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I got three gifts early this year.

The first was my fourth acceptance from Daily Science Fiction for a the story “For Your Light Affliction.” The story was originally accepted by Halloween Forevermore which, after a year, informed me that they were no longer publishing fiction, so I sent it to the place I should have in the first place.

The second is the book This Is All a Dream We Dream: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead by Blair Jackson and David Gans. I had books under contract from both authors when I was at Wiley, and both were sadly cancelled after the trade publishing lines were sold. While neither of those books will come out, they did lead in some ways to this one, which made me laugh out loud with the first story I read at random.  Best of all they even signed it for me. You Deadheads with gift cards, this is what you want under your tomorrow tree.

(You might also buy The Pizza Tapes Extra Large 3CD edition, which my brother-in-law Scot gave me tonight.  I’ve been singing “Man of Constant Sorrow” for the past two hours, which got me to stop singing “Box of Rain,” as inspired by the Jackson-Gans title. )

The third gift was a realization. As I’ve written elsewhere, I do three progressively longer outlines of a novel before writing a draft under the theory that for each successive outline I only have to write a 2-3 words for each word in the previous one. In practice, though, I’ve found that instead of doing that expanding literally, it’s better for me to read the section I want to expand, then write up only what I remember. The rest isn’t important or doesn’t fit, although the cut material could be repurposed elsewhere, and the looseness of the approach allows more room for invention.

I got the idea from Jonah Berger’s excellent Contagious, which describes an experiment in which ad was shown to a person, who had to describe it to another, who had to describe it to the third and so on. What information reached, say, the sixth person was what the ad was apparently about (whether that was intended).   Same should be true of outlines.

Thus the third outline for Dragon Tower continues apace. I reached the end of part one this week. I’ll finish a story called, currently, “Sunnyside,” then dive into part two.  I also have work to do on the first “Dragons of America” book, now called The St. Louis Blue, but “Sunnyside,” which I’m writing for an anthology with a due date, jumped in the way.

As for what else I want for the holidays, I’ll take a dominating Jet win over the Patriots. I have the same feeling going into this game, though, as I had when the Gators played FSU, the Pats of the NCAA: We are going to get badly exposed.

Happy Holidays.

S.

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