Last Day of May, 2015

Sitting in the Lyon Street Cafe with a journal book, a notebook, a Chromebook, Esperanza Street, and Rudy Rucker‘s recently released Journals 1990-2014. The work book, apparently, covers a lot of ground.

June approaches, and with it a titanic pile of work. In the day job the current project will hit the “WE HAVE ONE MONTH LEFT” milestone tomorrow. In Master Lee’s class we have one week until the Festival of the Arts performance. Rick and I are fitting in private practice sessions whenever we can, to offset the time we spend teaching in class.

But the biggest news involves Caffeinated Press, and it comes in two parts. First, today is the last day for submission to Brewed Awakenings II, the house anthology of short stories. Tomorrow we start looking at all of the submissions and figuring out which ones will make it into the anthology. I don’t know the exact submission count, but I do know it is probably closer to 100 than it is to 50.

The second is The 3288 Review. Submissions are rolling in. At the same time we are working on the website (going live very soon!) and meeting frequently to hash out the final details of design, distribution, etc.

Oh yeah: June is when we set up our new office space on Kalamazoo Ave, just south of 28th Street.

In the spare moments left after all of this, I still have a house to maintain and numerous repairs and upgrades.

And at some point I will need sleep and/or food.

Mid-March Update

It’s been a rough winter for fans (and family) of genre fiction. We lost Leonard Nimoy and Terry Pratchett within fourteen days of each other. I find it entirely logical to say “bugrit”.

Tomorrow I leave for several days of corporate training in Chicago. Can’t say I’m looking forward to it, though I am feeling some cabin fever. Near as I can tell my hotel is on the river the Chicagoans dye green for St Patrick’s Day, so that should be interesting. And this happens during the first week of a new project so I will probably work some late nights after the full days of learning the grammar of the formal language that is corporate-speak.

(and at this point I lost half an hour, engrossed in the Wikipedia articles on Formal Language, Formal Semantics, and Cognitive Semantics)

Three weeks until the Caffeinated Press event at Schuler Books and Music here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Brewed Awakenings sales are better than expected; we may even turn a profit! It was a lot of hard work getting where we are, and I suspect that the “success hangover” is surprise at how well everything went. I wouldn’t say we were over-prepared for setbacks, but there is a specific and subtle paranoia in waiting for a shoe to drop. Also, I am now officially the Chief Operations Officer of Caffeinated Press, which means I’m the one who takes the Official Notes in the meetings.

I’ve managed to set aside some time for reading for pleasure. This is not to suggest that reading query submissions isn’t pleasurable – we have a lot of words from a lot of talented people – but, well, a good book is a good book. The Hermit’s Story, by Rick Bass, for instance. I just finished the second story in the collection, “Swans”, which was masterfully told and brought tears to my eyes and placed me briefly in a conflicted state between “what the hell am I doing with my life?” and “I need to practice until I write like this!”

I never really paid much attention to Twitter until this year. Now I use it daily, both as a tool for promoting Caffeinated Press and as a way to keep up with the current states of the various facets and factions of the publishing industry. To that end, I am currently following the Twitter feeds of 92 literary magazines and journals. And every day a few more pop up in the “who to follow” box. That list will likely pass 100 by the end of the day.

So now I have started ordering individual issues from some of these journals. Only a couple a week; a good lit journal can cost as much as a good book; and indeed the dividing line between a lit mag and an anthology per se can be quite thin. Since CafPress is ramping up our own 3288 Review it is useful to see who else is out there, and how they do it. So much good writing. So little time.

Also, I just passed 100 feeds in the Journal list. Now I feel compelled to make a spreadsheet. Maybe something to work on in the hotel in Chicago next week.

 

Early-Mid March Update 2015

The first taste of Spring is in the air. The thermometer on my car read “42” briefly yesterday afternoon in the parking lot outside of Pho Soc Trang. Of course the huge bowl of pho contained within my corporeal self could have been throwing off the reading.

Caffeinated Press has hit the ground running! Our first event at the UICA attracted at least 30 people to listen to authors read excerpts and publishers discuss their craft. Our pool of editorial talent continues to grow, and the spring melt is causing our trickle of submissions to grow to a small stream. In addition to book-length manuscripts we are accepting short form submissions for both the Autumn 2015 edition of Brewed Awakenings and the inaugural edition of the 3288 Review literary journal.

Master Lee’s school is still going strong. We just elevated one of our senior students to instructor status. It was well deserved. Congratulations, Tracy! Now the real work begins.

One of our students from Back In The Day, Han Lin, is in town this weekend. His contribution to the class, both as a martial artist and as a translator for some of the finer points of Master Lee’s instructions, cannot be overstated.

Over the past year we have had a few students return to class after long absences. Hearing them talk about how the class has changed, and how it has stayed the same, reinforces just how long I have been a student. Hearing them ask about other people who have themselves been absent for long periods of time. Seeing how much they remember of old, old lessons. Realizing how much the style has evolved under Master Lee. Being immersed in the system, it is sometimes difficult to get a sense for how influential it is on our lives, and hearing it from people who have left and returned is a valuable lesson.

As for reading, most of mine has been short stories by members of the local writing group. I have managed to get about 75% of the way through The Three Body Problem, by Liu Cixin. I really like it so far! Engaging, interesting, complex story; and the translation by Ken Liu displays a masterful level of precision – as should be expected from a writer like Liu.

As for my own writing, it has slowed considerably as I devote more time to Caffeinated Press. I am concentrating more on revising than writing. Two of my short stories have been through first reads, and two more are still out in the wild. The reader notes have been both encouraging and eye-opening. This is the first time, I think, that more than one or two people have read anything I have written which I intend to publish. The work never ends, but every step is rewarding.

That’s it for the moment. Work will send me to Chicago during the week of St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe I’ll get to see the river dyed green.

Playing With(in) the Rules

In Twisty Little Passages, Montfort distinguishes between three types of story or narrative: Diegetic, Hypodiegetic, and Extradiegetic (from diegesis). The 1001 Arabian Nights is useful for describing the differences: The framework story is diegetic, each of the individual stories is hypodiegetic, and the physical book itself, the paper and ink, is extradiegetic.

In the world of Interactive Fiction, Diegetic commands are those which control the “player character”. Extradiegetic (e.g. meta-) commands are those which control the game itself. Hypodiegetic commands are those which are made through the player character, and which influence other characters in the game.

Moving from Interactive Fiction out to User Interaction, we find some parallels. Using the navigation links in a website is diegetic. Using the web browser controls is extradiegetic. Perhaps using in-system tools (e.g. a price calculator or a store locator) could be considered hypodiegetic.

Someone pointed out a few years ago that web developers and usability experts, nominally working in a “new” field, could take many lessons from the video game industry, which has been working on many of these same problems for more than 30 years.

Furor Scribendi

I have finished Off to the Side , and am wiser therefore.

Reading Jim Harrison has always affected me, usually hitting me with strong wanderlust, cabin fever, and a general dissatisfaction with many areas of my life. This time through I drove around a lot, explored those parts of Kent County of which I had always been aware, but never seen. I also tried purposefully to get lost, but what with the sun always directly south and the large number of large roads, this turned out to be impossible.

On Sunday I sat down with my dead-tree journal, an apple, and a bottle ($5.99) of Leelanau Cellars Autumn Red, a wine which has never disappointed. My idea was to enjoy the wine and the apple (which seemed an appropriate pairing) and, sip by sip, describe the experience of drinking.

And I discovered that this wine, which I have always quite liked, does not hold up all that well under close scrutiny. Granted that I am far from a connoisseur of wine, but this just tasted a little…off. Musty. Thick. If chilled in the refrigerator and drunk on a hot summer day it would more than serve, as it is quite dry, but slowly taken at room temperature with a tart apple it suffered.

The argument could be made that one gets what one pays for with wine, but last winter I picked up a case of, uh, some red wine for $20.00 which was excellent, light and dry and a steal at twice the price. Currently my favorite red is St. Julian Great Red ($5.99), which is difficult to beat at any price.

For some interesting writing about food -or using food as metaphor for sex, death, etc.- pick up Harrison’s book The Raw and the Cooked, a collection of his food columns from various magazines during the 1990s.

Next up is the Rowe book Living Philosophy , which should build my brain muscles up to where I can dive into Dostoyevsky after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Post-Apocalyptic 1800s

Have finished Son of the Morning Star. Now working on Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. I am 60 pages into this beautiful, hellish book, and I know, I just KNOW, that when I finish I will wish I had never read it, so I could discover it, again, for the first time. Consider this excerpt, in which a group of men are traveling through the southwestern desert:

“That night they rode through a region electric and wild where strange shapes of soft blue fire ran over the metal of the horses’ trappings and the wagonwheels rolled in hoops of fire and little shapes of pale blue light came to perch in the ears of the horses and in the beards of the men. All night sheetlightning quaked sourceless to the west beyond the midnight thunderheads, making a bluish day of the distant desert, the mountains on the sudden skyline stark and black and livid like a land of some other order out there whose true geography was not stone but fear.”

Again, when I re-create my book page, I will post a small review.

Pre-launch Blathering

I built ECCESIGNUM using a combination of XML, XSL and PHP on the back end, and XHTML and CSS2 on the front. Thus I have a site which I can change completely by modifying two files: the XSL stylesheet and the CSS stylesheet. One for structure and one for presentation. The XML file contains all of the information necessary for markup and structure, so I could, in theory, have a choose-your-preferences panel which would allow the user to set up combinations of preferences which would make the site look completely different from one user to another.

So now I have to go through and re-create the rest of the site in XML. The largest of the files (the archives) went together smoothly, and the rest await inspiration.

We at BBK Studio have been busy enough that I can hardly bear the sight of code or mark-up at the end of the day. We are meeting handoff deadlines at the rate of about two a week, a feat not easily matched in the web development world.

So to take my mind off of computers I have been reading Son of the Morning Star by Evan Connell. I may post a review when I have finished grokking. I can tell you this, though: Custer was an extraordinary individual, with a temperament and sensibilities more in line with East European nobility than with the men he commanded.