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Today is Aero’s sixth birthday. We’ve given the Pack (and their forebears, Mr. Byte and Chewy) cake and lemon bars on their various birthdays down through the years, with good results. Dash, however, is peculiar in that he simply doesn’t like sweet things. So this time we took a quarter pound of good burger and divided it four ways. (L-R: Jack, Aero, QBit, and Dash.) We were out of birthday candles, so I took a plumber’s candle and stuck it in Aero’s portion.

It’s a testament to the quality of Carol’s training that even after she placed the plates of burger in front of them, saying “Leave it!” was enough to keep them seated patiently on the bench behind the table. Once the photos were taken, saying “Take it!” ensured that the burger was gone in two heartbeats. Maybe one. (Carol yanked the candle first.)

It’s also been two weeks since I last posted here, which is well beyond my usual threshold of pain. Insiders know what’s going on: I have a novel to finish. And I’m not trying to finish it just to get it off my do-it list. No sirree: An editor at a significant press has asked for the full manuscript.

Boy. Nothing like a little request like that to light a fire under a guy.

I have a pair of hard deadlines now: Finished manuscript by 8/31. Polished manuscript ready to ship by 9/15. Today was a milestone: I hurtled past 53,700 words, which was the finished length of Drumlin Circus. That means that Ten Gentle Opportunities is the longest piece of fiction I’ve written since The Cunning Blood crossed the finish line on Good Friday 1999.

It is also the strangest. At my Clarion workshop in 1973, Lloyd Biggle, Jr said during a guest lecture that you can’t mix SF and fantasy. I’ve had it in my head ever since then that when Biggle’s words reached my ears, it was like swearing on the Runestaff: I knew I would damned well do it someday.

Sorry, Lloyd. I offer you: Dancing zombies. Well-dressed AIs. Object-oriented magic. Virtual universes, virtual doughnuts, virtual Frisbees, virtual stomach acid. Romance. A cannon that fires machine instructions. Heavily networked kitchen appliances. Total war waged inside a robotic copier factory. (Did I miss anything? I’ve heard there’s a sink shortage locally.)

I admit it. The romance has been hard. Reading romance novels to see how the pros do it was not especially helpful. Worse, I have no real-world experience engaging in screaming matches with significant others, of whom there have been exactly four, anyway. The romance may thus seem less real than the magic, which might be described as Supernatural Pascal.

What’s been harder than the romance has been maintaining the mood for 53,000 words. Humor is just, well, hard, which is a topic worthy of one or more entries all by itself. I think it works, but it’s hard to know until the whole thing’s done. I suspect my beta testers will tell me. If they don’t, my editor will.

53,800 words down. 26,200 words to go. Three weeks. Watch me.


  1. Carrington Dixon says:

    Guess it depends on exactly what Biggle meant. It can be argued that science fiction is a branch of fantasy. Stf writers have been bringing that particular science-fictional perspective to ‘traditional’ fantasy elements since, at least, Unknown (Worlds). I believe that Poul Anderson’s ‘Operation’ series even mixes witches, werewolves, and spaceships!

  2. Sabrina Hoyt says:

    LOL! Happy B-Day to Aero!

    You can do it Jeff. We believe in you :). You’ve done a real good job with The Cunning Blood, there was some hint of Romance in there. It DOESN’T have to be like IN your face romance.

    I enjoyed what you wrote and you can do it fine. I’m a romance reader to heart, and there can be romance in there but you don’t have to do the appropriate scenes that require a bedroom.

    There is a set of books out there called Love Inspired, and it deals with romance, love and finding your faith in God and the likes. So far none of those books have had anything dealing with bedroom scenes, but lots of love and faith and life altering events. They are really good.

    Next time if you need help in the romance area let me know, and I can bring some of my books I’ve already read and are sitting in boxes here waiting to be put in storage or sent to a used book store.

    1. Carrington Dixon says:

      Sounds like Sabrina is offering to be Lee Hawkins Garby to your Doc Smith! (Jeff will get the reference, anyone who doesn’t should see

      She doesn’t seem to think that you really need the help, and I don’t either. Everything I’ve read by you tells me that you can tell any tale you set your mind to tell.

      (And don’t forget that Doc made several revisions to Skylark in order to, among other things, get Mrs. Garby’s work out of it.)

      1. Mrs. Garby! Egad. I hadn’t thought about her in a long time. Doc Smith probably needed the help, but we need to keep in mind that the Skylark project began before WWI, when the sexes didn’t understand one another nearly as well as they do now. Smith was also just 25. When I was 25 I was still having major difficulties with the machinery of characterization, and in looking back, I think my problem was that I didn’t read nearly enough outside hard SF. (I doubt anyone learns how to write romantic scenes reading the Skylark books, Mrs. Garby notwithstanding.) I’ve been trying to read some romance here but it’s been rough going. I keep wanting something to detonate, start a fistfight, or self-assemble.

        All that said, Carolyn and Brandon’s failed marriage has begun to reassemble itself, and Stypek will finish the job a little later in the story without quite understanding how. Definitely some fistfights to come…with robotic fists. (Actually, with robots that are little more than hands on wheels.) I’ll try to work in a few explosions for my longtime fans.

      2. Erbo says:

        I don’t quite think Sabrina’s ready to go as far as Mrs. Garby did. She’s trying to improve her writing, but what she’s best at (so far) is creating loads and loads of characters. With unusual names.

  3. Erbo says:

    Re: Biggle: “Always listen to experts. They’ll tell you what can’t be done, and why. Then do it.” (From Heinlein’s Notebooks of Lazarus Long)

    But I thought the zombie-Macarena scene got cut? Or is it back, for the lulz? 🙂

    And I’ve seen object-oriented magic; in Rick Cook’s Wiz Biz series, Wiz’s spell compiler was originally based on Forth with object-oriented extensions, though a later description of the language was “a bastardized version of Forth crossed with LISP and some features from C and Modula-2 thrown in for grins.” (A later innovation offered APL as a language option, in case your spells weren’t obfuscated enough.)

    1. The zombies are still there. I had considered carving out the whole first two chapters and building a separate smaller story around them, but they actually fit the overall theme of the book very well, that, each in its respective universe, magic and software are the same thing.

      1. Erbo says:

        Okay. Now I’ve got this stuck in my head again. You can haz. You’re welcome. 🙂

        1. Hoo-boy. Just had a truly evil idea: Stypek has already commented that robots resemble metal zombies. How about industrial robots doing the Macarena?

          Most of the robots in the story are one-handed. I’ll have to think about that…

          1. Erbo says:

            (Erbo gets an incredulous look before falling over laughing again)

            That’s BRILLIANT. It would provide a callback to that earlier scene and reinforce the whole “robot/zombie” equivalence. And it would be FUNNY AS HELL.

            You MUST do it. It is a MORAL IMPERATIVE. 😀

  4. R-Laurraine Tutihasi says:

    I’ve never had any screaming matches with significant others either, and I’m not sure exactly how many of them there were–maybe five. I did have a screaming match with the sewing instructor in junior high. And I had them with my father when I was growing up.

    Good to hear about how it’s going with the book.

  5. […] hard. Especially when you attempt to write 25,000 words of it at a rate of 1,000 words a day. As I mentioned recently, I have a significant press interested in my novel-in-progress, Ten Gentle Opportunities. I’m […]

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