Second Draft

Hurray for Peter!

Posted in Uncategorized by Jill Snider Lum on Sunday, September 5, 2010

This morning, one of our Cecil Street colleagues who’s attending Worldcon in Australia let us know that Peter Watts has won this year’s Hugo Award for best novelette!

Congratulations, Peter, on this well-deserved honour.  And it’s wonderful to see that the second half of your year is such a huge improvement over the first half!



Posted in Uncategorized by Jill Snider Lum on Tuesday, June 1, 2010

So, what do you think? Is it better to follow every single advance in technology, thereby potentially sacrificing privacy, identity, and right? Or is it best to be a kind of luddite, or neo-luddite, suspiciously avoiding much of the technological advance, especially as it applies to social and networking media, and thereby miss out on whatever advancements such developments confer upon humankind?

Or is there really the need to make the choice?

Just wondering…

Let’s Hear it for Technology

Posted in Writing by Michael Skeet on Sunday, May 30, 2010

The weather in Toronto today was/is gorgeous: sunny, hot, and not so humid that I can’t stand it. So Jill & I have been indulging ourselves by writing face-to-face (normally we telecommute, as it were) under the Dread Gazebo in hers and Do-Ming’s back yard.

I don’t know that this face-to-face thing makes a huge difference to our writing technique (which I fully realize I have yet to describe properly, as I have been threatening to do), because we haven’t said a whole lot, and most of what we have said we’ve said using IM, just as if we’d been telecommuting. But this al fresco writing thing does seem to have affected our productivity: nearly two thousand words between us this afternoon. Trust me: for us that’s a good day.

I have been working on my travel notebook, a tiny perfect Sony Vaio X. This is the perfect tech for backyard writing, in fact: as a word processor it has a battery life of over ten hours, and a screen resolution that allows me to look at about thirty lines of text on a browser. As far as I’m concerned, this beats hell out of using pen and notepad, the way I used to write.

A Better Sort of Gulag

Posted in Drink by Michael Skeet on Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lorna and I threw a small Prison Break party for Peter Watts a few weeks ago, to celebrate the better-than-odious (’cause you can’t can’t really call what happened to him good even though he doesn’t have to do time) resolution to his encounter with the U.S. punishment system (’cause you can’t really call it justice, can you?). We even provided a cake with a file hidden in it (said file courtesy of Jill).

I generated a series of celebratory cocktails, and somebody came up with the brilliant idea of giving them prison- or prisoner-themed names. (There was a Number 6, for example.) Peter’s favourite of the various drinks was the Gulag, and so I’ve decided to publish the recipe here. It’s a very easy drink to make, but one of the ingredients isn’t exactly easy to obtain.


1.5 ounces vanilla vodka

0.75 ounces ice cider

Combine in a shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Serve in a cocktail glass, garnished with a cherry. (Alternately, serve over ice in an old fashioned glass.)

The ice cider we use comes from Quebec; occasionally we find it at the LCBO. I have no idea how available ice cider is outside of Canada. Note that regular hard cider is not an acceptable substitute.

Shout It Out? Unlikely

Posted in Research,WorldBuilding by Michael Skeet on Thursday, May 13, 2010

Spent rather too much time, recently, on my back as a result of the influenza. One of the things I did to entertain myself, while my head throbbed and the world spun, was to watch a borrowed copy of the “Shogun” miniseries from three decades ago. It was the first time I’d seen “Shogun” since its initial airing, and I discovered that a lot of what I thought I remembered about it was, well, wrong.

But I’m not writing to complain about my memory. What was I writing about? Oh, yeah. There was one thing that suddenly made me say “Hmmmm…” as I watched. And it wasn’t the historical inaccuracy (First use of firearms in battle in Japan in 1600? Really?) No, it was one of those things that likely wouldn’t have occurred to me at all if my brain had been working properly. I was watching the big set-piece, leading up to the drippy heroine getting herself blowed up real good, and shortly after the villainous samurai had stabbed his third or fourth minion in the back, I found myself wondering…

How did they clean up all the blood?

Srsly, people. Killing was supposedly anathema to Buddhists (Jill says samurai just automatically expected to go to hell) and blood and death were serious defilement to Shintoists. So when there was some sort of treachery, and blood was spilled (despite what most TV and movies would have you believe, sword wounds could bring out tremendous amounts of blood in a short time; watch the remarkable ending of Sanjuro to get an idea), how did it get cleaned up, and did everybody have to leave the house/mansion/castle until it could be purified again?

I’m pretty sure that the answer to the second question is Yes, though I’ve never seen reference to it. Even in Throne of Blood, where there’s specific reference to a bloodstain that still disfigures a room, there’s no description of the cleaning process.

As for the first question, the logical persons to do the cleaning were Burakumin. But what self-respecting samurai would have those people in his house?

As I said, it’s perplexing. Feel free to offer suggestions in the comments. (In the meantime, I’m feeling much better now, I apologize for my prolonged absence, and I’m looking forward to getting back to writing again.)

Not Dead…

Posted in Uncategorized by Jill Snider Lum on Tuesday, May 4, 2010

…just busy and, in my case at least, inarticulate. Sometimes the necessity of running errands and performing work-related tasks makes it difficult to think of what to blog about. But I promise we’ll get back to it shortly.

I suppose it’s relevant to the blog if I mention that I got hold of my neighbourhood’s last available copy of “Throne of Blood” today. At a discount, even. And on the front of the DVD case is a screen-shot of Toshiro Mifune, looking terrified out of his mind as he realizes that the arrows being shot at him during his prolonged death-scene aren’t props, but actual arrows with actual sharp metal tips that could actually kill him dead. Kurosawa decided to do that so Mifune would appear genuinely afraid. Apparently it worked.

See you soon!


Posted in Uncategorized by Jill Snider Lum on Monday, April 26, 2010

We just got word that Peter Watts will not have to go to prison. Cause for celebration, indeed!

Need your good vibes right now…

Posted in Uncategorized by Jill Snider Lum on Sunday, April 25, 2010

Tomorrow, Monday 26 April, our friend and workshop-mate Peter Watts heads to Port Huron for sentencing.  As you may know, he was lately found guilty of the crime of asking a US border guard a question.  Dave Nickle, our likewise friend and Cecil Street colleague, has the details here.

Peter will either be back tomorrow night, or in jail for four to six months.  We are hoping against hope for the former.  Please send the judge, and the whole Michigan judicial system, all the reasonable, constructive, rational vibes you can.  Peter just does not deserve to go to jail for this.  Nobody does.

Group chants are welcome.

Frankenbook Lives!

Posted in Uncategorized by Jill Snider Lum on Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It’s been a crowded few days — as you may have noticed by our lack of posts — but I did want to take a moment or two, just now, to announce that my oft-revised, several-times-reworked, frequently-cut-up-and-restitched-together-from-spare-parts novel, the Frankenbook, is finally finished.

Not sure I can call it a first draft, though it’s certainly a first draft of the book in its present form.  And I really don’t want to change that basic form, since I think it’s finally a respectable monster — I mean, novel.  In a little while I’ll submit it to the Cecil Street group, so they can help me see where it might need to have some scar tissue excised, or maybe a third ear removed.  And then we’ll see.

I need a title, mind you.  It’s had so many titles that I can hardly remember them all, and none of them have been much good.  At the moment its title is “Needs New Title”.  Maybe I’ll just leave it at that… <deranged giggle>

Meanwhile, the sequel is already 15,000 words long.  Son of Frankenbook…

How We Do It: An Interpolation (and cautionary tale)

Posted in Writing by Michael Skeet on Thursday, April 15, 2010

Some of you, constant readers that you are, will have noticed my recent silence. There’s a story behind that…

Jill and I are writing Demon Gate using Google Docs. There are advantages to this (and disadvantages, of course), and they will be the subject of a future How We Do It post (I promise). I can, however, speak very clearly to one perceived advantage of using Google Docs.

I have, until recently, been spending a lot of my free time working on the final revisions to a project that predates Demon Gate. My agent has, in fact, been waiting for the last draft of this novel since late December of last year; various interruptions caused by my day job have prevented me from spending as much time on these revisions as I wanted.

As of mid-March, however, I was finally able to make the time to do the work, and was making very good progress.

Now, I’m somewhat nervous about backups, so I have a tendency to do so somewhat excessively. I’m not precisely scientific about it, though: what I do is work on a file that lives on my USB drive, and every few days I copy that file onto the hard drive of my of my computers. Yes, I use several computers (four, at last count); doesn’t everybody?

Anyway, at the end of last year my business bought a couple of new machines, and these new machines run Windows 7 and Office 2007. I am still learning some of the ins and outs of the way my normal practices work on this new software. And so it came to pass that, on 17 March, I went to back up my novel…

…And accidentally copied the destination file onto the source file. In other words, I replaced the current version of the novel with a version that (thanks to my rotation of backups) was over two weeks old.

I wiped out some 200 pages of revisions.

It’s easy for me to write about this now, a month later, because in the interval I have restored (more or less) the lost revisions, and finished the final draft of the novel. And I’ve become a lot more careful about the way I back up my files.

The point of this post, though, is that with Google Docs the whole back-up issue sort of goes away. Or at least it mutates into a different sort of issue (who ultimately has possession of your work?), but that’s an issue for a later message.

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