NASA chief says it’s not for us to decide what the Earth’s climate should be…

Yep, we have global warming. Yep, it’s largely due to human activity. That’s what the boss of NASA says. For a long time the current administration refuted that the earth was warming up. Then they had to admit it was, but maintained there was no evidence that it was due to human activity. Now they’ve had to accept that. The next step in the Washington stonewalling of any attempt to even contemplate doing something about it: Hey, climates change. It would be arrogant of us to decide what the climate should be.

OK, maybe. But doesn’t that make anything man does to alter his environment for greater comfort or productivity arrogant? By that definition, arrogance is one of the primary characteristics of mankind, one of the things that makes us who we are. Why shouldn’t we decide what the best climate would be? Hell, if warmer is better for for most of humanity, I’m all for global warming. Let’s heat this place up! The problem is that making the climate hotter is more likely to be negative, and has the potential to cause suffering on a scale never before witnessed in history. Not since the black death, anyway. That’s a pretty big potential downside.

No, it’s not arrogant to consider potential disasters in the coming decades, it’s just that the people getting rich off current policies risk having the cash gusher they’re sitting on slow down a bit. Energy policy is, as far as I can tell (I’m no expert), a critical element in mitigating global warming. We will not have a well-considered energy policy while oil men are in charge. We would also not have a well-considered energy policy if windmill people were in charge, but that’s not what we’re facing right now.

If Cape Canaveral is abandoned to the waves, I hope NASA puts up a plaque with this guy’s picture on it.

A Milestone, of sorts…

Well, it’s official, Jer’s Software Hut is a multi-product company. Someone went to the trouble to slide me five bucks for Jer’s Flash Card Viewer.

As I prepared the key file it occurred to me that the whole key system in the viewer hasn’t really been tested that much. In fact, I couldn’t quite remember how it was supposed to work. Had I made it so that double-clicking the key would work, or was it using the old drag-to-the-folder method? I played it safe with the instructions, generated the key, and sent it off.

Thus opens a grand new revenue stream for the Hut. With the dollar continuing to tank it is only worth about three or four beers, but that should cover my bar tab tonight when I go to hear a friend do some sort of musical act.

If I was smart, I’d use my connections in the textbook industry and get one of them to include JersFCV as a supplement to a language textbook. The downside is that it would cost me a chunk of cash and time to even start working on a Windows version. Whoever paid me would have to foot the development cost.

In fact, after writing the above I composed an email to my former boss in the Educational Software Biz. If he wants to sell Jer’s Flash Card Viewer to his clients, I’m sure not going to stop him.

The First Fruits of the Submissions Drive

I got home last night to find a letter waiting for me on the stairs. I really wasn’t expecting to get anything back this quickly, and I assumed that a rapid response was not probably not a good sign.

I opened the envelope and found my cover letter with some notes written on it. That is unusual; most agents have a simple form letter they return. This saves the agent time, but more important it shields them from indignant rebuttals from would-be authors. So that was nice. Normally you have no idea why you’ve been rejected, and therefore you have no idea what to do about it.

I was rejected for two reasons, and both of them may be problematic. The manuscript is too long and i break a Rule. Cut 35% of the text, change it so there is no broken Rule and they would be interested in taking a closer look.

The note went on to say that judging by the opening few paragraphs I should have no trouble finding the words to eliminate. Ironically, those words are there more for the agent than for the story, setting the mood while I demonstrate my style. (Although I have tightened it up a bit since submitting to this agent.) Then it gets right down to the action and never stops. I’ve already gone through the manuscript a few times chopping out any deadwood I could find. (Well, OK, there is one action sequence that does not ultimately change the outcome of the story, but I like it. In a pinch, I have about 5,000 words to give. Only 35,000 more and I’m golden.)

There’s another way I could shorten the thing easily. I could just chop the damn thing in half, hang the reader out to dry when they thought they were buying an entire story only to get to the end and find out that they’ve bought the first of a series. I’ve read some books that make no pretense whatsoever at providing a satisfying ending, and it pisses me off. Some of them may as well break mid-sentence for all the concern they show for their readers. Still, it’s an option…

Then there’s the Rule. I’ll have to review how I present it in the cover letter; the response seemed to think I broke the Rule for humor, which can’t be farther from the truth. Breaking the Rule is intrinsic to the way the story works, and I’m certain that if someone would read the thing they would agree with me that it works pretty dang well.

So, naturally, my first impulse was to write the very sort of rebuttal that makes agents afraid to give me helpful information. The thing is, even once I get an agent, that person is going to have to turn around and defend the length and Rule-breaking to a publisher. These aren’t arbitrary biases on the part of the agent, they are things that will make selling the manuscript to a publisher more difficult.

Hm… chop it in half, then sell the second part first. No Rule-breaking there. I can just pick up mid-sentence and carry on!

Here’s a freebie…

I had an idea for an interesting story setup just now. It’s not a story setting I’m likely to use in the near future, but it was fun to think about.

If the world were substantially hotter, it would only be habitable at the poles. It leads to some cool scenarios when people are finally able to get to the other pole. Naturally, it would be more interesting if there were people there already, but how did those people get there? Are there entirely separate evolutionary branches going on, and if so, how do the results compare?

I’m not sure whether a habitable planet that is that much hotter would need more of its surface covered with water or less. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

Other questions arise, like:

Cosmology: would cultures that develop in polar regions have the same misconceptions that Earth civilizations did? Would seeing the sun go around in circles rather than rising and setting alter the perception of the solar system?

Cosmology 2: What shape would such people imagine the Earth to be? Perhaps an inverted bowl, which continues to bulge outward until you reach the edge? Maybe the bowl is spinning on some sort of flat surface beneath, which would explain the seasonal motion of the sun.

Mythology: The sun is important, but too much sun is deadly. Would a culture whose boundaries are defined by the strength of the sun imagine that evil lurks in the shadows they way we do, or are the shadows where the good guys take refuge from the evil that inhabits the sunny regions?

Navigation: It doesn’t seem to me that anyone will be inventing a compass in those parts. When travelers venture far to the south, what troubles are they going to encounter when trying to find their way around?

Weather: I bet there would be days when the huge storms come from the south (for the north pole dwellers) fed by the extra energy from the sun.


Beer Flies

I was in the Little Café Near Home, sipping tea, enjoying the midafternoon quiet. Eventually I finished what I was working on and decided to give myself a little pat on the back, pivo-style. I ordered the beer and turned to another project. Almost instantly there were tiny little flies buzzing around my drink, threatening to go swimming. Beer flies.

Edited to add: Hey, kids! Learn why in the comments!

Working on the @#$&! Synopsis (again)

I’ve been concentrating the last few days on sales and marketing, trying to connect my words with people who may actually want to pay me for them. Short stories are (relatively) simple — a potential publisher (or overworked minion) reads the story and decides if it’s worthwhile. So, for that effort I need only a simple cover letter with a one or two sentence blurb about the story, a bit of biographical data, and the story does the rest, living or dying on its own merits.

A novel is a more difficult sell. Nobody has time to read all the crappy writing that comes over the threshold every day, so the evaluation process has been streamlined. This makes things more difficult for the deserving writer, but it makes things possible for the agents and editors (and their minions) who have better things to do than read bad fiction. (Better things like, for instance, reading my fiction.)

The chaff is separated from the wheat based on a few criteria; the initial submission to an agent is the minimum amount of material required to prove that the writing is not so badly flawed that it’s not worth any further consideration. The reader has a giant ‘NO’ stamp hovering over the page during the entire evaluation. An agent wants to know a few key facts: 1) Can this guy write? Does he have command of the language, with coherent paragraphs and facile use of imagery? 2) Can he put together a coherent narrative — an actual story with a beginning, a middle, and an end? 3) Are there interesting people who grow or change? 4) (bonus) Is the writer a pro who will be reasonable to work with?

Question 1 is answered with a sample of of the actual work. This is often (but not always) the first three chapters of the story. The bonus question 4 is answered with a polite, informative, and coherent cover letter. That leaves two questions which much be answered by a separate piece of writing, a marketing piece drafted solely for this purpose, called the ‘brief synopsis’. I have been wrestling with this beast off an on for more than a year, now. It is not a simple exercise. How do you distill a whole damn novel into a few paragraphs, give some idea of characters and events, and somehow retain the drama you just used tens of thousands of words to build?

I had a synopsis I was satisfied with, but increasingly I discovered that the definition of ‘brief’ that my first effort was based on was by no means typical. Back in I went with the text machete, but when I chopped out a bunch, the remainder wasn’t compelling. I started from scratch. Somewhere back in time on this blog you can read about my pleasure with the result. I managed to maintain this happy feeling for quite some time by avoiding rereading it. Now I’m pretty sure that although it sucks less than the first attempt, it still sucks.

Quite by accident I stumbled across a description of a synopsis that carried one helpful bit of information that none of the others ever did: Start with a paragraph that describes the structure of your story. The Monster Within takes place in four parts that are defined by the progression of the main character through four stages of personal change. By starting with that simple fact, then by describing the four stages, the synopsis is much more coherent and focuses attention on the character-driven nature of the story.

That synopsis advice runs counter to other help articles I’ve read, but hit me as such an obvious and practical tip that I wonder why I never did that before. Perhaps I even did, but then read too many “how to write a synopsis” pieces that focussed on simply condensing the story. (Actually, I still haven’t gone back to read my current synopsis. Maybe I snuck the structural information in there anyway. I’ll check after I finish the first draft of the new one.)

Once more must I muster all my skill to write a nonfiction article about a work of fiction, that somehow is a faithful representation as well as a compelling read in its own right. This time I’m ignoring the advice of all those helpful ‘how-to’ articles, and just trying to be natural. It’s been going pretty well, although I haven’t checked the length yet. That could come as an ugly surprise.

I should say it was going pretty well, right up until I got to the end. I left out so many plot points through the course of the synopsis that I’m stumped about how to make the ending make sense. Instead, I am sitting here writing about writing about my novel. (I suppose I’ll have to leave a comment about writing this episode.)

It just occurred to me that I could write a completely different ending that works for the synopsis. Once someone bothers to read the whole novel, the mismatch won’t matter… right?

No Man’s Land

I spent the morning at the Glitzy Vodaphone Café (actual name: FUEL, but I won’t be using that name again), drinking too much of the best tea available in Strašnice and working on a project that I’ve been putting off. The story is an account of my adventure on Mt. Etna, with all the facts and figures to make it suitable for consumption by mainstream travel magazines. I’ve been looking forward to tackling this project, since on that climb I learned several things that weren’t in the travel books but really should have been. Here is my chance to be entertaining, published in a major market, and actually useful.

I wrote a draft of it this morning, and it came out all right for a draft, but it has a major flaw. My favorite parts of the article are not about how and why one would climb a volcano, it’s about why I climbed a volcano and my adventures along the way. The other parts of the article, while still in first person, are more devoted to the “useful” voice of travel magazines. At first I thought I had found a balance, giving all the necessary facts within a personal narrative, but on reading now I see that what I have is rather schizophrenic – passages of soaring prose invoking the mysteries of the world and the ancient gods, followed by workmanlike travelogue.

When I first reported on Etna in these pages, a friend told me, (something like) “This story has something that the stories in travel magazines lack.” That’s true, but the pity is that it’s something the travel magazines lack by design. Their stories lack a strong narrator, and for some reason that’s a good thing.

Ultimately, I suspect I’ll have to write two separate versions — the prosaic, useful one to sell to a travel magazine, and the other one. The gonzo one, that starts with beers with fuego the night before and ends twenty-four hours later as the fancy fish restaurant is closing around us and the crushing heat finally relaxes its grip on the city. It’s the version where I can include things I remember clearly, but maybe not what order they occurred in. I wasn’t taking notes. (In Sicily, the word ‘gonzo’ means ‘fool’. That works for me.)

The first of those two stories will be the more difficult to write. It still has to carry my identity with it; after all, travel is all about experience, and there can be no experience without an experiencee. It needs my unique voice or there’s no point in me writing it in the first place, but ultimately the reader has to relate personally to the story, putting themself in my rental hiking boots. In the end, it’s about the reader and the mountain, not me and the mountain. The people who pay for this stuff have made that point very clear.

As I ponder these two incarnations of the same story, it occurrs to me that above I have answered part of my own quandary. I can still sell the gonzo version, just not to travel magazines. I’m not sure right now just where I can sell it, but some of the literary rags still accept stories with narratives, as long as they’re nonfiction.

If I were to start a magazine, it would be a gonzo travel magazine. Not just about places, but people in places. Stories. Experiences. Cultural disconnects and lessons learned. Adventures. Life. Not necessarily the drug-addled craziness that the name’s association with Hunter S. Thompson implies, but journalism from a highly personal point of view. There must be a good supply of those stories, because every travel magazine goes out of their way to say that’s what they don’t want.

You just sit right there until I find out if is taken. No, better yet, someone take that idea and make the magazine I was born to write for.

There goes one excuse…

A study in a recent European medical journal compared the fitness of men against the amount of beer they drank. One conclusion: the beer belly is not a beer belly. The researchers found no relationship between beer consumption and weight.

I have to wonder, though, whether the researchers were entirely unbiased. It was a joint study between scientists from Britain and the Czech Republic. I bet they were all overweight beer drinkers.

The Last Breath of Summer

A while back I wrote a story about the first warm day of the year. It is about beginnings, and about the endings that, like winter, must surely follow. The first warm day is a magical event; not only is the city transformed, not only do the people around you seem to have shed their dour moods along with their winter jackets, it is as if the rays of the sun shine straight into your soul, and the air that fills your lungs makes it feel like you haven’t inhaled in months. It is not a day for working.

The last warm day of the year has a similar magic. If the beginning of summer carries with it the knowledge that there will be an end, the last warm day is greeted with thanksgiving — one more day of summer. A reprieve. There have already been cold days, the clouds have settled in and look like they’re planning to stick around for a few months. (I was in the city center a couple weeks back, and I was surprised to see so many tourists. I had to remind myself that summer still lingered in much of the northern hemisphere.) Then out of nowhere comes one or two beautiful days. There is a chill to the air, there’s no forgetting what’s coming, but that just adds to the magic. This is a bonus day, a day life didn’t have to give you, but you caught it in a good mood. Life smiled indulgently and said, “Oh, I suppose one more can’t hurt.”

Sunday was such a day. When given such a gift, you owe it to life to make the most of it. You wouldn’t want to appear ungrateful, after all. So it was that Sunday afternoon found fuego and me sitting in the very beer garden where the above story takes place, chatting about this and that, watching the dogs play, and enjoying long silences while we looked out over the Old Town. The place was full, but they know how to keep things moving at the beer window.

We had arrived in the early afternoon; by the time we left the sun had set long since. We watched as the light put the city through a series of transformations, through the Golden Hour and into the night. I imagined people sitting on that same hillside one hundred years ago. I looked for buildings that wouldn’t have been there back then, and I thought about what the scene in the park might have looked like, thinking about the images of nicely-attired members of the Austro-Hungarian Empire out for a promenade, parasols twirling lazily.

The styles and mannerisms might change, but I’m sure the people back then talked about the same things fuego and I discussed: the beauty of the city spread out before us, and our great fortune to have one more warm day to enjoy it.

Odds and Ends

I should mention that I have the cover story over at Piker Press this week. It’s set in the Tin-Caniverse, a neighborhood of the Science Fiction multiverse in which a few laws of physics have been suspended for being inconvenient. It’s the first in the series told in the third person, and the continuity issues between this and the previous installments I chalk up to conflicting memories. We won’t consider that one person is remembering something before the other person experiences it. In fact, in this case we can temporarily reinstate relativity to make traveling faster than light a form of time travel, explain away the problem, and then put that pesky law of nature back in the drawer.

I’m pretty happy with the story, but reading it now that it’s been published, I think I left a little on the table. No such worries about my story that will be published over there during zombie month. Zombie Month! Where have you been all my life? I’ll let you know when my modest submission is up; it’ll be a few weeks, yet.

I’ve settled on my NaNoWriMo story, but I really don’t know what I’m going to do with the idea. It’s a comedy based on the statement “When math is outlawed, only outlaws will do math.” In a world where governments willfully keep the populace ignorant, what would a revolutionary look like? It’s got lots of possibilities. I picture street gangs that hang out in ‘math houses’, leaving elegant mathematical clues how to find them scrawled on walls throughout the city. I think I’ll start with a scene where during a police raid the protagonists must convince the cops they were only doing drugs, and that the drugs were obtained through sanctioned sources.

This morning I put out a new release of Jer’s Novel Writer. The last version had a bug that only happened to users installing the software for the first time. Not good, and of course none of my usual testers were going to catch something like that. I’m not exactly sure how long the bad code was in there, but the problem manifested most obviously in the last release. I wonder how many odd problems people have been having over the past months were caused by the bug. Ai, ai, ai.

On Monday What’s-Her-Name sent me a message asking if I was free. I haven’t seen her since her brief tenure as a bartender at Little Café Near Home. My phone and I don’t really get along, though, and I didn’t see the message until about an hour ago – three days late. Somewhere, the capricious gods of telecommunications are laughing.

Finally, do any of you remember reading an episode about the Awkward Bowling League? I wrote it a couple of weeks ago, and now it’s… gone. There’s no sign of it. I was going to write a follow-up, and I wanted to read the original first and link to it. I’m just wondering if it vanished before or after you guys got a chance to read it.

[Late Addition!] Five cover letters tonight. I just have to assemble the parts, and I’m caught up. Got a smiley-face infested message from What’s-her-Name, so that’s cool. Getaway Cruiser is playing some good noise into my head right now. Things could be worse.

Free Bird!

Sometimes it’s difficult to find that perfect note to end a story on. Frequently I have a good setting, good characters, and no satisfying conclusion. It’s a sketch, rather than a story. Today, I have the opposite problem. I was writing along, and I hit a great note to end on. Boom. The only trouble is, there’s more that I want to tell, and the ‘more’ part won’t be able to flourish as a story on its own. Out there in the distance I already had a pretty sweet closing planned out anyway. So, onward. It’s not so bad to have a good sentence, take a breath, and move on. It’s just that it had a nice, final feel to it.

A few paragraphs later, boom. Another very nice ending. Alas, the story still wasn’t finished. On I went. I just wrote the third nice ending. Just like the song “Free Bird”, I’m into the third coda. This one is a really nice stopping point, even better than the others. I can’t have the door open now. I just can’t. I’ll just have to find another way to work the remaining parts into a different story. They’re good, dammit! They deserve to be written!

Just not here.

But… Aargh! I read over the story and I set up the intended ending so nicely. One more coda, Mr. Van Zant!

Gambler’s alert…

The Bolts are playing as I write this, but I have intentionally avoided checking the score until after I get this out.

First, some history. The San Diego Chargers Professional Football Club has, for many years, sucked. There was one giddy year, when they jouked and jinked their way to the Super Bowl ™ to be completely humiliated by San Francisco. That complete ass-whuppin’ was the best the Chargers managed (which, to be fair, means at least they got to the dance) while I lived in America’s Finest City ™. Most years, we were happy for mediocre.

Then I left town. I went so far away I couldn’t even watch the games on TV. The Chargers have been contenders ever since. (Also note that the San Diego Padres Baseball Club has won their division ever since.) Two years ago I started issuing alerts when I was in town, or when I would be following the game. Let’s call them red alerts and yellow alerts.

My first red alert was a couple of years ago when San Diego was heavily favored to crush Miami. The point spread was ridiculous, but Miami was really horrible, and the Chargers were looking pretty good. The catch: I was in San Diego. Miami won, and the Chargers never recovered. Season over.

That is the power I seem to wield.

Of course, one game, even when you call it ahead of time, does not a curse make. No, for that you will have to review the other gambler’s alerts on these pages. All of those are before the fact and therefore unassailable, but there are also the after-the-fact lamentations, as when I followed the last five minutes of the Chargers-Ravens game last season. When I started watching, the Chargers had the game in hand. When, nauseous, I turned off the game minutes later, they had lost.

The Chargers lost three games last year. After the first two losses, I spent a great deal of time convincing myself that it was simply coincidence that they choked in games I watched. I was not a curse, despite my statements here. I was nine time zones away, and no rational person would believe that I had any effect on the outcome of the game.

They lost.

I have not checked in with tonight’s game, but the message here is that I have discovered the world of Internet bootleg sports broadcasts. The barrier for me watching the Bolts is suddenly much lower.

It still might be OK. I’m not in San Diego. The delay in the bootleg broadcast might be enough. Still, I think it’s time to put a yellow alert on the entire season.

Gamblers, you have been warned.

Something’s Brewing…

One of the nice things about the house where I live is that the back yard has several large fruit trees. A month ago my landlord was forcing upon me all the apricots I could possibly eat, then a few more. Recently it’s been plums.

On a couple of occasions in the last couple of weeks the smell of plums in the stairway has been pretty powerful. Obviously Otakar was not finding uses for the plums as fast as he was collecting them. Time waits for no plum.

But here, sometimes the obvious is not the same as it would be in other places. Anyone who live here would already have figured out that the plums downstairs were not going bad, they were going good. As I came down the stairs this afternoon there was a pot of plum juice, complete with peels and some of the pulp, sitting by Otakar’s door. The light bulb suspended over my head blinked on. He’s making Slivovice.

The Czech Republic has two national boozes. Becherovka is a brand name, made from a supposedly secret recipe; it hails from the Jagermeister school of boozemaking but is far less foul. Slivovice, or plum vodka, is just the opposite. It’s a people’s drink, the recipe owned by all collectively, and the best stuff is homemade. (I have had three chances to confirm this, and the homemade stuff really is better.) You have to love a country with a national tradition of making hooch. I wonder if old-timers lament that kids these days are content to drink liquor from factories rather than make their own.

Driving Fast Cars

There was a time in my life when I was married, had just bought a house, and money was tight. We had two cars, and one of them was a Miata. Not a practical car. We decided to sell it. Triska got the Jetta (a fine automobile in its own right) most of the time, which left me bus and bicycle as my primary transport. This worked most of the time.

Eventually, as the divorce gradually mobilized, it became clear that I was going to need my own car again. Triska was an enthusiastic and welcome shopping helper, and that extended to car shopping, but the best times were when I showed up at the dealership on my own.

Heck, you’re test-driving cars, why limit yourself? When you show up at a dealership, the salesmen are watching you. They are grading you. They are already deciding what car they’re going to sell you. If you show up on a bicycle, wearing clothes one might wear when bicycling around, they’ve got no baseline, except that in California, only health nuts bicycle around for transportation (those and poor people, but you can tell them by looking).

Thus it was one Sunday when I made the reasonably flat ride to the Jaguar dealership in Kearny Mesa. I arrived a bit winded but uncategorizeable, except that I was white and I was riding a bike. I just wanted to look at the XK-8’s. They were new back then. It might have been the weekend; there were other customers milling about. I was just trying not to get too much slobber on these beautiful machines.

(Yes, I am aware that these machines cost as much to build as it would take to feed a desperate village in Africa. That doesn’t make them not beautiful.)

Eventually, a salesman decided to give me a try. He drifted over and asked if he could help me with anything. “I’m just looking,” I said, or something like that. I didn’t want to waste his time. He didn’t go away, however. I asked him if one could get the Jag with cloth seats. “Only leather,” he said apologetically – knowingly. “You drive a convertible,” I said. He pointed to his ’60s mustang convertible across the street.

“Everyone wants leather,” he said, shaking his head. I understood. He understood that I understood.

“So, you want to drive it?”

I don’t recall the exact disclaimers I used, but he waved them off. “It’ll be fun,” he said. He didn’t have to twist my arm very hard. “All right.”

It was his job to drive the Jag off the lot, then he turned the helm over to me. “You want the top down?” he asked. I looked at him – Have you forgotten me already? – and he showed me how the top mechanism works. His take: the perfect mechanism. The windows work in synch with the top, everything is carefully choreographed and fully automated. My take: Damn! that’s got about fifty points of failure, and it weighs a lot.

On things like that, I diverge from the boys at Jaguar and just about every other ‘luxury’ mark. To me luxury is a top I can reach back and lift with one hand, flip a couple of latches, and be on my way, without waiting for the friggin’ machines to do their little dance. Time is my luxury. A car unencumbered by extra crap is my luxury. My current car, lovingly garaged eight time zones from here, is spartan by modern standards, but honestly has way too much busy crap.

So – the top raising/lowering mechanism on the Jag was preposterously complex. At this point the top is down and I’m behind the wheel. I’ve been driving four-bangers for a long time, and a smooth and throaty eight is affecting me below the belt. I pulled away from the curb, wheeled around, and headed onto the streets. The salesman pointed toward a freeway on-ramp, one of the loopy ones. “Push it,” he said.

There I am, sitting in a rock-solid, powerful beast of a car, and the salesman is telling me to push it. I pushed. I whooshed around that curve and hit the freeway in stride.

“That was pretty good,” the salesman said. “But let’s try it again. This time, push it.”

Thumbs up to both car and salesman. We came back around, hit another clover leaf loop, and I pushed it. The car was rock-solid, stable, the engine only just starting to have fun. We came out of that loop and I shot onto the freeway, slowing down to match traffic.

“Remember,” the salesman said, “you pay any tickets. But let’s try that again. This time, push it.” (The message: you haven’t driven a car that can do this before.)

I did. Holy crap. White-knuckle madness, the car performing with aplomb. “That’s good enough,” the salesman said.

We did some other performance tests as well, including brakes. Most salesmen try to talk me out of a serious brake test. Not this guy. I think he was having fun as copilot. “I know! Let’s do…!” He did a good job demonstrating to me that the car was a beast, but a civilized beast. (The jaguar folks may want to quote me on that one.)

If you need a really stylish way to burn a lot of gas flying around freeway ramps, this is your car. If you need a good way to kill an afternoon, ride your bike to you local Jaguar dealership. Shortly thereafter I experienced the two-stage turbo of the RX-7 (holy crap what a hoot to drive – two-stage my ass I was turning left at a traffic light and the turbo kicked in and I was in Arizona) and a few other cars as well.

And some people go to the movies for action.

Getting the Words Out

Writing, for me, is pretty easy. I sit, I think of things, I write them. Some days it’s difficult to think of the things I’m supposed to be writing, but there’s always something, even if it’s throwaway prose that I will never use. Still, it happens that occasionally I finish things.

This is where the trouble begins. I’ve got a novel, sitting there, waiting for me to find someone to help me sell it to a publisher. Novels are patient, just being piles of words, and they are happy to just sit there forever. Likewise, the heap of stories in my “on deck” folder are in no hurry to go anywhere.

It is difficult for me to submit my work for a critical review. My pals over at Piker Press were a great way to get started submitting stuff — I already knew some of them through NaNoWriMo, and they’ve always been kind to me. The only problem: they don’t pay. I’m sure they’d love to be able to pay the writers (or themselves, for that matter), but I’m pretty sure that will never happen.

Submitting elsewhere is more intimidating. I’m up against a bunch of folks all scrambling for the same few dollars. It’s not fear of rejection that bothers me, it’s fear of being rejected and remembered. “Oh, man, not this guy again!” Nightmare. This compounds the feeling I get in my gut when I send off a submission that the story is not ready yet. It could be better. There’s always something to improve. In this way publication is an act of mercy; I can stop trying to fix it.

Then there’s the part where I’m lazy. It’s time-consuming researching markets, reading over submissions guidelines, and crafting a cover letter. Whenever I sit down to this sort of chore, I always find something else to do instead (like write).

Two days ago I made a plan. For every paying customer at Jer’s Software Hut, I’ll submit something, somewhere. No sooner did I decide on that plan than I made three sales. I got the submissions out this afternoon — two short stories to paying magazines and one agent query by email for Monster. It feels pretty good.

The next submission will also be from the Great Pile o’ Stories, one that I think is ready for the big time. If only I could be sure…