Two more short stories, The Gray Gosling at 2.315 words needs some rewriting because I wrote it fast and was careless about things like tense and intense about what it was about but it's a good length, and Here Be Tygers at 1,116 came out nicely tight horror with a twist ending off one of the Exercises. I actually managed to do a Lovecraftian plot in very modern prose with a nice zinger ending. It's atmospheric without being period. It's not strictly Lovecraftian because it's not Mythos related and I invented a completely original McGuffin rather than relying on the grand old chestnuts, but the structure of the story, the type of incident was something I'd seen only in a Lovecraft story. One of his better ones.

The workmen renovating the building my apartment's in punched a big hole through the porch into my ceiling this morning at 11AM, after I hadn't gone to sleep till 8AM. So I'm operating on 3 hours of sleep with a big hole in the ceiling right in the corner of the office area, thankfully not directly over the computer though plaster and debris splattered on the chair and mousepad. Nothing of mine damaged, but they didn't fix the inside damage. They did go over the outside and I hope it doesn't leak.

This would've been a lousy day, but I wrote and I've got a S. L. Viehl class tonight on submissions so it's not.

Postscript to "A Day Without Kibbles..." - Ari now has a full bag of Science Diet, yogurt in the fridge for our treats and two new Tennis Balls of Distraction along with three little plastic Grocery Superballs to play with. He forgot he was offended in about thirty seconds of eating, but he ate till he burst and then played hard with the balls on a full tummy for about three hours, then wound up sleeping on the desk, where he burped and got the hiccups!

And for weirdos who juggle, the little mini tennis balls from cats would make good juggling balls too at only 50 cents each. They bounce pretty good, they're bright and come in yellow with a bright color. Cats love them because it's a ball you can claw and it's fuzzy, but doesn't get destroyed in the mangling! His first one looks like a teddybear that has been mangled by a loving small child...

Robert and Ari >^..^<


Poor little Ari... today the Science Diet dry kitten food ran out completely and he had to... survive... on a can of wet cat food, turkey and giblets. Poor little fellow. He loves his Growth Formula so much and he's not fond of gooey stuff from a can. Weird for a cat but that's him and who am I to argue with it? He likes it and it keeps him healthy and if he refuses something every other cat I've known considers a treat, well, he could be worse and only eat the canned expensive stuff!

I'll make it up to him and get some yogurt when I'm shopping tomorrow, the only human food he really enjoys much as a treat and flips over. I like it too, so we always share. I eat most of the package and he goes wild for about half a teaspoon till he's stuffed. He's so sweet. I love this cat.

I got something done tonight before my day off... something important! Did the rewrite on the other Vision article: The Torturer's Toolkit and sent that off to Teresa the Horror Editor. Cut 698 words and did a major, major rearrangement of the paragraphs, discovering that one I wrote close to the end was a much better opener for the whole thing, while something up in the middle was a perfect conclusion.

I am still lazily resting on this month's impressive laurels, even though it seems hideously luxurious to take two days off during a week. I have to remember that most people, even those who put in long hours at work, actually take off two days during weekends and do so more than once a month! roflmao! But I love writing, so it's not going to happen that often. I had my mental health day on Tuesday, much of it spent actually ruminating on Ziriavan, and tomorrow, a Thursday, is my Regularly Scheduled Day Off. It is actually today-Thursday, which I might have knocked out an early Thursday story but after that revision I feel a bit tired. Revising is harder than writing.

That and I do need to do the continental map on Ziriavan, so my December word counts may be light and interspersed with lots of 'it counts for something' drawings that are needed for career. Not all of writing is writing, even if writing is the best, most fun, most satisfying part of it. Once I tear into writing the first book set in Ziriavan, all this setup is going to be well worth it. And I did promise myself I'd bang out the other half of Witch King of Khazhevir too.

That means I can try to emulate Sheila and see if, with some sketching and outlining, I can work on more than one book concurrently. It would be a stretch from the 'total immersion and play it by ear' method that gives me long days in the Zone, but if I can master it I can get a more steady professional pace going - and get more titles in print for 2002. I've got to be able to throw something at the markets fast and Khazhevir is more interesting than working on Whoops even if Whoops only needs an added chapter and a last-over rewrite. Feh. If I reread it, I'd be interested again and Whoops would make a good ebook. Aside from which, Whoops demands a cover and that's more art assignments. Oh Well. See when I can squeeze it in...

Ari is sleeping and soon I will join him... then off to Carnivorous Plants tomorrow!

Robert and Ari >^..^<


Totaled it up last night... with 90,260 in novel I shouldn't be surprised. I went over 100,000 words for the month and did another story this morning that was 1,853. With two days left in the month. I think somewhere deep inside I set aside this month for doing Lots of Writing and I'm still doing that, even if I had a day off yesterday and didn't do any new fiction or do my rewrite. There have to be a few days like that and I did some crafts and worked on a project that has no relation to anything but my comfort and the fun of puttering with the materials. Naturally I wrote again today!

Robert and Ari >^..^<


blog... blog... blog...

My class at Forward Motion Writers Workshop is jinxed. This is the second or third week in a row that the site's gone down just at the time I was supposed to be holding the class. Meowww!


I have to laugh, otherwise I'd be whining and no one wants to read a whiny blogger. Well, maybe people do. Is it that I've got insufficient whining in here or way way too much for someone who's got time on his hands, stories and articles to write and rewrite, novels to bash out and whole worlds to create? I did another article for http://www.selfhelpforwriters.com going on about what it's like working on worldbuilding by doing the map first. I'm as inordinately proud of doing the map first as some six year old with the crayons dragging it over to Grandma's so she'll put it on the fridge.

Well, it is a fair decent looking map, all right.

And hey, I can always stick it on my own refrigerator.

The background files and drawn maps and things were stuff that I skimped on back when I was running roleplaying games. I fudged a lot. I tended to make notes after the fact and sometimes not even then, because in writing I'd rewrite anything I had that didn't turn out all that well. As a writer, I have always been someone who played by ear.

I can't just go on doing the same old same old. No sooner do I get something done than I'm itching to try something else that seemed hard or seemed impossible. All through working on Thrice on a Blue Moon I was itching to get ahead and get back into fantasy again. I wasn't sure if I was going to do low, colorful, wild and woolly Sword and Sorcery or high fantasy about cosmic conflicts and grand nobles. Both were appealing in their way, rogues or princes have different types of stories potential. But once I got the map of Ziriavan done and now that the history of the Sack of Ziriavan is jelling a bit, it's not low fantasy or high fantasy. It's middle class fantasy in a way and very down to Earth and everything I've ever read about medieval guilds is coming into it. The magic isn't going to be that far over the top compared to my high fantasy series, but it's a lot more than Thrice had. I can just see blurbing this. It's the middling fantasy world with middle class magicians muddling through their ordinary days, without a lot of great destinies going on but generally a bit better off ... oh right! Actually that wouldn't be too bad for a comedy, taken to silliness, extremes and say, afflicting a dragon with chartered accountancy.

Then again, I like Barbara Hambly's fantasy novels and she has a knack for creating fascinating, adventurous heroines that I'd love to go out with - who are librarians steeped in academia and wear glasses and look very good when they take them off to get kissed. There is something I'm responding to with all the 'middling' bit and a lot of it is history itself. The Dark Ages weren't something that just happened because the Romans got sacked. They happened because after the Romans got sacked, censorship set in and the same churches that preserved most of the Roman histories and technologies without using them were - holding it back and not using it. And persecuting heretics of any flavour, which is to say anyone who was't part of that group. There's so much dark material in history as it is. If I want a nice 'escape' book I almost have to look at it and fiddle with it and turn it around again and again to find the bright side. The bright side for me in so much medieval history is ... the slow, lovely accumulation of beautifully crafted medieval artifacts and poems. The songs in Languedoc that remain to this day that pleasant to the ear. The woven, embroidered and painted garments and bedding. The carved wooden furnishings and carved stone monuments - the art tends to remain no matter what caused it and that's making me wonder if Ziriavan is going to take more sketching than a couple of maps, if some of what will deepen that world and give it that local ethnic depth is going to take my doing a few private illustrations. I feel as if I've just scratched the surface - and this is the surface of one place on it, just one, there's a lot more out there for me to write, draw and sketch up for the series. I wanted another series and the stretch for that is to plan it this time. I think it's a little large for a trilogy but I don't want to make it yet another unending one. A fiver might be just about right this time. I don't need to travel to other worlds in it. Just getting to another city in this world with its 12th century level of transportation is a massive journey. And it'll keep shimmering between gritty realism and fantastic wonder, hanging at exactly the level it does.

In game books like GURPS by Steve Jackson Games, you'd rate a fantasy world by its Magic Level - how easy it is to come by, how easy to learn and use, what applications are available to ordinary people. In Ziriavan out of 200 locals who are fiercely independent and surprisingly democratic, there's just one magician and he's treated a lot like the miller or the smith, someone who's made himself a specialist whose specialty does get used day to day. That tells me he does agro-magic and oceanomancy. They fish, he's supposed to do things to help the catch and also to defend the town if raiders with magicians show up.

History has a lot of 'magic is evil' propaganda out of the persecution of pagans by the medieval Church. For me to write about that as that is almost like going over and over something that's already been done, well, by a lot of people. I could do it justice and might in some other areas. Magicians seem always to wind up either the lords of everyone by military superiority or persecuted and driven out because the previous military superiorities really don't like that, in worlds where magic works. Yet in Ziriavan it wound up just accidentally path-dependent cultural choice different - the magician's like the miller and does something useful enough to pay for that leaves him judged on whether he's competent and whether he's cheating on the measure with it. My poor lad's got that for a social situation. In his hometown. And in most quest stories he'd be leaving his hometown that I've spent two days building in about two chapters to tear off into a Great Destiny.

What's more likely is that a Great Khan or a sweeping Empire or a Crusade or something like that is going to come roaring through just as it did all over Europe and that fishing village remnant of a once-great walled city is going to either sink or swim. What I've got with Rillan is the classic medieval situation of a teenager who's got to do an adult job right now because it's needed, whose childhood wasn't romanticized as children are romanticized now but who's still regarded as young and untried by his elders. In the world building documents I turned over the rock and found that even eliminating the prejudice against magicians by way of a couple of canny ones back in its history slamming it firmly into the artisan class and forming a solid Guild mainly by selling magic to Guildsmen who could afford it and pitching in with them politically when anything happened, didn't eliminate the darker side of medieval life at all. It just shifted it around a bit and there are a lot of conflicts, old and new, brewing both in and around Ziriavan.

Odd to plan this much, but it's working...

Robert A. Sloan, exploring Ziriavan and surrounds...
Aristophenes Mr. Robert's Cat Sloan, sleeping under the desk contentedly. >^..^<


Yayyy... feel so good, got so much done! I threw away 1,241 unnecessary words and chopped my Vision submission down all the way to 1,495 words! Five under when I was done with it! Whoohoo!

Okay, I know that a lot of people have trouble getting word count but that's like comparing someone who's trying to gain weight to someone who's trying to lose it. I write like the fat lady diets. That was a quote from Stephen King and it's about apt for me too. Almost anything I write can benefit from some cutting. Especially in nonfiction - in a novel usually all the little loose ends weave back in very tightly and if there's something dangling, I'll find a way to use it. In an article I really have to stick to topic and not wander off into some related topic looking for some neat way to put it together at the end.

That and unlike most of the nonfiction I write, where I really don't worry about it as much, this was for Vision and from the time I first read that ezine, I was impressed. The sheer quality of the articles on every level gives me the feeling that I'm writing for a pro market. There are paying markets and non paying markets. Vision is a pro quality non paying market. Some facts back up that personal opinion of mine too. Several of the authors who have 'sold' articles to Vision have gone on to sell the reprint rights to those articles to paying markets!

I just did another one and I'm satisfied it's come out as good as I could make it. I put that through three drafts, the final one being the terrible cut - chopping it almost in half to length. I'm challenged by rewriting.

I don't think I'm going to tear up Thrice on a Blue Moon that deeply, but it probably wouldn't hurt to knock it down from 90,000 to roughly 75,000 even if I wind up padding again to put it back at that length. There are areas where I could have put more description into the book, there are possibly incidents that ought to have gone in and other things that would improve it - but I wonder how much fat I could trim just by looking at sentence structures. I'll know in January. It's time to let that one sit and think about other things.

Like having two more hours tonight for writing! >^..^< bounce, bounce!

Robert and Ari

Chat conked out mid discussion while everyone was going really good on their projects. Including mine. I think I just about finished the Ziriavan city map. Last night after midnight I decided that since I want to do fantasy again next, I'd try the "map first and do all the world building" method for creating a new world. Hopefully one that will carry me to a new series. This is something very different for me, but it's also working. It took a lot of work and wasn't as much fun as starting on page one and finding out who it's about in the first paragraph and where they are somewhere in the first chapter. But it got to be fun after a while.

I had Daily Living in the Twelfth Century handy, so I looked in that to see if there was a map. Just to get a feel for style of maps. Lo, the inside of the cover and front page was a contemporary map of London either done by or sketched after one by Alexander Neckam, a sort of low-ranking traveling tonsured cleric who visited London and France, wrote about it and got translated and interpreted by Urban Tigner Holmes, Jr. If you are at all interested in the medieval period, this is a great reference book. Neckam and Holmes did a great job of putting down all the little day to day details of life.

The map didn't have a scale on it but I studied it for a while and then drew in a big river about the size of the Thames but not shaped like that. From there I stuck an island in the bay, a keep on the island imaginatively named Island Keep and a little rock with a name. Then I sat up in chat penciling the city, wharves, walls, a castle, a temple. I got annoyed at it and frustrated that I didn't think it looked good, so I erased everything I hadn't inked and then joked that I wanted to put all that back in as ruins.

Suddenly the world jelled as a couple of chatters thought ruins sounded good. I'd erased pretty well but I remembered where the stuff was and carefully inked ruins in. Pre-Ruined City! It started getting settlement on the south side of the river, vastly reduced from its former glory - most of which is blank because it got mined for dressed building and paving stones the way a lot of Roman ruins did. I wound up adding an odd little building at the bottom just outside the half intact South Wall that I decided was a leprosarium or plague house. In my notes it says they don't have leprosy, they just call any communicable plague that and make the patients move out to the leprosarium till they die or get better. I think only the priest visits it.

The ruined big temple in the north half wound up hexagonal shaped, elongated hexagonal and oriented with the main gate facing Northwest. I put in a little village church about a quarter its size but the same shape in the inhabited south half and so that's a start for a religion, maybe a religious symbol - crystals oriented northwest? Stuck huts on the coast. Added an inn by the road when I realized the bridges were intact when the city wasn't, they had to have some reason to keep up the bridges. Maybe they farm what used to be the eastern half of the old city. I know they kept up the gaol, it became the fortress they use if they all have to get in cover for raiders.

They lost their aristocracy completely and wound up with a village council. I've got five characters and/or families to draw up in detail now for what's become a little fishing village of about 200 people - the miller, the smith, the innkeep, the local priest (probably the hermit that still keeps the pool clean at the Hermitage) and the mage that lives in Island Keep and shows up if dragged in as a tiebreaker on council meetings.

It's gotten a lot of detail and I think I'm pretty much done with the city map, even if I haven't drawn forest-texture patches or rocky patches textures on it yet. I've got some marshes. Island Keep has a rocky end the keep is on and a marshy end on the other. If there's a dock it's too small to put on the map - the stone pilings of the old ship wharves are still there but not the little wooden piers that wouldn't show up to scale.

I do know I decided the villagers pretty much treat the magician as a guildsman, not as some sort of antipriest or evil fellow, not as some sort of priestly fellow, he's just a guildsman and his craft tends to keep him busy doing difficult intellectual or smelly things best kept well out of the village. I know that means that occasionally he'll do a bit of magic for the village now and then, but it's costly and not always worth the trouble. And that to have that kind of legal and economic status, the magician probably does belong to a local Guild Arcane, if he's not the sole proprietorship Master in Ziriavan.

I needed a new place to write and it's slowly shaping up. This one's going to be cool. It's got some atmosphere already, the ruins jelled it because it has connections with things outside it and I've got some idea of their technology - and relative prosperity or lack of it. What used to be a great city has become a backwater fishing village and the old castle is completely ruint. There are shaded areas I'm just calling 'blight' where mage battles took place - three major ones, the old castle being the worst with the area just outside it where a pitched battle probably took place. Down near the old wharves there's another and there's a small one just at the gate of the old, now pretty well demolished temple that's now just the Hermitage and does have a hermit in it.

I don't know what smote it but that's what I'll find out in the notes. That and I do need to draw the continental map with what the ocean is and where it is. I'm vacillating between a really large, ocean sized freshwater lake like Superior or Michigan and an inland sea like the Mediterranean or Caspian. I don't think this city's on a big ocean like the Atlantic or Pacific. But it's got a good mucking big river flowing into it from inland and that means somewhere inland a flood plain and some mountains... will probably have to do that next.

Robert A. Sloan, Thrice on a Blue Moon
Aristophenes the silly kitty who's gone off for a nice little nap.


Did a good day today. 1,037 for The New World, a fairly rough short story done from one of the Exercises at Forward Motion and set conveniently in the world of my Nomad series, where I already know what equipment all the colony ships got and how they set up and that they terraform, knew how the robots worked and everything so no worldbuilding really needed. Then I got tired of doing Short-Short Stories which most of mine are, and made up my mind to get one past 5,000 words without letting it turn into a novelette or something. I succeeded! Visiting Katy is 5,187 words and it's a Christmas Miracle story.

I got pretty self conscious at some points writing it because it got very mushy and sentimental. But my secret vice this time of year is sentimental Christmas stories. I never got tired of watching It's A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol or Miracle on 34th Street.

Then I finished off the night with a thousand word article for http://www.selfhelpforwriters.com - How to Edit Yourself, subject suggested by vserdy because I drew a complete blank on it. Not bad for a day's writing. I did another 6,000 word day and I didn't even have a novel under my paws.

Now if I can just use the advice I put in the Editing article and get to where I get up and work on a new piece of writing, or get up in a persnickety mood and rewrite an old one before getting to the day's new words I'll be well on my way. Tomorrow's a Monday. Mondays are very good for self discipline, so, maybe I'll get to work on my rewrites and try to measure my progress not by how many new words I've put down but how many words of old material I've combed through and pounded into shape. I have critiques on several articles and stories that I really need to get back to and finish, and then... there's plowing into the copious other material that's just too copious to post for critique. I need to teach myself how to rewrite on my own without feedback when necessary if I'm going to keep up this level of output.

That's enough to work on now. They say for anything that takes self discipline that it's better to form habits than to set up for failure with impossible goals. Well, my next real goal is 'get some rewriting done every day.' That's this week's goal and I'll see to it and see how well I do when the week's over.

Robert A. Sloan, Thrice on a Blue Moon (and haven't even gotten to the blue moon yet, go fig!)
Aristophenes the very silly kitten who's laying in the middle of the floor as a pale furry lump being adorable...