double-liebstered!

Recently Margit Sage nominated me for a Liebster Award. I am always amazed anyone wants to nominate me for any awards, so getting one from someone whose blog I enjoy so much really means something! Then Cindy Vaskova nominated me for one today!

Both these people write excellent fiction and are far more connected in the blogosphere than I am, so getting a nod from them is very cool. In honour of the double occasion, I took the current Liebster badge and made a double image version:

Those who are Liebstered (is that a term? it is now!) thank their nominator, answer the questions posed to them, nominate more people, and pose their own questions. Because I've got two sets of questions to answer, I'll do my nominations and post my own questions first.

And the nominees are:
  1. Helen Howell: Helen recently published a new novella (Mind Noise). She also has a new blog site!
  2. Larry Kollar: Larry has published nine books (most of them in the last twelve months if I'm not mistaken). He also blogs about e-book publishing and the nuts and bolts of writing.
  3. Tony Noland: Tony published his debut novel, Verbosity's Vengeance, last year. He also blogs regularly about writer's craft.
  4. Icy Sedgwick: Icy has a new novella coming out soon. When she isn't posting flash fiction on her site, she sometimes blogs about crafting.
Questions:
  1. Do you have one place you write in, several regular places, or are you a "writing nomad" (write where you can)?
  2. What are your favourite writing tools (either physical or software)?
  3. What is your biggest writing "win" from the last twelve months?
  4. Author and genre comparisons can be tricky, but what are some signs that a reader will like your books (ie: if they liked X book or like work by Y author, they should check out your books)?
  5. The universe grants you power over all of writer-dom for one day. What's the one thing you make all writers stop (or start) doing?
  6. Recognising that everyone on my nomination list writes in the science fiction/fantasy/horror end of the spectrum — how much time to you spend on planning and envisioning your setting relative to character development?
  7. Does your setting come first, your characters, or a combination of both?
  8. How much research do you do when working on a story?
  9. What are your favourite sources for setting inspiration?
  10. If you could spend time in one of your settings, which one would you pick and how long would you stay there?
I'm going to answer the questions in the order they came in:

Margit's questions
  1. What is the soundtrack to a great writing day for you?
    I don't listen to music much when I'm writing, but some background noise helps. The sound of the dishwasher or my robot vacuum cleaner are good sounds, because they mean I'm getting help, and therefore am "allowed" to write! If I do listen to music, it's got to have no words, which these days usually means Glide/Poltergeist.

  2. Is there a song that embodies your favorite character (or poem) that you’ve written? If so, what is it?
    My main characters tend to get favourite songs, even if they never get mentioned in the stories. Tilly's favourite song is "America" by Simon & Garfunkel; the verse that goes "Laughing on the bus/Playing games with the faces/She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy/I said be careful his bow tie is really a camera" inspired the entire series.

    The two main characters in the novel I currently have in first draft have Foo Fighers' "Learn to Fly" as their theme song, although only one of them knows it.

  3. Do you know exactly what each of your characters looks like? Or do you just have some vague notion (or none at all)? Does your visual conception of characters change over time?
    Yes. If I could draw I would be able to draw their portraits. The visual conception doesn't really change unless there's a big time jump (like with Tilly).

  4. Why do you write?
    Because the characters keep showing up in my head, and I keep seeing the scenes, and I keep knowing what happens. Writing it down is the most sane thing to do. I effectively stopped writing for ten years, and it was a very bad thing, because the ideas kept coming anyhow. I always have a hard time believing people when they say they don't have this happen to them.

  5. How does your writing begin? With a visual, a concept, or something else entirely?
    Oooh, this one is uncomfortable to talk about, because it always sounds a bit mad. Either I'm listening in on the characters and sitting near them in their scene, or else the characters show up and start telling me what happened. The latter tends to make the stories that get the most compliments, but it's a little weird as an experience because it really does feel like talking to ghosts.

  6. When you write, where are you? What are you surrounded with/by?
    Usually I'm in the living room, on my couch, surrounded by cluttermy knitting stuff and the stereo. Sometimes I go to one of the local cafés.

  7. What author do you wish every writer you talk to had previously read?
    Philip K. Dick.

  8. What are your writing goals this year?
    1. Finish my current WIP first draft. 2. Edit Tilly to beta-reader status 3. outline the story that will be next WIP first draft.

  9. What advice would you like to share with your blog readers right now?
    If you haven't yet read this blog post by Hugh Howey, you should. Whether you're a writer or not. Because he's right, and there's more to this world than the producer/consumer dichotomy.

  10. What is the reaction you’re most hoping for from your readers? What reaction would put a giant grin on your face?
    For this blog post, or in general? In general I love it when someone finds something in my writing that is far, far more cool than anything I thought of when I was writing it. Because I'm lucky to have some very smart people reading my stories, this happens frequently.
Now for Cindy's questions!
  1. Who’s your hero?
    I don't know if I have one! Usually I admire people for very specific things. Let's say Albert Camus for today, then, because I admire him both for his writing and his work with the French Resistance.

  2. What gave the beginning of your writing experience?
    These are tough questions, Cindy! Okay, what I usually say to questions like this is when I learned how to write I started writing them down.

  3. How do you engage on a story? Do you outline or are you a more of a discovery writer?
    Shorter works I usually have entirely in my head before I write them down (not sure whether that's outlining or discovery). For longer works, I used to make it up as I went along, but I'm transitioning to doing some outlining (not super-detailed, but a framework).

  4. In what genre/s do you write and why?
    Mostly science fiction, but just strange tales in general. Partly because that's what I like to read, but partly because strange things happen all the time, but people don't like to take notice of them. It's like we've all agreed it's not polite.

  5. What’s that one line you’re really proud of?
    I thought that one line would be near the end of my first published short story, but it doesn't stand on its own at all. For the record, it's "I sat on the little strip of grass between Avery’s grave and the grave of the next person who had died, and I cried for all of us, the dead and the guilty." So instead I'm going to go with the near-end of "Cough", which is "And I cough. I cough out the machines of life, and it benefits no one." Both of those are kind of heavy. Hm.

  6. You get to bring to life one character for 24 hours. Which one is that and why?
    Oh, Mags. Because Mags and I, we need to talk.

  7. Do you regret reading a book? Which and why?
    I always regret reading "cod liver oil" books (ie: book I don't enjoy, but read because someone insists I need to). I'm not comfortable mentioning specific books, but a lot of literary fiction and romantic fiction has fallen into this category. Why? I don't do hand-wringing over domestic trivia well; I find it boring. Domestic trivia always needs some cryptozoology or ghosts to brighten it up.

  8. Pick a childhood favourite book. Which is it?
    My edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales, which were only lightly translated from the German and not Disneyfied at all, plus there were wonderfully scary engravings for each story. My mum threw out all my childhood books when I went to university (long story). I now own three different versions of Grimm's and none are that version. I mourn that book, and many of the others which were lost. I still look for them in used bookstores.

  9. How many books do you plan to read in 2014?
    As many as I can! I don't like to do numbers on books a lot — I didn't in school and I don't now.

  10. You have been given a one way ticket offering to any fictional destination. Which one would you choose?
    Diagon Alley, to open a yarn shop and write in after hours. Now where did I put that business plan...

      banking in the shadow of Disneyland

      I just spent ten days in Orlando, working as part of an implementation team that was launching some software for a bank. Sunday was our only day off, and whilst sitting by the pool, chatting with co-workers, I pointed my cell-phone camera up and took this photo:
      Since the other nine days of the trip were spent working 10-15 hours per day in windowless rooms lit by fluorescent tubing, it seemed a well-deserved break.

      Per company policy and my own ethical standards, I can't tell you about the people I worked with (although they were all, to the last one, excellent, wonderful, and lots of other positive adjectives), or any details about the implementation (except to say it went very well). But I can tell you what I was thinking about during the few hours when I was awake, not working, and not with co-workers. I was thinking about Baudrillard's assertion that Disneyland exists to obscure the fact that America is Disneyland.

      The hotel we stayed at is in the heart of the tourist area. Partly that's because tourist areas are where the hotels are, and partly that's because data processing centres for banks tend to be in less-expensive parts of town — which in Orlando's case means they are close to the major amusement parks. Every morning, just as the sunrise was making the eastern sky pale, I would pile into an SUV with my colleagues and watch the strip malls, countryside, and orange groves slide by, the same way you watch the singing animatronic models slide by when you're on the "It's a Small World" ride. We would leave the office after sunset, and pick a restaurant to eat at with a different theme from the previous night's venue, the same way people staying at the Disney resort do.

      The motels I stayed at as a kid in 1978 are all long gone, but the architecture of their outdoor, terraced room entrances is echoed in the newer hotels, which were all built around ten years later:

      The rooms were designed for families with children to stay in, or for university students who wanted to save money by bunking together. They are all suites, with a living room (the sofa folds out into a bed), kitchenette, full bath, and full-sized bedroom:
      This living room area always reminded me of the Florida scenes from Jim Jarmusch's Stranger than Paradise, even though its decor is the faux-luxe of the mid-80s rather than the leftover-from-the-60s portrayed in the film.

      And that's how everything outside where we were working felt: like a film set, like an amusement park. The Floridians I worked with had some wry comments about "tourist Florida" versus "living Florida", and I believe them.

      The exact border between the end of the parks and the start of the real, unsimulated Florida was impossible to pick out.

      how soon we forget

      Hey Canadians!

      Remember the National Do Not Call List registry?

      It was (is!) a web site where you could register your phone numbers — home phone, cell phone, the works — and make sure that companies didn't tie up your phone lines trying to sell you crap. There were some exceptions, which are very clearly explained on the web site, but overall it meant that those after-dinner sales pitches were off your phone and out of your face forever.

      In theory.

      I don't know about you, but of late it seems to me that I've been getting more of those stupid calls. Since I've been spending my winter vacation at home feeling ill, the resentment of dragging myself out of my sickbed just to find out someone who can't pronounce my last name wants to pitch a chimney flue cleaning service at me has been, uh, increasing. Just ask any of the poor saps who have called me lately.

      Then I remembered that the DNCL was only good for so many years, at which point you had to re-register your number.  Aha! Must be that time. So I went and did it, and the web elves who work for the government served me up this page:

      (In real life, my actual home phone number displayed, of course.)

      Okay, so if I, and everyone else who hit the registration web page as fast as they could, are good until 2013, then what's with the increase in phone solicitations?

      Two possible explanations.

      One: companies that you already deal with are allowed to call you up and pitch more stuff. So are politicians, newspapers, charities, and a bunch of other organisations. I have learned that if you say the magic words, "I do not accept phone solicitations. Please take me off your list," you can get these calls to diminish, but it takes many tries before it works.

      Two: just like many people predicted, companies that indulge in telemarketing just waited a few years until they figured things had settled down, and have quietly started calling people again.

      Consider this a public service announcement. If your number is a Canadian phone number and you are registered on the DNCL, you can complain about unsolicited calls via the web link I gave above. You have to know the number that called you, which is a pain for people like me who don't have caller ID, but it can be done.

      If you have a Canadian phone number and are not registered yet, you may still do so using the link at the top of this post.

      And if you get companies calling you, especially if they sound like some offshore outfit with a poor grasp of which country they're even calling, you can always use the magic words, "I do not accept phone solicitations. Please take me off your list." A professional marketer told me if you use that phrase, any self-respecting business will remove you from their list, because they know it's a waste of call time to try to contact you for a sale. If the person calling you doesn't understand what you mean (the caller I had this afternoon found the statement confusing), just say, "Add me to your kill list." That's telemarketing lingo for a list of numbers the auto-dialers will skip because, again, they know they won't get a sale by calling that number.

      It can be a hard slog, but it's worth it for the peace and quiet. Don't forget.

      vive la resistance!

      It took me a week to recover, but the last week of October had a lot going on, not the least of which was Samhain/Hallowe'en. The cool part was that all of it was inexpensive, accessible, and yet somehow exclusive.

      The Sunday before Hallowe'en I met up with the other members of a book club I belong to. Instead of having a book to read, we told each other about books we'd read that we really liked. I brought the books I wanted to talk about along, as did most of the people who attended, so we got to look at cover art and read back-cover blurbs as well as hear about the books — something that will come in handy when I go to look for the books other people mentioned that I want to read.

      We met in a café on the Danforth, so the entire cost of that outing was just the tea I bought. Not bad for an entire afternoon spent discussing my favourite subject!

      On Wednesday I went to the latest Hutch House Concert, hosted by the ever-cool Cathy & Darren. It was great checking out new (to me) music, and was a lot of fun. The sound quality was noticeably impressive — nice and clear even though we were sitting in an average-sized rec room with the dropped ceilings you always get in houses with forced-air heating. I think any concert I go to now where I don't get to sit on a couch with the musicians less than five metres away is going to be disappointing.

      The week wound up with the latest edition of West End Stories on Saturday night. The ever-amazing Joan and ever-inspiring Tara showed up, and a good time was had by all. We stuck with ghost stories/weird tales for the evening in honour of the season. I told the true story of an strict atheist who saw a ghost, and discovered there are only four degrees of separation between the wrestler The Iron Sheik and me (if only I could tell my grandparents — they loved to hate him).

      So, three fun events... which wound up costing me less than $25 to attend in total. Try doing that at the local shopping mall!

      dedication dithering

      I have a painting by bill bissett that hangs over my bed:

      It was bought directly from bill, in bill's apartment, and has a dedication from bill written on the back.

      The dedication is not to me. It's to my ex, who bought it when I wasn't present. When he left me, at the last dividing-up-our-stuff session, he glanced at the painting (then gracing the living room) and said, "You want that? You always liked it."

      I was astonished. "Sure, I'd love to have it."

      "Keep it." And that was that.

      What do dedications and autographs mean? I used to think they were souvenirs, reminders that the you got to meet the someone who had created the something you liked so much. To discard the signed something would be to discard the appreciation that led you to seek out the signing in the first place.

      I've learned it hasn't always been that way. I've seen someone use a dedication or autograph to steal a book from someone else ("Oh, when he signed it he put it to me, not you. I guess he misunderstood. I'll get you another copy"), to make the fake authentic, to commodify something as insignificant as a paper serviette.

      Above all, in the downloadable age, what does a signature mean anymore? And what's to sign if nothing is in a  version one can touch? I've heard stories of people getting their iPods signed, but I've never known anyone who's had this done, and it seems silly to get something signed when you'll be lucky if you can even get it to work in twenty years' time.

      So what's really of value? The signature or the signed?

      this blogging century

      Ironically, I had another post about numbers all lined up for today, but when I hit the Blogger dashboard to start writing, I noticed that this is post #100.

      It took two and a half years to get here. A lot of bloggers hit post #100 after a hundred days of blogging, but right from the start that was never going to be me, and I had planned it that way.

      The whole point of The Eyrea was that it was to be an anti-Facebook. No-one (especially not me) was going to get reminded that they hadn't talked to this or that person in a while. No-one would be compelled to log in every freaking day just to stay caught up... with what exactly? No-one will ever be tempted to play Farmville or whatever the hell the game of the week is. For a while I had a link to the non-Facebook version of Scrabulous, but I took it down and I'm not even sure it exists anymore.

      The one thing on Facebook I entered data into on a regular basis was my status update, so I signed up for Twitter. My Twitter feed hit 1,000 posts several days ago. I thought about having a little fanfare for it, but That's Not What Twitter's About.

      I guess I feel more compelled to point out the hundredth blog post because, with only a few exceptions, I actually try to find topics I can thrash out in writing. My DIY blog has at least one photo on most entries; this blog rarely has even that (although I agree more visuals would spruce the place up a bit).

      This is the part in a typical "milestone" article where the author muses about what they've learned. I'm not going to do that, because I always find that part narcissistic, and I already use the first-person pronoun too much around here. But if people want to comment on something that they've learned since March 2008, whether in the blogosphere or anywhere else, that would be very, very cool.

      Cheers. And thanks for reading.

      found

      Where: the Bar Italia upstairs ladies' washroom, the top left corner of the mirror over the sink.
      When: at the most recent Descant launch.
      What: Besides a sticker with the panel of a comic on it, beats me. A graphic novel version of The Fly, maybe?
      Who: Given that Bar Italia has espresso cups with comics on them, it might have been the restaurant's idea. Or not.
      Why: I don't normally take photos in washrooms (although that does sound like a coffee table book waiting to happen), but this caught my fancy. You don't see a lot of comic book art in ladies' washrooms, more's the pity.

      Kobo coda

      Last Saturday I gave my mum the Kobo I won at Book Summit 2010. It was an interesting study of both usability and the inaccuracy of stereotypes.

      My mum is pretty computer literate. She knows how to build web sites, use Photoshop, and create multimedia presentations. She's an MS-Excel power user, and is comfortable talking about hardware specs on laptops.

      So it gave me pause when I was the one who wound up installing the Kobo synch software on her machine.

      Explaining how to use the Kobo itself to her was easy, even with my toddler niece sitting on Mum's lap and trying to help push the buttons (the gadget-fascination continues to the next generation). My mum's only comment was, "That's all there is to it?" We decided to move to the next step of loading the synch software on her laptop.

      We went to the Kobo web site. We found a very aesthetically pleasing, clearly-written page that extolled the virtues of the software, but noted nothing about where to get the software from.

      "Where do you buy books for this thing, anyhow?" Mum said, so we took a break and bought a copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

      Buying the book from Chapters/Kobo was easy, but once it was bought we couldn't figure out how to download the ebook file.

      At this point we were both getting confused and worried. Sure, checking the Kobo's on-device manual probably would have helped, but, as my mum pointed out, you can't power on the Kobo while it is attached to a computer, and we didn't really want to undock it until we had no other options to check.

      My mum gave me the computer to fiddle with, and I checked the Kobo folders Windows could detect over the USB link. Sure enough, the required software was on the device all along. It wasn't in a very obviously labeled folder (I was hoping for something called INSTALL), but it was there.

      The installation app itself was a joy to behold. It started with a device operating system upgrade, then installed the synch software on the laptop. All along the way, the instructions were provided in wonderfully clear text plus easy-to-follow diagrams. Everything worked like a charm. Sure, I've been updating firmware on various devices almost as long as firmware has existed, but I have to say I appreciated this process like no other. The instructions make it easy for any newbie or casual computer user to follow the steps, yet at the same time treat the user with respect. If all technical writing was this good the world would be a far better place.

      Best of all, when the synch software itself finally launched, it immediately discovered that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had already been purchased and promptly added it to my mum's library of Kobo books. I clicked the "synch" button on the software, and the ebook was added to the Kobo device.

      My mum's been reading the book on the Kobo ever since, and she loves it (mostly the device, but also the novel). Her only concern so far is how to share the device with my stepfather. He reads mostly nonfiction, and she reads mostly fiction, so probably they won't want to read the same book at the same time, but arranging reading time on the device itself could prove to be difficult.

      I think I know what he's getting for Christmas already.

      Coda to the coda: For any readers who are bursting to say, "Why didn't you just follow the damn instructions? It says the software is on the device!", here are a couple of points to ponder.

      Yes, the Desktop page does state, right near the top, "The Kobo Desktop Application comes preloaded on every Kobo eReader." It doesn't say which folder it's in, though, and it doesn't have any technical how-to information (or a link to the same). That was the sort of text my mum and I were scanning for when we went to that page. People who are reading in a hurry for how to install something are going to skip right past that sentence, which is what we did. If you want to call us idiots and not typical users for doing that, that's cool — it won't be the first time and I'm sure it won't be the last.

      Again, once the user finds the software to install, the experience is absolutely superb.

      the World Wide Wrong number

      Wrong numbers used to be pretty straightforward. The caller would ask for someone who didn't live in your home, you'd explain using a standard polite phrase, and they would apologise and hang up. Easy. There were some loopholes, as immortalised in certain Hitchcock films, but they weren't common. If you lived in a small town, it wasn't unusual to know the person who had called you by accident anyhow.

      Cheap long distance started to change that. There's less reason to check a number carefully if the financial penalty for screwing up is reduced, but there's more reason to dial a number incorrectly if you can't look it up in a phone book. (This applied to the era before the WWW, of course.) So we all started getting wrong numbers from people who lived the next town or two over.

      The proliferation of non-phone devices changed things a bit more. If you've ever been forced to take your phone off the hook in the middle of the night, just because some aspiring fax spammer fat-fingered your home number into their overnight transmission list and set the retries to the maximum, you know what I mean.

      Then "phone plan options" appeared, and something new started to happen: the reverse wrong number. You'd call someone, realise you had the wrong number, apologise, and hang up. Unluckily for you, you'd just accidentally called someone with both an unlisted number and caller ID. They'd call you back, and the conversation would go something like this, at least if you deal with such situations the way I do.

      Me: Hello?
      Them: Why did you just call me?
      Me: Um, other way around — you just called me.

      (This is the part where they get whiny/panicky/irate.)

      Them: Nooooooo, you just called me! And I have an unlisted number!
      Me: Hm. I did just try to call a friend of mine, but I dialled a wrong number.
      Them: But my number's unlisted!
      Me: Doesn't mean people can't dial it by accident. After all, my number's unlisted and you called me.
      Them: But that's because I have call display.
      Me: Yeah, but now you've invaded my privacy by recording my unlisted number and calling it. I could report you for harrassment. What did you say your name was again?

      [Click]

      Just about when the paranoid people finally figured out what their optional services really did, all those new (no longer that new) area codes were added. Toronto finally had a succinct way to identify conservative suburbia — the "905" — and having a 416 number became a status symbol in some circles. Plus, calling a wrong number became a lot more easy and common than it used to be.

      I got some experience with just how easy and common it was when some guy named Kevin got a cell number the same as mine, but with a different area code. It was right at the beginning of a long weekend, and I got lots of late-night calls from drunken young men, giggly (and also drunken) young women, and irate older people who wanted to know who I was and why I was answering Kevin's phone. After two nights of interrupted sleep, I got a call from the Humber OPP asking for Kevin. The police were the only ones I called back — to confirm that they had the wrong number. I never found out who Kevin was, but I hope he learned how to party without getting on the radar of the provincial police.

      That brings this narrative up to the present day. Phone services on the interweb have proliferated. There are plenty of phone number searches, and now there are VoIP services like Skype. In the same way that you don't need a TV set anymore to watch TV, thanks to computers, you no longer need an actual phone number to make a phone call. As my mother now puts it when I call her long-distance over Skype, "the call display said 'unknown caller' so I figured it must be you."

      And it's that flexibility, that global reach available to anyone who has access to an internet café and a cheap long-distance card, that is making wrong numbers get really, really weird.

      In the past year I had a call from people who said they were in Constantinople and who claimed to be friends with my nephew. I don't have a nephew and they did have a wrong number, but it was a long, convoluted discussion before I felt I could hang up politely. (I don't like to just hang up. People hit redial, and now they're annoyed at you for being rude.)

      I've also had a call from someone who thought I was their long-lost half-sister (this one wasn't so much a wrong number as a wrong relation), and a lot of calls from people who get very confused when someone with a Canuck accent answers the phone. This last group is almost always very polite and apologetic — I hope they reach their intended party.

      One last note: drunk dialing has been around as long as there have been phones. My maternal grandparents were painfully aware of it — their phone number was one digit off from the local taxi company, so they got plenty of calls at closing time with people saying things like, "Yeah, pick me up at the Rose & Crown[click]". It's just that now there are more phones around (and, arguably, more recreational chemicals), so drunk dialing is reaching new heights/depths just like all the other wrong number dialing we do.

      My new Nokia N900 still doesn't have a SIM card in it (my old phone still works, so I'm being lazy about dealing with that), so it can't receive or send phone calls except via Wifi and some VoIP service like Skype.

      Last Saturday night found me watching one of those lovely, chick-flick Jane Eyre film adaptations. It was right about the part where the hero and heroine finally have their one kiss of the entire movie when all of a sudden my phone started ringing and buzzing.... as if I was getting a call or something.

      So I picked it up and checked (I figured I'd accidentally set an alarm for the wrong time)... and it was a Skype call. From France. Since I don't know anyone in France who would call me at midnight Toronto time, I just hung up. But this caller was redialling so fast it was as if I had never touched the End Call button. Finally I just turned off the Wifi.

      I got two chat messages from my French caller. One was in the French version of texting shorthand, and I have no idea what it said because I don't know the standard abbreviations for French text messages. The other was in regular, if ungrammatical, French, and I could read that. It said "repend moi" (answer me).

      Pro tip: if you're going to drunk dial, be polite. You never know when you're going to call a semi-bilingual former teacher in Canada by mistake.

      If you have any favourite wrong number stories, please add them to the comments!

      Thanks for Chicago

      Yeah, I haven't blogged much lately. That's because nothing much bloggable has come up as a topic, and I would rather post nothing than post blather. So, enough about that.

      Last week I finally got to come up for air and go on vacation. I went to Chicago because:
      • I had never been there, but knew lots of people who had either lived there or visited for extended periods of time, and they all said I should go.
      • Due to the above reason, I had set part of my first novel in Chicago during the 1950s-early 1960s, and thought it might *cough* be a good idea for me to research what the place was like then, and book learning wasn't going to get me all the way there.
      • Quite frankly, it was a cheap quick flight & hotel combo and I just needed to be somewhere completely new to me so I could get out of my head and reflect a bit.
      As it turned out, I got lucky on all three points. The friends and co-workers who had told me I should go were all right, and all for totally different reasons. I learned enough about the history and the architecture that I think I can make it through that part of my novel without including any major howlers*. And yeah, I got out of my head — and noticed things that would fit with the novel that I never knew about before. Of the two novels I have written in draft mode so far, this one has been weird to write because every time I think it's not working out, I find these absolutely stunning coincidences out in the real world that have to do with things I made up for the story. Even though I'm dreading doing the second draft on this story (as opposed to my second novel, which seems to have worked out much better), fate seems to be telling me to finish the damn thing, even if I don't like it very much.

      As for Chicago itself: I'm glad I stuck to near the lake. I get nervous if I'm too far away from a major body of water for too long. And as touristy as it is, I'm glad I went to the Sears Tower the morning of my first day there. It was a good orientation and the audio tour that went with my ticket helped a lot with street navigation during the rest of the trip.

      My acid test of any city is that it should make you happy just to walk down a random street and see what there is to see along it, whether you've known them all your life or are seeing them for the first time. Chicago passed that, easily.

      Here's the photos I took, for what they're worth (the photo of the sculpture is a link):


      *The truth is, the vast majority of the story set in Chicago happens inside a house. The vast majority of the parts that don't occur inside a restaurant. So really I didn't have to research this a lot. But now that I have, I have lots of other information to draw from.

      The future was in the past

      Looks like I'm finally getting over being ill from some things infecting the inside of my head, other things causing emergency room visits, and other things yet requiring more images of my guts... don't worry, that's as much as I'm going to whine about it — at least until the next ultrasound three to five weeks from now. It's just annoying because my health has actually been improving for almost ten years now. It's really messed up the nice writing schedule I had all set up for myself, which means as soon as I'm done this post I'm going to re-calculate the spreadsheet and see how much I have to push out my personal deadline (doing a better job of adding in slack this time) to make this reasonable. I still need to leave time to get the Interim Project done before the next NaNoWriMo, which thankfully I have not one but two (two!) sketched-out ideas for.


      Other news:
      Odd sights are all around these days — check out this angel doll I found on the sidewalk when I was walking home from the movie theatre this afternoon. It was just lying there on the sidewalk, just as I photographed it, and had been around long enough to get a bit dirty (although not rained on, from the looks of it, and we just had a rain yesterday morning). Judging from the plastic base (not in the photo), it looks like it was part of some shop's window display. You think they could have at least given it a proper send-off in a garbage bag.

      Last thing: Blogger now lets you post-date blogs. I wrote a quick one to try out the feature for later this week. Finally, a way for those of us who like to blog regularly but also want to get other things done to get more organised.