely cookie.
Sometimes it is chocolate chip, but most of the time it's stale and someone already took a bite out of it.

In other words, most short stories don't punch my catharsis button, and leave me feeling like a moron (especially when the set of short stories or the author get glowing reviews). I mean, I come at the end of the story and go, "What? That's it?" and then start to feel like there is something I'm just not getting.
Whenever I do like a short story, it is because it is beautifully told, with nicely developed characters, some layering of what always is a very simple plot, with or without a twist in the end, but always the kind of journey that doesn't make me feel sorry I went on foot instead of taking the bus. But there are far too little of those in the world, and I've read too many of the worst kind to have much gusto left to try.

And I sure as hell can't write short stories, not like that. If it's "just like that", why bother at all?
I do write short scenes, tools for developing some character or idea outside of the novel-in-progress. But those aren't stories, just studies. Outside of the box they don't make any sense.

I did write a short story once, a very long time ago. It took me two years to write and review and polish and perfect. I tried to translate it into English but it's just not working. Maybe if I work three years on the translation...
I also wrote a novel once. All in all it took me four years, but it is about 82 times as long as the short story. Until it's published, it goes through a yearly range of revisions, and I guess it will never be as perfect as that one short story, but at least I enjoy the writing more. Agonizing over three-letter-words is no fun at all.

Sockbooze and fruit salad

Okay, done with it. The vapors make me nauseous so it's time to click the send button.

And I bet I'm gonna see a typo the second after it's gone.
And yes, I do first mail myself a test version. But I nearly flunked math in high school because sometimes my brain refuses to see what's out there, and in such a case 10-2 equals -12 every time I check, no sweat.

On another note, the query is longish, but well within parameters (near 500 words). An instance of first making sockbooze (with improved recipe), then using it to make fruit salad. Yummy fruit salad, I hope.

First I had to improve the recipe of the sockbooze, though. Only after I sent the first version, I realized it might give the wrong impression, seeing how most of the names involved are bible-derived. Nope, the novel is not about the bible or God, or Christian values (except the ones we share with all humans, no matter their religion). So having only bible-related names as anchor points for the wordblitz that is query, and considering the medium I'm sending it out in (U.S.), there might arise issues of hypersensitivity.
It might or might not be why the query met with a negative, but I adapted and improved the recipe nonetheless.

Then, while checking the next agent's preferences, I realized the improved query doesn't align well with the sample (first pages). It might when chapters are asked as sample, but not with the first pages.
So I wondered (read: agonized over) whether it mattered. Not all stories have to start with the protagonist (whether or not connected with the prologue issue), do they?
When an agent asks for a couple of first pages to check your ability to pour words into a sentence, does he expect to see a high corroboration of the "story" in the query?

I figured it wouldn't hurt if the package made some sort of sense, so I started out with 250-words counting sockbooze and ended up with fruit salad.

N.B.: I was going to add some personalization, but I hate personalizing without direct feedback because it only adds to my agony and then I don't sleep well and all my creative energy goes (without my say-so) into making up the scene at the other end of the line. Exactly why I hate telephones.
But if I had added it, the personalization would include mention of the Smeg C9GMXU and Sabre fencing, and how there might be some common ground. Ick, now I must go and wash my soul because I feel all prostituted.

The sad state of science

Okay, here's what I know:

1) TV makes you stupid. NOT
Television doesn't turn your brain into goo, because I've been a teletubbie from before formless blobs as kids' entertainment was reinvented by the BBC, and my memory is okay and my brain works fine.
N.B.: I can vouch for that fact, since I just sneezed so hard I'm staring at it. Or parts of it.

2) The sun's gone out!
Or, scientists will tell me how to think
I remember a time way back when the whole global warming lobby was only starting out. I know, by using the L-word I must be in the camp of the nitwit know-nothing idiot deniers. But take my word on it, I'm not(a). There was this dude who had a theory on sunspots, and was back then still allowed to speak publicly (i.e. on TV). The sunspots theory was way up there with pollution. But the Pollution lobby won, and hence Sunspot dude became the idiot black sheep and was run out of town. The Pollution lobby used that don't-hurt-your-brains-we're-onto-it tone they use like a magic wand to make us layman all look the other way. Since our brains are goo anyway, we'll have forgotten all about sunspots after five minutes. And their little stampede made sure that any other sunspot expert would sort of keep his mouth. There a reason a family has only one black sheep.

3) God's dead, long live god!
Let me tell you, I'm all for a greener economy. Seriously, it can't be green enough. Lots of shit is going wrong because of the pollution our civilization barfs into the surroundings, from five legged frogs to asthma on the rise.
See, I live on a busy road, and when circumstances are just right (freezing, moist air but no precipitation) it will snow on said busy road. That's right, just on that road, and only during peak traffic. Fine dust made visible, neat-o! Not.
There are problems we can tackle, and things we should change, in our best interest, and anything(b) goes! But let's not kid ourselves, even if we all move to one side of the planet and jump up at the same time, we're not gonna make a wobble. Besides, if it's all that simple, we could have plugged that ozone hole back in the '90s by boycotting any type of printer not laser. We could way have saved the melting pole ice by now, dumbasses.

4) It's not a game
Rock-paper-scissor is, expert-critic-denier isn't. The thing is, the last couple of years we've witnessed a process that happened before, only this time the bonding of science and industry went fast enough to actually be aware of it. That is, if you are aware and not busy shouting names at people who utter some form criticism on the climate change lobby, like you probably used to do on the school playground. Naming things and doing so in a loud voice does not make them real(c). There's no such magic in this world. Well, maybe there is: it's called "media" and they'll have us believe there is something like winners and losers in science.

5) an expert is NEVER wrong
Biology and the related medical sector have grown accustomed to a constant threat of money/funds finding directly implementationable research more interesting. Small but ever so important research is overrun by the steam-powered We-Can-Make-The-Miracle-Cure-For-You Wholesale, but still some manage to survive. They've had oooh, over a century to learn how important the checks-and-balances system of peer review is, especially to make sure real research is also funded, not just "engineering". They make it work. Well, if we do not count Korean clones and such, which is in fact a nice illustration of what can go wrong with science.
Those of us aware enough have seen the analogue of Pharmaceutical Power being born. A new economical supergroup, who found a feeding ground of scientists completely unaware of the power of money because seriously, how short-term applicable can weather be?
Whenever someone argued: "Oh well, he's obviously funded by the Oil lobby!", I thought:
- Who's economically dependent on your research, and hence very much funding it? Are you sure you aren't cutting any corners to make sure your lab assistant will be with you next year? You really expect me to believe solar panels are made by these fashionable hippies all for free out of the bottom of their green and bio-gingerbread hearts?
- It's an invalid argument: it doesn't tell me what's wrong with his theory, it tells me how you feel about the guy and how you expect me to feel about him. But see, spending long years in a girls-only school have made hypersensitive to these from the belly attacks and it makes me sad when scientists do it in public. Yes, instead of hearing you tell me Y is a Creationist and thus an idiot, I'd rather hear you tell me what's wrong with his theory. Preferably in learned words and an objective tone.

6) Out of religion's grasp, onto the pyre
What what whaaat? You believe man walked with dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden? No I don't, but I must remind you that Darwinism is a theory and not a *cough* God-given fact. Until it is, it's open for discussion so it must be discussed. My mind is open enough to want to hear someone point me at the holes in a theory, how tiny or difficult to understand they might be. Whenever you're not allowed to hear the non-believers speak, the Inquisition can't be far behind. And also, treating non-believers (or any other "those not with you hence against you" group) like that will come back and bite you in the ass, twice-over.
I live in a country where the ultra-right has grown strong feeding on the families of boys who happily went to fight on the Russian front for Nazi Germany and were near completely stripped from their civic rights for life for collaboration. This being a country with a social system (with heavily subsidized education and health care), can you imagine the impact on the family, the firming of their resolve, the grudge they will keep? All it took was one party to recognize good feeding grounds.
If we can't do it to books in our free and democratic world, I would like to suggest we don't do it with people. And that's what actually bugs me every day with the climate change debate.

(a) I'm in a very special niche, namely the I-don't-care-and-I-don't-think-we-figure-that-importantly-in-the-system-anyway.

(b) Anything? Belay that, because that's just what's wrong with the GW-lobby. Integrity of research is way more important.

(c) It just means you think I'm a moron who doesn't speak the language.


Snot. Fever. Joints hurt. Head hurts. Lungs hurt.

Ah, I forgot all about the bliss of something flu with something angina.

I was going to work on the sockbooze today. Maybe some extra fluids and sleep will clear things up...

All night through with a noise and to-do

Yesterday the people in my dreams did that thing they sometimes do and which gives me the utter creeps: they change skins.
I'm not talking about stripping the actual flesh, that's just blood-and-gore and so very not scary. No, I'm talking about people I know acting and talking like someone else I know, so I end up not quite knowing who's standing in front of me and I get all confused and start wondering about my own identity and that's just plain wrong for dream time.

But this morning I had a first: I dreamed I had to buy a piece of carpet, so I go into the store and while I'm looking at the different textures and colors I'm doing that "reflection on life and all things human" thing I often do while doing boring stuff, and go: "Things used to be quite different before the zombies got integrated [into society]."
And then I wake up confused because there hadn't been the faintest mention of zombies before. If I'm starting to exercise exposition in my dreams, it might be a sign I really need to quit horsing around with queries and do some actual writing before I'm infected with a zombie novel idea.

Tricksy business

Perhaps writing queries can best be likened to distilling your own booze: you might end up with a heart-strengthening fine liqueur, but most often you'll end up with something that tastes of old socks and jockstraps.

Mystery of the day

Why pay for a domain name with "saber" in it, then use a picture of a woman holding an epee to explain the basic saber position and furthermore use basic foil or epee knowledge to continue on the parries?

Allow me to paraphrase the holy book here:

"[...] shalt thou count to five, no more, no less. Five shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be five. Six shalt thou not count. [...] Seven is right out"

All night through with a noise and to-do

It's quite disconcerting waking from this fabulous dream and realizing some of it sprouted from reading a sample chapter for a published novel. My subconsciousness should be working on my own stuff, not rewriting someone else's manuscript, darnit.

If I power down my reader, where do the e-books go?

In this day and age, we all know what it means to have a hard drive go *fritzle* on you.
We are quite aware that when your camera gets stolen at the end of your trip in Venice, it is not the camera you miss.
We know that whatever you release on the net, might come back one day to haunt you, that unless all hard drives over the world go *fritzle* at the same time, chances(1) are your digital ejaculation lies dormant in some cache.

See, any *e* consists of current harnessed into patterns, digital blips in a computer somewhere out there.
*e*patterns are loss- and piracy-prone because of what they are; you cannot control both what they are and where they are. Let me be cutesy and call it ... uncertainty.

Reading about the Amazon vs. Macmillan slugfest on industry blogs, I find they focus strongly on the economics and legalities when discussing The Events That Shape The Future of Publishing, while neither is at the core of the issue. I think, for an industry specialized in dealing with words in any shape or form, they are strangely confused on definitions.

I'm not from the industry, but I do sort of try to keep up for reasons of hopefully becoming part of it one day. I also do not own an e-reader, nor have I bought an e-book. So, what follows could just be gibberish.
But I consider this a simple identity crisis, and as with any crisis, this one too shall pass. Usually some introspection and philosophy helps the process along, and I believe that must come before talking economics and legalities, or you end up with bad solutions that will haunt you forever by creating and endless string of insolvable problems.

To me, "publishing" means that I, as a consumer, can consume the published products. I own what I buy, and I can sell it to my neighbor or give it to charity if I want. As simple as that. I buy a bottle of lemonade, and neither the store (distributor) nor the producer (publisher) have the right to take the product back, whether I've already consumed it or not(2).
Of course, the industry will take my behavior into account when setting the price, but the industry also knows that my re-distributing the product is also a form of advertisement. When we're speaking *e*, there has to be a recovery procedure in place, as already existent in other *e* based industries (an option to buying a hard-copy (i.e. CD, not book) for a minimum of price increase, or having a second download chance, personalized *e*accounts that track my purchases,...)

But as I understand it, Amazon doesn't want to sell me e-books, do they? No, they want to sell me a service and pretend I've bought something. Alas (for them), as far as my trusted Oxford says:

to buy : obtain [= acquire : gain by and for oneself] in exchange for money etc.

Now, don't get me wrong: paying for a service only or not owning the e-book I want to read are not the issues. But I believe we already have a word for when someone has a catalog of books and you pay for the privilege to read them without owning them. And libraries don't let you buy, they let you loan.

I think all the players involved should declare whether they are publisher or distributor, online marketplace or library.

See, definitions will save the world!

(1) and do interpret this word as you always do, whatever your personal experience with Chance is. You feel lucky, punk?
(2) yeah yeah, unless the bottling line got infected with pieces of rat or the limes were poisoned. But even then, I may keep my bottled "rat's head on lemonade" if I want to, right?


Rebuilt my website; hopefully I'll manage to keep it up to date this time. There's still lots of work to do, but it functions and, well, I must keep the procrastination in check., because I should direct some effort into finding a job.

Ha, you thought I was going to say writing, didn't you? Though I have been doing writer's stuff; it's not all been site site site. I've done the groundwork for agent-querying, but I need a break from the query and selections, let the illusions evaporate. Then reread, rework, and push the button. Also did a quick review of two WIPs.

But since I have been procrastinating with the site, I'll now have to fill in the break with job hunting, which is in a way not far away enough from prepping a query to constitute a *break*.

I need a break, seriously. My head is all jumbled with words/definitions, and it's making me nervous. Definitions, by definition, should be fixed, but I did a lot of query-prepping, attentively, and started to notice words being used differently while meaning the same the thing, so obviously the definitions are not as fixedly defined, and this is very confusing if the language isn't yours to begin with. I'm not even going to add in the connotation of a word.
So I can't stop thinking, with chills running down my spine, about how the definition of a word is just other words, and before I know it I'm gonna end up in that horrible abyss where words have no meaning at all and that's no place to be for someone who defines reality by stringing up words into sentences and paragraphs and whole chapters.
Been there, done that, need a break.

Or a job.

*i*nnovation and progress

 I've always refused to let e-mail take over the function of the telephone in my life; I've got an old Nokia that has no enhancements at all. I do not need to be in constant contact with all you digiblips out there, because I've got enough voices clamouring for attention in my head (no, I'm not crazy: I write, duh).

This outlook has given me some protective resistance to the advertising of the latest *i*nnovation, which is better, more user-friendly, more enhanced in ways never thought possible before (It sings! It dances!). They won't hook me for all that progress until they figure out how to make it do my laundry and dishes.

As far as e-book readers are concerned: I love the feel and smell of paper and ink. I love the associated memories of buying real books--I have a very large collection of second-hand books; some are especially great finds, others have this hint of their former life in smell or dog-ears or other marks. My real books are treasures. E-books, as I see them now, are commodities. They have no memory. For me, sort of like the difference between an LP and a CD, back when LPs still ruled.

I find the main hurdle for me to acquiring an e-book reader is hi-tech's weakness in moist situations: I do most of my reading while soaking in a hot bath. But then, the only reason why most of my reading happens in the bathtub is because my laptop has that same weakness. I would be writing in the tub if it didn't (and, funnily enough, steamed paper is only good enough for reading, not writing). So even if they produced a 100% waterproof reader, I'm not quite sure I would buy one.

That said, I guess we'll have to liken the rumoured next innovation in e-book readers to the step from a generic cell phone to the iPhone. And while I can't see why I need a phone to do a whole range of other stuff (except my laundry!), I do see possibilities in e-readers that sing and dance. I'm not just thinking animated covers, either; it could open a new bag of tricks for the "interactive" novel. "Show, don't tell" could get a whole new layer of meaning.

Hmm (starts rifling through folders) now where did I leave that old hypertext project?

That said, the recent mutations of the cell phone did have an impact on the world, as did the proliferation of the internet, and before that, the personal computer. Things have changed, whether for the better or not is not even the question, only that progress makes regress difficult. The day my old Nokia breaks, I won't be able to replace it with the same dumb appliance. So whatever your take on the latest innovation, you will end up buying one, some day, some how.