Sunday, February 23, 2014


Even though I have plenty of projects I am currently trying to work on, the back of my mind has been entertaining itself fitting bits and pieces together into another. Over the last few days, I've caught a glimpse or two of what it was working on.
The setting is dystopian. Huge corporations do whatever they want to do, in order to make another buck. The rich higher officials of those corporations are hardly even aware of the workers who actually do the work, and don't give it a second thought when given the opportunity to cut jobs, ship jobs some place where they payroll would be cheaper, or even replace workers completely with automation. They own so many politicians that laws don't get passed without their approval first. In fact, politicians don't get elected without their help. Meanwhile, the middle class shrivels as prices go up and salaries stagnate or even shrink. It gets so bad, even those families who manage to keep two full-time jobs are homeless. City streets - and even small towns - become war zones because working hard and being good people doesn't get anybody anywhere. They have to fight to keep what they have, and fight even harder to get what they want.
What is going on? I don't like dystopian works; I find them depressing, and I fight my own depression every day, so why inflict more of it on myself? I don't like books/movies/tv shows with 'a cast of thousands', as I find it impossible to sort out who is whom. I don't like political intrigue; it all boils down to greed, and I like to think that some people have other motivations than that. I hate the idea that working hard gets you nowhere.
This plot had everything I hated. Why would my subconscious even consider such a story?

And then it dawned on me. It wasn't. I'd been paying some attention to the nightly news lately, and my subconscious was on overload: Welcome to the modern world.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Good Results; Bad Week

I tried an experiment early last week. I had decided I wanted to up my writing speed to about 1,000 words an hour, but first, I needed to have some idea how fast I currently write. So I got up, had breakfast, set my timer for 3 hours (the amount of time I had decided I could carve out of a day for my writing), and started a new story.
I can't say that I was not interrupted. The dog wanted out, or wanted to play, or the phone rang... each time, I paused the timer to take care of the interruption, and then came back to work as soon as I could. It actually took me almost 4 hours to get 3 hours of writing done.
How did I do? My 3 hours of writing got me 1,800 words of rough draft on a story where I only had a vague idea for the opening scene. It also included some brief research (How are these mythical creatures usually described?), and choosing names for characters. That averages out to 600 words per hour.
I suppose that sounds like I have a long, hard road to travel to get to 1,000 words per hour, but I don't see it like that. I was afraid that this test would have my speed at something like 600 words for the entire 3 hours, but instead, it shows me being a LOT closer to that initial goal I've set for myself. This was good news, indeed!
Unfortunately, after that day, my body started insisting I sleep 10-12 hours a day, and when I did get up, I tended to be dizzy more than not, which makes it hard to function. The ear/nose/throat specialist has put me back on a med I've been on before, but at a higher dosage. I will be on it for at least 6 weeks. I think it's working. Slowly. I haven't been doing much writing, other than that one day when I tested myself, and I hope I can get back to it. Soon!
In the meantime, my 'back burner' has plotted out the rest of that short story, worked out a thorny knot that had me stuck in another story, and started working out possibilities in a story I haven't even started outlining yet.

If I could type as fast as I think, I'd be doing a lot more than 1,000 words an hour!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Distant Ancestors

In my never-ending quest to get my science knowledge a little more up-to-date (the better to write science fiction), I periodically surf the net in search of interesting but not too complicated science articles. This past week, I ran across quite a few articles about Neanderthals; when they died out, where they died out, why they died out, and so on.
You know about the Neanderthals; big heavy brows, broad flat noses, short chunky bodies. All those characteristics were helpful to them as they lived in Europe during ice age conditions. I don't remember how the heavy brows were helpful, but the noses helped warm the frigid air before it hit their lungs, and their compact bodies conserved body heat.
Up until recently, it was believed that the last of the Neanderthals died out in the area of Spain about 40-42,000 years ago, helped along on the road to extinction by the arrival of 'modern man' into Europe shortly before the demise of the Neanderthals. It wasn't certain that the two groups came into direct conflict and poked holes into one another, but if nothing else, they were both vying for the same food supply, and it was thought Neanderthals just couldn't effectively compete.
According to what I read this week, a new dating technique for old skeletons and other remains has now pushed the demise of the Spanish Neanderthals to around 50,000 years ago. So, were they completely gone before 'modern man' arrived? Probably not. The scientists were going to be conducting more tests on other sites, but it was rather expected that the new dating technique would also push back the date of modern man's arrival into Europe a similar amount of time. So, other than changing the position of a couple dots on a timeline, this didn't really change much.
On the other hand, genetic anthropologists have been analyzing tiny bits of Neanderthal DNA wherever they could find it, and by combining the results of all their work, they figure they've got about 12% of a complete Neanderthal DNA workup.
And it seems Jean Auel was correct when she wrote in Clan of the Cave Bear that Neanderthals and modern man had babies together. Scientists have compared current DNA to Neanderthal DNA and found that modern people have as much as 2% of their DNA from Neanderthals. The amount varies between ethnicities, but it's there.

So... I blame my son's unibrow on Several-times-great-grandfather Oogh, of the German Neanderthals.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Picking Up the Pace

A couple days ago, I was reading the first episode of a new newsletter when the author said some things that really made me stop and think. She was speaking, at first, of a new author who had made a name for himself by publishing something like 20 books in 3 years, plus one or two more he co-wrote with someone. She went on to say he apparently writes 2,000 words an hour, 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. She compared that to the 1,000 words an hour that she writes.
I was stunned.
I'm usually happy if I manage to get 1,000 words written in a DAY.
Well, it seems pretty obvious to me that I am not applying myself hard enough to this endeavor. My days have become chopped up into 15 minute increments as I try to get housework done as well as some writing.
I have spent today (Sunday), trying to figure out how to rearrange my days to let me get more done, and what might be a reasonable goal for any given week. I go through this process once or twice a year, so this is nothing new. Should I write in the morning or early afternoon? I'm not at my best in the mornings, but errands seem to get done in the afternoons. And no matter what time slot I choose for writing, the dog will still want some kind of attention every hour.
I have chosen a goal that will make me pick up the pace, but I think I can do it. Probably not right away, because I'm fighting a sinus infection - again. In a month or, when that goal has become 'normal', I'll set the bar a little higher, make myself kick it up another notch.
But I don't see myself ever writing 10 hours a day. That writer had a tread-mill desk. I have a gym membership, which I try very hard to use 3 times a week. It provides a change of scenery as well as some exercise.

My first goal is to aim for 15,000 words a week, by working 3 hours a day, 5 days out of the week. Wish me luck!