Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thursday

Well, it's Thursday. The temperature in Minneapolis is just ghastly. I'm getting a chest cold as well. Lovely. Flem everywhere. Ick. On the lighter side....I've cut hundreds more words from Rescue Man this morning. One of favorite creations in this story is Frank, a 60s radical who is a professor and a pain in the butt to everybody around him. Want to get this beast under control shortly and get it the hell off my desk, so I can move on to other projects.

This story is a breakthrough for me. It's a more fantasy than science fiction. And it's about somebody's soul, although I suppose that all of my fiction is really about people's souls.

Went biking with Marcus Buckingham this morning. More strength stuff, and I broke 620 calories. Good deal. What I remember from this morning's reading is that everybody really knows their own strengths the best. I agree with that. Boy, do I ever.


Well, time to get ready for my three classes that I'm teaching today.


Doug

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Power

Good morning. did around 540 calories this morning. Switched up my pattern and my CD. Listened to the 33 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. Read by Don Leslie. I was listening to the story about Count Von Lustig being able to trick Al Capone by simply using a little bit of honesty to cover up his ultimately nefarious designs. It was really very fun. Honesty, as Greene says, is really a weapon to be used.

Also cut another 333 words from Rescue Man. It's getting down to about 73 pages, down from 100. I've cut 27 percent of the length, but I'm not sure how much farther I can get. I still have to re-do the ending.


Off to class.

Doug

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tuesday and Coins

Good morning. Went biking with Marcus Buckingham this morning. 620 calories and 548 words cut from Rescue Man. Not bad. Now, it's getting really difficult to cut down words now. We''re getting to the point where I have to save words by cutting prepositions. That's a good sign, though.

Anyway, I'm about to call to see how much two Morgan silver dollars are. They might be worth absolutely nothing. But they might be worth something.

Wish me luck.

Doug

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday Morning Biking and Strength Assessment

Went Biking with Marcus Buckingham this morning. About 700 calories in 30 minutes.

More important, I listened to Buckingham talk about the fact that strengths are things that come out of your appetites. If this is true, I believe that my strengths revolve around Tuna Hoagies and cheesesteaks.

Seriously, I think that my strengths revolve around key childhood coping strategies. Let's see what they are:

1. Imagine. I would always tell stories. (And I had a father who was a story teller).

2. Persuade. I would always try to get my way, and I would feel wonderful when I did.

3. Be funny. To be specific, satire is my weapon of choice. Humor is both a defense mechanism and an offensive weapon. It reduces things one is scared of or is outraged by.

4. Analyze. Although most people don't see the connection, analysis and humor are pretty related.

5. Organize. I always feel better when I put things in their proper perspective.

6. Collect or amass. Trophies, money, tuna hoagies, etc. Maybe quantify is the right word here.


Anyway, those are my strengths. It's time to go put one of them to work. I'm working on cutting Rescue Man. I've already cut over 26 pages. And I'm just getting started. I think that this could be a really good story. It has all the right elements: Combat, love, and cheese steaks.


Gotta go.

Doug

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Late Morning

Starting my morning later than usual. Last night I bought a book called The Last World War by Ward Dayton. It's a first contact/war story. A group of reserve Marines in MO are on duty playing war games. The only trouble is that aliens have constructed a portal and have traveled across the universe and show up in the show me state. There are two groups of aliens, the Grays, who are fighting the Earthers and the Blues, who are fighting the grays and allied with the earthers. This is essentially a Harry Turtledove knock off, without the WWII element. Anyway, I started it last night and finished it about an hour ago.

So, I just did my biking. 649 calories, with Marcus Buckingham. He talked about his kid being concerned with winning all the time. Boy, I get that. I assume that you have to lose sometimes, but I have to be careful to keep myself out of situations where I can't even compete.

Off to hack down Rescue Man.

Doug

Friday, January 25, 2008

Professional Writing

Went biking with Marcus Buckingham this morning. It was great. Tried a different biking pattern and only burned about 505 calories. But that always happens when I try another pattern. Re-listened to the opening tape of Putting Your Strengths to Work. Buckingham was saying that most people when working get into a flow experience at least once a week. But that really doesn't "feed" them enough. It's true. I remember the thrilling days of yesterday when I was a copy editor at W. B. Saunders. God I don't think I had a flow experience more than once every couple months, and those happened when we had a fire drill.

Anyway, writing gives me that flow. Teaching does it sometimes. Fundraising does it about every twenty seconds. Hmmmm.

Well, off to class.

Doug

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New Story, Campbell Awards

Went biking with the Donald this morning. 608 calories. I thought about what Donald and Zanger were saying about thinking big. That's very important. I don't think that many people do this at all. The bigger you think, the bigger opportunities you have. I know that in the last few years, I've begun to think bigger and my horizons have expanded. I've had more and more opportunities.

Speaking of new opportunities, I just finished my story Bringing Work Home With Her and submitted to Strange Horizons just to test the waters. Let's see what they say in about a month.

Found out that I'm Campbell eligible this year. Don't think I'll get it this year. Not enough out there.

Anyway, time to get going. Back at you tomorrow.

Doug

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Back from Iowa

I was in Iowa this weekend,. Its even colder than Minneapolis. The town is kind of odd. Very small. One of those towns that seems to arise from nowhere out of the landscape. Flew there on a small NWA prop plane. I absolutely love those prop planes. Snow everywhere.

On my way down, I flew next to a woman from Philly who was going to take care of a friend from college who had met a pig farmer on E harmony, hooked up with him, and gotten married. Nine months pregnant, the friend asked the woman to come out to Iowa and help take care of her. Interesting.

Well, I'm back at my routine. 570 calories this morning. Biked with Marcus Buckingham. I find the whole play to your strengths movement to be quite interesting, but it's so hard to do this in any kind of corporate culture.

Finally, cut three hundred more words from my story this morning. Almost read to go to Tom for critiquing.

Off to direct mail.

Doug

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday is here: Courage and Writing

Good morning. Biking with Marcus Buckingham went well. 430 calories, but I'm trying a different pattern. Buckingham was talking about a manager who does these spreadsheets called clarity reports. For the manager, these reports seem to order not only the work world but the universe itself. For everybody else, they are a pain in the keyster. I've had managers like that. Buckingham also talked about the fact that even thought requesting a meeting to have conversations with your manager about your strengths sounds like a good idea, people can get threatened by this. I can see this happening pretty easily.


Going out of town tonight. I might even not bring my laptop with me. Gasp. So, I might not be blogging this weekend.


Oh, one last thing: I was teaching yesterday, and I was presenting material from research on the importance of writing. One interesting thing I noted was that the writer said that one of the things that learning to write well does is teach initiative and courage. Writing as a kind of start-up activity. I suppose I can see that. As for courage, that makes sense to me as well.

Time to go write....

Doug

Thursday, January 17, 2008

SUPPLEMENTAL--end hack

Just finished hacking my story "Bringing Work Home with Her," in 30 minutes I took out 1021 words and am slowly getting in range of my target of a 5000 word story, exactly. This one is going out to Strange Horizons and F&SF after Tom takes a look at it.

Well, off to Direct Mail. DT

The Strong Week and the MCTC SF Fantasy Club

Good Morning. Outstanding biking this morning. 700 calories in 30 minutes, exactly. Someday, I will reach 1000 in 30 minutes. A flow experience. One of the reasons why I love exercising on the bike is that the calorie counter and the clock allow you to do goal setting. You can break down your ride into 5 minute intervals and 50 calorie increments. I read a Harper's article once where some lame brain said that this kind of attention to the numbers was not healthy. I wonder what his bank account looked like. Actually, this kind of segmentation is what got man out of the muck and mire of pre-historic ages. Maybe the right phrase doesn't come from Decartes: I think therefore I am. But, rather, from self-help planners. I goal set, therefore I am. The diaries of William Byrd (I believe that's his name) substantiate this claim. Of course, Decartes lurks behind the scenes of the self-help movement (although most of the gurus wouldn't recognize him).

In any event, I biked with Marcus Buckingham this morning. The topic of discussion this morning was the strong week. He argues that the week is the optimal planning unit. I think Covey aruges that it's the month. Buckingham argues that the week is a cross cultural phenomenon. And the seven day week is standard. He said that month and year measures vary, but week lengths never do. The only attempt in recent history to make this kind of change happened in the French Revolution. Buckingham argues that during the week you should focus on the things you're strong on and try to stay away from your weaknesses. I agree with this approach. If you spend too much time improving on your weaknesses, you'll drown. That's probably why so much psychotherapy is completely counter-productive and probably, ultimately, fairly destructive.

Finally, I want to salute a great bunch of guys and gals: The Minneapolis Community and Technical College Science fiction and Fantays Club. I'm the faculty advisor for this group and find these folks absolutely great. They're not afraid of being who they are. And that's refreshing.

Well, enough of this. Off to work on my story. Goal is to hack one thousand words this morning.

Doug

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Good Morning, Minneapolis

Well, went biking with Marcus Buckingham this morning. Only 548 calories burned. I'm slowing down as we head into the mid week. However, I enjoyed Buckingham's discussion about strengths. These are activities that make us feel strong after we do them.

What are they, for me?

Writing
Fundraising
Teaching (some days)
Biking
Editing (to some extent, in the same way that I liked rock climbing a long time ago)

Buckingham has said that the happiest people are those who do what they love as much as possible. He hasn't used the term yet, but what I think he's talking about is flow experience. If you have a day in which you have several flow experiences, then you're going to have a really good time. I'm relatively lucky in that I have several areas in which I get flow experiences.

Well, off the the flow of the shower......

Doug

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

SUPPLEMENTAL--review done

Just turned in my first draft of my review of Modern Utopian Fictions. Awaiting editorial feedback. It's good to get writing projects at least in the pipeline. Next--get my story to Tom in the next few days. DT

More strengths

Went biking with Marcus Buckingham this morning. Did 651 calories in thirty minutes. It's interesting. Buckingham talked about natural strengths, things we're just good at. What are they?

As hackneyed as it sounds, they are the things that we would continue to do long after we stop getting paid. For example, although I have strong analytical abilities, I'm comfortable using my imagination.

It's my home in some ways. That's interesting. I teach and I'm fairly good at it, but that's not really where my innate ability is.

What are some of my innate abilities, things that flow from my bedrock core personality?

1. Using my imagination to tell stories. Well, duh.

2. Asking for money. I used to ask my mother and father for money. I'm really good at that on a professional level.

3. Listening to stories.

4. Arguing ferociously.

5. Categorizing. I'm a taxonomy junkie.

6. Moving my big legs.

These are bedrock skills that I have. Buckingham would argue that success in life does not stem from figuring out what my weaknesses are, but, rather, capitalizing on these strength, spending more time doing them.

Hmm.. I wrote part of my dissertation on gifted children. I wonder what Buckingham would say about gifted children. Does he say anything about them? I'll find out tomorrow.

Anyway, off to finish the review.

Doug

Monday, January 14, 2008

School's In

First day of class at MCTC. Said hello to my students in an English 900 (developmental reading) and English 1110 (freshman comp). The first day of class is very important. I hope I've started this off right.

Did not bike with the Donald this morning. Damn! I will tomorrow.

Am busy revising "Rescue Man," this afternoon, my 25k story about a hero. I've realized that one of the themes that recurs in my work is that of the man who is a hero, a high achiever. My two big published stories so far, "Ezekiel's Retreat," (coming out soon in Interzone) and Primetime (in Writers of the Future) are about men who are heroic, in one sense of the word or another. I think one of the reasons why I've chosen to write in genre fiction rather than in li-fi is that the genres allow a writer to treat men in a more classic sense than li fi does.

And my experiences in li-fi have been rather strange. I took an MFA class at the U several years ago and was disgusted at the lack of imagination and adventure in the stories. Most of the stories were about alcoholics. Genre fiction seems to allow the possibilitiy of human adventure in the way in which most li fi simply doesn't. And I took a workshop when I was an undergrad at Penn long ago. The stories there, while technically great, made me think I was in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.

Although I have a fancy education, I grew up reading Sergeant Rock comic books, Star Trek novels, and Mad Magazine. Sure, I've read Hegel too. But Philosophy of History can't hold a candle to a good space battle.

In any event, Rescue Man is about a Vietnam search and rescue pilot. On his last day in country in 1966, he has to rescue a B-52 crew that has been shot down. He and his squadron get them out, and he's on his way home, when a F-4 Phantom on fire flies by on the way down. The events that happen on this second rescue lead the pilot, Dave Pantano, to the edge of eternal damnation. I won't tell any more.

I'm also finally finishing up the review on Modern Utopian Fictions. Hopefully, it will be off my desk tomorrow. And I'm starting to revise my first draft of "Bringing Work Home with Her," a satire about a former Greenpeace activist who's married to a spy. You've never seen family therapy like this.....

Back to revision

Doug

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Discover Your Strengths

Went biking with Marcus Buckingham this morning. 648 burned calories in 30 minutes. I want to hit 750 tomorrow. I enjoyed listening to the CD and agree with Buckingham that discovering and capitalizing on your strengths is really important. I remember right after college when I worked at W.B. Saunders Company, as a medical copy editor, I was stuck in a cubicle every day, trying to help doctors correct their prose. It was an ok job, but, ultimately, I sure wasn't playing to my strenghts. And I sure didn't make much money. I can't believe I lived on what they paid me.

I'm really captivated by the notion that you should spend as much of the day as possible doing things that play to your strengths. My nice piece of satirestrenghts: selling, writing, making people laugh, arguing, teaching, chatting with people (is this really a strength?), telling stories, accomplishing things when I'm in extreme pain or discomfort.


Here's something that would be interesting: getting famous bad guys to discover their strengths: Al Capone, Atilla the Hun, etc. That's a nice piece of satire.


Off to finish (I hope) Firchow's review.

Doug

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Saturday: Emotions in SF

Did my biking with the Donald and Zanker this morning. Only 480 calories. I'm in a weekend lull. One of the subjects on the CD this morning was loyalty to employees and employers. I think that's right. If you don't have loyalty, you have nothing.

I'm still very excited for Andrea Kail, who was nominated for a nebula this week. I hope she gets it.

In terms of my own reading, I am trying to plow through an SM Stirling book. I confess, while my hat is off to him for his research (he even quotes from Jack London within the first thirty pages of his book In the Oceans of Eternity), I'm having a very difficult time plowing through the beginning of the book. Why? Maybe its the unfamiliar and difficult to pronounce names (that may sound stupid, but I've heard many an SF writer and editor say that if the reader can't say them, it makes it much more difficult to get through the book). So much of SF is very emotionally flat. When I was at Viable Paradise a couple of years ago, an article had just said that SF fan couples are very likely to have children who have Asperger's, a disease that causes children to have low emotional affect. Is this the problem? No, I don't think so. I'm at the other end of the emotional register and I've met a few SF writers who are there as well. I think what it is is that SF is so world-building oriented and driven largely by external conflict that emotional resonance often gets lost.

For example, I plowed through L.Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth over Christmas. It was absolutely breathtaking in terms of the scope. And the adventure was quite fun. But nobody seemed to have any internal life at all (other than wanting to wipe people out or not get wiped out.) But that's ok. I like to have both: good explosions and lots of people going around emoting.

OK, blog time is over. Now it's time to get back to my writing.

Doug

Friday, January 11, 2008

SUPPLEMENTAL--GREAT NEWS FOR A FELLOW WRITER

Wow, just heard some absolutely astounding and wonderful news. Andrea Kail, one of my fellow writers of the future winners just got nominated for a Nebula. CONGRATULATIONS, ANDREA! DT

Data security and Utopia

Taking a break from writing application letters. Last night I did my University of Minnesota Data Security compliance training online. Pain in the tuckus. But it was important. A couple of weeks ago a TA at the U (not me) (I'm done, and I have the illustrious rank of Instructor) got in trouble for doing something pretty outrageous in class. I didn't know exactly what it was, so when he told me that he had gotten fired, I told him to immediately go to a lawyer. TAs can get treated pretty horribly by the professors and support staff in my department (I won't begin to tell you how many times I've seen professors threaten to cut people's funding in the hallway or plow over graduate students--a friend of mine told me about getting screamed at by the DGS over something pretty trivial), so my philosophy has always been "Hit em back!" As Donald Trump would say, if you don't, "you're a schmuck." But when I found out what he had done, I was chagrined. I think I was the schmuck.

Later I found him sitting in front of a computer terminal with the class list for his class open. "I know where they live," he chortled. I was blown out of the water. Oh, god. You serve students (even the ones you hate). You don't track them down. A former TA Mentor, I did my best intimidating voice, "Hey, don't do that." I hope it worked. For everybody's sake. Student privacy comes first.

On a less morally troubling note, I spent this morning working with Peter Firchow's Modern Utopian Fictions. My problem with it isn't the scholarship. He's a pretty smart guy. And his engagement with Golding's Lord of the Flies was kind of boyishly enthusiastic. And his engagement with Hegel, Fukuyama, and Marcuse was first-rate. But the real problem with the book is its end point. Firchow argues that modern fiction ends around 1960. Fair enough. But he ends his consideration of utopian fiction with Iris Murdoch's the Bell. It's a very weird book, about an English post-war intentional community. I don't think it's really very utopian. If it is, it's utopian in the same way Walden is. Tune in. Turn off. Drop out. And, more important, Firchow leaves out perhaps the second or third most important British utopian writer in the last century--Anthony Burgess, who published TWO dystopias in the same year (1962): Clockwork Orange and the Wanting Seed. (What a year: to pump out two books like that. His to-do list must have been pretty amazing. Today: Wake up, have coffee, create most stunning book of 20c, do laundry). The effect of ending the book on this note is that it implies that British utopian/dystopian fiction had a trajectory that I don't think it really had. And Firchow leaves out a lot about SF, the direction utopia and dystopia took in the 60s and 70s.

Well, gotta get back to work and flog myself to the academic masses. Happy Weekend. Back at you tomorrow after bicycling with Trump.

Hiyah!

Doug

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I'm back. The Academic Job Market and all that Jazz

Hi, Everybody. I'm back. I had a motherboard go down a couple of months ago.

What's new? Well, my fall quest for academic jobs landed in a big zero. No MLA interviews. I'm Dr. Doug these days. But that and a two bucks will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. My advisor's advice about the job market made me almost double over with laughter. She started asking me about my commitment. This is one of those phony techniques that managers in low paying job markets use to get people to continue to work like a dog for nothing. Commitment to what?

Being degraded?

It was the same technique used by crusade preachers to get people to go on crusade to the Holy Land. Nobody ever came back. Check out my book, You're Not Very Important for a great chapter on the Crusades.

Well, I'm applying for a few more jobs this semester, but I'm completely ignoring all of the advice of everybody at my home university and seeing what I can do on my own.

Anyway, writing is going pretty well. I have a new routine that other writers might find useful.

I get up and do crunches, reps with hand weights, and stretches.

Then, I get on my new exercise bike and turn on a Donald Trump CD: Thank Big and Kick Ass. I went to Penn, where the Donald did, but I'm a lot younger than he is. He went to Wharton. I attended the College. When I was an undergraduate, I was very anti-business. Now that I'm older, I'm not. And I find the Donald rather refreshing after years around English professors. Anyway, I try to burn off six hundred calories in 30 minutes while the Donald tells me how to lay waste to everybody who gets in my way.

After I'm done, I leap into the shower (no, I won't tell you what I do there). Then I leap out, do my oral hygene and shave. Then I run to the word processor and pump a thousand words. Then, I spend about 1.5 hours studying and writing direct mail. Now, all this gets done usually before 8:30, when I run off to start my other work.

I find the routine very fun.

Tomorrow...fun with the American Psychological Association.

Doug