Fingerless glove design

We keep our apartment cool, in the interest of minimizing our contributions to both resource depletion and global warming. Plus, Jackie likes to wear her woollies, which isn’t practical in a warm apartment. The only real downside is that, in a cool apartment, my hands get cold when I write. To address that problem, Jackie offered to knit me some fingerless gloves. (Click any of the pictures for a larger version.)

Fingerless gloves
My first fingerless gloves

My first pair of fingerless gloves were knitted to my precise specifications. It’s made of fairly course yarn, which I figured would be fine for my purposes, and it has the fingers truncated almost completely, which I figured would make it easier to type.

Unfortunately, even just the row or two of knitting that formed the finger holes turned out make them a little uncomfortable for typing.

Since those weren’t quite satisfactory, I came up with a new design—fingerless gloves that not only had no fingers, they didn’t even have finger holes.

My Rosebud Wristlets

Jackie made these most lovingly. She not only spun yarn by hand, she spun it by hand while attending a science fiction convention (WorldCon in Toronto). The main color was hand dyed as well (with brazilwood). The yarn is wonderfully soft and fine. I got to pick the colors, and I picked these colors so that I could call them Rosebud Wristlets.

My Rosebud Wristlets were a complete success, and they’ve been my main fingerless glove for seven years (they were a Christmas present in 2003).

I liked them so well, I got Jackie to make a second pair that we gave to Kelly Link.

My 2010 fingerless gloves

Not having fingers at all was great for leaving my fingers free for typing, but had a downside: My hands stayed warm, but my fingers sometimes got cold. So, I asked for yet another pair of fingerless gloves, this pair with fingers, but made from yarn so fine that it wouldn’t force my fingers uncomfortably far apart.

So, Jackie knit me this pair of fingerless gloves. Each glove finger extends out to the last knuckle of my finger. They’re made from machine-spun “fingering weight” yarn (perhaps called that because it’s the right weight to use when knitting glove fingers).

They’re wonderful. They’re not more wonderful than my Rosebud Wristlets, but they do keep my fingers warmer. So far I’ve been alternating between them, depending on whether just my hands are cold, or my fingers too.

For a while I’d imagined that I might design the ultimate fingerless glove, but it turns out, as usual, that the best tool for the job really depends not only on the precise details of what you’re trying to do, but also the precise circumstances under which you’re trying to do it.

On (not) playing to your strengths

During week two at Clarion, I wrote a story that played to my strengths—one where the story was strengthened by being told from the viewpoint of a character who was almost affectless, so the story didn’t suffer from my limitations at showing a character’s feelings as he suffers.

As I observed at the time, this was probably a mistake:

The thing is, Clarion isn’t a time to stay within your limitations. It is a time to push beyond them. So, I’m a bit disappointed in myself. But only a bit: I didn’t do it on purpose; I was just trying to tell the best story I could. Now that I’ve thought about it, I’ll take more risks with the next one.

And I did. In fact, I’ve taken that particular risk with pretty much every story I’ve written since then. And with practice, I have gotten better at that aspect of storytelling and character development. In fact, I’ve used every story I’ve written since then to try to stretch my abilities, not just in that area, but in every other area where I know I have weaknesses.

That was probably a mistake too.

If you want to sell your stories, they need to be the best stories you can write. But for the past ten years, I have refrained from telling stories in a way that let me keep within my limitations, because I wanted to grow as a writer.

It was great practice. I’ve learned a lot. I’m a stronger fiction writer now. But I’m not quite sure how I fell into the notion that I needed to try to push beyond my limitations with every story I wrote.

Within the context of a workshop, sure. It would be a waste of the opportunity to workshop a story that I’d crafted such that it required only the tools I’d already mastered. But for other stories—for stories that I’m writing to sell—perhaps it wasn’t necessary to make such an effort to showcase my weaknesses.

Why it took me ten years to figure this out, I’m not sure. But I have finally, I hope, learned better. I’ll still try to stretch and grow as a writer. But at least some of the stories I write—for a little while, perhaps many of them—will be crafted to showcase my strengths.

Haiku, earrings, strokes

Jackie wearing the Elisem earrings "Honor is not Always Loud"
Jackie modeling the Elisem earrings Honor is Not Always Loud

I think I’ve mentioned it somewhere each time I’ve gotten Jackie a pair of earrings at one of Elisem‘s haiku earring parties, but The Sinister Leprechaun seems to be the only pair I’ve gotten since starting this particular iteration of my blog.

(Ah, it turns out that I wrote about Honor is Not Always Loud on my old LiveJournal, but don’t seem to have posted a picture until now. I don’t seem to find any mention of Volcanoes on Vacation. I should get a picture of them up as well.)

The haiku earring party is always one of the highlights of WisCon for me, which is only the smallest reason why this is wonderful news: On the Rewards of CALLING 911 RIGHT AWAY.

Learn the signs of a stroke. If anyone shows those signs—you or someone you’re with—call 911.

Pancakes and the passage of time

Jackie made pancakes for breakfast.

As we ate, I mentioned that I used to make pancakes when I was a single guy, but that I made them differently. And then I ran into difficulty when I tried to describe what I meant by “differently.” I was sure there were several things that were different, besides the fact that I made big pancakes, while she makes small pancakes (four at a time on the griddle), but I couldn’t quite remember.

And as I cogitated on that fact, I did a little mental arithmetic and realized that the ten years I’d been a single guy running my own household (from when I graduated from college in 1981 until 1991) would this year be matched twice over—I’ve now shared a household with Jackie for twenty years.

No wonder I no longer remember the details of just how I ran my kitchen differently. Time has passed.

Sale to Asimov’s!

I just got email from Sheila Williams that she’s buying my story “Watch Bees” for Asimov’s! I’m terribly excited—this is my first sale to one of the “big three” sf magazines.

No word yet on when the story will appear. I’ll post here as I know more. (One of the cool things about a sale is that you get to appreciate it over and over again—when you get word of the sale, when you get the contract, when you get paid, when the story comes out. . . .)

New website theme

As if I didn’t have better things to do with my time, I just spent most of the morning making changes to my website, including updating to a new theme and then fiddling around making changes so that things would display right in the new theme.

I like it.

Safe automatic backups with Scrivener

In a blog post that’s no longer available, David Hewson described a great alternative to keeping manuscript files in your Dropbox (which seems slightly risky, even though there is a local copy as well as one in the cloud) while still getting the benefit of having an up-to-date copy in the cloud if you unexpectedly want one.

Since the original post is gone, I thought I’d update this post with a quick description of the idea.

First, get an account at Dropbox. (Another cloud storage place would probably work just as well.)

Second, go into Scrivener’s Preferences and point the location for backups at a folder in your Dropbox folder. (Choose to save as a zip file; choose to include the date in the file name; choose to save some reasonable number of copies.)

I’ve been running with Scrivener set this way for a couple of years now, and I really like it.

My master copy is on my desktop machine, not vulnerable to any glitches on the internet. But every time I close Scrivener, a copy is zipped up and put in the cloud. It’s reliable enough that I don’t bother put a fresh copy of my file on my laptop when I head out to work off-site somewhere. When I’m ready to work, I just grab the latest backup off my Dropbox, unzip it, and work on that file. When I get home, I do the same thing again, grabbing the latest backup (the one saved at the end of my off-site work session), unzipping it, and swapping that file in for my master copy.

[Updated 25 February 2013 to remove the dead link and provide a description of the procedure originally described by David Hewson.]

Writing—and exercising—daily

Theodora Goss has a good post about writing every day, comparing it to exercising every day. She makes the point that, when you’re used to exercising every day, missing a day makes you feel crappy.

My own experience has been different, perhaps because my choices of preferred exercise include lifting weights and running, which both tend to wear your body down. They make you fitter, but only if you give your body a chance to recover.

When I exercise several days in a row, I gradually feel more and more beat up. I get sorer and sorer, weaker and weaker. Then, when I take a day off, I feel great. The next day I feel even better. I’ve often joked that it was like the old joke: “Why are you hitting your head on the wall?” “Because it feels so good when I stop.”

It’s actually pernicious. Some stupid bit in the back of my brain notices that feeling great is associated with skipping workouts. It conspires with the parts of my brain that would rather I sleep in and then sit around. It’s not smart enough to understand that I only feel great on a rest day if I had a couple of hard workouts in the days leading up to it.

Despite my particular experience with exercise, though, my opinion on writing matches hers—I do much better when I write every day. It keeps me in the flow of my work. When I write every day, I don’t need to spend as much time warming up, getting started. I definitely don’t need to spend as much time getting back up to speed on an on-going project, but I think it helps even when I’m switching between projects.

Like Dora, I’ve pondered the parallels between daily exercise and daily writing. In some ways they’re the same—there’s a discipline involved that’s definitely self-reinforcing—but in other ways I’m not so sure.

I’ve sometimes overdone the writing—written too many words or for too many hours. When I do that, it’s tough to write the next day. I don’t know what I want to say next, and when I figure it out, it’s harder to find the words. I need to take a day or two off—do some non-verbal work, mull things over for a bit—before I’m ready to get back to work writing. And by then, something has often gone missing. The carefully maintained mental construct of what I’m working on deteriorates very quickly, if I’m not writing every day.

And there, I think, is why exercise is sometimes different. Exercise is all about stress followed by recovery. Writing is about inhabiting the world I’m writing about—something that works best if I do it every day.

Writing in 2010

I sold one story in 2010 (“Like a Hawk in its Gyre” to Redstone), which I’m expecting to appear in early 2011. I’ll post here when it comes out.

The other big fiction-related news is that I got together with some local friends to start the Incognito Writers Group. We’ve been meeting monthly since July, and having a great time.

I sold a group of articles to Amex Currency, a new personal finance website:

I resold my article Bankruptcy is a Good Thing to Gale Publishing, to use in their book Bankruptcy (Introducing Issues With Opposing Viewpoints).

I wrote two guest posts at other blogs:

I wrote 42 articles for Wise Bread. I’ve bolded a few where I thought I managed to say just what I was trying to say: