Category Archives: Process

Green means go, yellow means slow

Posted on October 19, 2010 by

I have been trying to give the arachnophobes a break lately, but this (spider-free, just the webs!) is a shot I’ve been stalking awhile and I am quite pleased with it.

Traffic Light and Cobwebs

In more bad news for the web-fearing among you, I have more. Lots more. Barb and I went to Burnaby Lake Sunday and it is a fairyland of dew-spangled cobwebs.

The mail Friday brought a CD from my aunt and uncle, trip pictures from our cruise. I took the opportunity to phone and thank them, and we had a nice catch-up chat. Predictably enough, I raved about the beauty of Vancouver in the autumn–all the things I always blog about this time of year. The migrating birds, the squirrel we saw burying acorns yesterday, the cobwebs, morning fog, the leaf shadows on the pavement… it is a stunningly gorgeous and really variable season.

Saturday I got up to go cafe write and it was maybe an hour before dawn. The sky was all the shades of a Stellar’s Jay: no true black, just a spectrum that ran from soot to a hint of indigo. The Big Dipper hung over the North Shore Mountains and as I watched a gull flew past, coming between me and the stars, its white underbelly stained a soft powder blue by the coming light of dawn.

I stood, watching, and I was thinking very specifically about how I would describe it if I was writing for Snuffy. This, for me, is a useful exercise in constructing prettier sentences than I might otherwise be inclined. (And the ‘boxing the poll’ line, from a few days ago? Was for kelly-yoyoKelly).

Anyone else do this?

Hands free… ish

Posted on October 15, 2010 by

A few years ago I decided to try out dictation software for composing things like e-mails.

I had a couple of goals: one was simply to reduce the amount of time spent typing draft, especially for small stuff, the quick messages that keep my life organized. I type a lot, and fast: the wear and tear on my hands is considerable.

Another was to see what kind of stories I would get out of it. I find that my longhand scribbles have a a slightly different writing style, you see, than the fiction I compose directly on the keyboard. I’d played with a dictaphone for awhile, and that yielded some interesting results, notably “The Town on Blighted Sea.” The idea of accessing different parts of my writerbrain through different mechanical processes is alluring and cool.

But, you see, I’m not so keen on transcription.

I didn’t end up liking the software that much. I tried two versions, both of them Sir Clunky Crashalots. The hardware wasn’t much better: I splashed out on a good headset and mic combo and it wasn’t comfortable. And even after I had learned a fair amount, the process of correcting typos was mind-blowingly awkward.

What I wanted, of course, was the Star Trek thing where you talk to the computer and it renders perfectly transcribed, beautifully punctuated prose, preferably of Pulitzer quality. Which was too much to hope for, and I knew it, but I wasn’t ready for how it would substitute wild things for the numerous made-up words that tend to pop up in my fantasy and SF. It also didn’t much care for the fact that every twentieth word out my mouth is fuck.

Perhaps Captains Archer, Kirk and Picard would have encountered the same problem if they shared my fondness for profanity. Maybe there’s a cut scene in Enterprise where Scott Bakula’s going, “I fucking said T’Pol!” and the screen reads “Paul. The Paul. I boxing said the poll. Dude, what do you want from me?”

I am now having a second go at occasionally dictating things, for no better reason than that the Dragon app on the iPod is free, free, free! I had low expectations: I couldn’t figure out how the thing would work, given that the original Dragon was such a enormous memory vampire. What I’ve discovered is that the bulk of the processing happens online. You just dictate little passages and it uploads them to the Internet. Huge dragon servers transcribe them while you sip tea and contemplate your next Grate Thought, then shoot back the results.

This version of Dragon can’t be taught weird ecofantasy words like vitagua (I eventually convinced its predecessor to do this, for the sake of Indigo Springs) and OMG, it’s so cute, it puts a * in the middle of f*cking. What it does do, and what I really enjoy, is it lets me indulge in the verbal equivalent of a freewrite, babbling on in short sentences whenever I have privacy and a Wi-Fi connection

Of course, one has to ask: given that there isn’t word-perfect transcription, is it worth the hassle of correcting the text once you’ve e-mailed it to your hard drive? Sometimes it’s pretty garbled. Here’s a phrase from this particular passage of dictation:

is it worth the Thompson house of correction once you have the text a random Ms. Gilbert Fray

Answer: Maybe. I’m still data-gathering. This might just be another flirtation with a technology I don’t end up using. You gotta kiss a lot of toads, and all that.

Datapoint: when I took a look today at some gibberish I’d recorded for an upcoming guest blog entry, I noticed that it wasn’t that hard to correct the sentences: I remembered whatever it was I had said.

Datapoint: There was also a pretty decent idea wrapped up in all of the out of order paragraphs and peculiar word substitutions. Once I had done little organizing and fixed the most egregious typos, I had the very beginning of what looked like a seriously cool draft.

Will it work for fiction? I don’t know. I do most of my fiction writing well away from anything resembling a Wi-Fi hot spot; I make rather a point of it. And things are going pretty well right now on that front, anyway. I also suspect I’d have to evolve some kind of verbal shorthand to increase comprehension: all my main characters might need to be John Smith or Joan Addams just so I had some faint chance of knowing who the hell was talking at any given time. But I’ve I’ve written a couple good blog posts, and some letters to my grandmother. We’ll see where it goes from there.

Watch the birdie!
Song sparrow

The Afterpeople

Posted on October 12, 2010 by

This morning dawned clear and unseasonably warm; the sky at six, when I headed off to the cafe to work, was aglimmer with stars. I look for raccoon activity on Cotton and Second now–having had one sighting, I consider this my due–but the bandits failed to show so I puttered off to the cafe.

My first browse through the slenderly-drafted THE RAIN GARDEN is moving quickly and producing a long list of scenes to add, things to research, and stuff to do. I will need to reverse-engineer an outline in the not too distant, if only to figure out where the scenes to be added should go, and to check that the clues to the mystery emerge in a sensible order.

Today I cruised through what looked suspiciously like the book’s thematic heart, and thereby hit upon a working title that is more fitting, at least in the limited sense that it has something to do with the actual story I’m telling. So, for now, the book is morphing into THE AFTERPEOPLE. Since the first book set in this universe has a similar title (THE WINTERGIRLS) this rather hints that the third book, whenever it happens, might end up being THE (something)BOYS.

(If you’re me, these are the sort of thoughts you don’t want to be having when you’re trying to focus on the Book at Hand.)

I think it can be safely argued that THE RAIN GARDEN is a prettier title, and AFTERPEEPS may not be a keeper. But THE RAIN GARDEN didn’t fit, at all… it sounded poetic, and I had a good reason to call the novel something poetic before I sent its ultrasound off to Certain Somebodies for review.

This evening I was briefly tempted to adopt THE RAIN GARDEN moniker for all my unfinished works in progress. This would have the entertaining side effect of confusing the hell out of everyone, probably me included, while perhaps creating a blog tag that spanned multiple books. But hey, that’s what “Works in Progress” and “Process” are for, right?

Besides, I have for years used a perfectly good acronym for such projects: AFNA. This stands for Another Fucking Novel Attempt, and dates back to the days when I was fourteen and couldn’t write my way past the first fifty pages of a full-length book. Even at five characters, it was short enough to use in the days of DOS files. AFNA.DOC. AFNA, incidentally, can be prefaced with other letters: J for Just, Y for Yet, B for Bollocks… well, you get the idea.

Anyway, the book’s out and renamed and blinking groggily. I worked on it until after dawn, and walked home in the sunny morning. After breakfast and a coffee date with my beloved, I caught a walk in the last of the bright, even as the clouds were moving in. I made it to Hastings Park and back before the skies opened. I didn’t get any horse pictures, as I arrived too late for the morning practice laps and too early for the actual races.

In lieu, here’s a RAIN GARDEN picture for you, from the universe of things that are not yet, and might never be:

Hatch battening

Posted on October 8, 2010 by

Getting the new novel drafted and getting out for a walk every single day, whenever it’s somewhat nice out, have been my big priorities this month, with the effect here in the blog that there’ve been a lot of word count posts and “Weather fine, lots of spiders” entries. I have a few Journey interviews out, awaiting answers and of course I’ve had the Favorite Thing Ever and Quantum Leap stuff on the go, keeping me busy. It’s all very pleasant, and I’ve enjoyed sharing my Sunburst excitement with you all.

On which theme: Indigo Springs is the featured novel at Jim Hines’ site, as part of his First Novel Friday feature. It’s mirrored on LJ, here.

I have spent some of my remaining copious spare time trying to get the Out in Harmony facebook fan page to automatically load notes from the main choir website. It’s supposed to, and it says it is, but it always loads up everything and then stops. In the meantime, I’m manually cross-posting. (My own page loads notes from WordPress to Livejournal to Facebook quite happily, so there’s a little bucket brigade of data, and I played with getting the choir an LJ too, to see if it would help. But my site comes with more bells and whistles than the choir’s, and that includes the widget that kicks off the whole sequence.)

Choir itself has been a blast from the recent past. We are mostly relearning pieces I know for a twentieth anniversary / greatest hits concert, and this means singing a lot of my favorite songs.

Autumn has also brought myriad shifts on a number of fronts. Our digital TV provider upgraded our gadgetry Monday, which meant two days of disruption to both me and kelly-yoyoKelly followed by an incremental (but worthwhile) improvement in service. I’m sifting through my eating practices in search of a similar tiny shift toward better nutrition. I’ve taken the arcade game off my iTouch in favor of spending my mental downtime listening to CBC Podcasts, watching TED Talks, and playing word games and Sudoku. Mental composting, I hope.

I’ve bought new shoes, a nice dress, and the best winter tights ever. I’ve had the fireplace tuned, I’ve made sure our travel and medical insurance is renewing, and I’ve thought about (but neglected, so far, to follow through on) taking the bedroom apart and hoovering out every last speck of dust. I’ve planted some fall bulbs, but haven’t yet put pansies atop them. Small, gratifying combing of the life-in-progress. I am glad to have had the energy–thank you, August vacation!–the focus and the help from K in achieving them.

And I’m not the only one savoring the excellence of fall on the coast:

Vancouver’s top Arachnomodel

Posted on September 28, 2010 by

I don’t know what it is exactly that makes for a bumper crop of spiders, but this year has been it in Vancouver. We are awash in eight-legs, and they are ambitious. One tried to set a web for Kelly in the living room the other day. We’ve had them in our hair, on our hands, everywhere but… well, if I finish that sentence several of you will spend the next six days cleaning your crannies with wire brushes, am I right?

I’m no keener than anyone else on having a creepy arachnoid beast crawling on me if I don’t know where it is, but when they’re sitting still, or spinning webs, I can appreciate the beauty. I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, though, so avert your eyes if you must.


Saturday’s verbiage for THE RAIN GARDEN, meanwhile, is typed and comes to 1,806, for a total of 20,964.