Dancing to Dirges

Depressing and happy things Tim says, sometimes while drunk

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

So what's been going on here

A couple weeks ago I came to...let's call it a breaking point. Things were bad. I was bad. My wife and I sat down and we decided I really, really needed a new job. I contacted one of my clients, really the only one of my clients I'd be willing to work for. Initially they indicated that they weren't hiring, purely economic stuff. However, they said, we really want to work with you so send us your c.v. and we'll talk to HR, let's see what we can figure out. A couple weeks of conversation followed, back and forth.

I was hopeful. I honestly believed that they were going to make an offer. Everyday I came to work, I only made it through because I knew that by the end of the year I would be turning in my resignation.

As inevitably happens with me, it came to naught. There are too many variables right now, they've lost too many clients, they have personnel issues that are in the air and equipment needs that must be addressed. My contact and I are going to be in touch every couple of weeks, mostly to make sure I'm still sane and still interested, and to keep my updated on their progress. So it may still happen. Just not this year, probably not until deep into next year, maybe not at all. It depends. Everything depends.

So I've been the hell down. Honestly I think this cold is something of a blessing, because all today I've just been in a fog. Can't really think about anything significant when you're tripping Dayquil, now can you? It's not like I can't pay my bills, or write at night. I just want something more than looking forward to Friday. Friday ain't all that.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Typing ain't that hard.

My office is in the middle of a light-industrial subdivision, apparently the largest L-I development in the state. Our road has become more and more sparsely populated the last couple years. The strip mall office complexes that line our side of the street seem to gain and lose occupancy like christmas lights flickering on a bad wire. The big buildings across the street are more stable, but we lost two of those this year, too.

Right now one of the bigs is getting some maintenance. It's a slab sided gray monster on the other side of the retention pond, one of those buildings with blocks of color along its side like a child's toy. Probably two or three stories high, though it's hard to tell because there are no windows.

A group of men have climbed to the top, and are inspecting the HVAC systems. They got up there via an accordian-like platform that stretched up the side of the building. Thing is, it doesn't go all the way to the top. If my human-scaling is right, here, it stopped while the top of the building was just below the average workman's solar plexus. I guess they hoisted themselves the rest of the way. And I would be okay with that. Climbing up is easy.

Climbing down? This is Chicago, folks, it's seventeen degrees out there, with a wind chill around zero. That wind is brutal. You wanna hoist your legs over the side of a building and then hop down onto a little 6x4 metal platform, swaying in the wind? I wouldn't like that.

Oh, wait. That's why I have a desk job. Right. Got it. Carry on, men-types.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

If you can't have pirates, at least include a love interest

I started on the outline for the new book last night. Outlining is just not something I'm terribly good at, but practice will see you through. While I don't have an official title in my head yet, I'm calling it "Everything but Pirates" or simply !Pirates for now.

I swore to myself I'd start including more non-work, non-writing related content on here. I was kind of hoping that typing that out would remind me of something n-w n-w to post. Not working out. Uh.

I'm currently planning on doing Wiscon, Duckon, Worldcon, WFC and Windycon next year. Those take place in Madison, Naperville, Montreal, San Jose and Chicago, respectively. Y'all come out.

You know what movie I've never seen? Buckaroo Banzai.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sometimes something important happens

The guy I had dinner with on Saturday is now in the hospital. That's no good.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A well named convention

Windycon is always the last convention of the year for me. It's pretty much in my back yard, so I'd have to have a really good excuse to not go. Unfortunately this year's theme was Military SF, and while I was a fan enough of that when I was a kid, my tastes have changed. Most of the panels just didn't interest me. I don't think I've spent more time at a con just wandering around aimlessly, trying to find something engaging.

That said, I did a lot of that wandering with good people. Jim Hines and Tobias Buckell are agent-mates, and always worth a good conversation. I also talked a lot to Trey Thoelke (I hope I got that right) from my writer's group. Much good talk. Much happy.

Next year's theme is Steampunk, though. This would be just two months after my breathtaking and genre destroying steampunk thriller decimates all sales estimates and changes the way readers even *think* about books. I'm planning to own the convention. And I mean that literally. I have high expectations of my sales numbers.

Also, it is winter now. I barely even had autumn this year. I like autumn. I don't want to go into too much detail, but Autumn. All the time. Now please.

What else, what else...

I have decided against Clarion, simply because it would be all networking. I go to cons. I network. Whatever knowledge I gain would not cover my expenses. Not that I think I've peaked as a writer, just that I think my best way forward is to *write*. It's nothing personal Clarion. I still think you're beautiful in the moonlight.

Okay then. Get back to work, you.

Friday, November 14, 2008

You know what I'm saying

I meant to update earlier but, uh...didn't. I hope your afternoon wasn't ruined.

Anyway, we spent some time looking at bathroom remodeling stuff today. I've got a pretty clear idea in my head how that's going to go. Just a matter of comparing that to the budget.

I'm having more trouble with the current story than I expected. Writing the same stuff year after year...that leaves an impression in your writing mind. I think that's why I'm doing this in the first place. I see that my mind has settled into a pattern. I need to get out of my pattern. It's just not easy.

Okay, I want to write about some non-writing stuff. Uh. There are things I can't talk about right now. Soon. What else?

Life is sometimes beautiful. Sometimes it's complicated. Sometimes it's all about...moving. Keep moving.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Direct TimVee

I am now on Twitter. Requires less composition. Don't have to try to pretend to be interesting, either.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Now with non-writing content!

I'm writing this story, and now I'm worried that it falls into one of those stereotypical, we toss 'em before we read 'em categories that only editors seem to know about. But I'm happy enough with the story so far, so I'm just gonna keep writing. This is the first time I've written something that wasn't already sold in...almost three years? Two and a half? Something like that. Hell, it's the first non-Veridon thing I've written in four years.

Can I please talk about something else now?

We're going to redo our bathroom, the one upstairs. While I was in Calgary my wife punched a hole in the shower wall. While *cleaning*. It's an old tub, and the last owners made everything white and kind of ugly. It tells you a lot about us that we've been in the house nine years and we're only just getting around to fixing this. What can I say? I live inside my head.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Every corner gets turned

Because I've been in a horrible mood, but really, really want to get over it:

A book

I'm for it!

Friday, November 07, 2008

The World will know me

See, I was going to post yesterday, but before I did I realized that I was way, way too depressed. I try to not post when I'm that far down, because god. You don't want to read that. But things are better today. I'm still tracking why that might be.

One of the things that got me up was reading a story I wrote something like three years ago. It was horrible. I mean, not *bad* bad, but bad enough that I wouldn't have sent it out to magazines. But I liked the central idea, so I just dumped the unsalvageable bits (that would be all the words, and the punctuation, and also the specific plot structure that I chose) and am now working on a rough draft. I think this is good, because it'll serve as a break between book stuff. Again, it's nice to see that I'm better now than I was three years ago.

I've been thinking a lot about Clarion. For those of you unaware, Clarion (East and West) is a six week writing class. It focuses on short stories and is taught by various luminaries in the SF/F world. People who go swear by it. And I don't doubt it's great, but I've never had the time. Does this reflect a lack of commitment on my part? No, it reflects a mortgage and a wife who expects me to pay my half of the Discover bill, which I think is a perfectly reasonable expectation. And I think I've learned a lot about writing just by writing. If the story I pulled out last night is any indication, I've learned a *lot* about writing.

But I'll tell you the thing I miss. Community. Clarion grads know each other. They keep in touch. There's a sense of belonging in being a Clarion graduate. Me, I'm just a rogue author. You meet me at a con, you have no idea how well I write. I could be a nice guy and a shitty writer. I know my fair share.

Anyway. I'm just thinking outloud here. The nice thing about Calgary was that it was like having friends. The bad thing was that I was reminded I really only have friends once or twice a year. I trade one great week for one really bad week of withdrawal. Next week it's back to slightly even keel, and a good deal of work.

Totally my fault. And I'll do something about it, someday. Not having friends does free up a lot of time for writing. So there's that.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A variety of subjects

I can waste a lot of time online. I have that skill.

I'm not going to talk a lot about the election. I'm happy. It's not going to be as great as some people think, because that would be unrealistic, but it's good for America. And I didn't wake up this morning with that grinding feeling like nothing in my life matters. I mean, no more than usual. Nothing like four years ago.

At the convention someone asked me why there weren't any sex scenes in the book. Not in an accusatory sort of way, just curious. I said it was because sex isn't like that. It isn't like it's presented in so many books. When two characters start out as friends and, in the course of the stresses and strains of the narrative structure, getting closer and closer until something, that peculiar something, happens...well. It's very rarely pornographic in real life. It's usually awkward and embarrassing and just...strange. That what I wanted to present was actual people actually falling in love, rather than two characters ticking off plot points in an editor's mind. Moment of Darkness. Check. Retribution. Check. Ball-Cupping. Check.

A number of things have happened in the last week. I am aware of $4000 that has been lost to employee error. There's another $2000 floating around awaiting resolution. And prior to any of these mistakes, my boss did three things:

1) He canceled our offsite tech support. So now when things break, I have to try to fix them. I'm an English Major.

2) He canceled our cleaning service. Once a week wasn't enough for the men's room, and now it's going to be none a week. I'm sure our customers will appreciate that. I know I do.

3) He asked me to look into "cheaper alternatives" to our postal software. Now, I'm not against this in practice. Our current provider has done less and less to keep up with developing technologies. In a lot of ways they're still writing their programs for Unix shops running mid-80's inkjet equipment. And that's a big market. But that's not us. What concerns me is that my coworkers have been using the current software for about 8 years, and they have yet to figure it out. It's easy to use. They're just not detail oriented. So now, to introduce a whole new suite...yeah. It's going to go well.

What this all adds up to is a crisis of cash. I know that, I've known it for months. The number of printers in the office has steadily decreased for a variety of reasons. At first it was because we didn't want to pay to have them serviced, so when they broke we'd just default to a network printer and that person would have to walk across the office to get their reports. I'm one of those people walking. Now we're running out of printers because they won't buy us toner. Toner. We have different machines, and they've just stopped buying toner for certain models. It's stupid to have different machines in the first place, but that happened because whenever we needed a printer, some dumbass would just drive to office depot and buy whatever was cheapest.

You see, this is what happens when you make bad business decisions, over and over again. We're bleeding money because we make mistakes and have to reprint. We lose clients because of mistakes. We take the cheapest alternative because we're losing clients, and the cheapest alternative ends up costing us money we don't have. This comes in cycles, has for years, but this is supposed to be the busy time of our year. I just don't think it's working out like they thought.

I have a lot of thoughts. I don't like a lot of them. This is why I waste time on the internet. It's why I drink at night. It's why I enjoy going to places like Calgary and spending time with smart people, and why I really hate leaving those places and slowly losing contact with those people as our social lines gradually pull taut and snap with distance and our daily lives. And then it's next year and are we better off? Is everything better now?


UPDATE: One of my coworkers just told me that if I wasn't happy in my job, I might want to think about taking my writing more seriously. Yeah. I might want to think about that.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Drifting out of Calgary

Last week I was in Calgary Alberta for World Fantasy Con 2008. Everything about it was good. I made new friends, new contacts. I generally left the con feeling better about myself and my career than I have in a long time. Considering my state of mind going in, that's saying something. It's nice to be reminded that you're full of shit sometimes.

I shall now attempt to recount my experiences. I'm going to forget things. Please correct me in the comments.

I packed light. Probably lighter than I ever have, at least since that trip to France back in the eighties. Getting to O'Hare was no trouble. My dad happened to be at the airport hotel in meetings, and called me while I was at the terminal to wish me luck. His envy is almost palpable these days. I hope he gets where he wants to be, while he can.

An intermission. At WorldCon, one of the running jokes was that Lou Anders and I could never be in the same place at the same time. We passed in halls, we walked in and out of the same parties by different doors. Even when I went to the party he was hosting, he was on an ice-run or something. So we never got to talk. I was hoping we'd have some time at WFC. And I was just reflecting on this, sitting in the terminal, when he sat down across the way. So we got to talk. Hooray connectivity. Of course this was the early flight, and he had just come in from Alabama, so we were both kinda stretched thin, but still. Good to talk.

The flight was uneventful. Well, for me. The guy behind me was persistently and stubbornly hit on by one of the attendants. She practically fed him her digits. They have a great future together, I'm sure.

Lou and I got a cab together from the airport, along with Asaf Ashery. Asaf's a writer from Israel, though he is currently in Chicago. A good guy, and we spoke off and on throughout the con.

I'm not sure what to think of Calgary itself. It's a new city, and fairly large. I don't feel like it has a lot of character, other than the mountain range at its back and this pervading sense that the whole place could fold up and disappear and the landscape would sweep in and cover it all in prairie grass at the blink of an eye. Good food though, and good bars. I've been told that Alberta is Canada's richest province, between the mining to the north of Calgary and the cattle/oil that got it a rep as North Dallas. The comparisons are apt. And if the wealth of a province can be linked to the quality of its beer selection, Calgary's going to be okay, people. It's going to be okay.

The con was successful enough. Programming seemed a little...random? I don't know. I don't have enough of these events under my belt to really express an opinion. I will say that most of the panels I went to, at least one or two of the panelists had no idea why they were there. Poor John Klima moderated the panel on Online Publishing, in spite of the fact that he's an all print guy. He did a hell of a job, too. Overall, though, I think it was competently run. Now then...an event log.

Thursday - Arrived around 2pm. Checked in, got my bag of goods, sorted them, unpacked. Went to the bar. Drank for the rest of the afternoon, including some time when I was eating. Sat in that amorphous social blob that usually accretes in the convention bar, getting larger and less round as new people kept arriving, social groups split off only to be reabsorbed later, etc. It was a good time, but I was tired and hungry and maybe a little unprepared for that long of a stretch of alcohol. I also ended up at a presentation being given by the Australian Arts Council. It was meant for publishers, trying to get them to buy Australian authors, but the Solaris boys had me in tow. There are pictures of that, taken by Locus. I hope they don't get selected to appear in the magazine, because man. I was lit. I crashed about halfway through my dinner of club sandwich and beer. Didn't drink all the beer! That was the last time that happened, I promise you. I *promise* you. Went to bed around 8:30 or 9:00. Woke up around 3am, wandered my room restlessly, still drunk. Back to sleep.

Friday - Woke up without a hangover! That's kind of a rare thing for me on the first morning of a con. I try to ramp up my tolerance in the week leading up to a convention (this is apparently common. We were all joking about how we had trained. Red wine seems to be a popular method, for its tannins) but hadn't really amped up like I expected. Also forgot that Calgary has the same altitude issues as Denver, which means an easier drunk, steeper hydration cycle. I think it was the sheer length of time that I spent drinking on Thursday that saved me. Either way, I felt great.

Had a nice breakfast at the hotel. I never was able to find a good breakfast alternative in easy walking distance. I wasn't up for a real march in the mornings anyway, and the hotel wasn't cripplingly expensive. It's easy to say that when it's Canadian dollars you're talking about. Anyway. Breakfast, then off to panels. I honestly can't remember which panels I went to on which days, with only a couple exceptions. Lunch was with Daryl Gregory, Heather Lindsley, Sean McMullen and Farah Mendelsohn. We ate Thai and talked about various writerly things. I mean, I suspect that's how it went. I was hungry. I get vague when I'm hungry. But it was nice to be around writers. Also, I'm a slow eater and bad at talking while I eat. This is why I drink. I can't be social at meals.

More panels. Dinner on Friday was the JABberwocky agency meal. I sat with Frederic Durbin, Jay Franco and John Berlyne. John's the guy who did the voice work on The Algorithm. I didn't know he was going to be at the con, so that was nice. We ate at a steak place, only I had fish because I'm contrary. The place apparently specialized in prairie oysters. Lots of ball jokes. That's kind of how the meal went. You're getting the sack. This is a hairy situation. Don't get any on your chin. Etc. But my fish was good. On the way back to the hotel I walked with Chris Szego of Bakkaphoenix. She was supposed to be helping out with the SF Canada party, and we were late, and I'm a quick walker. I haven't had much chance to talk to a lot of booksellers, so it was good to talk to someone about that side of the industry. Got to pitch my book, too! One thing I learned from the con. Explain to them what Heart of Veridon is about, and they'll be polite and nod. Say "Steampunk Thriller" and they light the fuck up. Especially booksellers and editors. They know how things are going. They see it coming. Revolution, kids. Okay, maybe just a solid selling opportunity, but from where I'm standing it feels like a wave tipping over a city. I'm all about it.

Back to the bar, some general conversation with Daryl and Chris Roberson. I wandered up to the SF Canada party and spent pretty much the entire evening talking to Chris Szego and her friend Jana Paniocia. Good people, good Canadians. There are pictures of that party somewhere. I left that party at around 1am, just as JohnCon was getting started next door. I decided to take a pass, went back to my room, nested into my king-sized bed with six huge pillows and went to sleep.

Saturday - Woke up without a hangover! Such a record. I'm almost disappointed in me. Not at all, actually. This is one of the rare times that I know which panel I went to that morning, because it was the Online Publishing thing run by John Klima. John Klima, that is, of JohnCon, which was just getting spun up at 1am that morning, and which historically includes almost monumental values of alcohol. I was shocked at how together he seemed. The man is of iron, I say. Iron and literary wisdom. I immediately went and bought a copy of Electric Velocipede, in the hopes that his constitution had somehow soaked into the pages. Then lunch with Chris and Jana, where they talked politics. It's sad how little I know of Canadian politics. Also we talked football. Did you know that in the CFL it is generally accepted strategy to concede the safety if your punter is standing in your endzone? You should know that, because it's the most un-American thing I've ever heard. Concede the safety? Really.

I missed my next panel because, as the panel that preceded it was letting out, one of the panelists took a bad fall off the stage and broke his ankle. It was Justin Gustainis, another Solaris author. Our mutual editor Christian Dunn visited at the hospital later. Poor guy's going to have to have an operation (probably already had it, by now) and is stuck in Calgary while he recovers. Bad scene. There was much milling about, and by the time the panel got organized and moved to another room half the alloted time was up and I said "To hell with it" and wandered the art show. I was particularly impressed by Todd Lockwood and Shaun Tan, though there were others that were quite nice as well. There were also some that cared perhaps too much about breasts. Not to say anything against breasts, mind you.

Dinner with the Solaris lads, and John Berlyne again. We ate down the street at a posh joint. There was a lot of highbrow talk, but then we devolved into a discussion about the contract between author and reader. That was a good time. Then back to the bar before I headed up to the Tor party and met up with Daryl and Heather again. That went for a while, then we gathered up an adventuring party and went to an irish pub for a while. That was me, Daryl, Heather, Paul Cornell and...uh. I've forgotten his name. His badge was turned around the entire evening, and I kept forgetting to get it sorted. I'm sure I'll remember later, about ten minutes after I've offended him by forgetting his name in a very public internet.

The point is that we sat in an "irish" bar where the bathroom was in Toronto and you had to get there via tunnel, and there was a band infesting the far corner trying to kill us with its hatred of music, and I ended up making a pope hat for my beer. That place closed at 2am. But wait! It's the night of the time change. At 2am it became 1am! Still open for an hour, right? Right? No, wait. So it's back to the hotel for us. And what do we find? JohnCon, day two.

This year's theme at JohnCon was something about rainbows. I wasn't inquisitive. There was a patio, and on the patio there was a table, on the table were bottles of fruit juice. The fruit juice had been cut with something polish. Vodka, I believe. Maybe Everclear. Again, it was dark out there. So we drank little plastic cups of blueberry, and some kind of superfood/kiwi thing, and orange juice, and white cranberry juice and, uh...something involving pomegranates. I didn't drink much at that point, because I could *totally* see where this was going. That ended around 2:30, and then Daryl, Heather and I went down to sit in the lobby until around 3am (which was actually 4am, remember the time change). Then bed.

Sunday - Woke up with no hangover! Seriously, an entire WFC and no hangover. Everyday I was out of bed by 8am, fast broken and day started by 9am. On Sunday I lucked into breakfast with Lou Anders. We had a grand old time. I think I spent more time with Lou this one weekend than I had over the previous three years. I saw Daryl briefly, went back to my room to pack, came down for lunch, talked some with Chris and Jana one last time, saw Newty and his fabulous hat, then headed to the airport. Home at 9pm and then *very* tired.

So it was a good con. Getting back to work was difficult. But here I am. Blogging.