Shrubberies and Herrings

You must cut down the mightiest tree in the forest… WITH… A HERRING!

– Knights of NI!

click to embiggen
click to embiggen

Okay, so maybe we didn’t need a Herring today but we certainly cut down some tree-like shrubbery.  Behold, the front of my house.  The landscaping isn’t bad, in fact, you might call is Passable.

The big tree is a nice Blue Spruce Pine that stands about 50 feet or so tall.  Personally, I love evergreen type of trees and it’s nice.  This one, unfortunately, is infected with a fungus that is slowly killing it.  Any treatments just delay the inevitable so in the next 3 – 5 years, the Blue Spruce is going to come down.

Sad as it is, it does pose a problem for us.  See that tall telephone post?  At the top of it is a street light.  Only one on our block.  And it shines right into our bedroom window.  Losing the Blue Spruce means we’re going to have very bright nights.

Knowing that this is coming, we decided to make some landscaping adjustment.  And I give to you … Hughes on Spring Street, 2.0.

click to embiggen
click to embiggen

We dug up the big Yew bush in front of the house and tossed it out.  It wasn’t doing much and occupied prime real estate.

In its place, we dropped a couple of Emerald Arborvitaes and a smattering of flowers and wood chips (grass there was mostly dead anyway).

By the time the Emeralds are fully grown, they should be about 12′ – 14′ tall and maybe 3′ – 4′ wide.  That will be just enough to block any light trying to get into the bedroom window.

And, as luck would have it, the Emeralds will be fully grown right around the time the Blue Spruce has to come down.  (And I’m pretty certain they aren’t going to use a Herring to take it down, but I could be wrong.)

We do plan on putting up another large evergreen-like tree in that spot because it is the perfect place for a large tree.  It’ll take time to grow though, so the Emeralds will give us some privacy in the mean time.

click to embiggen
Another Close Up

King Arthur: O Knights of Ni, you are just and fair, and we will return with a shrubbery.
Leader of The Knights who say NI!: One that looks nice.
King Arthur: Of course.
Leader of The Knights who say NI!: And not too expensive.
King Arthur: Yes.

Weekly Recap

Yet another busy week up here within sight of the Middle of Nowhere.  That’s to be expected.  Around here, summer is an incredibly busy time.  It’s the time where we knock out all of our major projects for work and outside of work, we spend a lot of time at the garden.

On Monday, my father-in-law had heart surgery for a prolapsed mitral valve.  It was repaired by robotic surgery, which is cool and really minimizes the recovery time . Everything went well and he should be home by the time this entry is posted.

At the same time, the concrete for our new driveway was finished.  We should be able to park a car on it today and fill in the gaping holes with soil tomorrow (I hope).

On Tuesday, did yard work and did some partial filling of the holes left behind by the work done on the driveway.  In retrospect, this was an incredibly stupid thing to do as I lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 pounds due to sweating.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday – a whole lot of progress on stuff at work.  Pretty impressive considering all of my co-workers are gone leaving me about the only person here.  On the home front, I got a ton of writing done on Chapter 22 which I think is coming along just fine.

Speaking of writing – I’m going to toot my own horn.  My VP-buddy and fellow writer Cath posted a blog entry about what you can learn from your fellow writing peeps and she used my story, Genie Memories, as an example.  So head on over there and check it out.  And I do promise to write up an entry sometime soon on how I write action sequences, specifically fight scenes because a lot of people do find those hard to write.  I’m lucky in that regards.

Mr. Consistency

Up here in Decorah, it’s Nordic Fest weekend and it’s been a beautiful weekend.

Nordic Fest 2010
Nordic Fest 2010

No, really.  Honest.  Hey, I’m being serious here!

Yes, I know if you looked at past years, you wouldn’t believe it but for once in its 40+ years, Nordic Fest fell on a weekend that wasn’t sweltering hot and humid.  Sure, it did rain on Friday night (a butt load, ask the people down south who are evacuating the floods) but otherwise the weekend turned out pretty good.

As is our tradition, Steph and I ran the Elveløpet road race.  Steph did the 15k this year, finishing in a 1:26:12.  Considering how muddy hard the course was and how muddy the trails, I’d say that’s a pretty respectable time.

I, on the other hand, am recovering from a knee injury and ran the 5k.   When I looked at the results, I noticed it looked really familiar.  Take a look at the past three years :

2010 : 21:45,  24th overall, 3rd age group

2009 : 21:14, 24th overall, 3rd age group

2008 : 20:32, 23rd overall, 4th age group

Wow.  Do I know how to pace myself or what?  Shame I’m going to break that trend when I run the 15k next year.

Perks of Percolation

Nope, not coffee.  We’re talking about writing here.

A lot of writers talk about letting your work age or percolate for a while.  In On Writing, Stephen King calls it ‘letting the book rest’ and recommends you go do something else – kayak, jig saw puzzle, whatever.  Just put the piece in a drawer and don’t look at it, no matter how tempting it is.

How long it sits varies by piece and person.  Books should probably sit in the drawer for a while, but even scenes can benefit from this.   When is the right time to pull it out?  Back to King :

When you come to the correct time, take your manuscript out of the drawer. If it looks like an alien relic bought at a junk-shop or yard sale where you can hardly remember stopping, you’re ready.

Case in Point : I had Monday off and decided to write the entirety of Chapter 21.  This is one of two chapters I’ve been eagerly anticipating so writing it was easy.  The problem is that it didn’t work.    For the damned life of me, I couldn’t figure out why.

So I set the piece aside.  Went for a walk with the dog.  Surfed the web.  Went to martial arts practice and that’s when it came together.   While chatting about the past weekend’s events, it struck me how to fix the chapter.

Info Dump.

Believe it or not, it can work in a novel, provided it is presented at the right time and in the right way.  Placing it in Chapter 21 means that if the reader has gotten this far, they’re going to stick with me for a few pages of info dumping because it’s the right time.  And the right way was a conversation between two ‘friends’.

I came home, picked up the piece that looked completely wrong and alien, and started writing it the right way.

So I’m pretty happy about that.  Unfortunately, it has set me back a bit.  I believe I said I’d finish Genie Memories by the end of July.  Sadly, that isn’t going to happen and I’m not too happy about it.  I really wanted to hit this goal but things came up, inside and outside of writing, that just flat out prevented it.

I won’t set a goal for finishing it just yet.  August is essentially a non-writing month.  Students start coming back to campus in the next week or two, meaning we have to hammer down on all of our projects, prep for training, etc.  I’ve got some vacation dates so I’ll be able to make up some of it, but I’m suspecting September will be when I can crack down hard on the story again.

Who knows though?  Maybe percolating for a week or two will be just what I need.

The Summer Reading List

Been a bit busy lately so in lieu of anything, you know, actually entertaining, I present to thee …

My Summer Reading List!


Feed by Mira Grant  

Like the undead themselves, novels about zombies just won’t die.*

As you can guess, Feed is a novel about zombies but it’s more than that.  It’s also about a Presidential election and the life that exists after zombies are a fact of life.  I’ve already finished the book – went through it in less than a week – and I enjoyed it quite a lot.  Feed will be the subject of my first book review for Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing so I’ll make sure to link that once it goes live.

* I wasn’t allowed to use this line in the review so I’m gonna use it here.  Meh, take that!

Template by Matthew Hughes

Sadly, this is not my book.

This is written by the ‘other’ Matthew Hughes, also famous for writing Fools Errand, Fool Me Twice, and a whole bunch more.  Years ago, I originally grabbed a copy of Fools Errand just to have a book on my shelf with my name on it.  Fortunately for me, the story was entertaining so I’ve kept an eye on him.

Template will be out in August.  Me?  I’m getting an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) from the publisher so I can do a review on it.  Very happy about that.


Broken Angels by Richard Morgan

Shortly after Viable Paradise, I picked up Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan on the recommendation of one of the instructors (Patrick Nielsen Hayden I think).  The book blew me away and I’ve read it twice since then.

Broken Angels is the second in the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy and this time we’re taken off Earth and into the other worlds to which humanity has expanded.

Morgan’s style is hard-boiled in a way that reminds me of Dashiell Hammet (Red Harvest, Maltese Falcon) and combined with the fascinating character of Kovacs, it makes for a great read.  I’m looking forward to devouring this one.

Neuromancer by William Gibson

As a Geek, I am ashamed to say that I have not read this book.

This great travesty shall be fixed before the summer is out.

Neuromancer practically defined the cyberpunk world. Some of the language we use today in regards to the Internet? This guy invented and he did it back in the ’70s before any of this existed.  So that makes this a must read for me.

Hulk Hercules : Professional Wrestler by Catherine Schaff-Stump

Cath is not only a fellow Viable Paradise 13 attendee, but she’s also an Iowan.  So, well duh, of course I’m going to read it.

Plus the whole concept sounds great – a modern recreation of Hercules Twelve Tasks combined with wrestling. What’s not to love?


Magic and Showmanship by Henning Nelms

Another VP recommended book.  While it’s about how to put on a good show for an audience, between the lines you can find out how to put on a good story for your readers.

This will probably be one of the later ones I read since I’ll want to apply some of the lessons learned to my revision of Genie Memories.



Shades of Grey by Jackie Kessler, Caitlin Kittredge

The second in the Icarus Project trilogy.  I picked up the first book (Black and White) while wandering through a book store a couple of years ago on vacation. It was a fun story and I enjoyed the shifting perspectives between characters as well as past and present.

Shades of Grey continues the tale of Jet and Iridium (written by Kessler and Kittredge respectively)  and addresses the fine line between a hero and a villain.


The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diane Wynne Jones

This one just looks fun – a compilation of all the fantasy tropes and cliches that are out there.  Basically a humorous “What to Avoid When Writing Fantasy”.

This will be the one I read when my brain is ready to explode after a hard day of work.


Friday Bits

One – Received a 37 day rejection from Strange Horizons for Korl.  I’ll have to look for the next market later tonight.

Two – Members of the SWAT Team walked past my office.  They claimed to be surveying the Library as they’ll be using it in the evening next week for some tactical training.  Room clearance, etc.  I was half tempted to ask if I could sit in and watch.

My brother’s explanation is : “Overdue Library Books – It’s Serious Business”.

On the Other Side of Things

One year and one day ago, I woke up and checked my e-mail.  The first thing I saw was this :

Dear Mr. Hughes,

On behalf of the staff and instructors, I’d like to welcome you as  a student to Viable Paradise, and say congratulations!

The rest was pretty much lost in my shouting of ‘Holy Shit!’, as well documented in my entry for that day.  The lessons I learned at Viable Paradise have paid off.  Of my fellow VP 13ers, at least four have been published (one with a book) and I’ve gotten handwritten rejection letters vs the previous form letters.  That’s progress for you.

June 30th was the deadline for VP.  The acceptance e-mails should be going out soon (next week or so I’d suppose).  As an alumni, I have to admit I’m waiting with some anticipation to see who the next class is going to be.  It’ll be fun to see the introductions, how they react, all while remembering how I felt at that point in time (i.e. – giddy, walking on cloud nine, ohmygodtheywillseeimahack, etc).   Being an old hat, maybe I can throw some bits of wisdom their way.

Plus I’ll get to say, “Back in my day …”

Adventures in SciFi Publishing

That writing gig I mentioned a couple of days ago?  Here it is :


Starting in August, I will be writing for Adventures in SciFi Publishing.

Adventures (AISFP for short) is an award winning podcast and websites focusing on the science-fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction  industry.  Over the course of some 100 or so shows, the creator (Shaun Farrell) and other hosts have interviewed a huge range of authors including Neil Gaiman, J.C. Hutchins, Margret Weis, Tracy Hickman, just to name a few.

For my part, I’ll be doing book reviews to start.  It’s a hard gig, to be honest.  I have to read a book, break it down, then write up a review on said book.  The first piece should show up in early to mid August and I’ll most definitely link to it once it’s live.  I’ll be joined by fellow VP XIII alumni Brent Bowen and a host of other extremely talented folks.  I’m very much looking forward to it.

Subscribe to Pod Cast (iTunes)

AISFP 2010 Promo (Audio, Click Play to Listen)

Whoops, I’m Here!


I meant to post when I got back and just plum forgot.  Well, let’s blame it on jet lag, shall we?

Getting back to Iowa wasn’t all that much different than leaving it.  I encountered a rare beast – a flight that departs early.  Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem.  In my case, I discovered the change when I got off the previous flight and ended up having to sprint from one side of SeaTac Airport to the other in less than ten minutes to catch my flight.  Luckily, my luggage managed to make the trip as well.

ResNet overall was fun and I learned a lot.  If you’re super interested, you can read my trip report on the LIS blog.  I managed to win a hefty Amazon gift card from one of the vendors and have spent some time filling up a wish list with oodles of long wanted books.  Suggestions are appreciated.  🙂

All said, it feels good to be home.  The Writing Moose hit me up and  I was able to write just under a thousand words tonight and wrap up a short chapter.  I also managed to land a new writing gig.  More details on that come late-July, early August so stay tuned.

Kayaking in Chuckanut Bay
Kayaking in Chuckanut Bay

More photos here, courtesy of Scott Stamm