jazzfish: artist painting a bird, looking at an egg for reference (Clairvoyance)
A thing I forgot to mention: when my grandmother died, my dad wound up with a beat-up violin that ... o, I don't recall all the history, I believe it's been in the family for at least a century. They got it refurbished and now it sits waiting for a budding Taylor-family violinist.

That's not me, but I did take it down and try it out while I was there. It's surprisingly playable with a couple years of viola under my belt. Mostly my fingers just feel even more gigantic and squished looking for the right notes. I can't imagine trying to play higher than about third position. I did a few scales, played through a few phrases of 'Canon in D' (NOT the cello part)

... although holy cow this "Antidote for the Pachelbel rant". James Ernest says there are two kinds of juggling tricks: those that look harder than they are, and those that are harder than they look. This is a cello trick that is harder than it looks. THE GUY IS HIS OWN CELLO TRIO.

... anyway, 'Canon in D' and a couple of easy Suzuki pieces. Nice to have a skillset. I don't know that I believe Tegen when she says violin is inherently easier than viola, but I don't know that I don't believe her either. Regardless, I certainly prefer the richer viola sound.

Also, tuning a violin with normal wooden pegs and fine-tuners ... difficult at best. The pegs are stiff and far too blunt an instrument, and the fine-tuners are in an awkward place. I have been seriously spoiled by the mechanical pegs on my viola.

On Friday afternoon at the VP reunion, I read, out loud, something I've written, to a bunch of writers.

I was pretty confident that it was decent. It's a good read-aloud bit: conversational, two people sniping at each other like you do while still getting the job done, amusing, not a lot of necessary context, and short. I'd read a fragment of it, unrevised, at Rainforest last year, and people enjoyed it. And reading aloud ... is something I can do well. It's just voice, and voice is just words in performance, and that's what I do.

I mean, I was pretty confident right up until the person before me stepped up to the podium, at which point my brain went into a minor panic. I am sure whoever was reading and did a fine job with whatever it was they read. I think I even applauded.

And then I was up. "Um. Hi. I'm Tucker, from VP 15." Brain locks up. "... My cats think I'm hilarious." Scattered laughter. "And ... this is from Blood on Her Hands And a Stone at Her Throat." And I was off.

And ... people chuckled in the right places, and 'A light-fingered dame in a red red coat...' got at least one gratifying "Hmm!" of recognition. And then it was over, and under the applause I heard Steve Brust say "That was /excellent/!"

So, you know. That went well.

Of particular note among the many noteworthy things read: Suzanne Palmer's "The Cover Letter", which was almost as much fun to watch TNH's increasingly horrified reaction to as it was to hear.

After the reading (after both Steve and student Karen A-- specifically snagged me down to say "that was pretty great") I went back to my room for a bit and collapsed, and then back out to dinner. And ... what I remember from the actual Viable Paradise experience, other than being totally overwhelmed, is usually the sense of having found my people. Thing is, most of that didn't come until afterwards. When I was actually at the workshop I was tired and battered and usually lonely. The first day or two of the reunion felt like that as well, both familiar and depressing.

But somewhere between the reading and dinner something sort of clicked over and I felt like I belonged. Dinner was wonderful, and musicking afterwards a delight. As an added bonus, someone played a couple of Dar Williams songs, "Iowa" and "You're Aging Well," and I got to make some progress towards reclaiming Dar from the emotional wreckage of the 2000s.

The next morning I said what goodbyes I could, rode the ferry out with a few other folks, and thence home. And it was good.

As an added bonus, I read over the scattered fragments of Blood on Her Hands, and surprised myself with how much I like it. Hard to say definitively that there's a good story in it in this state (though I think there is) but the individual scenes are just fun to read.

And I had what may be the insight I needed to break open the recalcitrant soggy ending, that being: if you're going to model your protagonist after John Constantine, model your protagonist after John Constantine. Laine Hollister is a bastard and she had damn well better start acting like it.

on island

Oct. 14th, 2016 09:21 am
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
For various reasons the jury is still out on whether the VP reunion was a good idea. It's been fun, and I've met a few new people. There have been phosphorescent jellyfish, and crabcakes and creme brulee, and talks on subjects both writerly and just plain cool. I got to describe the general shape of Drowned City to someone who was super excited to hear about it, which is always rewarding. I've been sleeping less well than I'd like; that always adds to the stress and the difficulty in being human around other humans.

Spent last evening sitting with a small handful of people and instruments, singing quietly out of tune. (I may have been less quietly out of tune for "Mercedes Benz" but you can't sing Janis Joplin quietly. You just can't.) I'd been hand-drumming on my leg because I needed to do *something*, and then Vicka passed me a small drum, and then Bear handed me a mallet, and so I spent the rest of the evening trying not to step on Steve's drumming with my own tiny rhythms. And it was good, and I mostly nearly felt like I belonged there.

A couple of weeks ago I started breaking through on the ending of Blood On Her Hands. Dug it up last night, and remembered that it's actually a lot of fun, so perhaps I'll take a more amusing bit of that to the open mic this afternoon. And maybe actually finish a draft of it sometime this year.

Reunion's not VP, but what is? I think it's helped. Just being around a bunch of other writers talking shop is good for me. And I've replaced my VP hat pin that went missing with my first hat some years ago.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Last month we put Chaos the old white cat on a small dose of gabapentin. In people this is an anti-anxiety med. I'm told it doesn't actually numb the pain in his back legs, but it makes him care less about it. He's definitely up and moving a lot more and may be getting some muscle mass in his hips again, which would be good. He's also feeling enough better to insist on LAP TIME anytime anyone is home, and to occasionally take out his frustrations on Kai the little brown cat. (Kai is also old but not really showing it, except for how her "dilute-tortie" coat grows more dilute each year.)

I went down to Portland last weekend with Steph and Kat A--, to see / meet a handful of west-coast VP folk. It was good to just hang out with some pretty decent new people for awhile, and talk shop or books or cats or whatever.

We stopped at Powell's on the way back, which was of course amazing. I somehow got out with only $50 in books. That could easily have quadrupled or more if I'd had the chance to see more than two-ish of their five floors. Definitely going back at some point.

And the sun had come out, and Kat's car is a zippy BMW convertible, so we put the top down for the trip home and I sunburnt my scalp. Worth it, though. I'm beginning to come 'round on road-trips, at least ones with good company and frequent short stops.

House-hunting eats up a stupid amount of time and brainpower. There are just enough maybes on the market that I keep checking online to see if anything new has come up, and going out to look at the possibles, and being mildly (at best) disappointed. All this takes time and makes it hard to schedule things for evenings and weekends. Bleh.

Two open houses tonight. Perhaps one of them will work out. If nothing else November and December are likely to be dead times, and then it'll kick back into gear come spring.

#vpxv + v

Aug. 30th, 2016 02:48 pm
jazzfish: artist painting a bird, looking at an egg for reference (Clairvoyance)
The Viable Paradise twenty-year reunion occurs this October. It appears that there are still spots and hotel rooms available, at least for another twenty-four hours.

I suppose I ought to decide if I'm going.

  • A chance to see people that I've not seen in years, and miss.
  • I'm planning on going back east this fall anyway.
  • Autumnal Massachusetts.
  • I felt like me when I was at VP.
  • It costs money. This is more in the nature of an excuse than an actual con.
  • It takes time away from a potential Blacksburg trip. Meh. B'burg will still be there next year.
  • I might need my vacation time to pack/move. Ha. I mean, maybe, but planning around the Vancouver real estate market suddenly becoming a little more rational strikes me as a fool's game.
  • "So, what have you done writing-wise in the last five years?" "Well, for three years I was finishing up burning myself out, and then I spent a year mostly-recovering from that. And now I'm not sure but I might be burning out again. So, not much."
  • "Oh, and I haven't been able to expand/fix that story you said you liked, either. I did finish a couple of other stories, but I seem to have run out of markets for them to get rejected from."
Bah. The cons are all along the lines of being afraid of not being a Real Writer. Which is a real fear but probably not worth skipping the reunion.

Besides, maybe the impending need to have something to show off will push me to get somewhere with this %&$ novel.
jazzfish: a black-haired man with a big sword. blood stains the snow behind (Eddard Stark)
What a year. I mean, I got married, and that was about the least interesting of the three Interesting Things I did.

interesting... )
jazzfish: an open bottle of ether, and George conked out (Ether George)
Bleh, insomnia during a head cold. I'm just barely too muzzy-headed to do anything useful, and it's not like I'm getting any sleep. May as well finish and post this.

So, in addition to an awful lot of fine writing advice, some excellent company, and insightful if sometimes contradictory critiques of my submission story, I got one more thing out of Viable Paradise: I wrote a story under a strict deadline.

The story I wrote was, word for word, the hardest thing I've ever written. "Catastrophic global warming," they say, "rigorous extrapolation of hard science," they say, "hopeful and non-post-apocalyptic," they say; "bah," sez I. Thankfully I had a bunch of other people around who were in similar boats, and we could all sit around and type madly and grumble at each other.

(It turns out writing's easier in good company. I don't know if it's the shared task, or just the sense that other people are writing and therefore my brain says it's Okay for me to be writing, and in fact I'd better be writing so I can Fit In. O, brain.)

Most of what I learned from the experience can be summed up in a conversation I had around lunchtime on Thursday:

[personal profile] aamcnamara: How's your story coming?
Me: ... do me a favor? Tell me it doesn't suck?
[personal profile] aamcnamara (who has read none of this story): It doesn't suck.

And, you know, that helped, more than I'd expected it to. I knew it had problems. The plot wasn't a plot so much as "some stuff happens to the characters in the middle of a conversation," the theme was thin, etc etc. But it also had things I do well. Dialogue. The rhythm and flow of the prose. Bits of characterization, hints of worldbuilding. It doesn't suck, not entirely, not even when I'm struggling and flailing. I can do this.

That, I'm pretty sure, is the most important thing I brought out of that week.
jazzfish: artist painting a bird, looking at an egg for reference (Clairvoyance)
The six-word four-punctuation-mark Viable Paradise report: ...so, that happened. And was awesome.

More when I've gotten more sleep. Or maybe this afternoon waiting at the Martha's Vineyard airport.

("Sittin' here in limbo, waitin' for my plane to fly / I been sittin' here in limbo, knowin' that the winds are high / Cold front's puttin' up resistance / but I know that my pilot's gonna try")
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
I've packed writing implements both electronic and manual, and I've acquired Official Canadian Bribery for my post-VP host, and the house is clean-ish for [personal profile] uilos's return on Monday. I think I'm ready to go. Anything I've forgotten will doubtless occur to me once I'm out the door.

Not that I've been all that great about keeping in touch with anyone recently, but it's going to be worse for the next week and a half.


Oct. 7th, 2011 10:27 am
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Sent out the last of the post-office saving letters earlier this week. So if you've not gotten one by, say, this time next week, and you ought to have, let me know.

At Crooked Timber, commenter Lemuel Pitkin on Steve Jobs:
Worth noting that in all the tributes to Steve Jobs, nobody is saying "He was a rational agent who maximized the present value of his lifetime consumption, and would have wrecked his company in a second if he thought that would net him a dollar more. We will continue running Apple to generate the maximum profits for shareholders, whether that means putting out great products, putting out crappy products, or liquidating the whole thing." Instead, they all talk—sincerely I'm sure—about his commitment and dedication to his work, and say things like "his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple." It’s a nice illustration of how capitalism’s biggest success stories are really arguments against capitalism.
(see also ajay @32)

In related news, I preordered the Device Mark 2 this morning. (Delivery estimate: 1-2 weeks. Which is okay; if it got here on the release date I wouldn't be around to play with it anyway.) The Device has served me well for nearly three years, but between the inexorable march of technology and the flaky headphone jack (and AT&T's obscene refusal to allow me to use a device that I purchased with any other carrier), it's time for it to take a well-deserved retirement.

Restless lately. Fall out here is made of Wet, which doesn't make for much in the way of scuffly leaves, and it's harder to get excited about going out in the damp. Too, I'm half eagerly awaiting VP/Boston and half thinking "wait, how can it be october already, i'm not nearly prepared for this." Impostor syndrome is kicking in like nobody's business.

But the mist is nestling in among the tops of the trees in Stanley Park, and I seem to have gotten enough sleep last night, and Portal 2 was on sale earlier this week. And, you know, tomorrow I get on a plane to spend a week with a bunch of awesome people, and then a couple of days with different but still awesome people. Life is decent.
jazzfish: A cartoon guy with his hands in the air saying "Woot." (Woot.)
written last night, but not posted 'til today by staff request )

So, um, yeah. That happened.

(And now I'm having vague notions of stopping off in Boston for a day or two before or after October 9-15, because, hey, people.)

aw, crap.

Apr. 28th, 2011 10:07 pm
jazzfish: artist painting a bird, looking at an egg for reference (Clairvoyance)
I haven't been writing much. Life stress plus stuck on story plus moving stress equals about halfway (the easy half) through with the revision process.

But now it turns out there's a late-game replacement instructor at Viable Paradise.

Dammit. Now I /have/ to finish that %&$ story and get my application in. I may not make the cut but if I don't at least try this year I'll never be able to look myself in the eye again. Which would make shaving difficult.


Mar. 22nd, 2011 02:18 pm
jazzfish: artist painting a bird, looking at an egg for reference (Clairvoyance)
"For a long time, I considered myself ADD and dreamed of a pill that could make it alright. But the longer I write, the more I think my problems have less to do with ADD, and more to do with my desire to avoid pain.

It's painful to write. It's painful to take a clear look at your finances, at your health, at your relationships. At least it's painful when you have no confidence that you can actually improve in those areas. I would not speak for anyone else, but most of my distractions (and I said this at SXSW) are traceable to a deep-seated fear that I may not ultimately prevail.
I was diagnosed ADD in elementary school, and put on Ritalin for a few years. At this point I'm willing to believe that it wasn't that I couldn't concentrate, it's that I didn't want to. There wasn't any point to it. The reward for doing the work was either more work, or getting to go play-- and it was easy enough to just go play without doing the work, especially once "playing" and "reading" became interchangeable.

(None of this is intended as a slight to anyone else who may have been diagnosed ADD. It's a Real Problem for a lot of people. I'm only looking at whether it was the problem in my specific case.)

These days? There's something going on there, something that makes focusing incredibly difficult without an external deadline, and trivial when the deadline's imminent.

(Self-imposed deadlines have less force. I hate that.)

And I'm tired of how much effort it takes to start writing. I'm tired of sitting down intending to get the next scene done, and having this bit in my brain that doesn't even bother talking to the rest of me about what's going on and instead just holes up with a mindless computer game for an hour or two.

I don't know myself well enough to say whether I'm afraid of writing. It's got an awful lot of baggage associated with it; maybe I'm afraid that may parents were right (and if they were right on that then what else might they have been right on? TERROR).

I don't know what to do about any of this, other than to name it.

No deadline this time, just a reward: when I finish the (current draft of the) space story, and ship it off to VP, I can write a (fun! or at least exciting) letter that I've been contemplating for the last couple of days.

That ought to be enough incentive. I hope.
jazzfish: artist painting a bird, looking at an egg for reference (Clairvoyance)
I can't just file off the rough edges and send it in with the current structure. I can't. I've been trying for weeks and all I can see is how it's wrong, wrong, wrong.

So instead I'm trying to rewrite the damned thing. Which is emphatically not how I wanted to spend my writing time for the next couple of weeks.

I have a pretty good idea of how to restructure it, anyway. It's only got three bits that will be difficult to pare down to a single viewpoint. One can probably be dispensed with altogether, and I've figured out how to make a second work. It's the third, the visceral "oh my god" moment, that's going to be difficult.

Oh well. If it was easy everyone would be doing it.

Goal: in the mail to Viable Paradise by 3/18.

Reward: ... I get to go down to Richmond and explain to [personal profile] uilos's parents that we're moving across three thousand miles and an international border? Yeah. I'll come up with something.
jazzfish: Windows error message "Error 255: Too many errors." (Too many errors)
Time was, I had one computer. If I wanted to do anything online, I'd power up the desktop. (I didn't leave it running all the time because it has a half-dozen fans in it, and it lived in my bedroom, and that was more noise than I really wanted when I'm sleeping.)

Now, for a variety of reasons, I do practically all my at-home computing with the laptop on the couch, or sometimes on the other couch. This means I'm not getting any use out of my clicky keyboard or awesome trackball, and am thus consistently frustrated in small ways by the keyboard layout. On the other hand, it's kind of nice to do simple stuff in the evening sacked out on a couch.

Some of the simple stuff can be done on the Device: email, FB, blowing up skeletons. Even LJ /can/ be done there, as can chat; it's just slow and awkward. Chat especially. (There's a scene in Y: The Last Man where the ninja assassin says "You understand Japanese! Thank god! I sound like a moron when I speak English." That's about how I feel after trying to type on the Device.)

Ideally, when I move I'll get a better desk chair and start using my desktop again. (This may require a new desktop system, since the current one is, um, elderly. I think its last upgrade was in 2004. I know for a fact it's still running Windows 2000.) For lazy evening couch-based surfing, I'll acquire an iPad, since in theory the bigger screen and the 'multitasking' OS update this fall will fix most of my complaints with the Device. And it can be decent for typing on, too, if I use the Neo and the camera kit.

I've been saying "i'll wait until the second model" for months now. And I keep weakening.

Today's the seventeenth of June. I've got exactly thirteen days before the end of the month, and the deadline for Viable Paradise. I'd meant to apply this year; heck, I'd meant to have "Junkyard Dog" and one more thing complete by 1 January, but Life and the sluggish pace of my writing at the best of times intervened. So, a blatant attempt at manipulative motivation: if I can finish either of the things I'm halfheartedly working on by then, and get them in email with a coverletter, I get an iPad. (16GB, because that's all the space I need; wi-fi only, because I don't want to muck with having to switch carriers and such after I move.)

We shall see.


jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Tucker McKinnon


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Adventures in Mamboland

"Jazz Fish, a saxophone playing wanderer, finds himself in Mamboland at a critical phase in his life." --Howie Green, on his book Jazz Fish Zen

Yeah. That sounds about right.

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