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Archive for 2005
I finished Mary Balogh’s Simply Unfogettable today. I spent the first chapter or so depressed because I am not Mary Balogh, and then, as always happens with her books, I forgot the world and just kept turning pages until the end. Ah, my kind of book.
I think I’ve given up on the other book. Interesting that I so recently ranted about modifier-itis because this book could win a prize. The narrative is overly detailed and so thick with adjectives and adverbs that if you put a spoon in it, it would stand up. Not only that, but there are not 1 but 2 chapters that functioned as prologues. I got to page 20 before there any of the main characters appeared. I hardly ever give up on a book so early so I might try to plow through a few more pages, except that because of not 1 but 2 prologues, I already know what’s going to happen and so far I don’t care enough about the main character to think why I should bother…
So, what to read next? Hmm. What a luxury. It’s a long weekend. Probably I should start on one of the biggies. Harry Potter maybe. Or GRR Martin. Or Jordan.
Today I finished The Cuckoo’s Egg, Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage by Cliff Stoll I started it yesterday after I finished Mitnick’s book. I could hardly stand to put it down. Not only that, but despite the title, there’s actually a romance in it! The book is about a Berkeley astronomer who ends up tracking a hacker, just as the title suggests. It’s his very readable account of what happened. First, the easy reaction – the events took place in 1986 and 87, when I was living in Berkeley, so as I read about the places he names, I’d think oh, yeah, sure, I had classes in that building or, sure, I only lived a few blocks from there. I was in LBL once. Did I ever see him riding his bike to or from the Lab? And that part about him sitting down and being joined by Louis Alvarez, well, wow! I wish I had a job where nobel laureates would just walk up and talk to you!
All this took place over 20 years ago. The technology he talks about is now old (1200 baud modems?) and many are no longer acceptable. Telnet? That’s enough to make a Network Admin want to pass out from the gaping security hole. VPN baby. But what gets me is that all those years ago, the government couldn’t get its act together to take over and put a stop to the guys who, by the way, were selling their info to the KGB. The problems were apparent to everyone and really, if not for Stoll’s persistence, the guys would 1) probably never been caught and 2) eventually gotten someplace that would have been deadly. Nothing’s changed.
Anyway, it was really fun reading and kept me turning pages. What will I read next? I think I’m ready for some fiction. Maybe the prologue trouble book…
I finished Kevin Mitnick’s The Art of Deception. Very interesting book and a rather interesting approach to structuring the book so he doesn’t admit to having done anything that would get him into more trouble. It’s a scary book for anyone in Info Sec. All their PIX Cisco routers are useless against someone like him. I think my favorite story was the one where he and a friend were at a tradeshow and saw a reward offered to anyone who successfully "hacked" an unhackable box sitting there on the floor. So instead of doing keyboard hacks for OS or other security holes, they waited till the booth was not appropriately manned and then picked the lock on the cabinet that gave them access to the cables. Once appropriately switched around, they had full privileges to the box and access to the source code, which they were printing out when the guys came back from lunch.
And now, I will brilliantly bring this around to writing. The trade show guys assumed their box would be attacked by someone sitting at a keyboard somewhere. They never thought of the physical security. Assumptions will keep a writer in slush forever. Assumptions make you blind, deaf and mute to what’s really needed in your story. What have you assumed about your story? For me, I often find that I have assumed that certain events MUST happen in a certain order. But, is that true? Really, really true? Once you permit yourself to question your chronology, sometimes you see another way. What about your characters? What have you assumed about your characters? I am so tired of writers (always unpublished) who have, in fact, solicited my opinion and then get upset when I question an event in their story. "Oh, no, Hero Hunk has to do that because fill in some overly sensitive over-explained in the narrative emotional crap. Same for the heroine. OK, so maybe that’s not really an assumption unless you count the assumption that lack of real motivation can be cured by sufficient narrative explaining why the motivation isn’t really weak. B.S. Since I’m on a roll, I also get irritated by writers who won’t even try to give up adjectives and modifiers. Lazy, lazy lazy. (Originally, I had six "lazys") You deserve to be in slush you modifier addicted hacks! Try it. Watch what happens. Sometimes (hell, often!) the writing pops. Do without so you can tell when to use them so it counts.
I started another of the books in TBR, but the opening is a thinly disguised prologue (see this about prologues) and it’s doing just about all the bad things prologues do to otherwise good stories. It’s not diguising gender, thank goodness, otherwise I’d just throw the book away. But I’m only on page 2 and I know that the little relic a character just put back in the box while he thinks in flashback, will be the cause of havoc to come. Oh, man, why? Why? Anyway, I’ll give it a few more pages…
And, here’s what’s in the TBR pile:
- The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
- A Feast for Crows, George R.R. Martin
- Simply Unforgettable, Mary Balogh
- Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling
- The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
- Just Peachy, Jill Winters
- Relic, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
- Knife of Dreams, Robert Jordan
- The Cuckoo’s Egg, Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage, Cliff Stoll
- The Code Book, The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography, Simon Singh
- The Art of Deception, Kevin Mitnick
- Hacking, The Art of Exploitation, Jon Erickson
- Undead and Unreturnable, MaryJanice Davidson
That’s not all of it, but most of it. I can’t find the rest. I moved a bunch of stuff around when I was making room for school reading.
P.S. I hate that blogger can’t figure out that hmtl lists shouldn’t have the stupid extra line breaks. God knows what my hack will do when I publish this. Let me know if you can’t read the list.
edited to fix the stupid list. IE can’t handle it.
- Material is in the mail to my agent scheduled for a Friday delivery
- It was not pouring down rain when I went to mail the above items
- The printer repair person is coming sometime Tuesday
In light of the above, I have no idea what to do with myself. I’m home early because most of town is out of power and the gym was closed. I could read, and maybe I’ll do that, just to kind of refresh after spending so many intense days freaking over trying to get draft material less lame than it is.
First, I had to go back to work today. Ick. I hate 5:00 am. Just on principle. Then today I really really really HAD to put the stuff into the mail to my agent. It’s a lot of stuff. I’m not happy with it, but she supposedly understands that most of it’s draft. More on that later, because I really don’t want to miss out on the rant that has me most upset. I have a LaserJet 4200 that I’ve been slowly falling out of love with. Today, with 77% of the toner unused it is not printing clean pages. Yes, I cleaned it. Via the paper procedure and the manual procedure. Twice. I admit, it’s been doing this for a long long time. Back when I had a window of opportunity to get it serviced, I couldn’t find anyone who would come to the house (which I have done in the past) So now I must find someplace to DRIVE to with the stupid printer. I had to apologize for the crappy print outs in my cover letter. And now I have to find someplace to take the printer to get fixed. (any one tempted to point out any of the glaringly obvious things I should have done to prevent this is missing the whole point so please, just make those comments in some other blog. Thank you for taking pity on me.)
PLUS! I do not have mailing envelopes large enough to send the material so tomorrow I have to go do that, too. This is worse than it seems. I know you’re thinking, so what, Carolyn? You have to go to the post office in the drug store anyway. Well, there’s a difference between going to the Post Office (in the drug store) with stuff ready to mail and stuff that isn’t even in an envelope. Normally, I only send synopsis and three chapters. My regular Tyvek envelopes are more than sufficient for that. But this package is two synopses, plus chapters, three short erotic things (short as in 20 pages each) and two "project descriptions."
And now you’re asking, Carolyn, what is a Project Description because there is nothing in the Manual for Neurotic Writers that describes the format and requirements of a air quotes Project Description end air quotes. That’s because I made it up. She asked for a description of the projects that are not in proposal form. Writers have been known to be sucked into an alternate dimension and beaten with old typewriter ribbons for failing to follow TO THE LETTER the format requirements for sending materials to a literary agent. I’m already a client, so I guess they won’t use the typewriter ribbon. Probably I’ll be pelted with empty bottles of white out.
Which seques into the stuff that I will put into an envelope of the required size sometime tomorrow, probably in a driving rain because that is the kind of weather we have here this time of year. I read the chapters for Shift and parts were awesome but the parts that were not just need to be cut and there just wasn’t time to cut and make the appropriate adjustments. When I read the synopsis, I hate the whole thing. I sent the synopsis and the first chapter. I expect to be told to resend when there’s more. Well, she whine said end whine. Today at the gym I ripped apart the synopsis for Possession and decided that the chapters were far too passive in effect (not grammar) and that it needed A LOT more of my heroine’s baggage in it. I have the synopsis fixed, I guess. But again, the chapters need work. That’s why there’s the concept of DRAFT. The PD’s are OK I guess. I like Dark Elf. It’s cool.
It’s the 3 shorts that have me worried. Last night I read the massively revised one and, setting aside any personal issues I ought to worry about from the story I wrote, damn it was good. And I think the 2nd one is good, too. The third made me laugh while I was reading it. But here’s the thing. Not one of the 3 is like anything I’ve ever read before. Seriously. There’s sex and stuff, which was the whole point, but the people involved have issues and they don’t necessarily resolve them. Well, I appear to be babbling. I think that’s the precursor to getting sucked into the alternate dimension.
Darn. Back to work tomorrow. At least it’s casual week. Got practically no writing done today. My son and I spent most of the day eating our gingerbread house and doing a puzzle. It’s holographic and blinding. But we finished it and it was really fun.
I guess slippage has occurred. Maybe stuff will go out Wednesday…
Last night I printed out all the stuff I intend to send to my agent. I figured I’d do a read through, maybe fix a few things and I’d be good to go. Alas and sigh that is not what happened. The first thing I started reading was one of the short stories (which I’m hoping can be more novella length) and I made massive changes. Huge, enornomous, ripping out scribbling in the margins and on the back of the pages changes.
Overall, I’ve had a lovely day. The box of "Mystery Stuff" for my son (from American Scientific Surplus was a hit even beyond my expectations. This is in large part due to the fact that my son is quite a joyful boy. How many 10 year old boys would be thrilled to get pink birthday candles, plastic happy birthday signs, ballarina gift bags (for his cousin Hannah, he said) garage organizer stuff, Memo pens (actually, those were cool) size 7E shoe extenders, candle holders, cards, a clock, thumbtack holder/sticker-inee things and on and on. He gave the garage organizing material to his grandfather and the candle holders to his grandmother.
There was a lot of mystery stuff and he had great fun going through it. Then we went to my brother’s and my son got to play with his cousins and get and give more gifts. Then home, etc. Fortunately, I am not in charge of cooking. My other brother came over for Christmas dinner and he had fun playing his his uncle. My son and I worked on a jigsaw puzzle. From a very early age, he was killer at puzzles. We were up to 1000 piece puzzles by the time he was three. I thought I was good until I saw him in action. It’s humbling for an adult to get shown up by a 3 year old, and it happened until I just learned to shut up and let him put the pieces together. He has a freaky (for me) spacial ability. He used to do Blair Witch Project type sculptures (If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t ask) as soon as he could safely hold a hammer. They were life size and larger.
So, now the kitchen is clean and the dishwasher is running. I got a very small amount of writing done. I think I’ve narrowed my short storis down to the best three to send. I have a sneaking suspicion nothing will get mailed until Tuesday. Most is ready to go, I think. I hope.