Saturday, May 30, 2009

I Am Triathlete

I Am Triathlete

issatri This is not my race report, since I don’t have my official time and placement etc.

Let’s just say I had a challenging and painful time but everything worked out fine.

My preliminary estimate for my overall time is 1:44, a lot better than my estimate of 1:58 or whatever I posted the other day. They did chop a mile off the bike course to avoid road construction, and the run came out 110 meters short, but both of those only account for about 4 1/2 minutes.

I’m exhausted, but I promise a full, detailed report as soon as the results are posted online.

Thanks everybody for your support and best wishes! It really makes a difference!


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Never Laugh While Swimming

Never Laugh While Swimming

DirtyHarryPotter This morning, posted a “write your worst query ever” contest. Before I left for my workout, I posted a terrible query (which I’ll post here after the contest closes), but during my swim I kept thinking about other ideas. They suggested referring to Harry Potter in the query, so I starting thinking about a really terrible Harry Potter rip-off. Something like Harry Potter meets When Harry Met Sally meets Harry and the Hendersons meets Dirty Harry. “Go ahead, Hermione, make my day. Sally, are you feeling lucky? Well, do you, punk?” As I thought of each title to add to the list, I kept laughing. With my head under water. Just try it some time. It’s impossible to hold your breath under water while smiling, and laughing at your own jokes becomes unpleasant when water invades your nose and throat.

Anyways (takes deep breath above water), my Jedi Triathlon Training is complete! I am now a Triathlon Master, ready for my first challenge. I may run a couple miles tomorrow just to stretch and stay loose. I had a chance to run a quick “practice” triathlon last night but I felt so worn out after about ten straight days of training that I bailed on it. Rest is as important as training (as is beer). So in two days, at 7AM, I jump into a lake and begin my journey into triathlondom. Stay tuned for an extensive post-race report (unless I bail from the race, then I’ll just tweet something sad. And I will not bail unless a bone is protruding from my body. DFL is much better than DNF. (dead f-ing last, did not finish))

On the writing front, I rewrote my Agent Query for Dawn’s Rise for like the 7th time. However, inspired by a ton of feedback and writing critiques, I finally have something I don’t completely hate. I sent it to a query critique site which will hopefully help me fix it up a bit. I posted an abridged version on my Authonomy site, so you can read it there. They only let me post 200 words, so I had to pare it down. My guess it that my optimal query lies somewhere between the two. The shorter one actually reads better but it’s a little choppy. It’s a challenge trying to figure out how much information is enough information to entice an agent. If anyone wants to critique it like me know.

So wish me luck! I’ll try not to think of anything funny during the race.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Truck Puddles

Truck Puddles

truck puddleSometimes I feel like this guy in the picture: stuck in the mud with my wheels falling off.

I’m sitting in an extremely stuffy shuttle ride listening to FOX radio. I don’t know which one makes me want to barf more. I just got out of a strenuous swimming workout to find a nice puddle under the truck. Not quite as bad as in the picture, but distressing nonetheless. I’ve suspected that it’s been leaking for a while, but this was clear confirmation. So I drove it to the shop and I’m taking the shuttle home. This is my first time blogging in a moving vehicle and let me tell you…it’s nauseating! Dramamine anyone?

As of right now, I only have one swim, run, and bike workout before my Tri! And a lot of hand wringing and second guessing. I met some guys at the lake the other day when I went to work out, and one of them is in my age group. This means we start at the same time. It’s nice to have at least one guy at the start to hang out with and deal with the nerves. I think I can take him in the swim, but he’ll destroy me in the bike and run.

On the writing front, still editing away. I may take a break and work on my query a bit. I’m still trying to get the hang of editing. Once again, the parallels to computer programming are staggering. In a lot of cases, when stuck with kludgy or crufty code, sometimes it helps to delete the whole thing and rewrite it from scratch with a different structure and feel. I’m finding that it holds true for old narrative as well. My writing at one point served a purpose, but with changes in my style and details of the book, the old writing doesn’t work anymore and simply needs to be thrown out. So will I wind up literally rewriting the whole thing? I don’t know. That would take additional months of effort, meanwhile I’ve made absolutely no progress on my new project.

So here I sit, the wheels coming off, drowning in mud. Damn, I hope that’s not a premonition for my Triathlon!

Friday, May 22, 2009

I’m Wripped

I’m Wripped
ripped-paper-goes-into-the-basket No, I’m not well-built (yet).

For some crazy reason, I sent my query letter for Dawn’s Rise to Evil Editor and his minions to destroy. Actually, I sent him three queries, and suggested he use the one he hates the most. So he chose the one I didn’t even write (someone online rewrote it for me and I liked the style). You can read Evil Editor’s mockery of Dawn’s Rise here.

So people have been ripping my poor query to shreds, and in the process, throwing derision at my whole plot. People have wondered if I’m even serious. Dawn’s Rise isn’t meant to be a serious study outlining some real threat to life on Earth. It’s just something along the lines of The Day After Tomorrow or any disaster genre piece. It’s meant to be a fun adventure more than a treatise on the world 100 years from now. Yes there are social themes in there dealing with technology and our dependence on it. But mostly, a lot of horrible stuff happens and our heroes must survive it.

So not only am I being ripped publicly, my writing is being shredded in private as well (and I’m grateful). It’s hard for me to think of a more humbling experience. Except when I was shitcanned a couple months ago, but that’s already ancient history. I’ve moved on. I’m being forced to rethink my style, my beliefs in “what works”, and even question whether my plot will hold up under scrutiny. I hope I get the feel of it really soon, otherwise it will take a year to polish Dawn’s Rise. I was hoping to finish it by June 1! I think the practices I’m learning right now will become invaluable, and it will make my next manuscript that much better.

So if anyone out there wants a piece of me, have at it! Send me your email and I can set you up.

Monday, May 18, 2009

My Life

My Life

Iap types on his tiny Netbook computer while sipping a Grande Soy Sugar-Free Almond Latte in the Issaquah Tully’s. Sweat drips down his armpits, a combination of the May sun shining through the plate glass storefront and the afterglow from his morning workout. Swimming induces a warmth that lasts for hours—nice in the winter, annoying in the summer months. He glances around the crowded coffee shop. Like him, many patrons stare into computer screens. He wonders how many of them are unemployed, retired, or formulating lucrative construction contracts. Some are soccer moms yapping on their cell phones or huddled around their caffeine dispensers exchanging neighborhood gossip. The rest are students with textbooks, laptops, and paper notebooks. A mom and toddler step in. Iap prays the little girl in her red flower dress doesn’t discover the xylophone in the back. A young Asian woman with thick glasses, a pony tail, and a backpack sits against the far wall, talking on a bright green phone. No, she’s not Dawn, he thinks, always searching for his character’s face. Another woman in a tight pink blouse leans against the counter, her face overtanned and wrinkled for her age, her breasts threatening to escape. She leans forward and laughs at someone. A flirt? Harmless coffee banter?

Iap reaches down and rubs his sore ankles. He still wears his race shirt from yesterday, a trophy he will cherish until his clothes drawer overflows and he chooses which old race shirts to discard. Like sex, every race has the same format. He first falls in love with the idea, the concept of the race. Wouldn’t it be great if I could run that race? As the race starts, he takes it easy, not wanting to rush things. When he rushes, things can end before they even start. He feels things out, trying to find that sweet spot. As the race progresses, his breathing increases, his heart thumps, but he can’t stop. Not until it’s over. The urge to finish overcomes him, until nothing holds him back, not the burning in his legs, not the wheezing of his lungs, not the vague thoughts that he could drop dead on the course, a quivering mass of human flesh. Sweat stings his eyes, his nipples chafe and bleed, and his feet feel like they’ve been through a woodchipper. Then comes that final moment, that flood of emotion and endorphins as he crosses the finish line. Like sex, his first thought: where’s the water? Limp and exhausted, he collapses on the ground, gasping for air like a fish.

Iap skims through his email and RSS feeds, wincing from the continued attacks on his manuscript. After posting his work in a contest, dozens of people ripped it to shreds, leaving his precious writing writhing on the floor, as out of life as he is after a race. “Telling”. “Overdone”. “Confusing”. Doubts creep into his head. I left my lucrative software career to become a writer. Guess what? I can’t write. He shakes his head, forcing the doubts from his consciousness. Others return. My daughter is sick. What if it’s Swine Flu? I’ve had a cough for a couple days. What if I have it? Are we going to die? He sits up and inhales. The sweat under his arms spreads, a cold circle against his body. He picks his nails, a nervous habit he’s practiced as long as he can remember. He forced himself to stop for weeks before his wedding so his photos would look nice. His nails now barely peeked out from their beds, cut far from his fingertips. I know I can write, he tells himself unconvincingly. Someone somewhere once gave me a compliment, so I know it’s true.  He thinks about his dwindling bank account. His unemployment checks barely cover health insurance, let alone the mortgage or the upcoming doctor bills. Should I call that guy and just get a job? Should I give up on my dream after only two months?

The sweat spreads to his palms, a warm stickiness that leaves little imprints on the Netbook whenever he raises his hands. A hint of chlorine mixes with the coffee aroma, a scent no amount of showering removes after a pool session. 145 thousand words of crap, he thinks. 145 thousand words no one will ever read or care about. What was I thinking? The caffeine dries his throat, dumping bodily fluid into his bladder, distracting him from his blogging. The query manual he studied over the weekend proved useless, just a rehash of what he’s read online. A pig with lipstick. That’s what my work has become. I’m trying to dress it up but it’s a fucking pig. I can’t write a decent query because it’s like trying to sell a pig to a cattleman.

He stretches his arms towards the ceiling, his neck bones crackling from being hunched over the Netbook for so long. His legs ache from the hard wooden chair. He stares into the gas fireplace’s flickering flames. I could just throw everything right in there and be done with it. Outside a filtered sun shines on pink azaleas and rhodies. He texts his wife, asking about his daughter’s condition, and receives no response. He thinks about a critique he received over the weekend, another devastating annihilation of his work. I can only take so much. He thinks back to the race yesterday. Two miles into the race sits a drawbridge that opens exactly twenty minutes after the start gun. His heart racing at its maximum rate, he passed it with thirty seconds to spare. You know, I can do some things if I work hard enough. Race training: 5 hours of running, 3 hours of riding, 2 hours of swimming. Every week. For years. How miles have I logged? Thousands? Almost a dozen pairs of sneakers destroyed? I’ve only been on this writing thing for two months. Where will I be in two years? What will I be able to accomplish if I dedicate myself to writing as much as I’ve dedicated myself to running? Six years ago I couldn’t run a mile without dying. It took half a year to run one mile without stopping, another nine to run three. Now I’m on the eve of my first triathlon. How is writing any different?

He sits in Tully’s and considers. The place has emptied as customers seek their lunches. His stomach rumbles, a reminder that two pieces of cheese don’t constitute a nourishing breakfast. Add an hour of swimming the day after an exhausting race, and he wonders how he doesn’t collapse. His bladder begs him for attention. I keep going, he thinks. I keep going, I keep throwing myself at it. Something will stick. I’ll become better. I have to. Otherwise it’s back to the old career of answering bosses and writing code I don’t care about.

He sucks the remaining drops of coffee from his latte. The sun hides behind a layer of gray clouds. It will rain on my training ride tomorrow, he thinks. He packs up the Netbook and tosses his latte away.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I Pwned the Bridge Race Report

I Pwned the Bridge Race Report

beat the bridge Ran the Nordstrom Beat the Bridge for Diabetes today for the fourth time. I’ve only beaten that bridge once before in three attempts, two years ago. The idea is that 20 minutes after the start of the last, slowest wave (my wave), the drawbridge two miles into the run opens up. I learned this the hard way the first time I ran it. First of all, it’s not two miles. It’s more like 2.12. Secondly, it takes a while to get through the starting mat. So really, I have less than 20 minutes to go more than two miles.

The second year I ran it, somehow I beat it. I don’t have that race report handy anymore, but I remember a ridiculously fast first mile, like nine minutes flat. Last year I struggled all year with injuries, and came up about ten seconds short. The line was right in front of me when they closed the bridge. I didn’t care that much because I was pretty much dying at that point from being out of shape.

Fast forward a year. My injuries are at bay (for now, knock knock), and I’m turning times faster than ever at this point of the season. It took me about 15 seconds to cross the mat, so I pretty much knew I had to book it to make the bridge this year. The first mile went okay. My Garmin registered a 9:09 mile. Subtracting the 15, that makes it really a 8:54 mile, one of my fastest ever. It seemed mostly downhill although the Garmin measured it as only –4. That’s when things got dicey. I felt fine, but my heart rate kept climbing. Usually when I hit 180, that’s when I get out of breath. But it was up around 187 to 190. I had to force myself to slow down, but the heart rate wouldn’t. I don’t know what that means. It could just be a malfunction, like reading another person’s strap or something. I didn’t feel out of breath, my legs weren’t tired, but the heart rate was unusually high. Last time something like this happened was my first race after recovering from the flu a couple years back. I hope it ain’t Swine coming…

Anyways, with about five minutes before the opening, I realized I would probably beat the bridge. I think I could have kept up the 8:54 pace but I slowed it down to finish mile two in 9:32, total elapsed time since the gun: 18:42. I had a whole minute and 17 seconds to beat the bridge. I crossed the line right at 19:30, with 30 seconds to spare. I walked the rest of the bridge, and was rewarded with the sound of the horn and the groans of the people who were caught. I definitely had a huge grin for at least a half a mile. I didn’t break my personal record for the whole course but I didn’t have that nice rest period I’ve had stuck behind the bridge (when I pause my watch).

In other racing news, I finally got my wet suit and headed out for a swim in the lake. The hardest part (well next to stuffing my 42-yo flabby ass into a wetsuit) was getting my face into the water. Every time I did it, I got a reaction like I was being waterboarded. Once I got in, I swam around the shore of the lake for almost ten minutes. It really wasn’t bad at all. The lake water actually tastes better than pool water (imagine that) and the wet suit adds a bit of buoyancy. This week it’s “peak week” when I run/ride my highest mileage before the actually race. I may try to get in the lake one more time. Next week is a taper week. Getting very nervous. I hope I find out why people put themselves through these things.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Secret Screwup

Secret Screwup

I entered a “Secret Agent” contest but I screwed up. If you follow that link you can see what I submitted and what the Secret Agent and others thought. To get my entry down to 250 words, I deleted the section headers which included time and location. The basic response was therefore people had no idea what was going on. Which is understandable. I also included some lines from the next chapter…which further served to confuse people. I think 250 words isn’t quite enough to get a feel for a story, but hey, I got my stuff in the hands of an agent. He/she didn’t care for my snippet, but at least gave me a couple lines of feedback.

Every time I get feedback on my writing, it contradicts earlier feedback. I use too many adverbs. So I replace them with action verbs. Now I use too many action verbs. I put in too much background. I remove it, now people have no idea what’s going on. I can’t seem to win. Like my previous post on voice…I’ve completely lost mine. I have no idea if I’m doing the write(sic) things at this point. It’s like I keep adding ingredients to the soup, but now the pot(plot?) is overflowing and there’s just too many things in there. Cutting words is not making things better. It’s like taking ingredients out of the soup once they’re already in there. You take out stuff that should probably stay in the mix.

Speaking of time and location, here’s mine. So whenever you need to find me, you can come to this blog post. Note the timestamp. If it’s not current, then I’m probably not there. If this isn’t working, it’s probably because I disabled my location updates since posting this.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009



wwz I just finished Max Brooks’ World War Z and I loved it! Exactly what I’m trying to accomplish in Dawn’s Rise: a disaster that affects the entire world. World War Z is an “Oral History” of a Zombie Apocalypse as told by survivors of the event. It goes through all the stages of the event, from the first outbreak of zombism to the final solution. It’s richly detailed and researched, and it’s the best book I’ve read all year. I’m really hoping it gets made into a movie, because I can see the whole movie in my mind.

Anyways, in honor of reading this book, I’m reposting the scene where Alex Ross and the gang fight off zombies in the heart of London last November. Unlike World War Z, these are not infected, they’re regular people who have been hit with a pulse from the Singularity Matrix. The pulse scrambles their brains for a few minutes, but only if they’re sober. So Alex and the gang have just liquored up, knowing the Matrix was about to fire. Without further ado, here’s my (slightly edited) homage to Zombies at told by Alex:

The floor pressed cold against my head. My ears rang and my vision swam. The room spun in big circles. Car alarms and horns rang the air. My head throbbed, painful, aching. The people scattered on the floor struggled to rise. A rage built inside me. I wanted to hurt someone. I wanted kill, to rip someone apart, feel their blood and bones in my mouth, to tear their flesh apart.

A wave of nausea washed over me and I rolled onto my back. I couldn't find the balance to rise. "M--M--Misty," I mumbled. She lay beside me, pushing herself up, a confused look on her face. I couldn't spot my other teammates. Her face contorted in a mask of anger. She bared her teeth and growled at me, breathing quickly.

"Ahh!" She jumped, snapping at my throat. I snatched her arms and maneuvered behind her, holding my arms beneath hers and pressed her neck in a full Nelson.

"Misty, please! It's Alex. Misty, you've got to come out of it! You can fight it!"

She struggled and fought against me as I called her name. With a great push, she freed herself and faced me, spit flying from her mouth as she gnashed her teeth. Behind her rose Ellie, a rifle in her hand. Misty jumped and Ellie fired.

"No!" I cried as Misty landed in my arms. "Ellie, what the hell did you do!!" I felt Misty's body convulsing against me. "Misty!"

Ellie shot again, this time over my shoulder. The other patrons of the bar had awakened, and the more sober ones attacked each other. I felt Misty, searching for the bullet hole.

"Alex, I didn't shoot her," cried Ellie. "She's just coming out of it. Now put her down and help me fight!"

I looked at Misty's face, now dull and unfocused. "Alex, Alex," she said quietly. "What's happening?"

I hugged her, then released her. My eyes refused to focus on the attacking zombies. The room spun, and I saw two of each zombie. Rod pulled himself off the floor. "Julia's still out," he said.

In a fury of fire, we shot all the zombies in the bar. Misty crawled over to Julia to try to revive her. "Julia, baby, come on, get up." The girl stirred, but her head lolled to the side in an alcoholic stupor. I almost passed out myself.

"Here," said Ellie, passing us each some pills. "This may not make you sober, but it will wake you up, and counter some of the effects of the booze. Hurry up."

Outside, a number of zombies roamed around the streets. They attacked each other, gnawing on each other and beating their target's heads. Bones crackled like kindling as they used every ounce of madness in their attacks.

Misty coaxed Julia to take the pill. As we stood guard, my brain stopped reeling, and the zombies stopped doubling in my vision. Julia crawled to her feet, and gasped at the sight of all the dead bodies.

"You still ready for this," asked Misty, and Julia nodded.

"I'm not afraid," she said, despite her trembling. "Let's go." She started listing to the left but Misty propped her up.

We peered out the door. For the moment all the zombies in range seemed occupied. "We've got to move fast," said Ellie, "before they can reload the Zombie Ray."

We scampered down the street, stepping around the mutilated bodies and pools of blood. Screams and growls poured from all the buildings surrounding us. Piles of damaged and steaming cars littered the street, some with zombies inside beating senselessly against the windows, unable to manipulate a simple door handle. As we approached one car, the window burst open in a shower of glass, and the bloodied zombie crawled out on broken arms. It spotted us and ambled towards us, but Ellie felled it with a single shot to the head.

A thick drizzle settled in on us. A group of zombies milled about along an overpass.

"Why aren't they attacking anyone," I wondered aloud. "Are they recovering?"

A non-zombified woman ran down the street. The group spotted her and jumped off the overpass. Surprisingly, many of them continued the chase on broken ankles and legs. She screamed and ran harder, but a body tripped her. The group pounced on her, and in moments I could see flesh and entrails raining out from her body. The group stood back up, surveying the street, a somewhat satisfied look on their faces.

"They're forming packs? This is not good," said Ellie. "Come on, before they spot us."

We slipped around a corner, trotting towards the River Thames. Either the pill wore off, or the alcohol continued to flood my system, because I felt drunk again. I stumbled and veered, unable to run straight. Julia bumped into me and we both fell down into the wet street.

"Hee hee," she giggled, her eyes glazed and unfocused. She spoke in her incomprehensible Tagalog, singing something. She wrapped her arms around Rod as he helped us up.

"Rod," she started saying, "Rod, Rod, Rod."

"Fight it," said Ellie, not looking so steady herself. "Behind you!"

A group of about 5 zombies charged us. Ellie fired on them, missing our heads by inches. The last one dropped right at our feet. "Dammit," she cried, "I can't fucking shoot straight. We've gotta get sober! And those were all the pills I had."

We began to lean on each other for support, like a group of drunk partiers. "Here comes more!"

We turned around to find about thirty zombies closing in on us. We clumsily reached for our weapons, almost knocking each other down. I tried firing but nothing happened. I fiddled with the safety and released it. At about ten feet distance, I emptied my gun into the oncoming screaming mass. In a moment, they dropped to the ground, quivering. Then slowly, they picked themselves up. If anything, they seemed doubly angry now, howling and growling and reaching for us.

"Head shots," yelled Ellie, firing down the street at another approaching group.

I reloaded my gun, and this time took careful aim, dropping them one at a time. The assault seemed to clear my head a bit.

"Move it, we're about a block away from the river now." We sprinted down the street as the rain increased. The Zombie Ray had knocked out all power to London, but the suburbs still lit the clouds enough for us to see. Ellie didn't want us to use headlamps.

At last we made the river, and started heading East towards the remains of the Tower bridge. We saw no signs of British or Chinese forces, except some abandoned military vehicles and some corpses that could have been soldiers. Hard to tell in the dim light.

We arrived the Blackfriars Bridge underpass. Ellie switched on a small light to guide us through the impenetrable darkness. Julia pressed close to us. We passed through the first underpass without incident, but under the second bridge we detected rustling. Ellie held up her hand. "Lights," she whispered, and we turned them on. Surrounding us lit dozens of faces, peering out from the dark. Only now do I remember hearing that some zombies prefer to lie in wait, springing on unsuspecting prey. As one, the horde screamed and jumped out at us. As one, we opened fire with everything we had, completely surrounded.

We formed a ring with Julia in the middle. Inside the tunnel, the sound of guns deafened us, and the only light came from the muzzle flashes of our guns. I shot at all the faces I could see. My gun clicked, and I stepped into the ring to reload, coming out again to fire. Still they came, some with missing limbs, some with holes in their heads but not completely dead, most with blood pouring out of their bodies. The carnage was indescribable. The pavement pooled with their blood.

"This way," shouted Ellie. We pushed our defensive ring East, trying to escape the tunnel. The road beyond appeared clear.

My gun emptied again, but before I could reload, one of the zombies snatched it from me, and I stood face to face with a crazed man reaching for my throat. I whipped out a pistol and shot him between the eyes. Another zombie jumped towards me, this time a maddened but attractive woman. I shot her too, but her momentum carried her into me and knocked me and Julia down. Rob turned to help us up, but two zombies grabbed his waist and pulled him away. I heard him screaming somewhere in the dark.

"Rod!" screamed Julia. "Rod! Someone help Rod!"

I shot into the darkness, hoping to hit something and save Rod. We fired like crazy, a deafening barrage in the confines of the underpass. We beat off the zombies for a moment, and climbed over the bodies to find Rod. We discovered him crumpled in the corner, bleeding from a dozen places, a knife in his hand.

"You good," I asked him, and he nodded. He screamed when he tried to put weight on his foot.

Ellie knelt down and felt it. "Broken. Come on, help him."

Misty and I put his arms around our shoulders, and carried him out of the tunnel. We hadn't gone fifty yards when Julia screamed. A horde of zombies, dozens of bodies thick, ran towards us, down from White Lion Hill.

"Give me your guns and leave me here," said Rod. I'll fight them off, you run. The river walk looks clear."

It looked like every zombie in the city converged on our position.
"No!" screamed Julia. "We can make it."

Rod sat down painfully, and held Julia's hand. "Julia, I have to. It's the only way. You can't carry me. I'll be alright. I want you to live. Please. Now go, before they spot you."

"Come on, Julia, please," begged Misty. "It's the only way."

Julia tore herself away from Rod. We handed him a pile of everything that could fire a bullet, and ran down the river walk. In a moment, the echoes of gunfire reached us. Rod shot and shot, and then, silence. Only the screams of the zombies filled the night.

Want to read more? Start here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Where’s My Voice?

Where’s My Voice?

voice_vitamins(1) First, some random notes:

  • The Mariners started out April well but have fallen apart. I hate when my hopes rise and then are dashed with a six-game losing streak.
  • I got on the scale this morning. Looks like I’m down a few pounds finally. Every pound lost can remove seconds per mile during a race. In a longer race those seconds can add up to minutes.
  • Started doing some yardwork (for the first time this year) and now my yard looks like a war zone. I’m going to need to reseed half of it. I have a serious mole infestation. I also couldn’t get my power washer or tiller running.
  • I’m really loving Brooks’ World War Z. I need to figure out who represents Brooks, because I think my novel is in a similar genre. BTW I did have Zombies on my list of disasters for Dawn’s Rise but they didn’t fit in. I do have them in 30 Days:The Singularity Matrix.
  • I discovered I can still run the Seattle Rock’n’Roll Marathon…if I raise $1000 for Cancer. Who’s willing to support me?

I’ve been thinking over the last couple of days about my “writing voice.” Have you ever noticed that when you read things like emails and blogs from people, you can actually hear their voice in your head? It’s like they’re talking to you as you read. My writing voice is kind of like my email/blogging voice. Not super great. Lots of adverbs and adjectives, if/then/but/and/or run-on stuff, and not much description. In fact, during editing I’ve removed a bunch of description as being too “descriptive” and not “active.”

I need to find my literary voice. An agnostic impartial voice that just describes the actions and scenes. People keep telling me about the screenplay model. A screenplay is essentially an instruction kit for a movie: “First actor A says ‘blah blah.’ He walks left. Actor B says ‘blah your own blah’” I need to eliminate anything that’s not active. Note that thinking and feeling are not activities. It’s important to hear the inner monologue sometimes, and that’s really what separates novels from screenplays, but I think I’m not doing it very well. I really think I need to take some literary classes.

I’m left with these issues then:

  • How do I set a scene without being expository and inordinately wordy?
  • How and when do I introduce all the background material for my book’s universe?
  • How do I show what a character is thinking/feeling without just saying it?

Note that these aren’t my only literary deficiencies…but I can only tackle so many at once.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Kirkland 5K Race Report

Kirkland 5K Race Report

kirkland 5k This morning I ran the 5K part of the Kirkland Half Marathon. It was a cool but sunny morning, about 40 when I left the house but closer to 46 by race time. The 5K has a hill in middle from about .5 to 1.25 miles, then downhill through 1.75, up a little hill then down to 2.0. The rest is mostly flat save a small hill 2-2.5. I felt pretty good this morning besides the usual pre-race stomach issues. The start was pretty crowded, with a lot of lopers mixed in with people who were trying to run. After a couple minutes we got to a wide walkway and things thinned out. The big hill wasn’t too bad. I kept thinking, “I’m not dying. I’m not dying. This is good.” That hill has killed me in the past. I ended the first mile at 10:18. I thought, “for that hill that’s pretty good.”

The downhill went well. By the time I hit that next little uphill, I started really feeling it. Stomach ache, knot in shoulder, heart rate too high, but my legs felt fine which is the most important thing. Once fatigue sets in, there’s not much you can do. When I finished the 2nd mile in 9:36 I started thinking, “I’ve got a shot at sub-30 if I push the last mile.” Fortunately the first bit of the last mile was steep downhill so I really cranked it. You can feet your soles burning on fast downhills from the friction between your feet and socks. I got through the last mile in 9:19, a blistering pace for me and the last .11 mile in 37 seconds. Now my GPS recorded the race as 3.07 miles so if the course was .04 miles short, that would take me another 20 secs at that pace, but I’m complaining.

Previous Course record: 30:18 (5/13/2007)
Current Personal record: 28:42 (9/30/2007)
New Course record: 29:51 :)

So I killed my previous course record by 27 seconds, but I’m still over a minute off my best 5K ever. However, this is the fastest I’ve ever run Jan-May, so it’s looking like a great running year! My ankles are feeling great (knock knock) and I’m steadily improving.

Next week: Beat the Bridge! (I’ve only beat it once in 3 tries but I’m ahead of my pace last time I beat it)

In three weeks (gulp): Issaquah Triathlon! I hope my wetsuit gets here soon so I can try it out.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

First Line Of Dawn’s Rise

First Line of Dawn’s Rise

Dawn's Rise Cover 1 Isn’t this exciting? A bonus weekend blog post! Since my last post was dedicated to Triathlons, this post is all about writing. I’m also going to present you with the first line of the soon-to-be-classic SciFi masterpiece Dawn’s Rise. Okay, maybe classic in the sense of a classic disaster, but a classic nonetheless. BTW what do you think of the book cover I took all of about 5 minutes to create?

Here’s an update on the writing front:

  • Went to another writing meetup. This one was pretty fun. We spent the first 45 minutes writing, then some of us (including me) shared what we had written. I started a new chapter of The Immortals where this character Brandy (not an Immortal) is pouty and depressed. She’s about commit a desperate act of a desperate woman. Should be fun to write the rest of the chapter. I also somewhat finished a “chapter from hell” that’s taken me weeks to muddle through. This group meets twice a week but I can only make one of them due to my training schedule.
  • Submitted the first 6 chapters of Dawn’s Rise to Authonomy. Please, everyone go register and add Dawn’s Rise to your bookshelf! If enough people like it, I can get my ms in front of Harper Collins editors! Or, if you just want to read those chapters, go here. Comments, critiques, observations are all welcome.
  • I’m still looking to get a bit more feedback before I start sending letters out to agents. The whole 300-to-1 odds seem a bit daunting. I guess I’ll have to send out my query to 300 agents before one requests my manuscript. I really just need to believe in myself and my writing.

I’ve been thinking that writing literature is not that different from writing software. I’ve developed a good plot, I have a lot of excitement and action, and created interesting characters. Now it comes down to the mechanics, the engineering if you will, of the actual words. Each line of the story must work like a line of code. It must have a purpose and a function. It must adhere to accepted literary standards. The weird thing is that instead of programming a computer, I’m developing code for the human brain. As you read each line, I expect it to affect your brain in a certain way, by creating an image, by eliciting an emotion, or by driving a thought. My story must get inside your head in a way that compels you to read more and give me your money! (is it working?)

Okay. Now, without further ado, here is the First Line of Dawn’s Rise.

Gravity stopped.

Interesting? Compelling? Stupid? Give me some feedback, people!

UPDATED 6/21/2009

Here's my NEW first line, and the feedback from Victoria Mixon. She's an editor-for-hire but I won a first-line-edit from her.

Red letters scrawled across John's vision, projected from his Eyespy.
Hi Andrew,

This sentence has the mark of an excellent first sentence: power. It's straight-forward and direct, no fancy footwork to confuse the reader. Writers often misunderstand just how important it is to come across in that first sentence with authority, to sound as though you know exactly what you're talking about. John Gardner discussed this in On Becoming a Novelist when he compared the first sentences of two of Melville's books, showing how "Call me Ahab" carries that authority that says to the reader, "I know how to tell this story. Sit back and listen. You're in good hands."

Your sentence has a character in it--excellent, tells us whom to pay attention to--a visual, the red letters--excellent, pulls us right into the scene with something concrete to picture--and the information that this story is, if not sci fi, at least science-based (this matters, because the reader's not always paying close attention to genre if they find something they like on a shelf), with the named gadget Eyespy. Terrific.

As far as the character, I hope he's either the main character or the narrator, as this reads as if we're going to get this story from John's perspective. This is communicated through the visual clue: we're not looking *at* John doing something, we're looking *through* John's eyes. This is very important. You've given us the information that you want us to do that. Your sentence carries enough authority that I think you probably did this intentionally, but it's worth mentioning.

As far as the visual, that's good. Red's an arresting color, plus it implies that John may be reading a warning, which is a great hook. Even if it's not a warning, you have now given the reader the impression that danger is part of this story. We read red that way, particularly on a technological gadget, particularly in a first sentence. The visual's also not overwritten, good again. It would have been very easy to get involved in what the letters look like, trying to insert an overloaded image into the reader's head right off the bat, which undercuts the authority of the sentence. If you want to talk about what kind of red letters they are, you certainly can, but that info does not belong in the first sentence.

As far as the technological gadget, you give us several concrete pieces of information about it: it projects letters onto a person's vision (onto their eyes? in front of their eyes? good question--the reader likes questions, and a page-turner by nature is a book in which the reader is constantly asking important questions and reading to find the answers). You also tell us with the name that this is its purpose: to interact with the eye. Not only that, but there's a hint of danger in the reference to 'spy' that, again, gives the reader a little jolt of warning.

Your sentence opens with the word 'red' and closes with the (partial) word 'spy'. If your intention was to tell the reader, "This story is about someone getting into danger through their need to know others' secrets" you have hit the nail right smack on the head.

The one thing that threw me is the verb form that could be a past participle, in a position in which this particular common past participle often turns up: "scrawled". It would not be at all unlikely for the sentence to read, "Red letters scrawled across John's vision [did something]." It's a good, active word, but it makes the reader think about it, which is a problem. This is compounded by the use of a past participle "projected" in the following phrase. I'd alter "scrawled" to some verb with a less common past participle

Good luck on your book. It looks from the chapter name as though you've thought your plot through carefully. All the best to you!

Victoria Mixon

Your thoughts?


Here's the first line of The Immortals. This is totally first-draft, so it's highly likely to change.

A heavy hand slammed Amelia's face and she tumbled onto the ground.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Triathlon Mania!

Triathlon Mania!

Sorry, writerly folks, this blog post is all about Triathlons.
triswim I’m officially signed up for the Issaquah Triathlon on May 30th. It’s a 1/4 mile swim in cool water (compared to the 80 degree pool I train in), a 15 mile flat bike ride (shit, I’ve been training for 10…need to up the bike miles), and a 5K flat XC run. Hmm…looking at that picture, did the dude on the left already take his wetsuit off or is he some kind of super-stud?? I’ll be the one rolling out of the water like a beached whale.
So this week I visited a Tri shop in Seattle and became acutely aware that being a Triathlete is not cheap, especially in this area because of the cold water. I had no idea how much gear I needed…it’s almost like skiing FCOL. I picked up a wet suit, a Tri singlet (a thing looks like a wrestling costume), a cap for my head, and a new pair of goggles. I’m planning on using my old POS bike. I’ve fixed it up a bit with new hand grips, a new seat, some lights, and road tires. It’s still nothing like a competitive Tri bike, which start at around $1700 and go up from there.
This morning, I ran a virtual triathlon. 40 mins in the pool, with a 20 min non-stop period which should be enough to cover 1/4 mile. Then I changed and showered (I’m worried that the chlorine will mess up my bike/run clothes) and went on a 10 mile bike ride. I changed again, then went on a 4 mile run. The whole process took three hours…however I think one of the keys to a Triathlon will be the transitions. I figure that if I keep the transitions down to 2 minutes each (instead the 20 mins they took today), I’m estimating a finish time of 1:52 or so. The transition from biking to running was brutal. The first mile felt like I was back in the pool, trying to run underwater. After that I loosened up, but everything’s going to be magnified when I run at race pace.

So here’s my Triathlon Event Checklist. After the race, I’ll update it with what I really needed.
  • Bike Prerace 
    • Inflate Tires
    • Check Brakes
    • Check Lights
    • Place in truck
    • Fill Water bottle for bike
    • Reconsider this foolishness
  • For the swim
    • Wetsuit
    • Singlet
    • Cap/race cap
    • Goggles
    • Chip
    • Sandals
    • Lose fear of drowning
    • Avoid the buoys area: too crowded
  • Transition 1
    • Somehow find my bike among the 1000’s there
    • Somehow get out of wet suit (assuming I actually managed to get in it)
    • Towel off as much as possible
    • Get on bike clothes
    • Eat some shot blocks/drink water
    • Put race belt on
    • Get on the bike and ride!
  • For Biking
    • Helmet
    • Gloves
    • Sunglasses
    • Biking pants (if cold)
    • Biking jacket (if cold)
    • Biking shirt
    • Socks
    • Shoes
    • GPS set to bike mod
    • Don’t follow misguided riders and ride an extra 5 miles
  • Transition 2
    • Find where the F I leave my bike
    • Take off bike clothes
    • Switch GPS to run mode and reset
    • More shots/water
    • Quick stretch?
    • Run for it!
  • For Running
    • Socks
    • Shoes
    • Running Hat
    • Running shirt (if cold)
    • Sunglasses
    • GPS set to run mode
    • Try not to pee pants since I doubt I’ve hit a potty yet
  • Post race
    • Collapse
    • Pee
    • Collapse
    • Find sandals/car keys
  • Other Preparation
    • Register for event
    • Pick up packet
    • Put numbers on appropriate items
    • Roll up socks so they're easy-on
    • Put on sunblock
    • Apply Anti chafe
    • Asthma medication
    • Prerace smoothie
    • Pack shot blox/gel packs
    • Fill water bottles/camelbak
    • Warm up
    • Pack
    • Learn how to swim in a friggin wetsuit and/or singlet.
    • Seriously, reconsider this foolishness
I’m sure I’m leaving craploads of stuff out but I’ll update this page as I figure it out.
  • XC: Cross country.
  • FCOL: For crying out loud.
  • POS: Piece of shit.
  • Tri: Anything to do with Triathlons.
  • Triathlon: A unique form of torture where participants are water-boarded, ridden out of town, then run ragged until their feet bleed and they vomit.
  • Wetsuit: A tight cocoon-like piece of apparel that squeezes the life out of you while you wear it and provides minimal protection against the cold.
  • Singlet: A very thin piece of apparel that squeezes the life out of you while you wear it and provides minimal protection against losing your dignity.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Writing Decisions

Writing Decisions

welcome I’ve noticed some new people commented on the blog so welcome new subscribers! I hope you don’t find this blog too random. I’ve been blogging here about twice a week but feel free to check out my Facebook and Twitter links on my blog home page and subscribe to my updates.

So I’ve made a decision. After studying the market a bit, I think that the new project I’m working on, The Immortals, will probably be a lot more marketable than Dawn’s Rise. Therefore, I’ve decided to concentrate on Dawn’s Rise through the end of this month, get the query letter, synopsis, and partial in as many hands as I can, and then come June, focus all my efforts on banging out a first draft of The Immortals. Even though The Immortals is actually a SF novel, it contains enough fantasy-type elements to put in more in that genre. No dragons but lots of other stuff.

This weekend I went to my first (not including NaNoWriMo write-ins) writer’s group meetup, and met a few local authors. I sent my partial to a couple people who were interested in critiquing it. There are a couple other meetup groups I may attend over the next few weeks. I’m trying to see which groups best fit my current state of development. The one I attended was a Speculative Fiction group, which they assured me was definitely NOT Science Fiction. I’ve posted in the past how I feel that Sci-Fi is dead, although I’ve found a few authors lately that may change my opinion of that. Stay tuned.

In other news, I had a pretty interesting weekend. Saturday was our 10th Anniversary. Since my lack of income at the moment, we decided against doing anything grand except for a fancy-schmancy dinner. It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years. We had the same weather we had for our wedding: torrential rain and wind. And we had an outdoor ceremony! Fortunately they put up a tent. Yesterday I went to a Mariners game that lasted 15 innings/5 hours. The exciting part (aside from the 15th inning bloop RBI single) was that for the first time in about 15 years of going to games, I caught a fly ball! I’ve had plenty of chances over the years, and yesterday all that patience paid off. Noah wants to go play with the ball at a park but I’m like—no way.

So this week I’m focused on getting feedback and preparing to send stuff to agents. I’m going to run through the rest of Dawn’s Rise and try to reduce the word count by at least 20K words, going from 145K to 125K. I think it will sell much better as a smaller work. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Let me know if you’re interested in doing a critique, I’d love all the feedback I can get right now!