johnstonmr: (Default)
When I attended Viable Paradise 17, back in 2013, I got a massive shot of "YES, YOU COULD BE A PROFESSIONAL WRITER OF FICTION" juice. And that kept me going, when I got home, so that it took me about another year to finish the book, even accounting for all the rewrites required by what I'd learned at VP.

At that point, my self-confidence was flagging. Surely, this book sucked. Nothing any of the pros at VP had said about the book, or about my skill, was real. They were just being nice. So I sent the book out to Beta, and while I got some feedback that was critical of elements of the book, most of them were also quite complimentary, with a running comment being variations of "If I'd bought this in a bookstore, I'd consider it money well spent." That renewed my self-belief, and I spent a few months rewriting and editing quite happily, and polished it up. Then I sent it out to agents.

I've talked before about how the agent submission process is long and often debilitating. Nothing has changed. And so, my "Writer self-belief" is now at an all-time low. And I'm finding myself working on a new project, but unable to actually write. I've got an outline; I know the shape of the plot... and it's going precisely nowhere.

I am realizing that I am a writer who needs semi-regular bolstering of my belief in myself. Which is lame, but there it is. I need to do more writing-related activities, at least once a year or so, to keep my belief in this path going. Otherwise I crawl into a hole and stop writing, which drives me insane. I want to write. I maybe even need to write. But if I'm not doing it, I lose the thread.
johnstonmr: (Default)
So, I didn't like the whole "Livejournal now says you have to follow Russian law" thing, so I migrated. I'll probably go back to using this like I used to use my LJ. But we'll see.
johnstonmr: (glasses)
I seriously need to figure out how to link my Wordpress, where I do most of my blogging these days, so it will cross-post to my LJ.

Anyway. The first draft of the book was completed a month or so back. You'll notice I shortened the word count. That's mostly because I'm trying not to psyche myself into thinking I MUST have 100K words; but also I know that SF first novels are often less than that.



Anyway, I've begun revisions, and then I'll be looking for Betas, probably from my lovely classmates from Viable Paradise 17, and perhaps an outlier or two. Then a final polish incorporating what notes from the beta readers I find useful, and then I'll start hammering my ego flat by submitting it to agents and possibly to Tor Books, if they're open to subs at that time and if I decide my ego can handle a Tor editor saying no without an agent as go-between.
johnstonmr: (Are you kidding?)
So, the one good thing going on is that I'm making progress. Not as much as I did during the summer, but progress is good, yes?

johnstonmr: (Are you kidding?)


Yep. I hit the halfway point of the STORY a few weeks back, but now I've hit the 1/2 wordcount mark. Mind you, the final project might be less; I tend to overwrite. And of course this is just first draft, and some of what I've written might have to go. But still.
May. 28th, 2014 11:58 am

Names

johnstonmr: (Are you kidding?)
Hrm. I would like to change this username--Mahdi was chosen when all it reflected was my fanboy-ness over Dune, but now I'd like something a little less... I don't know. I'd probably have done it already, except for the cost. Not that I can't afford the $15, it just makes me wait until I've got something I really want to use.
johnstonmr: (Are you kidding?)
I've become so disillusioned with Facebook it isn't pretty. And in any case, I never intended Facebook to take over my online life. So I'm doing what some of my friends do--FB is there for quick notes and silliness, and keeping in touch with family. This place is for my longer thoughts, but primarily it's for the stuff I don't want to put on my wordpress blog, which is, until such time as I decide I won't be publishing, destined to be my "author persona blog," and so I don't put some of my thoughts there. I'm looking into getting the Wordpress stuff posted here as well.

Anyway. I found out there is a thing called Diet Caffeine-free Dr Pepper. And I found some in my local supermarket (one of the few benefits of our west coast superstores is that one can find practically anything in their cavernous inventories). And it's pretty good. I won't be buying it all the time, because health, but when I need/want soda, it's a good choice.

I'm back writing again, after a hiatus of about a week. A scene was kicking my ass, but it's done now. I'll probably make it better in draft 2, but for now, it's finished. Onward!

My brother, who was born in California but has not lived here for many years, keeps calling California "Cali." This is not a thing Californians call our state, but it's apparently pretty common elsewhere. It grates on my nerves almost as much as when people call my native city "Frisco." Grrrr.

Got both a new, very nice bicycle for my birthday, and an Xbox One. Both are awesome. Played Titanfall for a while last night; it was way more fun than I expected.

Very excited about the new wave of Starfighter Combat sims that are coming in the next year. Of course, that means I'll need to build or buy a new PC. Not hurrying on that score though. Mostly for budget reasons, but also because I need to write more than I need to fly. For now.
johnstonmr: (Are you kidding?)
I don't understand people who can read, with no problem, books or stories in which humans are slaughtered wholesale, but who completely lose their shit when an animal dies. Not judging them; I just don't understand it.
johnstonmr: (Are you kidding?)
Had an appt with my cardiologist today. That's probably part of the reason I'm feeling so out of sorts lately.

Anyway, it was OK, except that my dosage was increased (due to the afib episode in April), and if I have another one he's going to add a new med to the treatment plan.

The bad part was that I now cannot have caffeine. Decaf tea is OK; but otherwise I can't have iced tea, or coffee drinks (some of which I actually like), or chai (unless it's decaf).

And, of course, no more Dr Pepper. Which is painful, because Dr Pepper (and recently diet Dr Pepper) is my favorite soda ever. I love the stuff so damned much. Ah well. Health before taste. Good thing I like Root Beer, I guess, though I think I'll likely be drinking WAY less soda even after the diet is over.

He specifically said I can't have chocolate. I've never been much of a chocolate lover anyway, but at least now I have an excuse to shut up the folks who hear I don't want it and act like it's some kind of sin that I don't really like it.
johnstonmr: (Are you kidding?)
I am really bad about keeping up with LJ. Full-time teaching keeps me offline most of the day, then I write a lot in the evenings.

Anyway. Progress on book: Progress on book:

Everything else proceeds as it should. Or at least as it wills itself to.
johnstonmr: (Are you kidding?)
I've been mostly-gone from LJ for a long while, and I'm mostly on my "professional" blog now (scare quotes because I'm still just an aspiring pro). But I'm giving some serious thought to coming back to LJ at least a bit, and letting my Facebook die. We'll see.

Progress on book:

So there's that. The feedback from Viable Paradise has helped a lot, and the writing advice from [livejournal.com profile] matociquala and [livejournal.com profile] skzbrust has enabled me to blast through some stuff that wasn't working for me.

Still reading as much as I can, still writing as much as I can. I want to get this damn story finished. Every time I start to tell myself that my story sucks, I remind myself that three writers and two editors who are all respected in the field praised the writing, and though they all had advice on how to improve it, they all insisted it was entertaining and good.

Mind you, it only helps a little. Then I remind myself that James D. Macdonald, a man with something like 30 books under his belt, still suffers critical self-doubt. And then I pull my pants up and get moving again.
johnstonmr: (Are you kidding?)
So, I didn't say much about it here, but I applied, and attended, Viable Paradise, a writing workshop held on Martha's Vineyard for aspiring SF/F authors. Here are my blog posts about that, cut because OMG LONG:

Day 1 )
Day 2 )
Day 3 )
Day 4 )
Day 5 )
Days 6 and 7 )
Semi-final thoughts )
Awesome Memories )
Jan. 4th, 2014 08:13 pm

Yeah, hi.

johnstonmr: (Are you kidding?)
Haven't been around for a long time. Mostly I'm posting elsewhere; if you want to know where, ping me, but I don't want to link to it for personal and career reasons. I talk there about writing, trying to break into pro writing, teaching, etc.

I will try to remember to post here; say hi if you wish.
johnstonmr: (Are you kidding?)
(Cross-posted from Facebook)

So, I went on the Medifast diet program, because nothing else was working, and I'm tired of being this big. In a little less than a week, I'm seeing amazing results.

Ok, so I know that my weight loss will slow down after a couple of weeks, but as long as it continues, I'll put up with the "meh" food.

Some of the stuff, I love--the Tropical Punch is good, the shakes are good, the lemon bars are ok, the Cinnamon bars are YUMMY. The oatmeal is pretty good, the brownies are good. The chili and the veggie sloppy joe are pretty good. The fajita mix made a great beef patty following the recipe that came with it.

On the other hand, the Fruit & Nut bars taste like ass. I can't get the pudding to actually gel.

But you know, it's not too bad. Especially when I imagine myself 100 pounds lighter, wearing size 38 or even possibly 36 pants again. Imagining myself in a kayak not feeling compressed. Imagining not feeling too big for the world, being able to slide into a student desk like most of my colleagues can... yeah, moderately ok food for a few months is a small price to pay for that. And I am definitely learning more about what my body needs as opposed to what I want.

Mind you, I'm still hungry a lot. But that's more about my body being used to eating more than it is actual hunger, I think. They say it will even out after a couple of weeks; we're almost at the end of week 1; it's getting a little better. Only a little, but that's something.

It does require some self control. It's easy not to cheat when I'm with my family; they're great motivators. But when I'm alone I have to exercise self control. Not cheating isn't really the hard part; the hard part is how often I think about how I COULD, just a little, if I wanted to. So far I'm good at saying "No, that will not happen." I hope that, as time goes on, I think about it less. One thing that helps is the cost of the program; I'm not spending that much money each month and then screwing it up; that would be crapping on my family. NO THANK YOU.

Anyway. Hope y'all don't mind, but I'll be posting occasional updates about this. Not going on my writer-journal, because hey, that's not what it's for. I will probably cross-post to LiveJournal though, if you follow that, so you won't miss anything unless you want to.
johnstonmr: (Default)
The older I get, the more it was beginning to bother me that I download Doctor Who illegally even though I'm generally very much opposed to illegal downloading. Even though I deleted every episode as soon as I saw it, and then bought the DVDs as soon as I could, it just didn't feel right.

Imagine my pleasure and discovering that you can now buy them from iTunes the day after they air. Hopefully these are the full episode and not cut all to hell for BBC America, but if they are, the season is so cheap it won't stop me from buying the discs if I need to. I don't think they are, though--I've bought other episodes via iTunes when only the seasons already on DVD were available, and the episode was identical to the download from the BBC I got.

I'll miss the BBC announcer's voice; it was nice to pretend for a moment I lived in the UK, but meh. I'll live. Guilt-free Doctor Who is mine!

But I'm not watching yesterday's episode until my wife gets home. That's love!
Sep. 1st, 2012 12:02 am

Finally!

johnstonmr: (Default)
Got some writing done. Not as much as I'd like, but about 3000 words for the day. I guess that's probably pretty good, actually, especially considering my original plan was to play Mass Effect 3 for hours. Unless they suck, but let's not go there tonight, mmkay?

johnstonmr: (Default)
And a milestone begins tomorrow. My daughter begins Kindergarten. Holy crap. It seems like yesterday that she was a tiny baby sleeping on my chest.

Because she starts school early this year (her school starts Kindergarten early to get the kids into the routine), I have two weeks of daily freedom before I have to go back to work. Some of this I'll use to get back on the exercise wagon, some to clean the house without distraction, but a lot of it will be either playing video games, going on day trips, and writing my curriculum for the next year. And sleeping.

My curriculum... I had thought I'd be teaching American Literature this year, but apparently not. My schedule is:

0 Period: Journalism
1st , 2nd, 5th Periods: 9th Grade
4th, 6th Periods: Advanced 9th Grade.
3rd: Prep

The plus side of that is that I won't have to be planning for more than 2 classes. Technically, the Adv. 9 is a different prep than normal English 9, but the real difference is in higher expectations and deeper exploration of texts. Instead of Multiple Choice quizzes, it's all essay questions, two more essays per year, etc. So it's a LOT less work than I've been doing the past few years, except for the teaching part.

But before I go back, I want to relax. And get some writing done. Finally.
johnstonmr: (Default)
One of the negative aspects of privacy is that it's now impossibly hard to get information about people. I've been searching for the woman listed on my father's death certificate as his wife for nearly 10 years now. I cannot find her. Now, it's been almost 20 years since he died, so I assume her name has changed, but I cannot even find a record of her marriage to my father, which tells me it likely happened after 1985, since everything before that is indexed and available online, but nothing else. Her name is almost as common as my dad's, and I can find no record of her under her maiden name, either. The last known address is a Salvation Army facility in Los Angeles--19 years ago.

Feh.
johnstonmr: (Default)
Let's see... Summer Checklist:

1. Get Blue Room Cleaned and turned back into an office/guest room: 99% COMPLETE (Just need to find homes for a few more things that go in other rooms, then touch up the paint on one wall, then get a desk, which might be a while).

2. Get healthier, lose weight: Working on it; still losing weight overall but I could be better about exercise. This week I've kind of blown it on the food front. But I'm re-energized as of today.

3. Write book: NOT EVEN CLOSE. I had hoped to work on it a lot this summer, but I've barely touched it.
johnstonmr: (Default)
(reposted from my other blog)

Of work issues, anyway.

Today was the last day I need to set foot on campus until August, when I’ll go back for some inservice learning and Common Planning Time with my department, as well as setting my room up for the new year.

It LOOKS like next year I’ll be teaching English 11, Journalism, English 9, and Advanced English 9. Adv. English is really just the same thing as English 9 (freshman stuff), but with added expectations and complexity. Where I might read two novels all year in English 9, Adv. 9 will do four. Where Eng 9 will write a 2 page essay, Adv. will write 3 or 4 pages.

English 11 is American Literature, and I love to teach that class. I only get one section of it this year, but I’m hoping I impress someone and get more of it the year after; it’s actually my favorite class to teach. I love to teach English 12 (British Lit) too, but the kids really don’t give a rat’s ass about Chaucer and Shakespeare, but I have ways of making them care about Native American lit (which I start with), and they really tend to love the filter through which I teach Eng 11, which is “What makes an American?” We start off with that question, then look at the ways each successive wave of immigrants has changed the American discourse, with of course a liberal dose of grammar and writing instruction, too. It’s really the class that has made successive years of students ask me if I was teaching English or History, because in English 11, the answer to that question is “Yes.”

That brings me to today’s slight depression. Slowly, I’m learning not to look at ratemyteachers.com. I loathe that site. I know I should stay away from it, but I can’t help it–I have this entirely naive idea that if I look at the “reviews” of my teaching posted there, and apply a slight filter of reality over them, I’ll come away with at least somewhat valid critiques of my teaching that I can use to improve. Sadly, this does not often happen. See, the site allows students to comment anonymously, and so there are lots of “reviews” that are 99% lies, or at best distortions. And then there are the ones that are just written to be mean. And then there are the ones where I’m sure the student actually believes what he or she is writing, but they tend to rate teachers based on their idea of what the topic of the class is, not the reality of it. So my English 9 freshmen this year often said I wasn’t teaching them, because they thought English 9 was an English language class–grammar, etc–when it’s actually the beginning of analysis, and focuses more on critical thinking skills and writing than the “laws” of grammar. And no matter how often I told them that, they got mad. So even the kids who have no grammar issues were pissed because I wasn’t teaching grammar every day, but only teaching mini-lessons when the class had shown they needed one. Meh.

Anyway, I’ve learned. I’m no longer looking at it–especially as today, I looked up a lot of the other English teachers–and even the ones I KNOW are good teachers have pretty shitty ratings, with terrible things said about them, too. I also need to remind myself that I’m there to teach them, not to be their favorite.

I know I made mistakes this year. Those things are no longer in play, and I know how to fix the mistakes I made and make sure they don’t occur next year.

Now my focus shifts to summer, and how I’ll spend the next few months. Of course a lot of time will be spent with my four year old daughter, having fun and getting her ready for kindergarten, which she starts in August. And I want to get at least half my current work in progress done, which means at least 50,000 words. I want to get my home office back together–it’s currently a room full of crap–and I need to exercise a lot. That’s the primary goal of Summer Vacation, and my daughter is in on it. We’re calling it Operation: Made Daddy Skinny.

O:DS is all about changing how and what I eat, being more strict that I perhaps need to be (but not going crazy; I’ll still eat burgers now and then), and more than anything, getting off my butt. I need to shock my body into losing the weight, because eating better alone isn’t going to cut it for me. I’m not going to lose all 100 extra pounds in 2.5 months, of course–it would be stupid to even try that–but the goal is to get myself going enough that I can keep it up. And I want the loss I do manage to be noticeable.

And, finally, I want to get this blog actually going somewhere. So hopefully more regular updates. But I’ve said that before, so let’s not waste the time again, eh? Sarcasm: The Fun Part!

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