Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

Cory Doctorow posted today that Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, a novel by Robin Sloan, is available on Amazon.  So, like, if you needed a birthday present idea for me, here. I'm excited about this, because I listened to this story, several times, when it was a short story on Escape Pod.  You can get that link here, if you want to listen to the short story version, but I am super-excited about where this story goes as a full-length novel.

New JK Rowling cover

(via Phil DeFranco) This morning, the cover for The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling's upcoming for-adults book, was unveiled:

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling new release book cover

Little, Brown -- the book's publisher -- is describing the book as "blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising," which sounds awesome.

Rowling's books were a huge part of my childhood, and one of the things I liked best about the Harry Potter books is that their content and subject matter grew up with me.  It wouldn't be hard to argue that Rowling is responsible in substantial part for my love of reading today, and I'm thrilled about this book because now that I'm 23 years old and into literary fiction, she's releasing something targeted in the direction of my age group.

The synopsis, which I've seen on a few sites linking back to the above-linked page on the Bookseller (which doesn't appear to contain that synopsis) sounds like it deals with a lot of the relationship struggles between fundamentally separate but intertwined groups that pervade every aspect of human civilization as we know it.  It makes me even more eager to read the book than the name at the top of the cover, and here it is via Mugglenet:

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty facade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity, and unexpected revelations?

A big novel about a small town, The Casual Vacancy is J. K. Rowling’s first novel for adults. It is the work of a storyteller like no other.

Oh, and her name is smaller than the title of the book.  That's always a selling point when it comes to big-name authors, as far as I'm concerned.


In my life prior to now, I've generally gone through phases of escalating work, followed by catastrophic collapse into depression for weeks or months, until I start working again.  It seems a bit like burnout, but I never really actually burn out.  What always seems to happen is, after achieving some large goal, I decide I need to take a rest in order to avoid burning out.  And that's when things always seem to go wrong. I'm tired, right now.  I've been tired for days.  But this isn't an unfamiliar feeling.  It comes near the middle of every major project, and it comes at the end, too.  But what usually happens is that I don't have anything to do to work through it.  Instead, I just end up stopping.

I don't want to do that this time.  I'm only a handful of days away from the end of my bet, when I won't be obligated to blog anymore, I'll be finished with my book (for now), and by then The Book should be finished, too.  I'll have school, but that's never really been enough.

So, I don't intend to stop.

First thing's first:  I'm re-upping my blogging vow, right now, for another three months.  June 12th is my new deadline.

On top of that, once I've finished typing up the book I'm working on, finished The Book, and sent in some agent queries, I'm starting my next book.  I feel like I need to get started on it soon, anyway, because it's been eating away at my brain for months.

Talk to you tomorrow.

Youtube failure and stuff

Oh, yeah.  I'm great at this commitment to content creation thing.  After declaring that I was doing a month of twice-a-week videos, almost everything about my video production process stopped working correctly. This is frustrating, and I still want to make videos but I think I need to take some time to work things out and getting it back together before I start again, so my effort to blog twice a week into March is hereby cancelled.

I've also been arting more lately, and have a few ideas for comics -- so, I intend to try and start updating Bathetic again soon.  Sorry for the relatively short post today, and for the fact that my relatively short post is all about the fact that I'm cutting back on other content, too.  Maybe I'll write a long post about the developing themes and symbolism in my novel in the middle of the night.

If not, talk to you tomorrow, about the movie One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest.

So I finished the second draft of my novel

By that I mean, I've finished covering the printout of the first draft of my novel with green ink, and am about halfway through typing up the second draft.  I'm pretty happy with the novel where it's at, though there are a couple of scenes I intend to go through and add, or rewrite, entirely -- the third draft is essentially going to be spot edits. I typed fifty pages up on Saturday, and that was long and painful and awful to do, but it's necessary work.

On a more personal note, I don't mind doing necessary work, even when it sucks.  I'm okay with going through the arduous task of retyping my entire novel, working through the annoyingly poorly scribbled green edits, over the course of several hours.  It's not fun, but it's not emotionally painful.

I'm willing to work much harder, in fact, to complete the sort of necessary but unpleasant work that leads to me finishing something like a novel, than I am willing to work towards creating something I don't care about, or creating nothing at all.

There's a lot of work out there that adds up to essentially nothing.  There are jobs that support systems I don't just care little about, but that I actively disdain.  There's a lot of stuff in this world I don't like, and people put a lot of work into making that stuff.

It's not just that those jobs are hard.  I'm okay with hard work.  I like hard work, insofar as I like going to great lengths of effort to create things I think are important.  What I'm not okay with, what I'm not willing to do, is hard work to create things I hate.

I love writing.  I think it's important, and I think it makes the world a better place.  So I'm going to do about 100 pages of not-very-fun typing in the next five days or so, happily.

Talk to you tomorrow.

4 days in

So, I'm four days into editing the first draft of my novel, which, given the volume of cuts so far and the relatively meager starting word count, might end up creating the second draft of my novella.  It's going at a decent rate -- so far, I've managed the ten pages of edits a night, though I've only typed 5 pages of those edits into the new draft document.  Like, total. That scares me a little -- I'm 25 pages behind on typing, and it's going to be 35 at some point tonight.  (At best, I see it becoming 30 by the time I go to bed.)

On the bright side, this seems like a relatively light workload, and I might be able to get in a 3rd draft by my deadline on March 12th.

I don't have much else to talk about.  Spent a lot of time today playing Minecraft, and now I'm going to go watch a movie.

Talk to you tomorrow.

I finished my novel yesterday! kind of an absurd statement. I mean, yeah.  I finished the first draft of my novel, and will be printing out that draft later tonight to start work on the second draft.  But the thing is, novels aren't really finished once you get through one draft.  I think the first draft is actually kind of the easy part -- it's like, yeah, it's possible to fuck up the first draft in such a way as to destroy your ability to create a good bo0k, but the best first draft in history is still only the raw material for a more complex revised novel.

So I'll be getting started on the first stage of that revision tonight, and will hopefully be finished by the end of the month.  Then I guess I'll see where I stand?

Talk to you (about The Matrix) tomorrow.

An update on my novel

I am nearing the final stretch of my novel, having just started the eighth chapter out of an intended 10.  This is a cool part, because (allowing for the 10th chapter to wrap things up) in the next few nights I'm going to be figuring out pretty much what the climax of the book is going to be. I like this part, because it's fun to see how tens of thousands of words of plot can all come together into what feels like a coherent end.  It's my feeling that if you get the beginning and middle of a story right, the end will present itself when the time comes.  (I did once try to write a novel where I had the ending in mind, but the novel had a differing opinion and the conflict resulted in a terrible book.)

After I finish this draft, I will, of course, be doing a sort of a sprint-draft for consistency and to annihilate some of the more horrible prose, but then what I'll probably do is take the rest of the semester to focus on blogging and school, and do another pass of edits on my first novel this summer.  Then, hopefully, I'll have two novels to shop around when I get started on a third.  (Or fourth, if you count the second novel I wrote, which will never, ever see the light of day.)

Brief thoughts on writing about marginalization

I'm working on a novel right now, a science fiction book that takes place in the late 2030's, about artificial intelligence and the robot civil rights movement.  It centers mostly around the AIs that grew out of increasingly sophisticated false profiles on Facebook, which eventually became so personlike they achieved self-awareness.  They're not the only AIs in the book, but the major AI characters are all that type, because they behave most like humans. And in researching for the book, as well as just in a lot of my free time, I've read a lot about what it's like to be a member of a visible minority.  About the experience of women, black people, disabled people, and so on.

And I think I've got enough of a handle on what that experience is like to write about it.  But I still don't have any firsthand experience with it.  I'm marginalized in some ways -- nongendered, bisexual, atheist, but those are all the other kind of marginalized group -- the kind with closets.  To look at me, I'm a white male of above abject-poverty means.

So I'm glad I'm not writing directly about a real marginalized group.  (Depending on your views about the future, I'm still at least not writing about a yet-real marginalized group.)  I don't think I've got anywhere near the competence to do that successfully.  But it's still hard to get things right.

I guess that's why I'm writing this post -- it feels hard to write, sometimes.  I think I need the reminder that that's because it is hard.  Both because it's worth the effort to write the best book I can, and because, hopefully, pushing myself to understand it well enough to write this book will make me a little better able to understand the experience of most of my fellow human beings.

Significant moments in writing

Last night, I tweeted that I got to an important sentence in my novel:  "I wish I had a face."  It was the sort of moment I've been waiting for in the last week or so of writing, which has been going painfully slow.  I've reached a new point of direction, where my characters have started telling me what they want. The novel I'm working on is about the future AI civil rights movement, and features, among other things, a sort of machine called a homunculus, which amounts to a robot body designed to house AIs that grew personalities organically on the internet.

In the beginning, a homunculus is a vessel designed only by the most obscure computer fanatics, where most people don't even really acknowledge that AI exists.  But, if things continue to go the direction I have in mind, over the course of the novel, homunculi will become more personlike, at times skating the border of uncanny valley, and making them a much more intense focus of prejudice.

I knew all this in the abstract, but it's nice, now, to have a more specific handle on how it's going to play out in the story.

The 'speculative' part

I think I mentioned a few days ago that I started a new novel.  It's sci fi -- sort of a 20 minutes into the future thing, in a  very optimistic interpretation of the job market crashing. I find myself feeling insecure about my version of the future in this book.  To my knowledge, the future I'm picturing is plausible -- the components all fit my best understanding of current science.

The thing is, current science is complicated. I don't get most of it.  I doubt most sci fi authors get most of it. I wouldn't call this hard sci fi if you put a gun to my head, but I still feel weird about venturing into the realm of 'science' fiction, rather than straight-up fantasy.

"Speculation" is a much more comfortable word, I think, and I think I'm probably going to start referring to this project as speculative fiction, rather than sci fi.

My stupdity truly knows no bounds

I was bored last night.   I don't know why I was bored, because I had a comic to illustrate, and I could easily have worked on a future blog post, an article for the paper, or some homework.  But, nonetheless, I decided to do something stupid, instead. I've started a new novel.

For background purposes:  I've written two novels before, and no you can't see them because both of them suck.  The first one sucks a little bit, and the second one sucks a whole lot. I might get around to polishing up the first one eventually, but it's pretty derivative so I might not.  The second one is going to stay locked in a file on my old mostly-broken laptop forever, a dark symbol of pretentious whining.

I got about 300 words into it last night, and posted a progress report on Twitter.  I think I'll keep doing that.  It seems like a nice way to keep track.  I plan to discovery-write the whole thing, so I've only got a rough idea of the time frame and general character arc.  It's about advertising in the 2030's.

Here's a roundup of my current commitments:

  1. I'm updating this blog every day through the month of September.
  2. I'm tweeting every day (@txwatson) through the month of September, now twice.
  3. I'm updating my comic, Bathetic, three times a week. and, now,
  4. I'm working on a book, every day, until the damn thing is finished.

Add to that school, looking for a job, and finding freelance work, and I don't think I have to worry much about being bored this semester.