Go Listen: Stories of the Third Wave, Episode 6

Monday, January 7th, 2008

The latest episode of Stories of the Third Wave, the companion podcast to Mur Lafferty‘s Playing for Keeps features a segment written by yours truly (performed by my lovely wife and I). It also features another great song from always entertaining Ookla the Mok.

Writing

Friday, September 7th, 2007
This is part 3 of 3 in the series Hello 31

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.

Family

Thursday, September 6th, 2007
This is part 2 of 3 in the series Hello 31

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

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007
This is part 1 of 3 in the series Hello 31

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).

Work

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.

Links of Interest

Thursday, April 26th, 2007
The World in the Satin Bag: Stuffs For Us Writers (Part One)
Software and gadgets for writers
Nostalgy Thunderbird Extension
This is probably the most useful, time saving Thundrebird extension I’ve ever used. Try it out.
Jason Penney@ iStalkr: Social Feed Aggregator
My iStalkr page
Now Reading 4.3.6
New version of “Now Reading” wordpress plugin
Twitter Tools README
README for Alex King’s Twitter Tools wordpress plugin.
Seven JavaScript Techniques You Should Be Using Today
Some JavaScript best practices.

Changes

Sunday, September 3rd, 2006

Friday was my last day at Sun Microsystems. I had a very hard time walking out the door at the end of the day. I wasn’t sure why at the time, but I think I’ve figured it out. I worked for Sun for eight years. I’ve been working with a lot of the same folks there for a good part of that time. I really liked working for Sun.

So why leave? I don’t want to get into the exact details. The place changed a lot recently, and so did my job. I found myself working for someone who didn’t know me at all, and had no interest in that changing. I wasn’t even a person I was Jay Penney and the Interns (yes, great band name). That pretty much decided it for me. This does, of course, show that the interns had it worse than me, but at least they were doing the job they were hired for (sort of)

I wasn’t concerned about finding another job. I’ve had offers before. More than once I’ve had people I worked with in the past call and try and hire me away. This time I went looking. I found something much more in line with what I want to do, with what seems like a great group of people.

The last few weeks have been hard. I have a terminal case of nice-guy-itis. Even thought I really didn’t know how to do the job they shoved me into, I worked damn hard to ensure things were in the best shape possible before leaving. I even pulled a few 11-12 hour days. A lot of my friends said, “screw em,” but I couldn’t. Not because I’m a pushover. I don’t let people walk all over me. Good people would have had to bear the brunt of it, and I couldn’t leave things like that. The best thing about that time was working with Matt (one of the interns). Matt had been there for a while, but we didn’t interact much. Since I was given the Paul’s job (Paul was our boss, and one of my best friends), I ended up getting to know him a lot better. Great guy.

So anyway, tomorrow I turn thirty and Tuesday I’ll start my new job. Changes are afoot and I’m pretty excited.

2005 Year End Clearance

Saturday, December 31st, 2005
Date: Wed, 31 Dec 2003 00:00:54 -0500
From: Jason Penney <...>
To: Jason Penney <...>
Subject: story idea

an epic battle/war is tearing apart the land. A small time thief sees his opportunity to make good, but becomes involved in helping a refugee family (maybe just some kids?)

I found this email earlier this week. I have a lot of these ‘story idea’ emails, but this one is the novel I’ve been working on since shortly after sending this to myself two years ago today. I’m slightly less than half way done my second draft, and while the story has changed with time, I can still see how I got from there to here.

I’ve been a writer most of my life. When I was younger I sort of just assumed that you learned to read, learned to write, and then wrote down the stories in your head, and that’s how books were made. Today, I’m still pretty sure that’s how it’s supposed to work, but three years ago I didn’t feel that way. That type of thinking was schooled out of me. I never stopped writing, but I really forgot about writing books.

Throughout high school I wrote poetry. Lots. Every emotion I felt hit the paper while it was still fresh. I probably wrote four or more hours a day. I have stacks of notebooks filled with the stuff (which are fading away because I can only write long hand in pencil). Inside these notebooks I can find a few first chapters or unfinished short stories. I never stopped wanting to write fiction, but I stopped believing I could (or maybe that I should). After high school the writing mostly stopped. A few ideas here and there, and the occasional poem, but mostly nothing.

Sometime in 2003 I decided to take this whole writing thing more seriously. I worked on short stories a few nights a week. Then, near the end of December in 2003 I found Mugging the Muse: Writing Fiction for Love AND Money by Holly Lisle. This free book on writing really got me going. It helped me organize my thoughts on being a writer, and commit myself to making it happen. I set out a series of goals and started working towards them.

Have I met them? Not exactly. I originally planned to write short stories for all of 2004, and try to have a draft of a novel done in 2008. Right at the end of 2003 Lazette Gifford posted on Forward Motion that she would be teaching a 2 Year Novel class. Moving from idea to completed novel over a two year period. I signed right up. So I missed my 2004 goals, but I’m ahead of things for my 2008 goal, so I figure I’ll call it progress and keep moving forward.

As 2005 winds to a close, I want to take this time to thank Holly and Zette. If it wasn’t for them I’d probably still be floundering around wondering how to get from A to B instead of making my way along the path. I also want to thank my wife, Denise, for being so supportive of my writing, even when she’s frustrated that I’d rather write than vacuum.