Archive for July, 2009

Saturday, July 4th, 2009 by Jason Pinter
Beach Reading

As today is the 4th of July, and I have a barbecue to get to, I’d like to hear what books you plan on reading over this weekend, as well as some of your favorite books to take to the beach.

I’m currently reading THE SCARECROW by Michael Connelly, and after that I’m thinking about THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson (which I’ve been meaning to read for a long time).

How about you? What are your holiday reading plans?

Friday, July 3rd, 2009 by LViehl

Ign = 0.11
Pgn = 1.25
Bias = 0
IntDpr1N = maximum (minimum ((IntDpr1N + ErrDpr1N * Ign)), 100), 25)
PctDpr1N = maximum (minimum (((ErrDpr1N * Pgn) + IntDpr1N + Bias), 100), 25)
Damper1N = (PctDpr1N / 100)
If (AhuFlag = Off) then Goto FanOff
If DuctStatic > 1.5 then Goto DamperOpen

Damper1N = 1
ErrDpr1N, IntDpr1N and PctDpr1N = 0

Unless you work in industrial HVAC energy management, the above programming language is probably incomprehensible to you. It isn’t entirely babble to me because I’ve worked in various jobs in the industry, and have also had about 25 years of almost daily exposure to it via my guy, who does it for a living. Things like chillers, dampers and air handlers, and the computerized control of them for maximum energy efficiency, are part of my everyday life. Sometimes HVAC/energy management makes a lot more sense to me than my job does, too.

Every non-writing job I’ve had – and there have been plenty of them – has its own language, logic and life impact. When I was a bartender, I learned bar slang, how to make about two hundred different drinks, and several thousand excellent reasons never to touch alcohol again for as long as I live. The same is true of the commercial air conditioning biz: I can talk comfortably about teardowns and retubes; I understand how important the ongoing advances in interior climate control are to both quality of life and planetary responsibility, and you’ll never catch my home A/C unit with dirty coils, a clogged drain pan or running below setpoint.

Unlike most jobs, writing doesn’t come with a standard job description or a training manual everyone receives. Its language is not universal or even universally understood. Logic need not apply for a writing job; even a suggestion of logic is generally booted out the back door. The impact writing has on one’s life often stretches far beyond the boundaries of mere employment.

If I were to code my job as a writer, it would look something like this:

Wrtng = ??? (Art > $ + $ > Art) * !!! / 365 * 10 to the 10123 power

Or maybe:

Wrtng = EndCode

My mistake was approaching writing as I had every other form of employment: work hard, give 110%, be a team player, and earn opportunities for advancement fairly. This in an industry rife with people who avoid work, take 110%, create cults instead of teams and/or step on anyone and anything to get ahead. And please, forget fair; as my colleagues have so often told me, fair is for losers.

The first couple years as a pro my energy management went out the window as I struggled to learn a language I would never speak, a logic I would never understand and withstand impacts on my life that repeatedly crushed me into the dirt. By the third year I was almost convinced I couldn’t do it anymore (and this after ten years of simply trying to land the job.)

It wasn’t until I took what I had learned from many of my other job experiences and stopped trying to apply them to the Publishing industry that a tiny light bulb went off. I couldn’t do it their way, so what was left? I needed a setpoint.

In air conditioning, the setpoint – or the temperature that is set for a space to achieve a desired level of comfort – decides everything else that happens. If your space has a setpoint of 74 degrees, and the temperature rises above that, control measures kick in and run the air conditioning units until the temperature drops back to setpoint. If your space falls below setpoint, the units cycle off and stay off until the temperature rises to setpoint. In essence, a prechosen two-digit number is what controls an entire building filled with A/C equipment. (Douglas Adams claimed that the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything was 42. In HVAC, it’s 74.)

I really got a handle on my work as a professional writer when I pursued what people in HVAC would call my personal writing setpoint. I first disconnected from and eliminated all the things that were a waste of my energy. If I didn’t need it to do my job – writing books – then out it went. Then I focused on my equipment, and invested in myself, and gave myself everything I needed to do my job to the best of my ability: the right computers, software, printers, supplies, research materials, etc. From there I made up a daily schedule that took advantage of my peak energy levels in order to produce as much as possible during a work session without burning out or exhausting myself. Once I had streamlined my writing life to be about writing, got the right equipment and put in place the best possible work schedule, I was ready to get back to work.

I didn’t ask anyone to help me create my writing setpoint or motivate me to stick to it; for years I didn’t even talk about it. Maybe it was insecurity, or too many years of listening to people trying to shove their ideas of what the writing life should be down my throat. I had no idea if it was going to work; I only knew I had to try it. Turning my back on everything I had seen being done by others on the job didn’t seem too bright, of course. But there were two almost immediate benefits that I’d never had before setpoint: I was finally comfortable with my job, and I was happy to go to work every day.

In the six years since I created my setpoint, I’ve made some adjustments to it. I’ve allowed other colleagues into my writing space to take a look around and see how it’s going for me. I’ve also shared what I’ve learned from writing to setpoint with them. They don’t always agree with the severity and austerity of my settings, but they can’t argue with my productivity or the comfort it’s provided.

With all due respect to Douglas Adams, there is no Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Nor is there one ideal setpoint for every writer. Everything about us is unique and individual and different, and maybe that’s really why the industry is the way it is. So instead of trying to be the writer you think everyone is, or everyone else thinks you should be, find your own setpoint. Create the comfort zone that is right for you. If the quality of your writing life doesn’t improve, make adjustments until it does. Because ultimately:

Wrtng = You

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009 by Sasha White
BIAM Status

Well, my BIAM status is the same as it was last week. Yep. I just had 6 days in a row off work from the bar, and despite the plan to write, I never even attempted to do so. Not once. *grin* TO be honest, I rarely even thought about writing. It’s okay though, have I never mentioned I tend to be a binge writer whose best under pressure? We’re not even close to our deadline of July 30th. I have plenty of time. PLus, I’ve had so much time lately when I haven;t been writing, but all I’ve done is think about writing, that this past week off really felt good. I wasn’t thinking or stressing or trying to plot and plan, I was just relaxing. And I do believe, getting ready mentally to write. It’s sort of felt like the quiet before the storm. :)

What did I do on my days off? Read. Yes, I read a lot. A couple of new books, but many of the ones off my keeper shelves. I just wanted to relax and enjoy, and fall in love with books again. I also did some photo work, and had dinner with the family. And got my balcony ready for summer by repainting the siding of my condo and planting some flowers and plants. I still want more plants, and I want to stain the railing on the balcony, and maybe lay down some permanent all season carpeting of some sort, but I’m not in a hurry to do that.

However, just because I didn’t write doesn’t mean I’m not going to crack the whip. Here’s the totals for those that reported in to me this week for the BIAM Challenge.

UPDATE on the BIAM Challenge…..Darlene is still kicking butt! (Don’t look back now Darlene, I’m coming for you…*grin*)

Darlene’s BIAM Goal: 90,000 words.
completed to date: 20, 372 words

Sasha’s BIAM Goal: 90,000 words
completed to date: 2,921 words

Babette’s BIAM Goal: 50,000 words
completed to date: 14,258

Those that didn’t check in, please feel free to post your progress in the comments.

I’m using my website to do some fundraising for the 5K RUN FOR THE CURE I’m doing in OCtober. In order to raise money, myself, and several other fabulous and very generous authors, have put up some prizes. The next draw is on July 15th, and these are the prizes…

A Writers Prize Package from me (Sasha White)
* Wishing Stones
* Inspirational Necklace (or is a male wins and prefers, a Handcrafted Glass Bead bookmark)
* Copy of Rebecca McClanahan’s Word Painting
* Sasha White padfolio
* Critique of Partial manuscript from me, (3 Chapters and synopsis) Sasha White.
(This might be handy to help stay motivated for our BIAM Challenge)

Fabulous YA author Darlene Ryan has donated copies of
Rules for Life
Saving Grace
and her latest, Five Minutes More
Along with a selection of Green and Black’s organic chocolate because it’s way more fun to lay around, read and eat chocolate.
(There’s information about the books on the main page of her website )

Visit my blog to see how you can enter to win these prizes, and more.

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009 by Carrie Vaughn
Book Recommendation: Steering the Craft

Most of us have a collection of “how to” writing books on our shelves.  (Heck, my aunt has a closet full, and she doesn’t even write.  She just likes reading about writing.)  There are certainly a ton of them out there to choose from, everything from craft to the business to getting published to memoirs by writers about their own experiences.  A few are useful.  For my part, I’ve found that practice usually trumps theory and most of what I’ve learned has been by hard-earned experience.  (Maybe that’s why it took me 10 years to get published…)  But I appreciate the memoirs.  I like comparing my process to others and finding validation that maybe I’m not actually crazy.  Occasionally I find a gem and a lightbulb moment.


I encountered Ursula K. Le Guin’s Steering the Craft when it first came out, about ten years ago now, and I liked it then.  It’s a simple, quick read focused on the building blocks of writing — word choice, sentence length and structure, point of view, verb tense — rather than more macro, abstract concepts like character and plot.  It includes lots of examples from classic novels to illustrate points, as well as short, useful writing exercises, a paragraph to a page or so long, to help put theory into practice.  All in all, this is a practical book.

I’m getting ready to actually teach a workshop, so I re-read Steering the Craft looking for ideas, and I’m once again in awe of the simplicity and back-to-basics approach.  While reading, I found myself wondering what bad habits I’ve fallen into and what steps I can take to make my prose more powerful.  Le Guin takes common concepts and discusses them at a slightly different angle, bringing new light to them.  For example, one chapter is called “Crowding and Leaping,” and it discusses when and how to pack in the information and exposition, and when and how to skip (or leap) and let the reader figure things out.

I’ve definitely learned a lot about writing over the years, but lately I haven’t had much time to think about writing, if that makes sense.  The way words work and how good prose comes together.  I’m reminded that it’s always worth stepping back and reassessing.  Even Olympic marathon runners still need to stretch.  Le Guin has opinions, and freely admits they’re opinions, but she also clearly discusses topics like point of view and exposition with the authority of her forty years of fiction and essay writing experience.  Take a look, I think you’ll find some ways to steady your own craft.