Monday, August 31, 2009

Of deadlines missed

I didn't make my self-imposed "by the end of August" deadline for having the sample chapter of the Chicken Ranch book finished. Not even close. I've accomplished maybe a tenth of what's necessary for the completed section, and I'm not all too proud about that.

What went wrong? Other writing commitments, mostly. Interviews and book reviews and the like--all paying gigs, thus not to be ignored--demanded my immediate attention. There were more CR-related interviews and the other book proposal (which isn't all that earth-shaking, but I'm not ready to announce it until I have a contract offer, let it be jinxed) gobbled up a huge amount of my allocated writing time. Finally, I sat down with The Wife and we blocked out large swaths of time over this past weekend where I would do nothing but write. I might not meet the deadline, but I'd come darn close.

Alas, that was not to be. At the old homestead, there are two huge old sycamore trees. These things are relics of my childhood. We had a tree house in one, and the other was the site of great big leaf piles of perfect form and substance for jumping into during chill autumn afternoons. Both of these mighty trees are dead, or in the process of dying. I first noticed a creeping deadness in the branches a couple of years ago, and last year they looked downright sickly. Massive limbs began dropping this past spring, and the concern that one or both would fall onto the house and do real damage--or even drop a big limb on a person--became a very real concern. So Friday a call came from my brother that he'd lined up a cherry-picker rental for the weekend, and could I help with the tree dismantlement.

Duty calls, and all that. I spent the weekend carving enormous dead tree trunks into smaller-but-still-considerable chunks of tree trunk and subsequently hauling them--and many, many assorted branches--to the riverbank at the edge of our property. I haven't been that tired in a very, very long time. I'd drink a quart of water at a time and almost immediately burst out in sweat. I'd work until I dried, then drink some more and the process started again. I still have that deep muscle burn that only comes with lactic acid fermentation. When I finally called it a day, I tried to pick up the Bug only to find that my arms were dead--I literally could not pick up a three-year-old. But the old sycamores were taken care of, as were assorted other branches from red oak, live oak and pecan trees menacing an assortment of power lines. Mission accomplished.

But absolutely no writing was done. For this I am ashamed. I'll try harder this week.

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Obscured By Clouds

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Night Videos

Class is in session, which means, for all practical purposes, that summer is over. Here's Jimmy Buffett to help us say goodbye to the beach with style with "Bama Breeze." I know it came out after Hurricane Katrina, but after visiting Galveston last month, it's just as apropos for the devastation left by Ike.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Muppets.

Now Playing:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Somebody stop me

Why is it that with the huge Chicken Ranch project on my plate, my online serial Memory that's been languishing for a month without a new installment, a possible story for Lee Martindale's "Women of Tradetown" antho to write and the incomplete "Shoals of Cibola" waiting to be finished, I find myself researching Pak-Mor side-loading garbage trucks? And rubber tree plantations? And street sweepers? Why can't I simply finish a project before ideas for another being taking over my waking thoughts? Why?

Now Playing: Sheena Easton Madness, Money & Music

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

You go girl!

Time for a little bragging on The Wife. Monday was a rough day--she hit the wall with certain folks, people more than willing to take advantage of her photography as long as they didn't actually have to pay her for her services. Some things were said that really cut her deep, and the saddest thing is that the folks doing the talking had not the slightest clue they'd said anything insulting, demeaning or offensive. But it established, unequivocally, that they had no regard for her beyond what they could mooch.

The Wife, to her credit, responded aggressively. Not against the dolts, since they are lost causes. Instead, she dove into negotiations with the local Chamber of Commerce and came away with a high-profile deal for the use of one of her signature photos. She also pressed forward on another deal to display her work in a local restaurant. That's two impressive achievements right there. But the latest--and perhaps greatest--initiative of hers is a photo essay she's pitched to La Leche League International for their monthly magazine. The Wife is deeply passionate about her involvement in breastfeeding advocacy, and when the children were younger, wanted tasteful, stylish photos done of her nursing them. Unfortunately, my photo skills were non-existent back then, and studios looked upon such an idea as more akin to sleaze than anything else. Now that she's got her own studio, motherhood, pregnancy and nursing photography have become some of her signature subjects, and I have to say she's damn good at it. In particular, she's developing a series of glamour nursing photos (recall that famous Annie Leibovitz portrait of Jerri Hall nursing her infant son) with the ultimate goal of publishing a book. Some of the creative ideas she has simply ooze irony, and her eyes light up whenever she talks about it. All of this would be featured in the article, which would go out to women worldwide who are the target audience for this project. Very, very cool.

The Wife isn't Leibovitz-famous yet, but the time's coming. Check out her website at so you can say "I knew her when..."

Now Playing: Dr. Love & the Erogenous Zones Dr. Love & the Erogenous Zones

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Different trigger pulled

I just mailed off a book proposal. No, this isn't the infamous Chicken Ranch project. I'm still working on that one diligently, hammering the recalcitrant sample chapter into shape for an expected launch date sometime next week. This, my friends, is an entirely different book proposal, one that, with luck, will see print a good deal sooner than el rancho pollo. I have to say though, for something conceived as a project requiring minimal preparation on my part, I'm been putting in a heck of a lot of hours in on it. The grand plan originally had me finishing Sunday and hitting the mail Monday, which means I'm already a day--or two--behind, depending on how you want to look at it. I'm oddly drained by the experience.

Of course, there's no guarantee my first choice of publisher is even going to want it. I have viable alternatives, yes, but it'd be nice get this wrapped up on my first at-bat, for a change.

Now Playing: Jimmy Buffett Boats, Beaches, Bars & Ballads

Friday, August 21, 2009

How'd I miss that?

It would appear that "The Whale Below," my story from Ann & Jeff VanderMeer's pirate anthology Fast Ships, Black Sails, has earned an Honorable Mention from Gardner Dozois for 2008. That means I'm 2-for-2 on Cibola airship stories, with "The Final Voyage of La Riaza" almost getting picked up for two best-of reprints (both bids fell through, unfortunately).

I really, really need to finish "The Shoals of Cibola," but where to find the time?

Now Playing: The Cars Greatest Hits

Friday Night Videos

Well, since I'm dealing with a bleak and foul mood today, some degree of levity is required as an offsetting counterbalance. So what better combination to act as such than the Muppet and vikings?

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman.

Now Playing: Buffalo Springfield Retrospective

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pulled the trigger

Well, that's not entirely accurate. The trigger was pulled in a figurative sense when The Wife and I bought plane tickets and flew across the country back in February for a research trip. That financial outlay committed me to the project, come hell or high water. So eight or so months have passed since She Who Is All-Knowing And All-Wise told me to "Quit bitching about it and write the damn book yourself." In that time I've conducted more than 24 hours' worth of interviews with more than a dozen different sources, spent countless hours in the library poring through books, journals and newspapers, and countless more hours online, tracking down ever vaporous hint of an interesting story or person related to the Chicken Ranch. And the transcription. Goodness, gracious, the book might be published before I complete all the transcription I have stacked up.

But last night, well, last night was momentous. I sat down in my office, and after a suitable amount of dithering and cold sweats, actually wrote for-true words intended to appear in the future published volume. The book is started. Let's see if I can finish it before it finishes me...

Now Playing: Jimmy Buffett Boats, Beaches, Bars & Ballads

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Armadillocon 31 post-mortem

Armadillocon 31 happened this past weekend in Austin, and as I indicated earlier, I attended the shindig. I didn't have any panels on Friday, so before things got going, I ventured up to my sister-in-law's house in Hutto to drop off my clothes and such, then made stops at Austin Homebrew Supply to pick up corks (with which to bottle mead) and Dragon's Lair to pick up some gaming dice (with which to introduce the girls to D&D, seeing as how they lost my other sets of gaming dice by scattering them about the house years ago). Scott Zurbeck and his band of conspirators had a fine art show set up as usual, despite the late cancellation by the artist GoH Stephan Martiniere(who sent his artwork along anyway, great guy that he is). I had dinner at Fuddrucker's--a nice, jalapeno-laden burger--with Scott Cupp and Wilie Siros and a woman who's name escapes me at the moment. Scott's toastmaster address during opening ceremonies was entertaining, and made even moreso by persistent heckling by a certain female member of the audience. The meet-the-pros mingle afterwards was a fun scrum of conversation, highlighted by the unexpected arrival of Michael Moorcock, an event which I detailed in a previous post. I hung out shooting the bull with Joe Lansdale, Bill Crider and Scott for a good while, then checked out the parties before heading off around midnight.

Saturday started off with an autograph session in the dealers' room. I was gratified by actually signing a few things--several copies of Voices of Vision: Creators of Science Fiction & Fantasy Speak (whoo hoo!) along with a couple of copies of Fast Ships, Black Sails. It's nice when you don't have to sit utterly ignored by everyone for an hour. Improving on things immensely was the presence of Alexis Glynn Latner and Anne-Marie Thomas. Thomas was a new face for me (there were quite a few at this Armadillocon, which I take as a good sign) with a new academic book out called (modestly enough) The Science Fiction Handbook. My cursory look through it piqued my interest. I used to review this kind of work all the time, and it struck me as very accessible and thoughtful. Apart from the horribly unfortunate and misguided inclusion of "Minority Report" in their list of landmark SF films (when challenged, she admitted it had been included more on the strength of Philip K. Dick's original short story than on the movie's own shitty merits) I could find little fault with it. Definitely another addition to my ever-growing Amazon Wish List. I also--shock of shocks--had folks come up and ask when I'd post the next installment of Memory, since I'd left off at a pretty dramatic cliffhanger a month or so back. So it seems like some people are reading it. Must. Write. More.

Immediately after the autographing session came the City Building panel, which I moderated. Other participants included Scott Lynch, Sharon Shinn, Martha Wells, Rob Rogers and Vincent Docherty. I found it to be a stimulating panel, the more narrowly-focused topic bringing out a different conversation than the traditionally broad "Worldbuilding" panels that dominate convention programming. It didn't hurt any that Docherty actually works in real-life city design, and added a veneer of authority to the discussion. That, and the fact that Lynch is big into medieval sewer systems. No, really.

After the panel let out, I ended up joining Chris Nakashima-Brown, Maureen McHugh, Jessica Reisman and several other folks (who I've naturally forgotten the names of) in a lunch run across the highway to a Dim Sum restaurant. I'd never eaten Dim Sum before, and the concept of small portions brought around on carts for selection and sharing amongst those at the table took some getting used to, unsophisticate that I am. The food was quite good, though, and visually evocative of the exotic foods Chihiro's parents help themselves to early on in Spirited Away. Good stuff. Sadly, I had to drive back to New Braunfels after that for Monkey Girl's year-ending swim team banquet. That means I missed some ace programming, including the famed Texas panel (with Joe Lansdale, Howard Waldrop, Neal Barrett Jr., Lou Antonelli, Scott Cupp and Elizabeth Moon!) and the newest tradition, the "Fireside Chat" (with Waldrop, Don Webb, William Browning Spencer and James P. Hogan). Drat. Monkey Girl was honored as one of the "Dolphins of the Year" for her success at various swim meets and advancing to state, so I can't complain. I just wish these groups would check my schedule before counter-programming these events!

Returning that evening with a couple of bottles of mead in tow, I set up shop at the Space Squid party, and shared my homebrew hone wine with everyone. Lots of happiness from party-goers at that. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten my camera's flash back home (The Wife used it while photographing the swim banquet) so the evening's pictures didn't turn out so good, and ended up blurred or grainy or skewed color in the poor light. But the beer and mead and other liquors flowed freely. Mark Finn wore a fez. I got to finally meet Bill Parker and discuss the Texas in 2013 bid and why San Antonio ended up as the host city instead of Dallas, which I'd assumed had been a done deal. I talked a little with the Aggiecon folks, and most pros have cautious optimism that this bunch of students will turn around that foundering convention. ConDFW, FenCon and Apollocon all had nice spreads and a steady ebb and flow of people. I lost count of how many people I talked with, but at the Texas in 2013 party John Picacio had the show-stopper when he pulled up on his iPhone the photo of me on a toilet and showed it to all the partygoers. There was also some talk of using my homebrew powers in support of the Texas in 2013 bid, which could be fun, if challenging. Will have to see how that thread plays out. Good times.

Sunday started off bright and early with my last panel of the con, Editing Wholesale. Here, I was seriously outclassed. Other panelists were Chris Roberson, Keith Lansdale and Jim Frenkel. The description of the panel was "How is editing novels different from editing anthologies," which presented a problem for me, since I've edited neither. My background's in journalism, and I was fiction editor at RevolutionSF for three years, but that's not the same. To his credit, Frenkel heroically tried to engage me meaningfully in the discussion, but when your professional anthology experience amounts to one canceled contract and several "really great" proposals editors want to read the final product but not actually publish it themselves, well, there's not much wiggle room. Note to publishers: You can easily prevent this from happening in the future! I've got the proposals ready to go, with A-list talent, too. Call me!

Done for the day, I caught the Academic SF panel and was entertained by the lively back-and-forth going on. Another newcomer that I'd crossed paths with over the course of the weekend but not actually gotten to speak with, Nancy Hightower, brought a high level of enthusiasm to the table. Anne-Marie Thomas was in her element, so to speak, and Mark Finn was in full-on Robert E. Howard scholar mode. With all that going on, you might think the other panelists, Kim Kofmel and Jessica Reisman, might be overwhelmed, but it was a remarkably balanced panel with excellent contributions from all involved.

Afterwards, I wandered around a bit, chatted with some folks--including Brad Denton, who's novel Buddy Holly is Alive and Well on Ganymede is about to become a major motion picture--but ultimately decided to head home early rather than stick around for Waldrop's con-closing reading, simply because I had to prep for Monday's research excursion to La Grange. But this was one of the best Armadillocons in a long time (and that's saying something, because it's been on a roll for the past 5-6 years or so). The number of new faces was amazing. In addition to the afore-mentioned Thomas, Docherty and Hightower, Taylor Anderson was an imposing presence and had good things to say about incorporating history into genre works. Sadly, I didn't get to introduce myself to him, either. If these new faces get to become regulars, it might almost make up for the fact that Walter Jon Williams doesn't come 'round anymore.

Lots of photos were taken, and all have been posted at The Wife's website in the Armadillocon 31 gallery. Enjoy.

Now Playing: Michael Kamen The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Jack Trevor Story Memorial Prize

There was some big news at Armadillocon that doesn't seem to have gotten much attention. Which is a shame, because Armadillocon is such a literary-oriented convention and an award of this prestige isn't given out every day. But Friday night, during the meet-the-pros shindig, Michael Moorcock and his lovely wife Linda unexpectedly showed up with the express purpose of presenting the Jack Trevor Story Memorial Prize to none other than Texas' own Howard Waldrop.


The Jack Trevor Story Memorial Prize is awarded sporadically, and is presented by Moorcock, literary executor of Trevor's estate. Moorcock explained the audurous selection process in 2006:
The rules vary. They are fairly arbitrary. Sometimes it's a fair selection made from a number of writers. Sometimes it's to a writer who could do with the dosh (but is funny). Sometimes it depends on the size of the bribe offered to the committee. Which, sometimes, is just me.

When the prize was first awarded it was scrupulously fair. But, as in the course of all such prizes, it is now totally corrupt.

It is generally awarded for a work of fiction or body of work which, in the opinion of the committee, best celebrates the spirit of Jack Trevor Story. The conditions of the prize are that the money shall be spent in a week to a fortnight and the author have nothing to show for it at the end of that time. This is to recall Mr Story's famous reply to the bankruptcy judge who enquired where a substantial sum of money paid to him for film rights had gone -- "You know how it is, judge. Two hundred or two thousand, it always lasts a week to a fortnight."


Waldrop was presented with a commemorative Jack Trevor Story Memorial Prize "Cup" which has the value-added feature of being able to drink coffee or other liquid beverages from, an uncertain amount of money generally assumed to be roughly equivalent to £50 (which Waldrop insists he will have no problem spending with nothing to show for it) and all the prestige he can eat. Overcome with emotion, Waldrop was overheard telling friends that the award had inspired him to go finish his long-delayed novel, I, John Mandeville.


Congratulations, Howard! Nobody deserves it more than you!

Additional Armadillocon photos may be viewed at Lisa on Location.

Now Playing: Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass Lost Treasures

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Night Videos

And now for something completely different... thanks to Bill Page for the inadvertent suggestion, I present for you "The Kangaroo Hop." It's got Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman and Madeline Kahn. What more could anyone want?

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Cutting Crew.

Now Playing:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

To campaign, or not to campaign?

In recent months, Fairy Girl and Monkey Girl have graduated from the online worlds of Neopets and Webkinz to the more full-blown MMO of Wizard 101. This stems, no doubt, from Monkey Girl's voracious devouring of the Harry Potter books and other assorted young adult fantasies this past year. Being cheapskate parents, the girls are limited to the free play areas on the site, which has satisfied them for the time being.

But the other day, Monkey Girl asked me something that caused me to swoon a bit: "Dad, what's Dungeons & Dragons." Oh, lordy. Did I play me some D&D (and AD&D, natch) back in the day. In fact, I'd attended several Aggiecons and Armadillocons before I realized there was something going on there other than gaming. I fondly remember the old WarCons held in February at Texas A&M, gaming-only cons invariably hit by ice storms. I played my first head-to-head and tournament games there, and had much fun.

Eventually, me and my gaming buddies drifted away from D&D. We played a heck of a lot of Champions! and also dabbled in GURPS, TORG, Call of Cthulu, TFOS and the like. All fun, of course, but D&D remained the gold standard. During the 80s, I bought just about every product put out by TSR. The Player's Handbook, Fiend Folio, Unearthed Arcana, Oriental Adventures... you name it. I still have probably 90 percent of my gaming stuff, too. But then TSR came out with revised versions of the basic D&D game with a lot of half-human characters and downright odd rule changes. The 2nd Edition of AD&D soured me, too, as it seemed a sanitized, watered-down version of the game intended to placate the torch-and-pitchfork crowd (yeah, like that's possible). The steep price tags on buying new versions of all the stuff I already had was a turn-off as well. Then, it only seemed like a few years before the 3rd Edition came out, then 3.5 and now they're up to the 4th Edition, all of which are different from previous incarnations and require much cash outlay to repurchase all those new core rule books.

It's been more than 10 years since I last played, a sporadic after-work campaign that wasn't entirely satisfying for anyone involved, the high point being the silly catch-phrase "Let's offer him cheese!" As the DM (I'm always the DM. *sigh*) I decided to stick with the original, 1st edition rules, and you know what? They worked fine.

Ah, nostalgia is a dangerous thing. This evening when I get home, I think I might just pull out the old Dungeon Master's Guide and Monster Manual and flip through them, with their crude line art and pages and pages of tables and notes. If the girls happen to exhibit an interest, there might be a campaign in the offing--I know I've got The Keep On the Borderlands module in there somewhere...

Now Playing: Counting Crows August And Everything After

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Armadillocon schedule

Well, since everyone else has posted their Armadillocon schedule, I suppose I might oughta as well. City Building looks fun. I'll be out of my depth on the Editing panel, and probably won't have anything to sign during autographing, but feel free to stop by and say hi.

10:00 AM-11:00 AM Dealers' Room
C. Osborne, J. L. Blaschke, A. M. Thomas, A. G. Latner

City Building
11:00 AM-Noon deWitt
R. Rogers, S. Lynch, M. Wells, S. Shinn, V. Docherty, J. L. Blaschke*
Creating a city that both works for your story, and makes sense for the world it is in.

Editing Wholesale
10:00 AM-11:00 AM deWitt
K. Lansdale, C. Roberson, J. Frenkel*, S. Utley, J. L. Blaschke
How does editing an anthology differ from editing a novel or single story?

Oh! And RevSF will be podcasting throughout the weekend, so if you can't make it, you can still listen in.

Now Playing: The Moody Blues Time Traveler

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

SFWA statement on proposed Google book settlement

From the home office in Chesterfield, Md.:
August 8, 2009

Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA), in conjunction with outside counsel, has reviewed the terms of the proposed settlement between Google, Inc. and the Authors Guild, Inc., and other class action plaintiffs. On April 19, 2009, SFWA’s Board of Directors voted to stay in the claimant group in regard to SFWA-owned copyrights so that SFWA has standing to file a formal objection to the proposed settlement with the court. This decision should in no way be seen as an approval of the proposed settlement, nor construed as advice to either our members or writers with potential claims in general. Put simply, in order to file an objection, SFWA must opt-in as a claimant; should we opt-out, we lose our ability to formally object with the court.

Though it is clear that the proposed Google Book settlement is well-intentioned, the problems are myriad and, in SFWA’s opinion, the terms should be reviewed with extreme care by authors, in particular those authors who write fiction. Some of the particular problems we have identified include:
The proposed Google Book Settlement potentially creates a monopoly by granting Google excessive power to control the market for out-of-print books that are offered to the general public.

The “opt-out” mechanism proposed for the settlement contradicts the very foundation of copyright.

The financial impact on authors could be significant because the settlement would effectively thwart any third-party system from competing with Google and offering alternatives to authors of out-of-print works.

The terminology of the Google Book settlement makes no distinction, nor does it provide a mechanism for discovering the difference, between works deemed out-of-print and works in the public domain.

The class does not reflect the interested parties, primarily the holders of copyrights in "orphan works" where the rightsholder(s) cannot be identified or found.

The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers are poor representatives of the class as neither represents the types of work perhaps most significantly affected by the settlement, namely scholarly works.

The class representatives do not include any authors of adult trade fiction, an obvious issue for SFWA.

The class fails to consider fully licensees of works and fails to account for their interests.

By settling, Google never fully addressed and litigated the issue of copyright infringement/fair use, which was at the heart of the 2005 lawsuit brought forth by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. The settlement further obfuscates the issue of how Google’s scans and publication of the snippets should be treated under U.S. copyright law.

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, but merely a sampling of some of the problems SFWA believes are inherent in the proposed settlement. SFWA is not advocating a particular course of action nor providing legal advice for individual authors, who should evaluate the proposed Google Book settlement based on their own situation and with the advice and input of their own legal counsel.

For the record, SFWA believes that the proposed Google Book settlement is fundamentally flawed and should be rejected by the court. With this public statement, we advise all authors and other writing organizations (in particular those who hold copyrights) to consult with legal counsel to ensure that they understand the precise meaning of the Google Book settlement, and the impact it may have on their own situation, should the settlement be approved.

For the Board of Directors,
Russell Davis
SFWA, Inc.

Now Playing:

Monday, August 10, 2009

Best Fanzine!

A hearty congratulations goes out to John Klima, a big winner at Worldcon this past weekend, walking away with the "Best Fanzine" Hugo Award. Whoo hoo! I'm particularly tickled that the inclusion of my story "A Plague of Banjos" in his big double issue last year didn't cost him as much support as I'd expected.

Congrats, John. You done good work!

Now Playing:

Friday, August 07, 2009

San Antonio in 2013!

San Antonio in 2013! San Antonio in 2013!

I am, quite honestly, shocked at this. I was absolutely convinced that Dallas would be the host city, or possibly Fort Worth, considering the fact that the ConDFW and Fencon folks have both made no secret about their desire to host a Worldcon. The fact that those are two well-run conventions with workers already in place, as opposed to San Antonio, which doesn't even host an annual local con, seemed to stack the deck. But wow. LoneStarCon 2 was my first Worldcon, and in my unbiased opinion, there's not a better city around to host a shindig of this type. Now to get my pre-supporting membership...

Now Playing: Billy Joel Streetlife Serenade

Friday Night Videos

Does anybody remember Cutting Crew? I wasn't a huge fan of their big hit, "I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight," but I did like the follow-up, "One for the Mockingbird." Probably the title is what did it. That's simply a cool title.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Musical Youth.

Now Playing: Various artists Tower of Song: The Songs of Leonard Cohen

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The story so far...

Yesterday (and technically it was yesterday, since it was after midnight but I hadn't gone to bed Tuesday night yet) upon finishing the transcription of Larry Conners, I had a painful realization. Even with my using the Dragon Naturally Speaking software in a convoluted work-around of the transcription process (I'm listening to the interview in headphones and simultaneously speaking aloud what I hear, sort of like a United Nations translator, only I'm keeping it in English), were I to fully transcribe all the interviews I have in the can, it would be sometime in early September before I had all of the words turned to print. This is not good, because it seriously disrupts my plan of having a sample chapter polished and ready to submit to agents by the end of August.

As a side note (and I'm putting this in a separate paragraph, so as to not over-use parenthetical asides (which I seem to be doing quite a bit in this post)) the Dragon does seem to be working out, although not as magic bulletish as I'd hoped. It's dictation transcriber does indeed work faster than I can type (no great shakes there) but said time advantage is often lost when it chooses random words to stubbornly get confused on. There's no rhyme or reason, either. Consistently printing "their" when I say "there" is understandable--homophones and all. But when it successfully transcribes "Fayette County" a dozen times, then suddenly decides I'm really saying "fete colonoscopy" and won't take no for an answer, well, that gets downright frustrating. Still, it saves my fingers from the fatigue of typing, and even more importantly, avoids the spectre of carpal tunnel. So I'm sticking with it, despite the drawbacks.

Back to the problem at hand. What to do about too much interview material and not enough time? Simple, as it turns out: Cut to the chase. I've started going through my notes (and yes, I learned long ago to take notes for all interviews, whether I'm recording them or not) to find passages that are relevant to the chapter at hand. And then I transcribe them. This may sound like a no-brainer for most of you, but remember my interview background is that of much shorter projects in which the interview is used in its entirety. There was no advantage to pick and choose--if I had to have the entire thing transcribed, I might as well start at the beginning and work straight through to the end. This is a different way of working for me, and honestly, it feels like a cheat. But I may just meet my deadline this way.

I also conducted two short phone interviews yesterday as well. Curious stories about going to the Chicken Ranch, or not, as the case may be. These have to be transcribed as well. I'm just adding to my workload. I've also discovered several pieces of research material (nothing needed right this very moment, but still important in the grand scheme of things) seem to have up and vanished. Poof. Which is disconcerting, since they're quite distinct and should show up quite readily during even a cursory search. Hmmm...

Now Playing: Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band Nine Tonight

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Wife's new business cards

The lovely and talented Wife has new lovely and talented business cards. She shot the art herself, and did the design work. A mighty fine looking business card is the result. I look at this, and think to myself, "Self, who in their right mind wouldn't beg her to shoot their wedding?" Not too many people.

That's "Lisa on Location" photography, folks, in case you missed the subtle, subliminal hints...

Now Playing: Brian Wilson Imagination

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Prickly pear revisited

So after Saturday's mixed success on finding ripe prickly pear fruit (or even unripe fruit, for that matter) I reconsidered my options. I'd gathered maybe a couple of pounds of fruit, which wasn't enough to add meaningful flavor to any batch of mead I make, unless said batch is fairly small (which wouldn't really be worth the effort). Yet I didn't want to throw any of the fruit I'd gathered away, because, heck, that was almost two hours' worth of work in the hot afternoon sun.

Then I remembered that Lime Kiln Road in San Marcos winds its way up into the Hill Country to the northwest of town. The last time I drove up that way (on a quest for passionflowers, naturally) I seem to recall seeing a bunch of prickly pear cactus growing along the side of the road. Well, it was worth a shot, I figured, so on my lunch break I set off to see what I could find.

I found lots of cactus. Man, oh, man, if I had permission to cross fence lines I'd have been overwhelmed with the stuff. As it was, I stayed in the public right-of-way and did pretty good for myself. The drought's had an impact here as well, because the majority of cactus didn't have any fruit at all. But there were simply so many cactus that even with, say, every fifth plant sporting ripe fruit, it took me all of 30 minutes to gather about five pounds worth of the fat, maroon tunas. That was about my limit to tolerating the blazing sun, and I was pretty thoroughly drenched with sweat afterwards (luckily, I have my own office at work, so nobody has to suffer beside me). There was more unripe fruit than ripe, so I plan on going back later this week or early next and picking some more. After that, I should have more than enough to make an impressive batch of prickly pear mead. Can't wait.

Now Playing:

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Too hot for cactus

Last night I uncorked one of my few remaining bottles of prickly pear mead and poured myself a glass. Oh my. I'd forgotten how fruity and smooth this batch turned out. Still, by far, my most successful attempt at homebrew mead making.

So today I figure I'll mount a little excursion to collect the fruit of the prickly pear cactus. Gather the fruit now, freeze it, and then in a couple months start a five-gallon batch of mead fermenting. Except, much to my consternation, there really isn't much in the way of prickly pear fruit out there growing wild. I found a bunch of burn-blackened land beside the back roads I drove through the countryside, some shriveled cactus thirsting due to lack of rain, a bunch of cactus that hadn't set fruit at all (also, presumably due to lack of rain) and a few cactus with immature fruit. All told, I collected about half a grocery sack's worth of the fruit, less than half of what I need for a decent batch of mead. And about half that is underripe--purple, but not the deep, almost-black purple that signifies the greatest sweetness and flavor.

You know the drought's bad when cactus are struggling.

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