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Highway to Yesterday

If at first, you cannot sell . . .

. . . cut, cut, cut again.

And so, East of Yesterday (or Highway to Yesterday, I can never quite decide), which was once over 116,000 words, is now a trim 95,000 words. My latest cut was 11,400 words all at once, when I decided some pretty lengthy scenes were unneeded backstory that was written from the wrong character’s point-of-view.

I’ll be able to rewrite what is needed for the story from the right character’s point of view, and I don’t expect to take anywhere near 11400 words to do so. I may even be able to cut some additional things toward the end.

I just wanted to celebrate that little triumph with you. Back to the rewrite.

Oh! Do you have a preference? Do you like East of Yesterday as a title, or Highway to Yesterday? I find the first title nicely subtle, but the second title is a little more obvious as a time travel novel, and it is my current working title.

Time Trip – Geekdom, by Decade, Part 1

For a few Time Trip posts (not necessarily the next few–those are gonna take lots of research) I thought I’d take a look at all things geek throughout the decades of the 20th century. This list is by no means comprehensive.

I’m going to start with the easiest – what I remember. And a little beyond.

mosaic-browser1990s – The Internet

When I took my UNIX class in the early 90s, I was intrigued by all the geeks playing a Dungeons and Dragons-like game by computer. They were using MUDs, or multi-user dungeons, the precursors to today’s multiplayer games. UNIX could have doubled as an early Internet course, because back then, the only way to get to the Internet was via UNIX. By the end of the course, everyone was talking about the new Mosaic browser, and accessing the Internet via a slip account and telnet. I taught my husband the basics of the pine email client, and we managed to get Mosaic installed on our Windows machines. What a blast.

… and build-it-yourself computers

In the 90s, you could not claim certifiable geekdom without building your own computer. So I went to Incredible Universe, bought all the necessary parts, and built my dream machine. So I did it once. I never did it again.

BTW, in the mid-late 90s, it was geek chic to sign your emails with your own personalized Geek code. Here’s mine. (I left out the politics sections.)

GIT D+ S+:+ A+ C++ U+ P- L+ E— W++ N O– K- W++ M+ V– T+@ 5 X R+ TV- B++ DI+ D++ G E+ H—- R+++

If you want to figure out yours, have at it here: http://www.geekcode.com/geek.html. But you may not understand some of it–it’s a bit dated. And there’s nothing in it about building your own computers.

pc101980s – Personal Computers

If the Internet was geeky in the 90s, then even owning a computer was geeky in the 80s. At least, owning a DOS computer was geeky. There were Commodore 64s and MACs that weren’t nearly so geeky. In order to qualify as a geek in the 80s, you had to know your way around a DOS prompt, program a little in GW/BASIC, understand the 640k barrier, and have the ability to edit batch files.

… and amateur photography

I include this because a special hallmark of the geeky tourist was the 35mm camera. Preferably one with a big lens. I didn’t have a big lens, but I got my 35mm camera for my 18th birthday. I used it for twenty years. I even started using slides and eschewed regular film, so I have a slide projector, screen, and lots of slides.

And I never really caught onto digital photography at all.

PlayersHandbook8Cover1970s – Role Playing Games

In the 70s, being a geek wasn’t chic at all. They took actual abuse. See Revenge of the Nerds (which actually came out in the 80s) to see what those geeks were like. I was too young to be geek a 70s, but I have known enough older geeks to know what they were into back then.

Anyway, RPGs got their start with tabletop games like Axis and Allies, Panzer Blitz, and, of course, Star Fleet Battles. These morphed into role-playing games, Dungeons and Dragons, and then AD&D, being the biggest of them all. I never played them until my 80s, but I remembered seeing it played in the movie, ET.

… and UNIX

UNIX got its start in the 70s as well. My dad used to get a kick out of all the long-haired and bearded UNIX geeks at work. When I was a software developer, I didn’t use any graphical tools at all. I’d have two windows open with vi pointing to my code, another one open for sedding and grepping, and a fourth for miscellaneous tasks, such as executing code and pouring through log files. It was pure geeky bliss.

Do you have any cool (or maybe not-so-cool) geek memories to share?

~*~

I came up with the idea for these Time Trips while writing my time travel novel, HIGHWAY TO YESTERDAY. For all the Time Trip posts I’ve written so far, click here.

New Excerpt, Website Updates, and Upcoming Time Trip

I posted an all-new excerpt to HIGHWAY TO YESTERDAY. The scenes that I previously opened the story with are still in the novel, but I wanted an opening that showed how alone Adele and Mike are in the world, and which gives a bit of a teaser of things to come. Here it is:

http://tianevitt.com/forthcoming/highway-to-yesterday/

I also updated this website to reflect the new name of HIGHWAY TO YESTERDAY.

Since I’m done tweaking that story (for now) I have turned my attention to the second book. I know there will be at least two books, but I’m not sure if there will be a third–at least not in this storyline. I have some a few characters who I like very much, and who I would love to write more about. Plus, it might be fun to do time travel way, way back in time such as during the Crusades, or during the expansion of the Roman Republic.

Upcoming Reviews

I still owe you a review on Poison Priestess. I spent last weekend sick and totally offline. Was I that sick? No, but I did get a book in the mail, which I immediately read. I still get some publisher review copies, and I still read a few of them, and try to get reviews written when I do. However–and I want to stress this–I am no longer actively book reviewing, and I no longer respond to review requests. There are a few publicists out there who have my address, and with whom I have longstanding relationships. If they still want to send me books, then I really cannot stop them. I review very few of them, but I’l review this one.

Upcoming Time Trip

I wrote another time trip post. As soon as I put some images on it, I’ll schedule it for later in the week. I also have some cool things from my mom’s move that I want to blog about, including my Dad’s old slide rule. I’ve been trying to figure out how to use it, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do anything on it other than multiplication and square roots. Unless I want to re-learn logarithms. Anyway, that’ll be a fun post to write. This week’s post is about something else.

(As an aside, I should invent some kind of graphic for my Time Trip posts.)

Time Trip – Fill ‘er Up!

I am old enough to remember gas station attendants. Barely.

mobil4Here’s the procedure for getting gas during the 70s, as I recall it:

  • Pull up to the pump.
  • Wait.
  • Boy (always a boy) comes up wearing a shirt and pants of a particular shade of blue. He smells of fuel. On the chest of the shirt is an oval tag with his name stitched on. A simple, short name, such as “Bob,” “John” or “Mike”.
  • After some sort of polite greeting, he asks, “regular or unleaded?”
  • You reply, “Fill ‘er up with regular.” (or unleaded, but not common until the 80s)
  • The kid activates the pump, sticks the hose in your car, pulls the lever, and locks it in place.
  • You watch the dials spin. The dial that indicates the number of gallons just whizzes by, while the dial that indicates the amount of dollars performs a slow crawl You know–the opposite of today.
  • While the gas is filling up, the boy cleans your windshield. You watch the squeegee swipe the splatted bugs away. The smell of gasoline drifts in the open windows, because you have no AC.
  • Something clunks. The kid takes the hose out–dumping fuel everywhere and dousing down the side of your car–and hangs it back up on the side of the pump.
  • He gives you some dollar figure that now seems improbable, like, “Three-fifty-five, sir.”
  • You hand cash out the window. This amount includes the tip. You say, “Keep the change.” If you need change, it’ll be a while.
  • He thanks you and tells you to have a nice day.
  • You drive off.

In the 80s, the concept of the self-service gas station arose. There were different lanes for self-service and full service. Full service seemed to be a way to screw over old ladies, like my aunt, who was daunted at the idea of pumping her own gas and always paid extra for full service.

But eventually, even full-service went the way of the gravity-operated gas pump.

Advantages over Modern Tech

This is easy–the service. Getting gas was a leisurely activity, during which you just sat there. Disadvantage? These gas stations weren’t a good place to grab a snack. The tiny room that housed the cash register only seemed to sell automotive things like cans of oil and windshield-wipers. And maybe cigarettes. They were not places where women–or girls–ever ventured (unless maybe, you smoked). Cold drinks were sold out of vending machines outside. Oh, and you could get gumballs. Eventually, they started advertising snacks for sale inside, which morphed into the modern convenience store.

~*~

I came up with the idea for these Time Trips while writing my time travel novel, HIGHWAY TO YESTERDAY. For all the Time Trip posts I’ve written so far, click here.

Offline Update, Upcoming Stuff, and a Traffic Spike

My life calmed down some this week. I work in the health care payments industry, and we had a product launch a few weeks ago, and I worked an unusual number of hours during those weeks. In fact, I had some work I needed to get done Sunday afternoon. However, we are establishing a schedule that should reduce the number of times I have to scramble to get requirements written so the developers will know what to develop when the next sprint starts.

~*~

When I was dreaming up my Time Trips posts, I write three of them in order to establish the habit and to prove to myself it was something that I could stick to. In the past, I have gotten all fired up by new ideas, written half a post, and then it languished there in my drafts folder as other things bubbled up in priority. So I will post that last post this week, and I have two more in the hopper. One is from the box of stuff that I brought home from my mom’s.

~*~

I’ve written a new scene to open my time travel novel. I’ll post it later this week, after I get some feedback for it. I’ve also renamed the novel to better reflect the road-trip aspect of the story. So I’ll need to update the excerpt and change the title everywhere on this site, which sounds like a Saturday chore to me.

~*~

I had a traffic spike this past week, where Facebook all of a sudden sent a bunch of links to either my home page, or my Infographics page. I have never before had 600 hits in one day, but it happened on Thursday. At first I thought my Time Trip post was the source, but no, they split almost evenly between the homepage and the parent infographic page.

I am perplexed, but hey! I’ll take it. If you’re new here, welcome!

Time Trip – Home Entertainment Back In the Day

When one mentions “home entertainment”, they often think of electronics. But when I was a child, there was more to it than that. When you really only have 4 TV channels, there isn’t always something on TV that will satisfy the diverse interests of a large family. On such occasions, Mom would troop us all into the living room to do something else. Like what? Here are some things that stand out:

Board Games

Monopoly was a big favorite, as it continues to be today. We also wore out our Parcheesi game, The Game of Life, and Clue. In a family of five children, sometimes the games ended with ugly fights, but most of the time, the games went on for hours before a winner was determined–especially Monopoly.

In the early 80s, Trivial Pursuit became a brief favorite. However, when my Dad won every game, time and again, the rest of us lost interest.

Cards

I hated playing cards growing up, so my mother sweetened the deal by issuing M&Ms in order to bet. It taught us to carefully husband our quantity rather than gulping them all down. We played Crazy Eights, Spoons, and other kid-friendly games with names that I no longer recall. Again, these games often went on long after our usual bedtimes.

Puzzles

Mom would get a 1000 piece puzzle and work on it in the evenings. She kept it on the dining room table under the table pads (I don’t know what to call them–they covered the whole table). We’d work on them night after night.

Hide and Seek

This was a favorite while there were still young children in our house, and we could slip into the smallest spaces. After a while, we just got too old to hide effectively. When before, we could squirm under the bed, after a point, there was a danger of getting stuck, even if you were skinny. And suddenly you realized just how dusty it was under there.

Stargazing

My Dad had a telescope that was old even when I was a child, and on autumn and spring nights, when it was clear, we would often go stargazing in the front yard. We never did this in the summer because the air was thick with mosquitoes.

I remember one time, when I was very young, Dad was excited because there was an eclipse of the moon. Thankfully, it was a clear night. However, I was terrified. The thought of something different happening to the moon was totally out of my realm of experience, and scared me enough to get me crying. However, Dad persevered and got me to look through the viewfinder. At which time, I was so relieved to see the moon that I stopped crying immediately, and didn’t even notice it’s odd color.

Home Movie and Slide Shows

My Dad was an amateur photographer and had an 8mm movie camera and projector, and a 35mm camera. While they were functional (5 kids are hard on things like that), he filmed and photographed us at every occasion and once a year or so, we’d have movie night. I thought of this because I recently toted home all the slides and movies, along with the old movie projector and slide projector. I actually have a projector screen, so we’ll be able to have movie night here as well, once nice dark night in late fall or winter.

Since all this tech is so old, I’ll be sure to have a fire extinguisher handy that is safe to use on electrical fires. (Just kidding–I hope.)

Electronic Games?

We didn’t have any electronic games in the 70s. Richer kids might have, but no one that I ever heard of had one until the 80s. We ended up reading a lot of books. I was a reluctant reader, but was still reading novels regularly by age 11.

Advantages over Modern Tech

I can’t think of any. Why? Because you can still do all of the above today. Home movies and slides are now reborn in the digital sense, and you can easily play both on your TV. It’s hard to see the advantage of the old tech, except maybe in atmosphere. There’s nothing like the smell of an old slide projector burning … something. Dust, I hope. Along with popcorn, it somehow adds to the experience.

When you were growing up, what did you family like to do on a boring Saturday night?

~*~

I came up with the idea for these Time Trips while writing my time travel novel, HIGHWAY TO YESTERDAY. For all the Time Trip posts I’ve written so far, click here.

Time Trip: Changing the Channel

When I was a kid in the 70s, we had a great stereo. It was capable of booming out Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra (aka the theme to 2001: A Space Odyssey) at window-rattling decibels. Which is exactly the way my uber-nerd young dad liked it. He didn’t listen to rock-and-roll, and he didn’t care if the entire neighborhood knew it.

But there wasn’t much to that old stereo except the record player, the receiver, and the speakers. Dad had it mounted on a shelf installed above the TV. The record played at 72, 45 and 32 RPM. It was fun to listen to records at the wrong RPM, because the sound would either get too slow or too fast. The scratchy beat you hear in Rap music was well-known to us when someone bumped the record player, because the needle would go scratching across the record, often ruining the delicate vinyl.

Oh, and don’t leave records in your car on a hot day. They melt.

The TV was big and boxy and encased in actual wood. It had dials instead of buttons, and you had to turn the channel via knobs. It was considered furniture, and doubled as a sideboard. We kids sat on the floor in order to watch.

Here’s our TV, all decked out for Christmas. I think I see a volume slider. Check out the stereo and speakers above. I over-adjusted the color so you can see the detail.

70s TVA common superstition at the time was that you should not sit too close to the TV–it would hurt you, somehow. I don’t know the nature of this dreaded malady, but I did find out that if you tested your mother’s theory, your nose might get a nasty static shock.

There was no remote. To change the channel, you got up, walked over, and twisted a dial.

Where I grew up, we had channel 2 (NBC), 6 (CBS) and 9 (ABC), plus PBS, which I think may have been channel 5. Later on, we got a local independent channel at number 12 or so, and then even later, we got FOX on channel 15. Something else was on Channel 33 or thereabouts. These were on the UHF channels, because VHF (Very High Frequency and Ultra High Frequency) only went to channel 12 or 13.

When there was nothing on TV, there really was nothing on TV. Saturday morning was all cartoons, and Sunday morning was all Christian broadcasts. Star Trek reruns were on the independent channel on Sunday Nights at 6. Happy Days was on Tuesday Nights at 8. Love Boat was on Saturday Night at 9.

Advantages over Modern Tech

Yes, those old TVs had some advantages over modern tech. These days, when you turn on a TV, often nothing happens while it boots up. So unless you pressed the button on the TV itself (which I often do), you don’t know for about ten seconds if the danged thing is on, or if you didn’t aim the remote in the right direction. This situation often perplexes the older people in my life, who are accustomed to TVs lighting up immediately when you turn them on.

In the old days, when you turned on the TV, you would see a dot. It would eventually grow to fill the screen. If your hearing was good, you also heard a high-pitched whine that was quickly subsumed by the TV audio.

Got any old TV memories to share?

~*~

I came up with the idea for these Time Trips while writing my time travel novel, HIGHWAY TO YESTERDAY. For all the Time Trip posts I’ve written so far, click here.

Plotting a New Novel

June has been crazy, with a series of ups and downs, along with a lot of changes. This week, I started a new job. Things are starting to settle down now, hence this blog post.

Normally, I don’t plot much, and when I did, I often didn’t follow the plot.  Until recently, I have been a panster. But the plot for East of Yesterday remained mostly intact, so I’m trying it again for the sequel. I started out with index cards, but when I realized I could do the exact same thing more effectively with Visio, I transferred the cards to Visio processes (using the Flowchart template), created some swimlanes for the POV characters, and took off.

SOYThreads

South of Yesterday is just a working title, but it works pretty well, because for the most part, the plot takes place even further in the past. Areas that are blocked together will probably end up in the same chapter. This is helping me estimate how long the book might be. I had all these characters converge in a major confrontation in what will probably be the early second half of the novel. I don’t know, however. It is hard to get a feel for the length.

In the past, whenever I outlined, it the act of outlining would sap some of my enthusiasm for the story. The reason for that, I think, was those outlines were too detailed. With this approach, I can only fit about fifteen characters in each of those boxes. This helps keep my outlines in the ideal state of sketchiness. I can’t wait to write these scenes, and that’s how it should be.

I’m finding it difficult to plot much further than that confrontation. I know what the villain is doing, and some of the shades-of-gray characters, but not everyone else. There is a doosey of a betrayal, and an even better rescue involving forgiveness and transformation on the part of both the rescuer and the rescuee. The plots for some of these characters may come to an end, with formerly-secondary characters jumping into starring roles.

This month of change has been good for this plotting process. Because I have been so busy with all this newness and all my obligations, I am forced to just let it sit. I occasionally open it up and add boxes when I have a flash of insight, as I did with my betrayal and subsequent rescue/forgiveness/transformation. But for the most part, it’s just percolating. Which is just what I think it needs.

On to the Next Project

From LOC: Highway intersection near Belle Glade, Florida. Negro bean pickers hitchhiking
Click to enlarge. From LOC: Highway intersection near Belle Glade, Florida. Negro bean pickers hitchhiking. URL: http://www.loc.gov/item/fsa1997008184/PP/#about-this-item

So I officially finished East of Yesterday. I made a few changes around this website to reflect that fact, including the front page and the East of Yesterday page, under Fiction. I removed the Petroleum Sunset pages for now, because I don’t have the time to finish those stories at present, and I never really considered them “launched”. When I do launch them, I will probably re-issue them under another name that I decided to write under for East of Yesterday. They are more closely related to East of Yesterday than my fairy tales.

I started plotting the second book in the series. I think there will only be two books unless I start weaving other characters into the story in order to continue their stories in later books. I have not decided yet.

In the last few weeks, I have also been going through my other in-progress novel, Magic by Starlight. I only have a few more chapters to re-read, and then I will have two completed, marketable novels on my hands. I will probably continue to write under Tia Nevitt for that series, since it is so different from East of Yesterday, but not so different from my fairy tales. The problem would be juggling the two series. I would need to be able to write full-time in order to write two series.

How many novels have I written altogether? I consider my first three to be trunk novels. The third book, I think, had potential, but my writing was just not quite there yet, and I had not yet grasped the concept of driving the plot forward with every scene. I sometimes think of doing something with it, but then I always have other ideas.

For now, I am committed to these two stories. And right now, my next writing immediate goal is to come out with a high-level/low detail plot outline for the second story in the time travel series.

Ready to Query East of Yesterday. Almost.

I started a blog post called “Ready to Synopsize East of Yesterday” but I never finished the post and now I am finished with both the synopsis and the query.

Part of the reason I made so many changes to the story in the last few months is that it proved impossible to synopsize. I have learned that the process of writing a synopsis will make evident every point in your story that sucks. Because you will find it impossible to write that part of the synopsis.

So I did some rewriting.

I generally enjoy writing synopses. I wrote a blog post and an infographic on the subject some time ago. Still, it took me two weeks to get a two-page synopsis that worked. I ended up writing three versions–one that was too detailed but had lots of voice, one that was concise but lacked voice, and a combination of the above. When I finished that, I went back to the query, but I only made a few tweaks to it because I liked it already. So I am ready. Now I need to come up with a querying strategy.

There are several agents who have read my full manuscripts in the past, and who might like this book, even though it is significantly different from anything else I have written. So they are my top choices. But the question is, do I query them first? The reason I ask this, is after one round of querying, I inevitably think of better ways to query/synopsize, and I revise everything and end up with a better query and synopsis.

On the other hand, one hears all the time that one should not put all one’s eggs in one’s basket. Plus, I think the query is damned good as it is. Any improvement I make, at this point, probably won’t be groundbreaking. Besides, none of the so-called improved queries and synopses ever ended up in a sale.

It has been a very long time since I have sent out a query. I have not queried anyone since before I sold The Sevenfold Spell. I really want an agent for this book, so I’ve been going through the old tools I used to use. AAR, AgentQuery and Publisher’s Marketplace still appear prominently in my Google query. AgentQuery used to be my preferred agent search tool, but the data is looking a bit stale, and I don’t see a good way to check how old each entry is. I

Then I thought of QueryTracker–I remember when the guy first launched it because he emailed me. It has a slew of awards, so I created a account (a new one–the old one seems to have been purged). I just spent the last three hours going through 125 agents who accept science fiction, looking for agents who also accept Historical, and giving each of them a closer look. There’s no category for time travel, so science fiction/historical is the next best thing. I whittled it down to 27 agents.

I found quite a few agents who appear to accept all genres, and QueryTracker’s reports tool was especially helpful here. If said agent have not actually requested any fulls or partials for SF or Historical submissions, I passed them over, for now. I think this set of 27 will give me a good place to start. If I go through them without any success, then I’ll look at the rest of the SF lovers.

I forgot how much work this is!