Month of Monsters 2013

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but I’ve decided to participate in this year’s Month of Monsters. My first post is up now.

Wow, it’s been a long time ((It’s been a really long time, as Rob has pointed out.)) since I posted anything here. I never meant for that to happen.

Anyhow, the always amazing Natalie Metzger is hosting Month of Monsters, where people challenge themselves to create a monster a day for the month of October.  Entries can take the form of a story, or a drawing, or whatever.  I thought it might be a fun thing to try. My first post, Fnark in the Dark, is up now. ((I even included a doodle, which I can’t promise to do again, because that’s not really my strength.))

Be sure to check out the rest of the posts as well!

November Projects

I probably should have posted this earlier in the month, but obviously I didn’t (I’ve been busy).

NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month

You may have noticed the that the example NaNoWriMo ProgPress meter in my earlier post is actually live. I wasn’t really sure I was going to do NaNoWriMo this year until fairly late. Then I considered how much writing I haven’t been getting done, and started to consider it.

I participated in 2006 and 2007 (“winning” both times), but this was going to be different. The problem was, I didn’t have an outline ready, or even an idea I’d been grooming for a new project. The idea of trying to write 50,000 new words in thirty days without any real plan and only a few days to come up with one scared me. Which is exactly why I decided to do it.

I started the month with about 10 sentences of semi-connected thoughts where I’d usually have a more detailed outline. Some of them haven’t worked out at all, but I am producing words at a steady pace and I have a reasonable chance of “winning” this year. Feel free to follow my progress on my NaNoWriMo profile.

HoNoToGroABeMo: How Not To Grow a Beard Month

HoNoToGroABeMo 2010: Day 8I’ve also been participating this other, less stressful, month-long project.  I shaved off my beard late on October, 31 (although not before doing something silly with it first), and I’ll be letting it grow throughout the month of November.

This isn’t just about growing face fur though, it’s a fundraiser. All funds will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.  The lofty goal is to raise $5,000, and you can help by sponsoring me. Check out my HoNoGroABeMo page where (just about) every day on I post a photo of my progress, and blog entry (which is probably more blog posting than I’ve done in the last year). It currently looks like despite all the manly facial hair antics the fundraiser is going to come up short this year, so anything you can do to help would be greatly appreciated.

Did you miss me?

A quick update to break the silence.

Wow.  Has it really been almost five months?  Well, I’ve been busy.  Shortly after my last post I changed jobs, and I’ve been adjusting. ((The biggest adjustment is probably the commute, which used to be ten minutes each way, and is now over an hour each way.)) Last week the routine seemed to settle in for the most part, and I’m once again able to make time to write semi-regularly.

The revisions on Miracles are just about done, after being more or less stalled for way too long.

Sixteen Things

Tagged again

I’ve been tagged by Kris Johnson. This time I have to detail sixteen random facts about myself. ((I suppose it’s only fair as I did the same to him recently.)) Here goes.

The Things

  1. I’m having a very hard time balancing things, time-wise, right now, which is why this is the first post of the new year.
  2. I like cheese.
  3. I’m Dvorak Simplified Keyboard touch typist. I went cold turkey from QWERTY during a week-long company shutdown. I made the decision mostly because I was having unbearable pain from typing all day. I type more now than I ever did then, and it’s no longer an issue. ((I’m not saying this would work for everyone, but it worked for me.))
  4. I grew up in the small town of Abington, MA. There seem to be a rather large number of people I went to high school with who married people I went to high school with. ((I’m one of them, and so’s my wife.))
  5. There were two things that drove me to buy my first Mac: Scrivener and Quicksilver. ((Exposé was a close third.))
  6. As a result of my daughters’ obsession with Cinderella, I stumbled across and became fascinated by all the many variations of the story, which date back to first century B.C.
  7. While I’m a huge fan of Podcasts I still haven’t found an optimal way to enjoy them that works for me. My reasons are detailed and varied, and I won’t go into them here. I will note that I think iTunes is the worst Podcast client I have ever used, and the fact that there’s no other way to get items into the “Podcast” menu of my iPod irritates me every time I think about it.
  8. All my childrens’ middle names are the names of Doctor Who companions.
  9. In the Fu Manchu novels, the title character was clean shaven. He did not, in fact, have a Fu Manchu. This is not about me, but the fact that I know this has to say something about me, right?
  10. I have allergies. My tree allergy is so bad I can not eat tree based fruit. It’s not dangerous for me to do so, but it is uncomfortable. I imagine it would be like someone with a normal tree pollen allergy went out and licked trees all day. ((I have not tested this theory, as of yet.))
  11. I have an embarrassing (to me) number of incomplete blog posts in draft form that I probably need to just delete.
  12. I took sculpture three out of four years in high school. I loved making things out of clay, and I really miss it. I bought some polymer clay a while back thinking I’d start up again, then realized I don’t have any spare time.
  13. I’m not sure I’m capable of doing things half-heartedly. I often wish I was.
  14. I’ve been a fan of Doctor Who most of my life. I started watching it somewhere between the ages of two and four. I have very clear memories of watching “The Deadly Assassin” Part 2 in my grandparents basement on WGBH Boston. I somehow missed part 3, and it really bothered me (in fact I didn’t see how that cliffhanger resolved until I was in college). ((Anyone know dates when this would have aired on WGBH?))
  15. My biggest work related regret was not being laid off from Sun, and having to quit instead. ((I don’t mean this to be insensitive to all the great folks that Sun let go who did not wish to leave. For me though, being laid off would have been preferable at the time.))
  16. My oldest daughter and I are reading the Paddington Bear books together. She loves them, but even if she hadn’t I may have bought them anyhow because I was never able to find them all when I was younger.

You’re It!

That wasn’t so bad. Now to tag sixteen people ((This is the hard part. Don’t feel obligated anyone, I’m beyond reaching on some of these. Also I think other branches of this insanity may have tagged some of these folks… )) : Bohemian Delilaha, Kate Tsui, Matt Dursin, Mark Dursin, Holly Lisle, trillian1117, Evo Terra, Scott Sigler, Mark Musante, J.C. Hutchins, Mur Lafferty, Rob Diana, Unfocused Me, Leo Laporte, John Scalzi, and Denise Penney. ((Yeah, she doesn’t blog, but if she does it I’ll post it here.))

Tagged by Kate

I’ve been tagged by my friend Kate. It appears the rules are as follows:

  1. Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
  2. Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself.
  3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs
  4. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

As a result you now get to read these seven random things about me ((Aren’t you lucky?)) :

  1. I’m worried about how good of a parent I am. Not for anything specific I’m doing wrong, because I could fix that. Hopefully this is one of those “if you’re worried about it, you don’t need to worry about it” type of things where a truly horrible parent wouldn’t give it a second thought.
  2. When things at home get well beyond crazy and I can’t think straight ((with three daughters this does happen from time to time)) I close my eyes and chant “I’m a hermit. I live alone. None of you exist” until I feel calm.
  3. I listen to audiobooks/podcasts in the shower. I have for years. I have a shower CD/Radio unit, which is now usually used to listen to the iPod via an FM transmitter. You might think this would slow me down, since I’d get involved in the story and just stay in there, but the opposite it true. I used to drift off and loose track of time in the shower. Now I’m much more aware of the passage of time and it keeps me moving.
  4. In the PC vs. Mac battle I choose Unix. No I don’t run Linux on my desktop ((Not exclusively anyhow. I have a KVM switching between Fedora, Mac OS, and Windows XP)) . Although Mac OS X is my current desktop of choice, I’m fine as long as I can run bash, grep, sed, and awk on a decent terminal ((preferably with X11 support, and Emacs if I’m lucky)) .
  5. I still don’t know my addition and subtraction tables. Seriously. My brain does not do the memorizing by rote thing. By now the tricks I taught myself to get around this deficiency are so ingrained that seeing most numbers written out I instantly have the answer, but it’s not because I know the answer. ((In something only marginally related, I used a Venn diagram for something at work the other day to optimize an algorithm. I guess it’s good that I know how, but it’s the first time I’ve ever used them outside a classroom.))
  6. I have a strong dislike for public restrooms dating back the time a large drunk man ((In my memory he’s more of a giant, but I’m sure he was just a man.)) busted in a stall door on me when I was a kid. Apparently it never occurred to this guy why the stall was locked until he saw me sitting there, which he and his buddies thought was totally hilarious. I did not. If there is a personal hell, mine is a bathroom stall with a busted lock in a high traffic restroom.
  7. My most recent form letter rejection from John Joseph Adams, assistant editor of The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy was nearly identical to my previous letter, with one exception ((aside from the title of the work)) : Instead of the familiar “Dear Mr. Penney”, it started with “Hey Jay”. I don’t know what, if anything, I should make of that, but I choose to see it in a positive light ((please allow me my illusions)) .

And here are the folks I’m tagging (but don’t feel obligated):

Goals for the New(ish) Year

I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I don’t even know if anyone has ever followed through on one (aside from “quit making New Year’s resolutions”). There’s nothing wrong with turning over a new leaf when you hang up your new calendar, but it’s not usually my thing. That said, a number of people I admire and respect have decided to set goals or declare their hopes for the upcoming year. I figured I might as well join in.

I’m a bit late to the party on this, but I’m glad, because these are slightly different than what I would have said January 1. In no particular order, here are my goals for 2008. I may revisit them and adjust them as things change throughout the year.

  • Take the family on more day trips, and maybe do some kid friendly hiking
  • Write (or do some quantifiable writing related activity) every day. I’m not sure this is reasonable, but so far I’ve managed to pull it off. Some days I only get in ten minutes, but if I wait until I have more I might never write again.
  • Finish the first draft of the novel I started in NaNoWriMo (hopefully by end of February)
  • Return to and restart revisions on Miracles (I’d like to have it to first readers by April)
  • Write and market some more short stories. I received an encouraging rejection in October, but stopped submitting to avoid being derailed during NaNoWriMo.
  • Redesign this site. I haven’t been happy with the look of this place in years.
  • Post substantial posts here more often (weekly would be nice)
  • Keep learning new things. This is a constant goal, and one that I usually keep up with, but it’s worth stating.

Did you make any goals for 2008? Feel free to share them here (or if you posted them elsewhere share a link).


All of the previously mentioned changes impacted my writing. I used to write from 3pm to 5pm. It was right after the work day. I didn’t have to leave my office, so no one could grab me and distract me and I never lost time in traffic. I had it down. None of that works now.

I fumbled around trying to squeeze writing in for a while. Then in November I participated in NaNoWriMo. I figured the only way I could possibly write a novel in a month was to get up earlier, so I started getting up at 5:30am to write. Mostly this worked, with occasional periods of too-much-other-stuff-to-do.

I did not get everything done I hoped this year. I did finish revisions on my first novel. I stopped work on another novel at the outline stage, but used the world from that and wrote the first draft of Miracles during NaNoWriMo. I produced a handful of short stories, some of which might even be pretty good. I made some progress revising Miracles, but when the new arrival came things stalled out. I don’t think I’d do the work justice if I dove back in now, but I’m not abandoning it. I’ve got my line-for-scene ready when I return.

I did a lot of world building after writing Miracles and before starting the revisions. I worked through Create A Language Clinic and Create A Culture Clinic, twice each. I have another story working to get out (in the same world as Miracles, but not with any of the same characters). I’m planning on turning that into my next novel, and then returning to the Miracles revision.

Now my morning routine is shot again so I can drive my oldest to school. I’m trying to find my rhythm once more. I’ve actually found Twitter to be helpful in keeping me honest and pushing me on, and I’m not alone in this.

I did manage to write about 88,000 words this year since last September. It’s less than I hoped for, but it’s not that bad.


My family was accustomed to me working in the home. They never bothered me during the work day (my office is separate enough that we have an intercom). But they were quite accustomed to me having lunch with them daily (as was I with them). Also, before if I had to watch one or more of the children while someone had an appointment I could walk downstairs and quite often keep working while the kids played.

The biggest change was the addition of a new family member, which is always an adjustment. She’s doing great by the way. I never imagined having three daughters, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything. My wife is a great mother, and I try my hardest to be a good father. The kids are all damn smart, which can be tricky because you forget how old they are, and that while they can talk like adults they can’t understand things like adults.

My second daughter has changed dramatically. She started talking at six months old, but it really took off this time last year. She added about thirty new words in a month and never looked back. Soon she was referring to herself in third person, and after about two months she figured out how “I” works. By the time she turned two was speaking in full sentences. Now she talks better than I do sometimes. She’s generally very happy with an amazing sense of humor, although being two this is starting to change as she tries to find how far she can push things.

The roughest part was getting her to go to sleep in her own room. I spent many a night rocking her in a chair, singing to her in complete darkness. I actually got to the point where I could sing “Twinkle Twinkle” on autopilot, which let me listen to audiobooks at these times (hey, she didn’t care). Finally she got the hang of it, and has since moved into her older sisters room.

The oldest went to pre-school last year. She loved it and we were excited to see her doing so well on her own. She’s come a real long way in her swimming, and we even wrote a few stories together this year. I’ve started reading chapter books to her when I can. She really enjoys the Paddington books from the library (how did these go out of print?). Her drawing has really improved. The people she draws have distinguishing characteristics. At least half the time we can tell who the picture is of before she tells us.

She started school-school last week. I dropped her off for the first time this week. I found it quite stressful. My wife had gone to all the open-house type things while I watched the other kids. I didn’t quite understand how the drop-off line worked, and then the lady pulled the van door before I put the van in park. The automatic doors do not like this, and they pretty much stop after opening an inch. The van then proceeds to beep at you incessantly. You would think, since the thing can talk it would say, “Please put the vehicle in park and try to open the door again.” Nope. It just beeps away while you feel like an idiot in front of the Kindergarten teacher who is yelling something at you that you can’t make out over the beeping. Anyway, I’ll be dropping her off in my car from now on which doesn’t talk or have automatic doors, so that’s one thing off my mind.

My wife has had to deal with the brunt of these changes. She went from being home with two kids with a husband who was less than a minute away to having three kids with a husband off at work during the week. At times it seems to take it’s toll, but mostly she amazes me. I can’t imagine doing what she does and keeping my sanity. A lot of things have changed since we fell in love thirteen years ago, but not how we feel about each other.

Introduction and Work

I turned thirty-one yesterday, which means it’s been a year since I left Sun Microsystems (SUNWJAVA) for my current job. A lot of things happened, good and bad, expected and unexpected. Things started changing pretty quickly last September, and it hasn’t stopped yet (of course it never really does, but some of these were a bit bigger than I was used to).


I’m starting with work because it was the most immediate change, starting the day after turning thirty. Besides working somewhere new I also went from a work-from-home 7:00am to 3:00pm job to a more standard 9-to-5 office setting. It’s still casual (which is good because so am I) and fairly flexible. The people are great, which is very important. Working in an office is quite a change. Firstly, I now need to shower before work instead of just before lunch. Also, with my vision is so poor I’m distracted by things out of the corner of my eye (which are all just different colored blurs). I’m pretty sure this is a hold over from getting the dodge ball in the side of the head because I couldn’t see it coming.

The work is interesting and often enjoyable. I hadn’t used Visual Studio since the mid 90s, so that was a change. I’d never touched C# or .NET before. The target browser was the polar opposite of everything I’d done to date. Once I got my head around ASP.NET I got the hang of things pretty fast (although I still have a tendency to code to the standard, then work around the browser bugs). I’m happy I made the jump, and I have no regrets (other than wishing I had been laid off from Sun).

I’m looking forward to the coming year. I’m working on some good projects and I’m excited about some of the new directions things are going in. My contributions seem well received and appreciated. My desk feels like my desk, and I look forward to seeing the people I work with. Not bad at all.

Michael A. Stackpole Selling New Fiction Online

It looks like Michael A. Stackpole is experimenting with direct e-book sales on his site. I’m very interested to see how it works out (and I hope it does).

Jed and the Titanium Turtle is a short story “about America and how it deals with a bunch of alien visitors who are ‘here to help.'” Sounds like it could be worth the $2 he’s asking.

Also available are the first two chapters of The Grand History, a fictional non-fiction history of the DragonCrown War. This is going for $1 a chapter, and may be the more interesting experiment. You’re only going to sell this to the subset of people who read the DragonCrown War books liked them enough to want to read meta-fiction in that universe. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy this type of work. I just think it has less commercial appeal, which makes it perfect for this type of sales model. I hope it works out because I’d love to see more of this type of thing.

The setup seems similar the one Holly Lisle uses in her shop. On the other hand, Mr. Stackpole is focusing on fiction, and short works. This immediately brought thoughts of micropayments to mind. iTunes has shown that the $1 granularity works for online sales (at least in huge quantities), but last time I looked into it (which was a few years back, and I was focusing on comics at the time) a decent micropayments systems for sub-dollar amount sales still hasn’t emerged.

All the works are currently only available as PDFs (just like Holly Lisle’s). This is a bummer (for me) because I can’t easily read them on my eBookwise 1150, which I’d prefer. I already work and write at the computer (although I’ve been doing more longhand writing lately). Extra on-screen reading is too much for my eyes. Since PDFs don’t let you resize the text and have it re-flow that means I’ll have to print them out. which is what I do with his excellent writing newsletter The Secrets. I don’t mind printing those out since I keep them indexed in binders to make it easy to refer back to them.

None of these are really issues I expect anyone to just solve, let alone authors selling their own stories for a couple of bucks. I do wish reasonable tools and standards were in place so that a more flexible solution would be the obvious choice.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to giving Jed and the Titanium Turtle a read later.