Day: January 1, 2009

Family Photoshop Fun

This is a picture of my great grandfather, on the property of the family business he maintained for years. C.T. Swinson and Sons imported, collected, repaired, and recycled feed and guano bags for use in dairies, farms, race tracks, and the like. Eventually my grandfather retired and sold the land (Florida’s I-4 goes through this spot today).


(Click here to see this image larger.)

I have a small stack of these pictures sitting on my desk, because my grandmother said I could take them home with me if I’d take care of them. By “take care of them” she meant, “scan and archive these bad-boys, and while you’re at it, see if you can’t Photoshop all those pesky pen and ink marks out of them.” I’ve hereby obeyed the spirit of her instructions, which is why you don’t see blue notations all over these.

[Edited to add: The clouds in the backgrounds are original to the images, and not leftovers from my noodling.]


(Click here to see this image larger.)

I think — though I could be wrong — that these shots were taken as part of a surveying expedition, snapped shortly before Grandpa retired and sold the land.* The markings detail distances between assorted points, as well as X-marks-the-spot type notations regarding various landmarks.

The pictures themselves had been at the bottom of a box for decades. In addition to the inked notations, they’re curled, crimped, and wrinkled; and some of them have massive discolored patches that are the result of either sun-bleaching or spills. They’re in crap shape, and I’m pretty proud of myself for cleaning them up even to this extent. God knows I’m no Photoshop guru.

But I’ve scanned them high, shined them up, and saved them large — so if anyone in the Seattle area can recommend a photo joint that will print pictures from a CD, then I’d be happy to hear about it. I’ve already tried the Walgreens down the street and they acted like I was a lunatic for suggesting it.

Anyway. When I find a place to accommodate me, I’ll make enough copies to send home (with the originals) and keep a round for myself.


(Click here to see this image larger.)

My great-grandfather died when I was in second or third grade, and I have only the vaguest recollection of him. Most of my small memories involve ice cream … and there were railroad tracks, someplace. He had an old car with windows that were always rolled down, and I was wearing white sandals with little daisy cut-outs in the leather. My legs were so short they didn’t hang over the seat’s edge, so I stared at my toes while he drove.

I remember that he was very kind, and rather quiet. But until I saw these pictures, I couldn’t remember a thing about his face.

* I can’t even guess what year. Early 1960s? I’m sure my mother will log on and set me straight before long.

This will be the year I regroup

2008 has given me a lot to think about, mostly regarding my writing career and what’s to come next. In this year I’ve had two novels essentially fail, one novel that’s well reviewed — but I have no idea how well it’s performing or what to expect from it, and half a dozen half-started projects that aren’t yet ready to fling into the publishing/query arena.

Of course, in 2008 I also wrote some books that I feel are my strongest yet. Those Who Went Remain There Still was a strange stretch for me, with an all-male cast in an aggressively traditional horror setting; and as my early readers have favorably noted, it’s not like my usual fare — but I’m very pleased with the end result.

Boneshaker is absolutely my favorite work ever, bar none, hands down; I feel as if I’ve found my Discworld, and I am intensely proud of what this novel is going to look like when it debuts from Tor later this year. Likewise, I just now (literally, a few minutes ago) handed in Draft One of Clementine — a related piece set in the same universe, though it’s going to Subterranean. This one was probably the hardest yet, in its way; it’s the story of a Confederate spy and a runaway-slave-turned-air-pirate who team up in a peculiar partnership. I wanted to make sure that the adventure was the focus — and not the racism, the taboos being broken by simple tolerance, the unlikelihood of the teamwork, and so forth … but I couldn’t pretend that these things wouldn’t have existed. It was a juggling act that I wouldn’t have dared try even a couple of years ago. I hope that (a). I did my characters and their context justice, and (b). I managed to tell a genuinely exciting action story that nods to the old pulps.

* * * * *

So. I suppose that the question of the New Year is, “Now what?”

In truth, I’m not entirely certain. Those half-dozen half-finished projects are calling my name, and I still have a young adult novel making the rounds; you never know, it might get picked up and send my career careening in another direction. Or maybe I’ll end up junking all of 2008’s leftovers and starting fresh.

2008 was a hectic year of frantic creation.
2009 will be the year I step back and regroup, and try again.

* * * * *

In February I’ll formally begin a new day job, working as an associate editor for a damn fine company; and this will take away some of 2008’s pressure to sell sell sell, which is just as well since I didn’t sell much in 2008 anyway, and it was becoming stressful to the point that I enjoyed writing less and less, at times. Even the projects I truly loved were less satisfying because I felt like there was so much pressure riding on them.

This year, I can relax a little. It will be a relief to have some other tasks into which to throw myself, instead of my constant, frazzled scramble to find something else to be writing, now now now.

But this is not to say that I plan to take the year off from fiction — far from it. I have two sequels to Boneshaker brewing, and I’d very much love to write them; and I also have an unrelated project that I want to get off the ground (but it’s still finding its footing). Maybe I’ll knock out a few short stories, or maybe I’ll do a little genre-hopping. Maybe I’ll take a few weeks here and there to fiddle with something utterly unsaleable, just because it delights me.

My only New Year’s resolution/goal is to average a thousand words a day this year. I made it to 332,000 words in 2008. I think I can do better in 2009.

* * * * *

In 2009 — in fact, in just a couple of weeks — I’ll be moving into a better living space, which will make a most excellent change. Working from home for the last few years has meant that my living space has become more important to me than ever … and when I’m unhappy with my home, it’s harder to be productive. Though I’m not looking forward to moving the household in the middle of January, I’m totally looking forward to a beautiful, well-maintained historic building with about a third again more room than I have at present.

And speaking of good things, I remain intensely grateful for Team Seattle and all its myriad affiliates. Those guys have made 2008 downright cool in ways that it would not have been otherwise. Team Seattle continues to be awesome; and awesome Team Seattle events continue to brew. Stay tuned for details.

Anyway. I suppose that’s all I’ve got for now.
Happy New Year’s, everybody. May this year improve upon the last.