Lab Book for a Novel: Process, Targets and Goals

The Little Man is learning about the scientific method in school: making observations, asking a question, forming a hypothesis, making predictions, testing prediction, wash, rinse, repeat. Writing this novel, while not a perfect fit for the scientific method, certainly borrows from it. Observations I have made in the past when attempting to write at length have led to several questions. These include: Can I write well at length? Can I create a story that holds a reader through 100,000 words, and make them want more when it is all over?

I am generally a pantser—one who writes by the seat of his pants, without planning much beyong where I am in the story. Stephen King has likened this method of writing to digging up a fossil, revealing a bit at a time, until eventually, the whole thing is there for you to look at. I have also heard this described as a “headlight” method of writing: writing in the dark, with a headlight which allows you only to see a few steps ahead at any time.

This method has worked well for me with short fiction. In fact, I have sold every piece of short fiction I wrote using this method and sold exactly none of the pieces I plotted out in advance. That is well and good for short fiction, but I am becoming more skeptical that it works for me with longer fiction. My hypothesis, therefore, would be: If I blended my methods, mixing plotting and pantsing, I could write and finish a novel length story that keeps both me and readers interested throughout.

It is important to me to keep the story fresh for me. If it dulls on me while I write it, it certainly will dull on readers and that makes me losing interest in telling the story. Returning to the headlight analogy, perhaps if I set out waypoints, close enough that I know what direction they are in, but far enough away that I still need my headlight to find my way there, I’ll write a better story. This prediction is certainly testable, both in terms of the process and the output. Subsequent drafts allow me to iterate through this prediction and testing phase.

But what is the story? If you follow along with this lab book, it would be difficult to have the right context without knowing something about the story I am trying to write. And yet, I can’t talk about (or write about) the story specifics without losing the desire to write the story. In this regard, I am reminded of Ken Lui’s excellent novella, “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” In that story, it was possible to witness past events, but doing so consumed the ability to witness it again. Once I tell a story, whether describing it to a friend, or typing it into the keyboard, I seem to lose my desire and ability to tell that same story again.

What I can tell you is this:

  • Like the last several stories I sold, this novel features baseball as an important thread.
  • The story takes place across two distinct time periods separated by about 60 years.
  • Like “Gemma Barrows Comes to Cooperstown” (IGMS, May 2015), the story, while centered around professional baseball, is really not about baseball as much as the effect the game had over the course of one person’s life… and its potential effect on civilization as a whole.
  • There is an element of the fantastic to the story, but I won’t say any more than that right now.

This is how I think of the story, now, at least. I’ll try to come back to this when the first draft is finished and see how that matches up to what I said here. Often, the story finds its own path as I write.

I learned through a lot of trial an error that I need a good beginning and a good ending to get started. These provide anchoring points, and while they may change over the course of a story, I need them to get started to know where I am going. In this case, I have 9 “waypoints” that I’ve marked out along the way to help me across what I imagine will be at least 90,000 words of storytelling. I am hopeful that these waypoints will keep me on track. Unlike short stories, where I have a pretty good sense of ending when I start out, for this one, I have only a vague sense of the ending. This could be good or bad. I’m going to take it as good. 90,000 words is long way from beginning to end and a lot can happen. Better to keep some slack in the line.

It would be good to have a schedule. That’s tough. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to write every day, given work and family obligations. I have no problem writing for 10 minutes here or there, but 10 minutes one day, no writing the next, and 2 hours the day after that makes it tough to come up with a schedule. So, I’m taking a page from my project management experience, and looking at past history. In 2013, when I wrote my first novel draft, I started at the end of the February and finished mid-September of that year. Call it six months, or 180 days. 95,000 words divided by 180 days comes to an average of 527 words/day. Let’s round it down to 500 words/day on average.

If I start in the next couple of days, I should finish in 180 days. Monday, September 23 is the first day of fall. Seems like as good a date as any to target as a start date. At 500 words/day that would give me an end date of March 21, 2020.

In project management, there is usually some contingency built in. Let’s call it 10%, or 9,000 words. 9,000/500 = 18 days of contingency. There may be some days I am not able to write at all. There are also vacations, busy work scheduled, etc. Of course, on other days I may write more than 500 words, but let’s factor in the contingency to plan for the unexpected. Adding 18 days to March 21, 2020 we get April 8, 2020.

I will aim to have the first draft of this novel finished on Wednesday, April 8, 2020.

Again, this is a baseline that we can come back to in April and see how things are going. If I am off, we can investigate why.

We now have the baselines for this experiment of mine:

  • Target length: 90,000 words
  • Target start date: Monday, September 23, 2019
  • Daily goal: 500 words
  • Contingency: 10% (9,000 words, or 18 days)
  • Target completion date: Wednesday, April 8, 2020

And yes, all of these stats are tracked and captured in a Google Spreadsheet (called my “Logbook for a Novel”) which I will talk about tomorrow when I talk about my tools for this project.

Of course, the first draft of a novel is only one part. What about after? Well, I’m not ready to plan that far ahead. One step at time, as the saying goes. I’ll worry about the second draft after I have a completed first draft.

Lab Book for a Novel: My Credentials

As I start on this novel, I think it is important to know where I am in my writing career. What follows is a brief summary.

  • I started writing and submitting stories to magazines while a junior in college in early 1993.
  • After 14 years of writing stories and submitting them to (mostly) science fiction magazines, I made my first sale to Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show in late 2006, with the story appearing in July 2007.
  • After that, story sales came more readily. I sold stories to Apex, Analog, and an Italian e-book publisher, 40K Books. I also sold stories to some original anthologies.
  • I also started writing some nonfiction. Thanks in large part to this blog (on which I have been writing since late 2005) I honed my skills and in particular, my voice at nonfiction writing. I was asked to write two editorials for Analog. I’ve written nonfiction articles for Lightspeed and Clarkesworld. I wrote a book review column for Intergalactic Medicine Show. I had a technology column for The Daily Beast and I’ve written for 99U, Fatherly, and other magazines.

Just about all of this writing, I should emphasize, has been professional writing, in that I was paid professional rates for both the fiction and nonfiction.

My last published story, “Gemma Barrows Comes to Cooperstown,” was published in IGMS in 2015. Not long after that, my third child was born, and my time and ability to write dwindled down to nothing for a while.

In 2013, at the peak of my writing, I wrote my first novel. I wrote it for two reasons: I had a story I liked, and I wanted to see if I could do it. I’d always thought of myself as a short fiction writer, and I’ve always been impressed by colleagues and friends who have written many novels, published or not. To be completely honest, I wanted to be able to say that I had written a novel, even if it was an exercise. After all, that’s how I learned to tell a story: by doing.

I started writing the novel on February 28, 2013 and finished on September 14, 2013. The novel was 95,000 words long. It was a messy process, and though I started a second draft, it never got far, and I abandoned the story as several useful months of practice.

I joined the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of American (SFWA) after selling my first story and became a full active member after selling my third. I am still an active member today, although I don’t participate in either the mechanics or the voting for Nebulas. I just don’t have time, and I only read science fiction very rarely these days, so it wouldn’t be fair for me to vote on things that I haven’t read. I have done almost no fiction writing since 2015, save one short story in first draft form. I really like the story, but I’ve set it aside for a time because sometimes, I need to do that. This is where things stand for me as I start this new novel. I include this preface because everyone is at a different place in their writing career. Some people start writing a novel having never written fiction in their lives before. Others are writing their 40th bestseller. My progress, failures, and successes along the way are at least somewhat influenced by where I am in my writing career today. This should be taken into consideration for those readers following along: you may be at a different point in your career than I am, so your mileage may vary.

Lab Book for a Novel

I recently mentioned on Twitter that I have started writing again. I stopped writing for several reasons, but the most important one was that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write anymore. Moreover, with all of the good writing out there today, I wasn’t sure if what I wrote would make much of an impact. But my desire to write was stronger than my concern over impact, so here I am, writing again.

But what to write? For years now, I’ve had the idea for what I think is a novel-length story. The story has challenged me. I’ve started it many times, and it has always stymied me. I can’t quite figure out the right way to tell it. I can’t quite figure out the right voice for the narrator. But I think it is a good story, an entertaining one, one worth trying to tell.

I have only ever written one novel. In 2013, I wrote the first draft of a science fiction novel. It was the one and only novel have ever written. It never made it out of first draft. It was a kind of spring training. I needed to know if I could carry a story through 90,000 words, and I managed to that, although I’m not sure how interesting or entertaining the story really is. If nothing else, however, the experience taught me that I could write at length.

Earlier in my day job career as a programmer, I occasionally encountered tough coding problems. I’d pick around the edges of these problems for days or weeks, until finally, one day, I’d come into the office and say to myself, “I’m not budging from this chair until I’ve got this problem under control.” Something about the mental state that put me in almost always worked. With a high degree of focus, I was able to accomplish more than I thought I could.

That is what this lab book for a novel is all about.

I have decided to write this novel. I have decided to give it the kind of focus that has helped me solve problems in the past. And I have decided to write about the experience of writing a novel not just to add focus, but with the idea that it might be useful to other people who are trying to do the same thing. I call these posts my “Lab Book” for a novel because I think of them the way I think of my old lab books from science classes and labs. I had a science teacher who taught me that a good lab book records everything, successes as well as failures. By going through a lab book, another scientist should be able to reproduce the results. That may not work perfectly for writers, because writing is not an exact science, but maybe it will prove helpful.

This is not a “how-to” guide for writing a novel. I’d be wary of any such thing. Instead, this lab book is a description of how one writer—me—went about writing one particular novel, with all of the frustrations and successes therein. I think it is just as important to record mistakes and frustrations as it is progress.

Last night, at my writers’ group, I was talking with some other writers about how hard it is for me to explain the problems I run into when writing a story. First, it is very hard to complain to non-writers. I suspect to many non-writers, writing looks easy and it is anything but, at least for me. Second, it is almost as hard for me to talk with writers about the problems I have writing because I don’t like discussing what I am writing while I am writing it. For one thing, we all know writers who are eager to tell anyone within earshot all about the plot of the novel they are working on. I can’t do that because I don’t know the plot—only know a little more than what I have written. For another, rehashing my story dulls it in my mind, and makes me less excited to write about it.

It occurred to me last night, however, that one solution may be a lab book like this. I can write about problems I’m having with a story without writing about the story. Or I can just plain vent, and other writers will know that these things happen to all of us. I can write about good days and bad, and provide context to why they were good and bad. I can write about what happens after I finish, assuming, of course, I do finish.

Don’t expect a lab book post every day. That would be asking too much of myself. However, I will write them as frequently as I am able and try to identify situations in which I think the posts will be most illustrative of my process. I will include a “Day #” in each post title, so that those following along know how long I’ve been working on the novel. I’m sure it will evolve as I go along.

Expect a handful of baseline posts over the next few days. Any real lab book should set a baseline so that people referring to it know the conditions at the start of the experiment. To that end, I plan to post on the following baseline topics over the next few days:

  • My writing credentials and experience up to this point.
  • A very general description of the story I want to write, including some targets like length. This is won’t be a description of the plot, but a sentence or two that gives some context for the story.
  • The tools I plan to use to write the story.
  • A few words on my writing process so far. I may experiment from what I am used to as part of this process in order to make it a success, but I think it is important to know how I have worked in the past in order to see if any of the deviations I make this time around prove helpful or harmful.

With those prefatory posts out of the way, I’ll start writing, and the day I start I’ll mark as Day 1. We’ll go from there.

Comments and questions are encouraged along the way. I learn best through practical exercises. I learned how to tell short stories by writing a lot of them. I imagine the same is true for telling longer stories. Readers’ questions and comments not only help me, but may help others who stumble along this lab book.

All of these posts will be categorized under Lab Book for a Novel, so if you want to follow along with just these posts, and not have them cluttered by other things I write here, the category is available for that.

Books I’m Looking Forward to in October

October may be a rare month for boys* but it looks to be a great month for books. I don’t know why, but there are a ton of books that I am looking forward to reading coming out in October. Here are some of them:

  • Letters from an Astrophysicist by Neil deGrasse Tyson (October 8)
  • Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years by Julie Andrews (October 15)
  • Edison by Edmund Morris (October 22)
  • The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini by Joe Posnanski (October 22)
    Agent Running in the Field by John le Carré (October 22)
  • Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography by David S. Reynolds (October 29)
  • Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White (Full cast audiobook starring Meryl Streep) (October 29)
  • Blue Moon: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child (October 29)

These are just books coming out in October, above and beyond the books I have queued up to read soon. Having recently gone through my worst reading drought in nearly two years (I read only 5 books in August, my lowest since January 2018), it is an embarras de richesse to have so many books to look forward to.

*A reference to Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.

Stalking the Music

Now and then, I see one of those memes asking parents to name something from their youth that their kids wouldn’t recognize or understand. There are plenty of obvious answers to this, but one occurred to me recently as I listened to my kids ask Alexa to play various songs for them (many of them from the Descendants franchise).

The ability to ask for and instantly hear any of several million songs is something that I couldn’t do at my kids’ age. Indeed, to listen to music, I listened (mostly) to the radio. If there was a song that I really liked, waiting and waiting, hoping with each fade out that the next song (after the inevitable commercial break) would be the one that I was waiting for was my only real tool. I can remember daydreaming about the ability to listen to any song I wanted to, any time. The closest I came, as a kid, was by stalking the music like some game hunter sitting patiently in a blind, finger poised over the trigger of the “record” button on the radio/tape player I had, waiting for the desired song to play.

Even that was imperfect. Often, I was surprised and caught off-guard, and I’d cut off the first few bars of the song. Or, the D.J. would jabber into the first part of the song and so the recording would be corrupted by his banter. Even when I did manage to catch the song perfectly, it was often buried in the middle of a tape, and I’d have to hunt around for minutes trying to find it. So much better was record album in which I could simply drop a needle in the appropriate groove.

Now, none of that matters. It is not even quaint; it is an extinct activity. If I want to hear a song, I have only to ask for it to be played. I get a perfect digital version, far better quality that what the radio played, or what I managed to capture on tape. To my kids, the thought of stalking the music is inconceivable.

And yet, there is something of a letdown to the ability to hear a song whenever you want. Perhaps it is the spontaneity of the radio, or eager anticipation, but asking Alexa (or Siri) to play a song for me diminishes the experience in some small, intangible way. The exceptions prove the rule. Occasionally, there is a song that is not available from Apple Music, and when that happens, it seems, my need to hear the songs grows desperate. It is a rare throwback to the days I spent stalking the music with a radio and tape player.

Today is Great: A Daily Gratitude Journal for Kids

I’ve written quite a bit about diaries, journals, and notebooks over the years. I got a relatively late start with my own diary. I was already 24 and I wish I’d started sooner. A few years back, I tried to get the Little Miss to start a diary, but as with many diaries, it didn’t last very long.

So I was delighted to learn recently that my friend Vicky, who runs the popular Mess for Less blog, has a new book coming out called Today Is Great: A Daily Gratitude Journal for Kids.

Her book birthday is coming on October 1, so if you have kids interesting in diaries and journals, and who are looking for a fun way to ease into the process, be sure to check out the book!

Tube of Holding

Now it can be told! After decades of research, I have discovered the secret toothpaste manufacturers don’t want you to know about. But let me back up. First, my credentials:

I have been brushing my teeth roughly twice daily for nearly five decades. Call it about 33,000 observations. Each time, I am required to take hold of the tube of toothpaste and squeeze it onto the brush. I can’t properly guess how much toothpaste has been consumed in this activity over the decades. Call it a lot.

The reason I can’t properly estimate the amount of toothpaste is the crux of the issue. It is far easier to estimate the number of tubes of toothpaste I’ve run through over the years. Call it half a dozen tubes a year, giving a value of close to 300 tubes of toothpaste. Isn’t it simple multiplication to figure out how much toothpaste you’ve used? I hear you asking.

You would think. But you would be wrong.

After careful observation and analysis over the decades I have come to an inescapable conclusion, one that will shatter your perception of the toothpaste industry forever: The volume of toothpaste in a tube exceeds by a great deal the volume of the tube itself. Yes, there is more toothpaste in the tube than the tube can hold.

How can that be? I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but that doesn’t change the facts of the case. Take the current tube of toothpaste, for instance:

The current "empty" tube of toothpate
My current “empty” tube of toothpaste

The tube has been flat as a pancake for the last two weeks, and yet, twice a day, with a bit of effort, three of us are able to squeeze a blob of toothpaste onto our brushes. Empty though it seems, it keeps producing toothpaste. I suspect a wormhole, or tesseract, or perhaps a twist on the old D&D bag of holding: a tube of holding.

Why then, would the TIC (toothpaste industrial complex) not want you to know about this? Isn’t this a break-through discovery that could revolutionize all kinds of storage and delivery systems? Sure, but at what cost? If the world discovered an infinite supply of toothpaste in a single tube, no one would buy toothpaste anymore. What would four out of five dentists recommend the, eh?

I’m recording all of this in my lab notebook each night and will continue to see how long this empty tube of toothpaste continues to keep my teeth in tip-top shape. In the meantime, do me a favor, will you? Feel free to take full advantage of this incredibly discovery of mine but keep it under your hat for the time-being. The last thing I need right now is to be hunted down and lectured to by the TIC. I get enough of that from my dentist.

Editorial Changes

As my wife will attest, I am a creature of habit. There is nothing extraordinary about this to me, as it seems this is the way I have always been. It does mean that when things change, I can get a little uneasy. This change goes for many things, including the editors of the magazines I read. I remember, for instance, a decade ago when Mariette DiChristina took over the helm at Scientific American from John Rennie. What changes would that mean for the magazine I’d been reading for a long time?

Some months back, after Kathleen Fleury left her post as editor of Down East magazine and Brian Kevin took over, I began each new issue of a magazine by skimming the editorial that month to see, if perhaps, another change was coming. Each magazine gave me a few nervous moments, until I saw that things were continuing as normal. But a few days ago, as I turned to the editorial in the September 2019 issue of Scientific American, I quickly discovered that Mariette was leaving, and the September issue would be her last. She’d been the editor for a decade, and I liked the general direction of the magazine during that time. Indeed, if I am being completely honest here, I was just getting used to her as editor. As I said, I am a creature of habit.

Well, now a new editor will take over, and inevitably there will be changes, and I will wonder about those changes until they are a settled thing, and I have another decade to get used to them.

I suppose this isn’t much different from editorial changes from the writers’ perspective. I sold a story to Stan Schmidt at Analog just a few years before he retired as editor of the magazine after 33 years. When Trevor Quachri took over, I was nervous. But I ended up selling him another story, and two editorial so that worked out in the long run.

Then, too, I suppose the angst I feel at a new editor is similar to when I get a new boss. I’ve been with my company for 25 years as of next month, and I have probably had 10 or 12 bosses during that time. Each time, it is a little unsettling.

As it happens, I think the September 2019 issue of Scientific American looks particularly good (I’ve only had a chance to read one article so far). It certainly sets the bar high for whoever takes over. I think that is a good thing. As with most jobs, an editor should try to leave things better than she found them. I think Mariette DiChristina did just that.

I’ve Never Seen the Wrath of Kahn

Until last night, that is. Unable to sleep, I took a break from the late Tony Horwitz’s excellent (so far) Spying on the South, and decided to watch a movie. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn was one of the recommended movies. Now, I’d seen bits and pieces of it before, but never the whole thing. I knew parts of the story line, but had no continuity. So I decided to watch it, and see if it measured up to the hype.

It did.

The story was so good, in fact, that I hardly noticed how quaint and dated the special effects seemed. I’m glad that I took the time to see it, even though it didn’t help much with getting to sleep.


In our new house I am discovering things that I love, and things that annoy me. The things I love are big things, and fortunately, the things that annoy me are little things. But they still annoy me. Take the bathroom on the main floor.

Stand in this bathroom, if you will, and face the window above the toilet. The window looks out into the deck, which in turn looks out down the slope of our yard toward the bike path that dives down into the local park.

Right above you, smack in the center of the room, is a typical bathroom fan. To your right, above the sink is a pair of lights. To your left, above the shower/tub is another light. Okay, now, turnaround. Just above the towel rack, you’ll find a light switch panel with three switches. Turn on the switch to your left. Remember, you are facing opposite to how you started. The left switch is the one closest to the sink. Flip it on. On goes the light above the sink. So far so good.

Next there is the center switch. Of course, the fan is right above your head in the center of the room. Flip that switch on, go ahead… and now the light above the shower is on.

Maybe it is just me, but it seems that if you have a light switch arrangement where the switches are left, center, right, and the left switch controls the light on the left side of the room, wouldn’t it make sense that the right switch controls the light on the right side? And the center switch, with nothing else to do, would control the fan in the center of the room.

When I go to turn on the light above the shower, I inevitably reach for the switch closest to the shower, but on goes the fan. And vice versa. To me this is just bad user interface design. Why would someone do this?

And in case my description hasn’t been clear, I sketched a diagram for you. A represents the light above the sink. B is the fan, and C is the light above the shower/tub. The smaller letters represent the switch positions.

It’s a small thing, I grant you, but it’s one of those things that has continued to annoy me since moving into the house.

84 Charing Cross Road

And sometimes, desperation and persistence wins the day. I have been going through an unusually dry spell in terms of what to read next. I am reading, slowly, The Great American Sportswriter edited by Schulian, but I’m taking it in bite-sized chunks. I have struggled and struggled and struggled to find something that will awaken me from this summer drowse and fill the world with color. No Cheering from the Press Box, edited by Jerome Holtzman riled me from this slumber for a moment, but that was way back in June.

Last night, out of a combinations of boredom and desperation, I flipped through every page of James Mustich’s 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die in the hopes of finding something. As I reached the Ds, I considered re-reading Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, which I recall loathing in junior high school when I had to read it. This is the level to which I have fallen. I told myself I was being noble by giving a second chance to a book that a teenaged version of me scorned. But I pressed on. I made it through the entire book, skimming, at least, every entry, and making note of a few: Dispatches, Notes on a Cowardly Lion, A Book of One’s Own, Ongoingness, Lonesome Dove, The Diary of Samuel Pepys.

As I drifted off to sleep, bookless, one of the titles lingered in my thoughts, more of a place than a title, really, 84 Charing Cross Road.

This morning was beautiful: sunny and clear, with the humidity blessedly vanished, and temperatures in the upper 60s. I headed outside for my morning walk, and took in the wonderful weather, and that was the last time I noticed it. Or anything else on my walk for that matter. I began listening to the audiobook version of 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, and I was lost in the delightful letters between a New York Bibliophile, and the employees of Marks & Company Antiquarian Booksellers, lead primarily by Frank Doel. Those letters were wonderful, and Hanff’s witty style put a silly grin on my face for the entire morning.

Though short, this has to be one of the best books I’ve read all year. It surprised me, caught me off guard, and quickly and dramatically transformed my desperation into gratitude. But there was also a sadness. It is unlikely that a story such as this could ever happen again. People just don’t write letters anymore, for the most part. And a correspondence such as this could not be replicated in e-mail; it is not, I have found, a medium that lends itself to a literary style.

Sometimes, a book like this is just what I need to stir things up, and before I know it, I find that there is indeed plenty out there that I am interested in reading. I am hopeful that is precisely what happened here this morning.

New Office, All Done!

Two and a half months after moving into the new house, my new office is now completely setup the way I want it. Yesterday I completed the task of organizing the books on the shelves, as I mentioned. I opted to keep the same sort order I originally used, alphabetical by author and then chronological within an author. It was just easier that way. There are a couple of sorting exceptions where a large book is involved, but otherwise, they are back in order after more than 10 years of disarray.

It took a long time, and I was up late working on this. I didn’t want to quit until I had it done. The sorting was complicated by the fact that the books had been arranged in no real order, beyond how they came out of the boxes. That meant a lot of hunting down a book in order to put it in its proper place. What I did was sort the books in LibraryThing based on their entry date. That way, I had a rough idea of what shelf they were on by where they showed up in the list. I worked one shelf at a time, removing all of the books on the shelf, and then refilling it with properly sorted books. At the peak of the process, this meant I had books scattered everywhere.

Once I was finished, I straightened up the rest of the office, got rid of a bunch of junk I’d been collecting, and after lunch, here is how my mostly-complete office looked:

My office, looking east
Looking east, from a slightly different angle
My office, looking south (and into the living room)
My office, looking northwest

I say “mostly” complete because we still have to have French doors installed between my office and the living room. Everyone will be happier when this is done, given my volume of work-related called and video chat.

While putting the books in order last night, I took note of how many of them were signed. The result: 52 of them: a full deck.