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Mar. 30th, 2015


Progress Report, in which I name names

You know I mean business about starting to draft a new novel when I get to naming my characters.

Seriously.  Names are usually one of the last things I do.  I’m not sure why, really.  That’s just my process.  And not to say that I consider it an insignificant task, either.  I often agonize over character names, and I usually learn something about them as they are christened.

As Petra Rising is the third volume in the series, I don’t have as many personages upon which to bestow monikers, but I do have a few new folks—mostly minor but nonetheless important players.  So the great Naming proceeds, to be swiftly followed by—gasp and swoon!—actual fresh verbiage.

I have to admit, folks, I’m nervous.  In addition to the usual first draft jitters, there’s the fact that I haven’t played in the Petra universe for several years.  And this will be the concluding novel of this story arc, which is a new thing for me.  Can I stick the landing?

Time will tell.  Soon.  Magic Meter is coming.

Write Club update:  Personalized note from Shimmer.  Not a good fit, basically.  Response time, six days.

Deep breath . . .

Current Music: "Afterglow"--Black Country Communion

Originally published at Matthew S. Rotundo's Pixeltown

Mar. 23rd, 2015


Progress Report, in which I channel Victor Frankenstein

The subplot issue that I was working on last week?  I think I have it resolved.  Kind of.  Enough for me to believe it’s not so insurmountable, anyway.

It’s been that way thus far with Petra Rising.  The obstacles I’ve discovered while making my notes, some of them quite daunting at first, have all just sort of worked themselves out.  I’m telling you, friends, there’s life in this story.  (Cue Victor Frankenstein voice:  “It’s alive!  Alive!”)

(Ahem.  Sorry about that.)

So it appears that I have the first act fairly well in hand, and I have a pretty good idea about the ending.  The second act is a tad murky.  But what the hell; I’ve started with less than this before.  One more week, and then drafting begins.

(It’s alive!  Alive!)


Write Club updates:

Tier one bounces from The Dark and Clarkesworld. Response time, less than 12 hours each.  Speedy!

And a form reject from an agent on a novel query.


Current Music: "We're Not Gonna Take It"--The Who

Originally published at Matthew S. Rotundo's Pixeltown

Mar. 16th, 2015


Progress Report, in which the joke may be on your faithful correspondent

So I figured while I was paused on my notes for Petra Rising, I might as well take the opportunity to update my database and get some manuscripts back into circulation.  Which is what I did.

Now I’m back to my notes, trying to work out a subplot issue.  But I think I’m ready for a bold prediction:  the new novel will roll on April 1st.

That’s right–April Fool’s Day.  There’s actually some precedent for this:  I had started the first draft of Petra Released on an April 1st, too.  So if it’s worked before, I figure it will work again.  Time will tell if the joke is on me.

A few more weeks, then, and we’ll see the long-awaited return of Magic Meter.  I’m sure the anticipation is killing you.

Write Club updates:

A tier one bounce from Fantastic.  Response time, two days.

And a bounce from an agent on a novel query.  Response time, one day.

So it goes.


Current Music: "These Colors Don't Run"--Iron Maiden

Originally published at Matthew S. Rotundo's Pixeltown

Mar. 9th, 2015


Progress Report, in which I have a good excuse (for once)

Still haven’t started drafting Petra Rising yet, but I have a good excuse:  I was working on a rewrite.

That’s a good excuse, right?

See, I’d gotten some useful editorial feedback on “The Winter Palace.”  The opening needed trimming, and I thought I had a good idea how to do it.  And I wanted to get that out of the way before I dove headfirst into the first draft of a new novel.  So that’s what I did.

Now “The Winter Palace” is back in the wild, and I can return to Petra Rising.  At least one more subplot bears further examination.  Then the novel rolls.  For realz.

Write Club update:  31 days to a bounce from BuzzyMag, which is going on hiatus, citing medical issues.


Current Music: "Think for Yourself"--The Beatles

Originally published at Matthew S. Rotundo's Pixeltown

Mar. 2nd, 2015


Progress Report, in which I am not outlining. Really.

So you might be wondering if I’ve started drafting Petra Rising yet.  That would be a no.

Every time I think I’m just about ready, I ask myself a few more questions about the story, and find subplots that still need a bit of ironing out.  If this keeps up much longer, I might have to call my notes an actual outline and turn in my pantser card.

Kidding.  They’re just notes.  Really they are.  They’re not an outline.  Not not not not not.  So there.

No updates for Write Club.


Current Music: "The Storm"--Bloodline

Originally published at Matthew S. Rotundo's Pixeltown


Presenting OSFEST 8 Author Guest of Honor: Me

As it’s been announced, I suppose I can now let folks know that the Author Guest of Honor at this year’s OSFest will be . . . ah . . . me.

This is so deeply awesome that I still have a hard time believing it.  I have been participating in this convention since its inception, and have been gratified and delighted to see it grow into a fixture on the local geek scene.  To be named the Author Guest of Honor for 2015 is, well, a true honor.

Much planning is still in the works, so I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing yet.  But I have no doubt the con organizers will keep me plenty busy.  I just hope I don’t say or do anything too stupid.  (A quick look at the video accompanying the announcement linked to above should give the reader a fair idea of the odds of this happening.)

Anyway, if you’re going to be in the Omaha area July 31st-August 2nd, do stop by and say howdy.  I’m fun at parties.

Current Music: "Perpetual Change"--Yes

Originally published at Matthew S. Rotundo's Pixeltown


Feb. 23rd, 2015


Progress Report, in which I discuss geological time scales

So I said last week that I thought I was missing something important about Petra Rising.  Turns out my instincts were correct.  Something was missing, and I believe I have found it.  And guess where it was?  Right in front of my face.  As usual.

I’m encouraged.  When the story starts resolving itself, that’s a sign that it’s working.  And interestingly enough, I now am pretty sure I know how this thing will end—a rarity akin to rain in the Sahara.

So I’m close to actual drafting work.  Yes, I realize I keep saying that, but it’s true.  It’s gonna be soon.  On a geological time scale, it’ll happen in the blink of an eye.

Of course, on a geological time scale, most things happen in the blink of an eye.  So what?  Shut up.

Write Club update:  17 days to a personal note from F & SF.  So it goes.


Current Music: "2112"--Rush

Originally published at Matthew S. Rotundo's Pixeltown

Feb. 22nd, 2015


Rotundo’s Oscarology, 2015 Edition

It’s that magical time of year again—the Academy Awards!  And here I am, back with the very best, grade-A picks, guaranteed to win your Oscar pool.*

I’ve managed to see 7 of the 8 Best Picture nominees, missing only Selma, which disappeared from theaters before I got to it.  This means pretty much zip when it comes to predictions, actually, but I just thought I’d mention it.  Last year, I’d seen maybe half of the nominated films before the show, and still managed to eke out a win.  (OK, it was actually a five-way tie for first here at Chez Rotundo, but I was one of the five, so it counts.  Last year was weird.)

Anyway, I found this year’s slate to be full of some fine films, and a couple of real gems.  Let’s get on with the picks:

Best Picture

The smart money is on BirdmanBoyhood was considered the favorite at first, but that film’s early award wins didn’t translate into any serious love from the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild, or the Producers Guild, all of which went with Birdman.  That’s a substantial chunk of Academy Award voters right there.  It’s true that the BAFTA went to Boyhood, which also has some overlap with AMPAS members.  But I don’t think it’s enough to overtake the front-runner.  I’m going with Birdman.

Best Director

The DGA is one of the most reliable predictors of this award, and this year, it went to Alejandro G. Iñárritu for Birdman.  Gotta figure he’ll get the Oscar, too.

Best Actress

Julianne Moore in a walk, for Still Alice.  Moore has been nominated five times but has never won.  Two of her competitors, Marion Cotillard and Reese Witherspoon, already have Oscars.  And Moore won the SAG.  This one should be a no-brainer.

Best Actor

Lots of reasons to think that Michael Keaton will take this one home:  he’s never been nominated before, he’s now in his 60′s, and his performance in Birdman is indeed a strong one.  But those factors were in play at the SAG awards, too, and Eddie Redmayne won there, for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.  This is exactly the kind of “physical transformation” role that Oscar loves (see Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot for just one of many examples), and Redmayne was fantastic.  And just for good measure, he also won the BAFTA.  So I’m picking the young whippersnapper.  Sorry, Michael.

Best Supporting Actress

Here’s a category that has been rife with upsets in the past, but I’m going once again with SAG, and picking Patricia Arquette, for her performance as a single mom with rotten taste in men in Boyhood.

Best Supporting Actor

J.K. Simmons, perhaps best known to the public as the guy in the Farmers commercials, will crush his competition for his role as the tyrannical and abusive music teacher in Whiplash.  It’s an unforgettable performance.  SAG agreed.

Best Original Screenplay

This isn’t Wes Anderson’s first Oscar rodeo.  He lost two years ago to Quentin Tarantino, and in 2001 to Julian Fellowes.  But he’s back, and Tarantino and Fellowes are nowhere to be found.  Also, due to some weird Oscar rules, the script for Whiplash is in the Adapted Screenplay category, even though the WGA considered it an original.  Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel script took home the WGA award, and I’m guessing it will garner a golden statuette, too.

Best Adapted Screenplay

It’s uncanny.  Seems like just about every year, one of the screenplay awards goes to the movie I would have picked for Best Picture if I had a vote.  This year, my favorite film out of all the nominees was The Imitation Game—by a wide margin, actually.  (Whiplash came in second place, in case you care.)  And look!  Right on schedule, Graham Moore just won the WGA.  He’s my pick for the Oscar. 

Best Animated Feature

How The LEGO Movie got left out of this category is a head-scratcher.  Had it been nominated, I think it would have cruised to an easy win.  But we’re still left with a pretty impressive slate.  A couple of heavy hitters going up against each other here, with Big Hero 6 and How To Train Your Dragon 2 duking it out.  Both were fine films.  It’s possible they will split the vote, allowing one of the lesser known nominees to surprise.  But I have to wonder how many Academy voters have actually seen Song of the Sea or The Tale of Princess Kaguya.  I’m picking Big Hero 6 to win by a nose, by virtue of some other guild award wins.  I wouldn’t be surprised to be wrong here, though.  And if the vote does indeed get split, watch out for The Boxtrolls.

Best Foreign Language Film

This has been historically one of Oscar’s most unpredictable categories—largely, I think, because the rules used to limit the ability to vote in this category to those who could prove they actually had seen the nominees.  But the rules changed last year, and it’s still too soon to know whether this will make this one easier or harder to pick.  I haven’t seen any of these films, but remember my credo:  never let total ignorance get in your way.  Poland’s Ida took the BAFTA, and that’s as good an indicator as any other.  I’ll pick Ida.

Best Cinematography

Roger Deakins is nominated yet again.  And once more, I think he will lose.  Emmanuel Lubezki’s work on Birdman looks to garner him his second Oscar in a row.  Flashy works best here, and how much flashier can you get than shooting an entire feature film as if it were one continuous camera take?  I found it a bit self-indulgent, really.  They talk about cinematographers “making their reel,” and I think that’s what Lubezki did here.  Nonetheless, he’s going to win.  Someday, Roger.  Someday.

Best Production Design

As with Cinematography, flashy usually wins.  This year, that would immediately eliminate The Imitation Game and Mr. Turner.  This leaves us with Into the Woods, Interstellar, and The Grand Budapest Hotel.  The Art Directors Guild recognized The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is (for Academy voters) blessedly free from the taint of fantasy or science fiction.  That works for me.  Grand Budapest for the win.

Best Film Editing

The American Cinema Editors recognized Sandra Adair for assembling twelve years’ worth of footage into Boyhood. The BAFTA went to Whiplash, and one can’t count out the likely Best Picture winner, Birdman.  The editing Oscar often goes to the top film of the year.  But I think Boyhood emerges triumphant here.

Best Costume Design

Using the same logic I did for Production Design, I’ll go with The Grand Budapest Hotel.  It also took the Costume Designers Guild top award for period piece, and period pieces do well in this category.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

I could see any of the nominees winning here, but the trend lately has been toward dramatic pieces (Les Misérables, The Iron Lady, Dallas Buyers Club), which would eliminate Guardians of the Galaxy and The Grand Budapest Hotel.  So I’ll go with Foxcatcher.

Best Original Score

Here’s a tough category to pick.  Alexandre Desplat has eight nominations and no wins, but he’s competing against himself this year.  Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar score is some of his best work, but support for that movie seems weak at best.  All of which could bode well for Johann Johannsson and The Theory of Everything.  I’m making up my mind as I type this:  The Theory of Everything.

Best Original Song

Some stiff competition in this category.  “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” is a heartbreaker, “Everything Is Awesome” is a lot of fun and perhaps best known, and “Glory” is the only one from a Best Picture nominee.  Yikes.  Don’t know which way to go here, but given the kerfuffle over the lily white acting nominee slate (which kerfuffle is quite valid, in my view), I’m going to pick “Glory,” from Selma.

Best Documentary Feature

CITIZENFOUR took the DGA and the BAFTA, so that’s my pick.

Best Documentary Short

Here’s a tiebreaker category for your Oscar pool, as it’s virtually guaranteed that no one has seen any of the nominees.  Uplifting films often do well here, which could tilt the balance in favor of Joanna.  But HBO, with its long tradition of strong documentaries, has an entry in the field, Crisis Hotline:  Veterans Press 1.  Toss-up.  I’m going with Joanna.

Best Sound Mixing

Louder is better.  Best Picture nominees also win.  That would leave us with American Sniper, Birdman, and Whiplash.  (Incidentally, how did the mix for Interstellar, which raised so much controversy for obscuring key dialogue, ever get nominated?  Clearly, the Academy’s sound people know something I don’t.  But I digress.)  My wife found the jazz drum soundtrack for Birdman annoying and headache-inducing.  In her honor, I’ll eliminate it from consideration.  I guess I’ll go with Whiplash, simply because I liked it better.  (I wouldn’t be surprised to see Birdman win, though.  Sorry, honey.)

Best Sound Editing

The Cinema Audio Society went with Birdman.  The Motion Picture Sound Editors recognized American Sniper.  Conventional wisdom says American Sniper will win.  I’ll bow to peer pressure and agree.  I’m not proud.

Best Visual Effects

I’m really tempted to go with Interstellar.  But the most groundbreaking work was the motion capture in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  I remember quipping that I wished the filmmakers had made the humans as real as the primates.  But you know, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was nominated in this category, too—and lost.  I guess I’ll stick with my first instinct, and go with Interstellar.  Black hole for the win! 

Best Short Film (Live Action)

Lighter fare tends do well in this category, so I’m going with BAFTA winner Boogaloo and Graham.

Best Short Film (Animated)

Disney’s Feast is the presumed front-runner.  But so was Disney’s Get a Horse! last year, which lost.  Ah, hell, who knows?  I’ll stick with Feast.

And now you know everything you need to know.  Guaranteed.*

* Actually not guaranteed at all.

Current Music: "Get in the Ring"--Guns 'n' Roses

Originally published at Matthew S. Rotundo's Pixeltown


Feb. 17th, 2015


Progress Report, in which I verb a noun

Tax Guy has been and gone.  The usual last-minute scrambling to update my expenses was scrambled even further by having to figure out how to convert foreign transactions into U.S. dollars.  Which challenge is even more fun when said Tax Guy has just phoned to let us know he’ll be a few minutes early for our appointment.  Gulp.

Anyway, we worked it out.

Now it’s time turn my attention back to Petra Rising.  And I’m of two minds about the project.  Part of me feels like I’m almost ready to start drafting, that all I need to do is clear the decks and let ‘er rip.  The other part is—well, let’s just say it’s not so sure.

I mean, I probably could pants my way through.  But I can’t help feeling that I’m still missing something really important, something I should know about now, rather than when I’m halfway through the first draft.

Let me think about it for a bit.  And while I’m at it, perhaps I should contemplate the significance of my use of the word pants as a verb in that previous paragraph.

Or not.

No updates for Write Club.

I’m out.

Current Music: "Crystal Ball"--Styx

Originally published at Matthew S. Rotundo's Pixeltown

Feb. 9th, 2015


Progress Report, in which I mention Ben Franklin

So either I’m out of ideas, or I’m just about ready to start drafting Petra Rising.

But first—the taxman cometh.  One of them certainties Ben Franklin talked about, you know?  And I have documentation to prepare.

After that, though, the novel rolls.  I think.  I hope.

No updates for Write Club.


Current Music: "Haunted"--Disturbed

Originally published at Matthew S. Rotundo's Pixeltown

Feb. 2nd, 2015


Progress Report, in which I am ominous

The calendar has flipped again, and I’ve inched a bit closer to the end of Dream Time and the start of actual drafting on Petra Rising.

But I’m not there yet.

But it’s coming.  Oh, yes, it’s coming.  Soon, my friends.  Quite soon.  Be afraid.

(Ooo . . . ominous, ain’t it?)

No updates for Write Club.


Current Music: "Heroes"--David Bowie

Originally published at Matthew S. Rotundo's Pixeltown

Jan. 26th, 2015


Progress Report, in which I demonstrate how the creative process works

Continuity issues on Petra Rising are now sorted, I think, but they’ve left me with a lot of questions about what to do with a certain subplot.  After banging my brain against that wall for a bit, I decided to switch to another plot thread, to see if it would prove more tractable.  Not so much, as it happens.  I’m kind of stalled out in Dream Time.

The last time I found myself in that situation, I said to myself, “Screw it.  I’ll just dive into drafting, and something will come to me.  That’s what pantsers do, right?”

Well, kind of.  I mean, I did end up with a draft, but not one that I was very happy with.  I feared the rewrite would be something of a nightmare, and brother, was I right.  I’d just as soon not go though that again.

No, I’m not ready to start this draft just yet.  So I’m not going to, and that’s that.  You hear me, brain?  We have some more prep work to do.  Quit yer whining; it’s not going to help.

And to answer your unspoken question:  yes, this is pretty much how the creative process works with me.

No updates for Write Club.

Back to the notebook . . .

Current Music: "- Human"--Metallica

Originally published at Matthew S. Rotundo's Pixeltown

Jan. 19th, 2015


Progress Report, in which I prepare for a new career

So remember last week’s exciting installment, when I mentioned that Dream Time on Petra Rising had become a bit more structured?  Yeah, about that . . .

Turns out that I had some more continuity issues to work on.  I had to go all the way back to the first volume in the series to pick up some key details that will factor into this latest installment.  That detour soon led to another, and I found myself re-rereading parts of Petra Released.  I’ve started a separate document just to keep track of pre-established data, complete with citations.  If nothing else, I suppose it might help me prepare for a career as a paralegal, should I be inclined that way.

Yeesh.  And I still have to work on the actual, you know, story.  So I suppose I should get back to that.

No updates for Write Club.


Current Music: "Be My Lover"--Triumph

Originally published at Matthew S. Rotundo's Pixeltown

Jan. 13th, 2015


Progress Report, in which I set your mind at ease

Decent progress last week, in that I managed to get a pretty good handle on one of my subplots for Petra Rising.

And I find, now that I’m some weeks in, that my Dream Time has taken on a bit of a structure.  When I first start jotting notes for a new novel, they’re usually pretty random—bits of characterization, concepts, questions.  Now, I have a much better idea of what I need to focus on.  Barring any derailments—which could of course still happen—I figure I need to work on two other subplots, and then I’ll be ready to start drafting.

Understand, when I say “work on,” I don’t mean “have it all plotted out.”  All of these notes are basically just enough to get me started.  I still have very little idea how this thing will end.  So don’t worry, folks; I’m still a pantser, in case you were concerned.  Hope I’ve set your mind at ease.

No updates for Write Club.

And I’m out.

Current Music: "Triad"--Tool

Originally published at Matthew S. Rotundo's Pixeltown

Jan. 5th, 2015


Progress Report, in which hope is expressed

So here it is 2015, and—surprise!—I’m not ready to start Petra Rising yet.

What do you mean, you’re not surprised?

OK, fine.  Neither am I.

I have my inciting incident figured out, at least.  So that’s something.  But it’s not quite enough, not for a story with as many moving parts as this one has.

A few more weeks of Dream Time, then.  Maybe a month.  Then, words will roll.

I hope.

Hey, it’s a new year.  I can be hopeful, can’t I?

No updates for Write Club.


Current Music: "Ghost Rider"--Rush

Originally published at Matthew S. Rotundo's Pixeltown

Dec. 30th, 2014


Progress Report, in which I make a prediction about my ending

Still in Dream Time on Petra Rising.  The opening is coming into clearer focus, thank goodness, but I’m doubtful that I’ll be able to start drafting when the calendar flips.  I might need a few more weeks.

It’s occurred to me that in this third volume, I’m feeling a bit of (self-imposed) pressure to stick the landing.  And that strikes me as more than a little hilarious, given that maybe three people in the world have read both of the previous two novels.

Yeah, would hate to let the three of you down.

But as is usual in this phase of what passes for my process, I really have no idea how the thing will end, anyway.  It’s a pretty good bet that some things will blow up, as is my wont.  Beyond that, though, you know as much as I do.

No updates for Write Club.

Brace yourselves:  2015 is coming right at us.

Current Music: "I Am a River"--Foo Fighters

Originally published at Matthew S. Rotundo's Pixeltown

Dec. 25th, 2014

Joe's Gigliotti

Holiday Cheer, 2014 Edition

Joe and I would like to wish you the happiest of holidays.


Current Music: "Lonesome Christmas"--Joe Bonamassa

Originally published at Matthew S. Rotundo's Pixeltown

Dec. 22nd, 2014


Progress Report, in which I reveal what even a pantser needs to know beforehand

It seems that the note-making on Petra Rising has led me down a bit of a research rabbit hole.  This is both good and bad news.  Good news, because it’s stuff I’ll need to know to write this thing, and will (one hopes) give me some better sense of where it’s going.  Bad news, because . . . well, there are less than two weeks left in the year, and I wanted to start drafting at the beginning of January, and as of yet I don’t even know where to begin the story.

Kind of important to have an opening in mind, I think, even for a pantser like me.

So.  Yeah.  I should probably work on that.

No updates for Write Club.

Headlong into the holidays . . .

Current Music: "Fight the Good Fight"--Triumph

Originally published at Matthew S. Rotundo's Pixeltown

Dec. 15th, 2014


Progress Report, in which I discuss encouragement (and quote Fitzgerald)

Dream time—AKA making notes for Petra Rising—continues apace.  As I felt a bit overwhelmed with choices, I decided to start small, picking up the thread of a single, self-contained subplot from the previous volume.  And, well.  That seemed to work, encouraging me to take on bigger things.  Now I’m busy tackling my main protagonist’s storyline, and ideas are flowing.

See, this is why you shouldn’t encourage me.

Anyway, lots to do yet before I can start drafting.

Write Club update:  Tier two bounce from Fantastic.  Response time, 53 days.  And, you know, that’s somewhat less than encouraging.

So we beat on, boats against the current. . . .

Or something like that.


Current Music: "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)"--Motley Crue

Originally published at Matthew S. Rotundo's Pixeltown

Dec. 8th, 2014


Progress Report, in which I get in touch with my inner child

Done with my read-through of Petra Released, preparatory to drafting the third volume in the series.  Lots of good stuff in there, I thought.  Rereading it made me pretty happy.  I have a fondness for stories about grand, star-spanning civilizations, and that’s just what I’ve written.  It’s the kid in me, I guess.

Now I have to figure out where to go from here.  As usual, my problem is having too many choices.  Lots of dangling threads, and they could lead in many different directions.  Choices must be made.

I also have some tricky structural issues to resolve.  For example, some of my characters are currently moving at relativistic speeds, which is going to play merry hell with my timeline.  I had originally seen this as a three-book arc, with the option to add further volumes—separate arcs—that would take place either before or after the current action.  But there’s a chance this might be a four-book sequence, something I hadn’t considered a possibility until very recently.

Must ponder some more.  And must make some more notes, if I’m to have any chance of starting this thing early January.

Write Club update:  Tier one bounce from IGMS.  Response time, 96 days.  Not gonna lie, folks—that one kinda stings.

Anyway, onward.

Current Music: "Relay"--The Who

Originally published at Matthew S. Rotundo's Pixeltown

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