Writing Update #5

I’ve put off updating this journal for a couple of weeks, partially because I wanted to give both of my regular readers extra time to read about Rebecca, but also because, well, I’ve been lazy. Bad Richard. No biscuit.

So, a quick update on what’s been going on.

Last week, everyone in my office went to a distance learning conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. My boss picked me up and we drove to Walnut Creek, where we picked up BART to Market Street (I thought of my friend Little Owl as I did so), and that was, on the whole, less exciting than I thought it would be — though I did get stuck behind the stupid gate on my way out of the station after we got back to Walnut Creek. I was pretty darn embarrassed, I can tell you.

The conference itself was pretty interesting. While we in our office are in the process of evaluating an ILM (Intergrated Learning Management) product called Moodle — which we are liking so far, partially because it’s written in PHP and is open-source — we found that there are plenty of other really expensive products that we could spend a year’s budget on. And plenty of on-line services ready to take the rest of our money as well. We only found one product that looked particularly valuable because of its ability to transform Power Point presentations into Flash files, but we’re not convinced that it would be a better investment than OpenOffice.org — which is free but less full-featured — would be. It was also an opportunity to do some networking, which I did a little of.

Mostly, though, the best reason to go to these things is because of the swag. Swag, of course, refers to all those little goodies that vendors give away: pens and Post-It notes branded with the company’s name, for example. I made out with a couple of T-shirts (always exciting for geeks), a frisbee, a tote bag (perfect for groceries), a mysterious tube-like device which turned out to be an on-the-spot hand sanitizer device (I swear, it’s like a highlighter pen — only it sanitizes streaks on your skin instead of turning it yellow), and a little stress-relief toy that’s shaped like a little man. And brochures and software samples, of course, though I’ve only ever recommended one software purchase based on a sample I received at a conference like this. However, the best item of swag that I picked up was a little green dinosaur made of foam and attached to the end of a stiff wire. For some reason, the cats seem to really love this and will attack it madly whenever I bring it out and dangle it in front of the.

The next day, sadly, Jennifer and I discovered that our cat Allegra has bone cancer. We don’t have much time left with her, which is a shame. This news came especially hard because we’re still dealing with the grief of having lost Rebecca so suddenly.

October is turning out to be a bad month for animals in my family. First we lost Rebecca, then we got the bad news about Allegra; and earlier this week, my parents had to put down their little dog Rover.

I’m hoping November turns out to be better.

On the writing front, things are progressing slowly. I finally finished up the rough draft of “The Winds of Patwin County”; it’s about 15,000 words long altogether, one of the longest stories I’ve ever written. There were a couple of points where I almost gave up on it; but now it’s done. I also finished up the first draft (as opposed to the rough draft) of “Variations on a Theme”, which, so far, has gotten fairly decent comments from the one or two folks who have looked at it. I don’t like the title, though, and I’m unsatisfied with the ending, and I think I tried too hard in a couple of places. If you’re interested in reading it, drop me a line and let me know.

I also received a draft of part two of “A Thousand Times Before” from my friend Ed, and, along with some ideas that Jennifer gave me, I think that story has some Serious Potential. I probably won’t get to finishing that or finishing the first draft of “The Winds of Patwin County”, though, until December at the earliest. Because November, of course, is National Novel Writing Month, and I’ll be participating in that. My outline for The Outer Darkness, the novel I’ll be writing, is going slowly and with great difficulty, and I may simply scrap the whole thing and rework the entire storyline from scratch in a couple of days.

So, in summary: Life goes on, in spite of the randomness of animal health, the writing goes on. My goal is to be a full-time writer within five years, but I’ve got a long ways to go. I plan to write at least 2,000 words a day during November (so that I’ll have 60,000 words of The Outer Darkness done); hopefully, I’ll be able to write down some preliminary notes on a couple of stories as well: “Dracula Ate My Homework” and “Sunday Services”, but I won’t stress if I don’t.

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