I’m supposed to be working

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So of course I’m typing this instead. Here’s my life in convenient bullet-list form, which is how I experience it myself.

* I uploaded a larger jpg of the Game of Cages cover, so anyone who missed it the first time or thought it was too dark or small can really see it now. It’s practically actual size.

* I just put the signed contracts for Russian language editions of CoF and GoC in the mail. Yay! Last night I took a deep breath and sat down to read through them, only to discover they were a civilized two pages long, with one column in Russian and one in English. Easy-peazy.

* As evidence that I am still not caught up on my sleep, I just used the phrase “easy-peazy” for the first time in my life. No, I have not been transformed into an adorable urchin in a 1950′s sitcom. I’m just feeling odd and out of sorts.

* Yesterday I got back on the “read faster” bandwagon with my current library book. As I mentioned before, I read more slowly than any novelist I’ve ever heard of, and at this point it’s a real hindrance on my productivity. The polish of Man Bites World I’ve been working would have been finished long ago if I were someone else; as it is, I’m on page 115 of 381. After I finish this post and one or two other online duties, I’ll post how far I’ve gotten at the end of my work day. Shame is a great motivator.

* If anyone is curious about the book I’m reading, it’s Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, And Why by Laurence Gonzales. It’s a bit of a narrative wander, but the subject is fascinating. So far, I recommend it highly, especially if you’re interested in why people seem to do exactly the wrong thing in stressful situations.

* Someone on Justine Larbaletier’s blog recommended Mac Freedom, a free software download that turns off a Mac’s wireless for any length of time the user wants. My eyes bugged out of my head, because this was the thing I’d always wanted without knowing it. I headed to download.com to read their review of it first, and was startled to see the review say it was a silly program because a Mac’s wireless capability was trivially easy to turn off already.

It took me a moment to realize they meant clicking the little fan in the upper toolbar. Yeah, it’s trivially easy to turn off, but it’s also easy to turn back on when I’m stuck or frustrated. Do they expect me to have some sort of self-control? I’m not made of stone, people!

Okay. More coffee, then on to page 116.

New morning, new year

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This past year saw a lot of changes for me. Child of Fire (Amazon.com | Indiebound.org) came out, obviously, which is a goal I’ve been working toward for a long, long time.

But I also went through a round of major revisions on Game of Cages (Amazon.com | Indiebound.org) which was extremely challenging and made me question myself and my actual writing/career plans. I went to San Diego Comic Con and endured the press of a hundred thousand people. I did face-to-face interviews. I did a signing.

Basically, I came out of my shell (a little). I can’t say I liked it much, but I’m willing to do what I have to. Let’s call it a year of personal growth opportunities (translation: I was pushed into a lot of uncomfortable situations).

One thing I didn’t do, which I’d planned to do, was steal time from my schedule for exercise. I’m not any bigger than I was at the start of the year, but I’m holding steady at a point I don’t want to be in. More on that later.

One thing I learned that I didn’t expect was that I don’t read fast enough to be a writer. It’s not just that I take forever to do my research, I take forever to do my revisions, too. I only read 15 books a year.

It’s untenable and has to change. I’ve already started working on this, but I’ll have to put more effort into it this year.

And, since so many others are doing it: Ten years ago, I was working for Children’s Hospital in Seattle (temping, actually), while they stocked up on medical supplies in anticipation of Y2K. In the years since, I tried to move to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting, ditched that idea. I tried my hand at low-budget filmmaking but found I wasn’t suited for it. I started writing novels and found success. My family came damn close to bankruptcy because of health care issues, but we came through it, stronger than ever.

And of course my son was born. I don’t talk about him too much here for his privacy’s sake, but he changed my whole life; I remember the time before he was born as though it had been lived by a different person.

New morning, new year. I’m going to start working on book 3 now.

Fun with skimming

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I’ve made my way through the first two chapters of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Speed Reading, and so far it has been… interesting.

The authors state that the speed reading increases comprehension, mainly because it forces readers to concentrate more. More concentration = better recall. I’m willing to accept that on a trial basis, because like most people, my concern about speed reading is that I’ll be missing a lot of what I don’t want to miss.

They also make it clear that reading comprehension will go down while learning these skills. That’s a problem, because I’ll have to read a book to practice, but I don’t own a book I’m willing to read-but-not-really. Why would I buy a book to sacrifice to this? What book do I pick up next, knowing I may miss key stuff?

I assume I’ll be doing a lot of rereading.

Anyway, I’d planned to practice on my friends list, since I do so much reading online, but the first techniques they teach you (running your hand down the page) won’t really work for that.

The hand motion stuff is sorta interesting. They ask you to try all the techniques, looking for one that will work; one method is to trail an index finger down the page (actually, it’s three methods, because you hold it at either margin or on the center of the page). A few others have your fingers moving back and forth on the page, and some use objects like cards.

The idea is that the motion draws your eye, and helps you concentrate. Students are supposed to move their hands a little faster than they feel comfortable with–you push yourself out of your comfort zone to expand it, basically, which is an idea I can very much go for–but that doesn’t really work with graphic novels or computer screens. Time to pick a novel.

One flub the authors make, though, that I have to mention: One of the hand motion methods is called “The Vulcan” because you (supposedly) lay your hand on the page the way Mr. Spock did on Star Trek, prompting your eyes to ping pong back and forth in the gap between your fingers.

Except, the photo and the instructions they offer don’t resembe a Vulcan “Live long and prosper” gesture at all. You’re supposed to make a fist and extend your pinky and index finger–essentially, devil horns.

Now, maybe Leonard Nimoy made that gesture at an Iron Butterfly concert or something, but he sure never did it on TV. Ooops.

Now, before I go out for a healthful lunchtime stroll (to see if my book in on the shelves at Borders/B&N yet–OMG 4 DAYS!), I want to say that I just finished John Levitt’s Dog Days this week. It was fun! I especially loved the ending, and the fact that the characters didn’t already have an encyclopedic knowledge of the way magic worked. They argued about it! They disagreed about the evidence! It was a nice change from the “This is how this works and this is how it’s done” style of some other books.

I didn’t want to put off mentioning that in case John thought he was the speed reading sacrifice.

Randomness, personal edition

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First things first: I earned my three-gallon pin today. Folks, if you can give blood, please do so. It saves lives. Plus you get snacks.

Second things second: Child of Fire has a Kindle edition. I’ve seen Kindles on the bus and they aren’t for me, but maybe there’s someone reading this who would love to get a discounted electronic copy of the book.

Third things third: According to the Internet, I read 300 wpm (approx) with 91% comprehension. My Complete Idiot’s Guide to Speed Reading says that’s “above average” but only barely. Come on, self-improvement!

Fourth things fourth: I’m willing to let people hate me. Just sayin’.