By The Days is now available for purchase!

By The Days is a compilation of Sam Starbuck's poetry from 2003 to the present. Sometimes funny, sometimes thoughtful, and sometimes slyly satirical, Sam's work centers around themes of renewal, social responsibility, understanding of history, and the wonders of daily life.

Is that the most pretentious blurb you've ever heard or what. It was so painful to write.

But yes. Poetry: it's a thing that happened!

You can purchase a paper copy for $7.99 USD here at It is "pocket" sized, which really means "slightly too big to fit in an average pocket".

You can also purchase the ePub for $3.99 USD here at, downloadable instantly for your reading pleasure! This is also pocket sized, technically speaking.

IF YOU WISH FOR A SIGNED COPY, do not purchase a book! Instead, read on!

I will be selling signed copies of By The Days for $20, which includes the cost of postage; the net profit on the book goes to charity, in this case 826Chicago, which supports students ages 6 to 18 in their creative and expository writing skills and also runs fun shops like The Boring Store.

To sign up for a signed copy of the book, I have created an awesome new GOOGLE FORM. Just go here and fill out a few trifling details -- nothing too personal, I promise, no payment info -- and Google will take care of the rest. I'll be in contact over the next few weeks (possibly months, I never claimed to be efficient) to confirm your desire for a book and get address and payment information.

I'm always ambivalent about poetry, mine especially, because there seems to be criteria outside of normal literature for poetry and I've never been able to grasp what it is. I don't know if my poems are any good or if you should pay me for them. So in addition to the paper and epub copies you can purchase from, you can read it all for free at Gutenberg, and decide for yourself!

Here is a PDF from Gutenberg which you may download, share, and otherwise abuse without paying for it (except in pieces of your soul). If you do download a free PDF, consider making a donation to Project Gutenberg, an excellent internet resource and a force for good in the world.

Thanks, everyone!
Okay FIRST, how cool is this -- I know there had been talk from some of our Librarian cafe members about adding Nameless to their libraries, but man: seeing Nameless with library stickers and stamps on it, holy cow. It's exciting and thrilling, let me tell you.

Talking of writing, Lulu posted "Fun Ways To Improve Your Next Book" part two (THE RECKONING) this morning. It is, at least, better than Writing Groups and Google Docs. Knoword is an interesting challenge, although also kind of buggy and unlike FreeRice doesn't give food to the starving when you get an answer right.

I'm not sure I can objectively praise or criticise the whole "follow famous writers on Twitter" thing, because I generally dislike Twitter. I followed a few pro writers for a while but I didn't feel I got much from it, so unless I actually know them, I've mostly stopped reading them. Very few writers have anything intelligent to say on writing that can be said in the short bursts Twitter allows, and there seems to be a lot of competition to say pithy things that don't hold up well to examination. I should think that reading the work of well-known writers would be more helpful, though admittedly perhaps that's less fun. In terms of having fun writing, I think it's more important to play with one's own style than worrying about emulating others, but perhaps with Twitter there's less pressure to do that.

At any rate, "study the work of other writers" in any context is a pretty well-trodden piece of advice. I think sometimes it's better to study work outside of the literary sphere, if not art and music and theatre then at least reading non-fiction from time to time. I had the pleasure of seeing Octavia Butler speak once, at a conference, and the most memorable moment of the entire day, for me, was when someone asked her how she'd gained her knowledge of science, to which she replied, "I read." Other disciplines require the same critical-thinking approach as one's own craft, but in slightly different, twisty ways, which keeps the mind active. And that is quite fun.

I feel weird talking about writing, because I'm not actually a makes-a-living-at-it, books-have-an-ISBN kind of writer (though there's an interesting discussion on the validity of ISBNs here, near the end). It's actually a bit hard to measure the success of my prose because while I have been rejected by publishing houses and agents, it's been five years since I actively went looking to get published, and three since I decided to actively avoid big-business publishing.

But I do make pizza money at it, and my books don't need to have an ISBN for most purposes. And I seem to be doing all right for myself in the readership department.

And anyway most anyone who talks about art is talking out their ass so why not me too.
I really need to come up with a better way to document my reading habits than the "book reviews" tag. Maybe I need to actually use my goodreads account or something. Because sometimes you just don't want to do a review!

But I will. The theme of this review: Lawrence Block's "Telling Lies For Fun And Profit" is a perfectly decent book except for two things.

a) This is stuff I learned when I was nineteen. This kind of book was once necessary, before the web, but now everyone and their brother blogs about the harrowing process of writing and publishing fiction. And the thing is, it's basically just a collection of well-arranged columns he wrote for a magazine, so it's not a lot of new ground even when it was first published.

b) He doesn't apparently know about fanfic, and he bases a lot of his teaching on the idea that writing isn't fun or something anyone would ever do for free. Which...bzuh?

In chapter eight or nine he said that it's a good idea to stop reading books that you don't enjoy or aren't getting anything from. So I stopped reading. And that sounds so catty, but I don't need to be told "read a lot" or "make other people read your work" or "don't get discouraged when someone criticises your work". I know these things.

Actually that bit did get me thinking. Are we all familiar with the Table Of Praise And Criticism?

When I was seven I had a teacher who had a really high opinion of the cognitive reasoning skills of seven year olds (to be fair I was pretty bright). He taught us about the Table Of Praise And Criticism, which I think is the bedrock upon which my ability to accept criticism is based:

I'm not sure if "unhelpful" was the term, but it's less stigmatised than "useless" which is what I suspect my teacher used.

There are four forms of feedback: Constructive Praise ("I liked the way you described the tree on page five"), Constructive Criticism ("I think your storyline gets lost in chapter four"), Unhelpful Praise ("This was great!"), and Unhelpful Criticism ("You suck"). This is nicely organised and appeals to me.

We spent a lot of time in class learning to identify and separate Constructive from Unhelpful, which gets more and more complicated the older you get. The nice thing about the table is that it minimizes the value judgment placed on the artist, because it's focused on evaluating the feedback and the person providing the feedback.

Unhelpful Praise is not necessarily a bad thing. Everyone likes to be told they're awesome. If it doesn't contribute to the development of the artist, it doesn't actively hurt them, either. On the other hand, there was no greater sin as a seven year old than committing Unhelpful Criticism. Because unhelpful criticism reflects badly on you as a person, that all you can think of to do is be mean.

The point is, really, that while you do put yourself into your work, criticism of the work is not criticism of the person, and the only valuable criticism is specific, direct, and aimed at improving the work rather than denigrating it (because that's Unhelpful Criticism).

Um, so it's easy to say "Don't listen to the haters", but it's much more helpful to give people a way to separate useful from hateful, and a framework within which to defend themselves.

Well, that came out not at all like a book review.
I am crawling out from underneath Googledocs to declare myself NOT DEAD!

Seriously though, this writing thing, I think I might need some kind of recovery program.

I am rewriting a novel, eyeballing a second for rewrite, feeling guilty about finishing a third, trying not to feel deeply insecure about the pitch I'm writing for a fourth, gaping at how far one fanfic is from being finished, realising another that I thought was finished needs three thousand more words, and pointedly ignoring two more.

Maybe I need to stop sleeping. It can't be that hard.

I do get a lot more time than most to write, because of the nature of my job, which I'm very grateful for. There are times when I am amazed that the secret has not got out about how administrative work is pretty much the best job in the universe for a writer. And then I realise no; it's that my job is ideal for it, and my job is a product of several different factors, not universal across the board. I realised this again today when one of the other admins, who has just taken on a new boss, stopped to tell me that she'd be late subbing in for me at lunch because new boss has given her two new duties:

1. Fetch him breakfast and
2. Fetch him lunch.

Technically this is probably something a lot of PAs do, but our company culture is such that it has come as a little bit of a shock to everyone that she is now his personal caterer. He literally walks past the building breakfast bar on the way in to work; is he really so busy he can't stop and buy his own damn bowl of oatmeal? It's not exactly endearing him to anyone, and nobody's all that impressed that he eats lunch at his desk. When we're offsite I fetch food and other necessities for BossBoss, and I'm happy to do it, but he doesn't make it part of my ordinary day and he procures his breakfast himself.

Anyway, the upshot is that I love my job, I love my second-job writing, I love BossBoss because he's the Best Boss, and I also need two more hours in a day.

Or maybe instead of not sleeping I should just learn how to stop time. There's gotta be a webinar about that on the internet somewhere.
GoogleDocs, you utter bastard.

I didn't want to post fourteen separate chapters of Nameless again, nor did I especially want to replace the first-draft-with-comments that's already up at [ profile] theoriginalsam. So I thought I would be CLEVAR and upload the whole file at once to googledocs. Except that I had already been too clever for my own good, and started formatting the doc for publication. Which means indents instead of full paragraph breaks. Which googledocs doesn't recognise.

Fine, I thought, I'll save it as a PDF and host it on GoogleDocs. Except with PDFs you can't publicly host on GoogleDocs, only share via email.

SO. Here is what I have done. You can download the entire second-draft text from Sendspace:

(I tried to mirror on Megaupload and Yousendit but they both require registration now.)

Or those of you who are interested mainly in the last chapter of the first draft can check out the revised "chapter" (now two chapters) here:

Chapter Thirteen Revised | Chapter Fourteen Revised

The "manifesto" I referenced earlier is available as a revised postscript here: Postscript Revised.

You can also read a summary of what I've changed. )

There is also a new Index Post for Nameless, which links to all this. Including some fanart done for Nameless, the newest addition to which is [ profile] m_erechyn's Two Watercolours of Low Ferry and The Pines.
R called. He's still in Pennsylvania, but he's got big dreams. (That sounds like the start of a blues anthem.)

He's driving back tonight, so he'll be home around noon tomorrow. We've made plans to meet at the bodega after I get off work and buy some fixings for meatloaf. Which is hilarious in a way:

Sam: You could go pick up some ground beef and eggs at the store on your way home, and I'll just come to your place when I get off work.
R: That's all you need? (Meatloaf is magic to him. How can so few ingredients be so NOM?)
Sam: Well, we have sauce and spices at your place.
R: Maybe you better do it. I'll pick the wrong stuff.
Sam: It's beef and eggs!

But the thing is, he would. He'd get stew beef and powdered egg white or something.

Last time we made meatloaf it took FOR EV ER to cook, so I'm thinking of really ratcheting it up, blasting it on 425F till it's done. I can't think of any truly adverse effect this might have -- it may dry it out a bit but I like a dry meatloaf actually, and R won't notice. Thoughts? I'm bringing my probe thermometer (kinky!) so we'll know when it's done.

Also, I'm tripping right along now on Nameless. Another new chunk -- I can't recall who suggested that Low Ferry wouldn't let Christopher shovel his own walk, but this is for you...

Carmen: Xtreme Snowshovel Superstar! )

Someone suggested that perhaps I should give this book a different publisher's imprint than Other People Can Smell You, and I wasn't sure but I think perhaps I'm going to, mainly because I came up with a brilliant one: Extribulum Press. :D
Because I am a masochist...

1800 new words on Nameless; this slots neatly into chapter seven. I feel like it's a good day's work; it at once lets me have Christopher the Storyteller tell a story, explains a bit about the boy, and sets up a metaphor for the end of the book in one neat package.

The Storyteller's Story )
Fuck it. It's Wednesday somewhere and the suspense is killing me.

I've posted the final chapter of Nameless, Chapter Thirteen, as well as a postscript that I hope to include in the finished version, however it is distributed.

And I have some notes on chapter eleven and twelve )
All right! Work has let up so I got to format and post both Chapter Eleven and Chapter Twelve. Lucas makes a mistake, Christopher meets his parents, and Marjorie locates some pants.

There's one more chapter tomorrow, and then we're done...huh. Maybe I should get to work on that essay about collaborative concrit or something.

Here are the notes from Chapter Nine and Ten -- slightly less than usual, since a lot of stuff I stashed in the "deal with this when I have a brain again" file. :D

Notes, Chapter Nine and Ten )
Chapter Eight of Nameless has been posted! There is a fight, a storm, a dream, and a miracle. :D

The nature of these notes has evolved as I've hit my organisational stride with them -- there are fewer "note to self" notes now, because the stuff that's really extensive or meaty or would be exhausting to write all go into a separate file ("Nameless Notes I") for me to deal with on a slower basis, as I feel I can, and the immediate discussion stuff that I think you guys would be interested in goes into a file for the writing notes ("Nameless Notes II").

There aren't many notes of either kind for Chapter Seven, which must mean that some of the praise is right -- this is the chapter where the story really hit its stride. Here's hoping eight keeps it up.

Chapter Seven Issues )
Man, putting this novel together is like putting a show up -- I spend all my time thinking about it, all my spare time working on it, and I become a very boring person because I'm elbows-deep in the lives of a bunch of people who don't actually exist. My days right now consist of sleeping, working, writing this, and occasionally taking breaks to read Travels With Charley, which is a really good read but I'm going to run out of bookdarts before I run out of book. How is John Steinbeck so awesome?

I don't even cook, I've been living on stuff in my freezer, take-away, and Snickers bars for a week. Not that I'm not loving every second of it, but I'm fully aware that this journal is excruciatingly boring right now to anyone not interested in my process.

When all this is over I think I'm going to write a piece on the process, because I don't know that any fiction author has ever put a book up in front of 2500 people and said "shred it" and then actually been able to rework it as feedback came in. That's not a complaint -- it's been deeply useful. It must be devastating to a writer to get useful critical reviews after their work has gone to print, because then they can't change it -- well, they can, but there are probably legal issues involved and thousands of copies already printed, and it's not like you can go up to your reading public and say "Oh sorry, that book you paid $25 for wasn't as cool as it could have been, here's the really cool version. That'll be $25."

On the other hand I am guessing professional published authors, you know, don't do shit like accidentally name a midwife BERTHA. Even when I don't intend to make puns, they slip out, it's some kind of disorder.

Anyway. I rewrote a bunch of Nameless tonight, clarifying stuff and adding description. There's still two messy bits to come, but they're a few days off from being posted yet so I'm hoping to brainstorm a workaround.

Blather blather blather. Thank god tomorrow's Friday. Tomorrow night I need to do laundry and pack myself some snacks and then Saturday morning I'm off for my holiday. With the tiny shiny!
Chapter Seven of Nameless has been posted! There is a birth, a death, two dinners, and a laying-on of hands.

FUN FACT FOR THE DAY: "drily" and "dryly" are both the correct spelling of a single word. I doublechecked this with the OED and it lists them together as dual acceptable spellings. I've never seen this before. What the everloving fuck, English.

But Shakespeare spells it Drily, apparently, so I have chosen that version.

Couple of new passages in the notes today, so if you want the full force you might skim through for them. :)

Chapter Six Notes! )
Chapter Six of Nameless has been posted! Christopher returns to Chicago, some travelers return to Low Ferry, and Lucas sells his wares.

After Chapter Five there was a lot of interest in the Straw Bear, which was really cool. I picked it up from a lecture at a conference I went to on masks in performance; the Straw Bear was a tradition in Whittlesea, England, prior to the twentieth century. Though in intent it was mostly the same, in process it was very much different from Low Ferry's -- in Whittlesea the Bear went from door to door and did dances for money. It "died out" when it was outlawed as a form of extortionate begging in the early 20th century, but has since been revived as a folk festival and tourist attraction. You can see some film footage of the Straw Bear 2009 festival here:

The Straw Bear Dancing
Two Morris-style dances having nothing to do with the Straw Bear but still awesome:
a Broom Dance and
a Stick Dance.

There's also a Straw Bear in Germany, in Waldurn, and some various Straw Creature traditions in Denmark and Sweden, if I recall right. I think in fact I may have drawn more from the Waldurn Straw Bear than from Whittlesea's. Unfortunately it's been about three years since I checked my notes on the subject, and the internet's a bit thin regarding these things. I may dive into JStor later today and see what they know.

Other Issues from Ch5 )
Chapter Five of Nameless has been posted. The village of Low Ferry gathers for the Halloween festivities, Charles gives Christopher a start, and Lucas uncovers a secret. I think this is potentially my favourite chapter. :D

Also, Chapter Four Issues )
Well, you guys seemed to want a chapter a day, and I admit I think I can hack that, so here's your Monday chapter for Nameless. Chapter Four -- A book is delivered, masks are discussed, lunch is eaten, and Christopher holds a sidewalk sale.

And there are also Issues from Chapter Three )
Before we get started, a note to all Gallifrey attendees:

Jean reminded me that the Cafe used to play a game with the lead singer of the Remus Lupins, seeing how many concerts we could arrange where someone would come up to him and tell him "Sam says hi" (we crossed paths briefly when he read for Remus in a radio play I wrote). She mentioned she was going to Gallifrey and seeing Gareth David-Lloyd, so I told her to tell him the guy who wrote the talking-cat fanfic says hi.

If you are so inclined, and you happen to be meeting him in a signing line or something, please feel free to tell him that Sam says hi. It's like a social experiment! Either that or we're going to totally creep him out. Or both.

Anyway, ONWARDS! To process notes for Nameless. This is from commentary on the Ch1 Process Notes and on Ch2 of Nameless. These are as much for myself as for you-all :D

Unlike the Ch1 notes there's no new info here that should have been in Ch2 and isn't; it's more a response to overall commentary, so it's not as necessary as the Ch1 notes were. If you don't want to have your objectivity spoiled in terms of knowing some of my intent, you're better off not reading, in fact.

Ch2: Issues )

A final note:
Just remember with all these comments that we do all want to help. If I were you right now I'd be feeling a little disheartened by the overflow of advice.

I thought this was awfully sweet, and there are others who are concerned at how much crit I'm taking at once as well. It's okay; don't pull your punches, kids. I'm not disheartened -- I might occasionally be overwhelmed by sheer mass, and once in a while I fear your crit might not get addressed immediately, but I wanted it all. That's why I began posting. Even in these first two chapters I've learned a lot about what my weaknesses are, and these issue-posts are becoming helpful lists of things that I need to watch out for as I write in general, not just within the body of Nameless.

It's never easy to take criticism, but I think a writer reaches a healthy place -- as healthy as writers ever are -- when they no longer see criticism as an insult or a painful thing to face. My reaction to about 90% of all criticism I receive these days is "Aw, crap. Do you know how much WORK it's going to be to fix that?"

It's not pleasant to have to pull apart two chapters of work to fix the problem, but at least it's not soul-crushing and depressing to be told you have one.

(The other 10% is a mixture of "Thank you, but you're full of bullshit" and "Ouch". I'm working on it.)
So...working on the feedback from chapter one of Nameless, I thought I'd do a little process post. If you're reading Nameless you may want to read this just because there are some additions I've made to the master file but not to the first chapter, and this is a good way to get the info -- not ideal, but the most efficient.

If a lot of comments were made about something I tended just to nab the first one, for purposes of explanation, except with the Major Issue at the end. I don't intend to heed every single comment made because we all know what a committee can do when it puts its mind to it, but I think a lot of the suggestions were good ones and whether or not I end up using them, I can still draw information from them.

Issues )
[ profile] jack_and_ellis is up and running again; fully restocked, with a new index and news post as well as an art post. If you de-friended to avoid your f-list being flooded by the chapter posts, feel free to come on back.

I split up chapter thirty into two chapters, because the average chapter-length is around 4k words and that chapter was almost 9k. There are about seven hundred new words on the end of Chapter 32 (what once was Chapter 31), just to complete the conversation Ellis was having with the excreble MP Bell. Otherwise nothing new, just some redecorating.

I feel a bit guilty about Jack & Ellis these days, only because I don't actually believe Australia is a country of horrific nationalist bigots bordering on slaveownership. I quite like Australia actually. I've decided I just have to push through the guilt, because it's only going to get worse before it gets better and half the climax of the book is based on the race relations between the Aboriginal tribes and the White settlers. I am confident that the book in total won't give the impression that I despise the country and all white people in it, but at the moment it does tend to cant that way a bit.

So. All the communities are now taken care of. I'm going through old archived posts slowly, uploading where I can. If you happen to see a "new" post from me that looks like it doesn't belong or is dated funny, just drop a comment so I'll notice and backdate it properly. I have slipped up a couple of times but I usually catch it pretty fast.

One very interesting thing I've noticed is that I started doing "Three things" way before I actually started doing Three Things. Back as far as my entries go I've found lists in threes, often with a "3a" as well. I have no idea what it means, other than three is a tidy number when you have several random thoughts to tie together.

All day I've gone to do some task for work and then once it was finished stopped and thought to myself, hey, I was just doing something really enjoyable before that. What was I doing? Something fun.

Oh yeah. WRITING.

I've written a lot in the past six weeks but at no time was I able to forget the fact that I was writing crippled, that I was in pain and my body wasn't working the way it goddamn well ought to work. I've enjoyed the stories in my head but getting them into pixels was a pain in the ass. And today I've spent most of the day polishing the fics I posted and working on Jack&Ellis and not hating myself as I wrote.



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