It’s really easy to procrastinate on blogging. It’s been most of a year since I posted about my new steps.
I apologize to all my out-of-town friends who check my blog to see if I’m still okay, still writing, etc. I’m fine, and I’m still writing, but there are some changes with that. More later.
One of the reasons I didn’t do another post after the steps-building one–they’re fine, by the way, thanks for asking–was that the next interesting thing I did was another carpentry project, and I didn’t want to turn this into a DIY blog. I mean, I already did that bookshelf thing, too.
Nonetheless, let’s get this out of the way. Long long ago, my wife gave me a Black and Decker Workmate. I’ve used it a lot, mainly because I don’t have an actual workshop with a real workbench. I tend to do carpentry jobs outdoors, on the deck. That means the Workmate gets exposed to the elements. Kenora has all the elements.
So, umm, there’s been some wear and tear. You can click on the picture to see the full horror. A few years ago, I tried to buy replacement boards, but Black and Decker has moved on: the Workmate 200 is obsolete, and parts (especially the particle-board jaws which are popular because of see photo above) are no longer in stock.
No probs, I said, I’ll just make some. Out of some nice solid hardwood. Nope.
The boards need to be precisely one inch thick. One-inch thick hardwood planks are only nominally an inch; on an actual ruler, they check in at three-quarters of an inch, so the cute little plastic clamp thingies wouldn’t fit even if you could get the other hardware to go together. This led to a delay.
Fast forward to the front steps project. The Workmate spent a fortnight outdoors. I’m so sorry. How can I make it up to you? How about I make you some new jaws out of, oh, I don’t know, plastic cutting boards or something? Nope.
That teflonny plastic they make cutting boards out of is A) stupid expensive, at least in retail form, and B) really hard to glue together to make material an inch thick. But.
Whoa, wholesalers SELL high density polypropylene in slabs an inch thick. In different colours. And, among other sizes, two feet square, which is just right. I wanted to do black, because Darth Vader vibes, but chickened out in case I needed to make pencil markings on it. I settled on light grey.
I left the protective skin on while I cut two boards from the slab and drilled them for the mounting hardware. They were fun to drill: the wood-boring bits went through the plastic easily, but instead of handfuls of wood shavings, they produced continuous long spirals of thin plastic that spun around the drill in huge tangled threads. Mostly easy to clean up.
I used a router to cut the grooves in the jaw edges that hold pipe and so on.
When I was done, and put everything together, it looked like this.
Hardwood would have been prettier and hopefully more sustainable, but the plastic will be very weatherproof, and the old Workmate won’t end up in a disposal bin for a long time.
Speaking of disposal, our trusty old 2005 Honda CR-V had to be put down this summer. To be honest, we were thinking of replacing it anyway. It had 354,000 kilometers on the odometer(!), and there were some broken sub-frame components. Then we took a huge rock to the windshield, which was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Also, a third airbag recall may have been looming on the horizon, and there was a good chance Honda would have bought the vehicle rather than do a job that expensive.
In the end, it was moot. On Canada Day we had a collision at the Harbourfront roundabout. A pickup truck from BC failed to notice we had the right of way and went through the yield sign to T-bone us. The Silverado gouged up the whole right side of the CR-V. No one was hurt, there was barely a scratch on the Silverado, and the whole aftermath was amicable. But with damage to both passenger side doors and the front and rear fender panels of the Honda, repairs were worth far more than the vehicle.
While we were waiting for the insurance company to settle up, we went shopping. The new CR-V felt too big, so we ended up with a Hyundai Tucson.
The payout from Economical Insurance was better than I expected. Which is not to say it went far towards a new SUV, of course, but it paid for nice winter rims and tires with a bit left over.
Earlier, I said I was still writing. That’s true, but Bandits, the sequel to Avians, has not progressed much. A course last January left me feeling that some challenging changes were needed, and although I have mapped out some of that, I have not done much of the actual rewriting.
I want to revise “Fermi High.” It’s a short story about a new kid in school on the moon, and it won a little contest, but has never been otherwise published. I’d like to give it a more exciting ending, and it would probably be best to downplay the main character’s awareness of his female co-students bodies. While what I wrote was true to how I remember grade seven, and not at all explicit, it skews the story away from a middle-grade market.
I’m also still pondering changes to “Ill Wind.” This story about an AI has some good worldbuilding, but I’d like more character development and a subtler plot.
One bright spot: my short story “Far Gone,” which was published by NewMyths.com a while back has been selected for their second anthology: Twilight Worlds is now scheduled to hit bookstores in late spring. By the way, “Far Gone” is something of a prequel to Avians. It predates Raisa’s adventure by some two hundred years. NewMyths also published “The Emperor’s Dragon,” in which I speculate on how China could have had powered flight a thousand years before the Wright Brothers.
Side note: the original contract for “Far Gone” included the option of non-exclusive reprint rights (in case it was selected for an anthology) for the modest sum of $20. (US) They must have raised their rates in the meantime, because they upped their offer to $30. I’m not complaining. Reprint rights are along the lines of money for old rope. The story’s been sold once at it’s best price, anything more is a bonus.
I mention these numbers just to illustrate how Science Fiction–and probably most other types of fiction–don’t pay a ton of money.
Magazine articles are apparently in a different league. I won’t give details, but let’s say there’s an order of magnitude at play.
I had an article published in Kenora Stuff Magazine this winter, I have one coming out in the next issue of Lake of the Woods Area News, and quite likely another one with them a little later in the spring.
Three magazine articles will net me more money than all the short story payments, royalties, reprint rights and appearance honorariums for every work of SF I ever wrote combined.
For the first time, I turned a profit last year. Mainly because I didn’t go to any conventions. I love them, but they’re expensive.
To be fair, I’d sell more science fiction if I was more dogged about querying. After making about three enquiries, I usually shelve something. Many other authors, when they read that, will be surprised that I’m published at all.
But even in this regard, non-fiction is doing better for me. I didn’t have to approach those magazines, they contacted me because my other blog, the Lake of the Woods Ice Patrol, is well-known.
So forgive me, but I’m prioritizing non-fiction at the moment. If it helps, I’m sad that it pays so much better. I wish creative writing, and creative arts generally, paid better than simply explaining stuff. The idea that I might have the skills to be a decent writer of technical manuals fills me with dread. And don’t worry: the stories in my head won’t leave me alone. They will find their way out eventually.
I continue to do flash-fiction narrations for the Antipodean SF Radio Show and podcast. I’ve done about forty of them so far. Antipodean SF is home to two of my own flash fiction short stories: “Freezer Burn,” another prequel to Avians, and “Zeta Series,” light-hearted horror about lab rats.
One last thing. My friend Lindsay Kitson, a fellow writer of Sky-Fi, has advanced her aviation career to the next level. After a stint as a bush pilot, she is moving over to the medevac biz. I’m very excited for her.
Lindsay is also the prime mover of our critique group, so our meetings may be infrequent in the months to come. The whole flying for a living thing can make actually having a life difficult.