The Joy of Rewriting

Rewriting is sometimes joyous, but usually it’s a finicky and ornery-making process. You never know what chapters are going to give you the most trouble. I recently finished some fairly heavy reworking of a series of chapters in my will-I-ever-get-this-finished novel, The Reefs of Time. One sequence of scenes was fairly ordinary, in the sense that they involved people meeting and talking. I mean, yes, they came from several worlds; and yes, they were meeting to discuss an interplanetary war; and, well yeah, the elephant in the room was a much more alarming threat from the outside. And if you press me on it, this scene took place on a planet elsewhere in the galaxy, and in the future, and with characters representing several different sentient species. But leaving all that aside, and the fates of worlds hanging in the balance, it was a pretty standard meet-and-talk-and-argue situation. Should be pretty straightforward to get this one right, right?

Maybe not.  While the first draft was pretty ragged, I thought a thorough rewrite from beginning to end would bring it into line. And if not that, then another pass would surely do it. I was not entirely correct. My writing group tells me it’s still not there yet, though to be sure, they’re not in total agreement on what works and what doesn’t. Do I need a scientist in there? hints one member. Hmm, maybe I do. But what’s this about a certain character placing too much trust on the basis of an ancestral connection? asks another member. That’s not what I meant at all! wails the author. So… more work to do.

The last chapter of this batch was another kettle of fish. Different subplot, very different tone and feel. This one’s cosmic, involving among other things, quantum entangled time travel over a scale of a billion years, and there’s a lot of stuff in it that’s really hard to convey in a few sentences, or at all. There’s a whiff of scientific truthiness about it, but it’s pushing the envelope pretty hard. And it’s personal, emotionally fraught for the characters. My first draft bordered on gibberish. Craig, in my group, had commented with kind restraint, “I don’t follow this at all.” Rich had muttered something about his head exploding. So what am I supposed to do with this?

Picking it up again to rewrite, I hovered on the edge of despair. It didn’t make sense even to me. How was I supposed to make it make sense to the reader? It’s a crucial chapter; I can’t make it go away. I pondered, poked, sighed, put on different music, got more coffee, ate too much chocolate. And then one little gear clicked into place in my head, a reminder of something about quantum mechanics that’s so basic my dog could have pointed it out to me. (Why didn’t he? If he tells you, let me know. He’s saying nothing to me.) It was really just a Schrödinger’s Cat kind of thing. (Ah, a cat thing. That must be why he didn’t tell me.) It was small, but it was just enough to give me a toehold. And from there I climbed and scrabbled and felt my way, like Frodo and Sam in the Emyn Muil. And I was a little rushed, printing it out at the last minute for my group meeting. Is this going to work at all?

And you know what they said? “This is great!” “This moves right along.” “It makes sense to me.” Are you kidding me? Is that what they thought? Are you kidding me? It really works?

Apparently so. On to the next chapter!

My Sister Nancy Loses Her Fight with Cancer

My sister, Nancy Carver Adams, lost an astonishingly brief battle with lung cancer Monday night. Her death came as a terrible shock. She was not a smoker, and it was the flu and pneumonia that took her to the hospital, where the cancer was discovered. She had only just been diagnosed a couple of weeks ago—and had started immunotherapy a few days before. The prognosis was uncertain, but we thought we might have her for another year or two, anyway. An issue had developed of fluid buildup in one lung, but it was being managed, she thought. She was emailing and texting family members just a few hours earlier in the day. And then, in the evening she stopped breathing or her heart stopped, and they were unable to bring her around. She was gone, just like that.

This came as a shock on several levels, beyond the obvious. Our brother Chuck was diagnosed with his own cancer last fall, and has been on a chemo regimen that has us guardedly hopeful. Nancy and I were most concerned about how to support Chuck and his wife Youngmee through a tough period. We had no inkling that Nancy also had cancer, and that we’d lose her in such a blindingly short time.

Nancy was my half-sister, my father’s daughter from a first marriage. I didn’t grow up with her, but we started to know each other around the time that I was finishing high school, and over the years, we developed a real brother-sister relationship—partly because she was so determined to get to know her emotionally clueless younger brother. She and my mom became quite close, and I think that helped.

Nancy had two lovely daughters, Karen and Lyn, both of whom have families of their own. She also left behind a much-loved husband, also named Chuck, an old high school friend with whom she reconnected after the death of her previous husband, and married just four and a half years ago. They had not long ago settled into an extended care community in Florida, where they could relax and enjoy their golden years.

Life can be cruel that way.

I’ll be attending the funeral in a few days with my own family, and look forward very much to reconnecting with hers. That part’s good.

Here’s Nancy with my brother Chuck and me, at her wedding in 2012.

Love the Weather, Hate the Climate (Change)

I went out biking today with a glorious, record-breaking temperature of 72 degrees in Boston in February. I can’t deny it was wonderful, a great day for walking, biking, dogging. Here is a selfie of me out on the bike path, soaking up the wondrousness. At the same time, I had recurring visions of icepacks melting into the sea, polar bears on ice floes, and sea levels rising. And the thought: This can’t be right.

You listening, Pruitt?

Boskone 2017

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I’ll be at Boskone (SF convention in Boston) this coming weekend—by which I mean on Saturday, and possibly Friday night. Boskone is always a good time, and a great bunch of fans, writers, editors, etc. I’ll be on a couple of panels Saturday afternoon, and doing a reading, as well. Haven’t picked out the reading yet, but I’ll find something from The Reefs of Time manuscript. So it you’re there, do stop by and say hello!

 

 

Website Moving to a New Cave

Website Moving to a New Cave

This website, and its sibling site WriteSF.com, have moved to a new home in the land of internet things. My host for the last twenty or so years, SFF.Net, is closing its doors, sending all of its inhabitants scurrying for new caves. SFF Net has been a major fixture in the SF community for a very long time, and besides being great people, they were known to authors with websites as being the people who never slept. You’d email them with a tech support question at virtually any time of day or night, and would get an answer back usually within the hour, sometimes within minutes. Plus, for years, they hosted my writing course for free, because it was aimed primarily at kids and they liked to help kids. I’m going to miss those guys a lot. Thanks, Jeffry and Steve!

So, with sadness, I embarked upon the job of looking for a new host. I’ve landed at InMotion, who offered a great price and were very helpful in moving my site over. That happened just today. As of this moment, the site is loading verrrrrry slowwwly. I’m sure we’ll work out the problem; at least, I hope we will. WriteSF.com is not yet working on its new platform, but I hope to get that fixed soon, also.

If you’re seeing this page, we’re 90% of the way there. Wish me luck for the last 10%.

Update: The site is still loading slowly, but writeSF.com is now up and running just fine.

The Laptop Is Dead (sigh). Long Live the Laptop!

Yeah, this is not how I was planning to spend my first week at home. But my laptop, Cygnus-X, started failing on the trip and limped along just far enough to get me back to Boston. In this case it was the screen, not the smart innards, that went bad. I googled the problem and tried the most common fix, which was replacing the video inverter for $20 from Amazon; and that killed it dead. Here’s me, heroically trying to rescue trusty Cygnus, but it was too little, too late.

Given that the little fellow was over seven years old in laptop years—which is I don’t know what in dog years, but old, and slow—I decided it was time to replace it. (But really, two computers in three months? Seems extreme.) Anyway, here is the new beauty, Antares. Named for her glowing red backlit keys (Antares is a red star), and for the lovely Antares in the Chaos books.

Antares is an Asus gaming laptop. I don’t do gaming, but I wanted as much speed and capacity as I could afford, because in two years, it’s going to seem like molasses. So get a running start, is what I figured. Plus, I really like the keyboard!

Antares, live long and prosper! Please.

The Ponce Chronicles: The Work Force Awakens, Pt. 4: Plug & Pray

Chasing leaks. That’s how this trip started, what with tearing up a tile floor to find out where upwelling water was coming from. (We never did, not really. We couldn’t replicate the problem after the tile was up. We have guesses, but only guesses.) Other leaks were smaller, but equally enigmatic. We had some workarounds in progress.

Then, on our last-but-one night at Casarboles (tree house), I was showering upstairs, and Allysen ran in with cries of, “Stop! Water’s raining down into the closet!” Nooo!  (Yesss!)

Too late to get the plumbers before we had to leave, and anyway, all the pipes were in cement. It was up to me to see if I could find the leak. And amazingly, on the last day, I did. Silicone seal between shower tub and drain pipe was all deteriorated. Ask Freddi, and he says, in Spanish, “Oh yes, that happens. Phil always just put new silicone in.”  And so that’s what I did, carefully troweling it in, just like Doctor McCoy in the Star Trek episode about the Horta. And it cured the leak.  We think. There wasn’t time for really thorough testing. Plug and pray, that’s our motto.

In the last couple of days, we did that, and finished painting every inch of what seemed like a 7-acre deck, complete with railings, and caulked a bunch of molding in a different shower, and inventoried tools, and made little cautionary signs (bilingual) to post above the toilets, and of course made trips to Home Depot. And, oh, a hundred or so other things.

We took a little time in the evening of the last day—before the big, final push right through to 4 a.m. and departure for the predawn flight—to relax and enjoy a meal by the pool. It really was quite lovely. Here’s a selfie of the two of us, relaxing by the pool.

And here’s how Casarboles looks after dark. The place is pretty much ready for guests! We’ll be putting it on Air BnB and like that, very soon.

Oh—we’re home in Boston now, recovering. It’s snowing.

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