Being the Ongoing Chronicle of the Anticks, Misadventures, and Odd Deeds of an Overalls-clad Wanderer.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

So, how frustrating is it when stuff that's supposed to work wonderfully in this new gee-whiz techno-wizard world just doesn't?

I had another post in this space earlier, but I had to take it down because it involved a link to another blog and I could NOT make the link work using Blogger's mobile app. I tried a bunch of times and kept ending up with a broken link. Then I tried fixing it in Blogger's web version (still on my phone), but that didn't work either, so I'll use that one another time.

This all comes on the heels of some enormously frustrating time I've spent lately with Windows Movie Maker, trying to make a book trailer for PRINCESSES. All I'm doing is literally stitching a bunch of brief movie clips together just to convey a bit of what I hope the book feels like, but this makes the program choke constantly. Again, something that should be pretty easy turns out to be a headache.

So again, how do you react when even your relatively modest expectations for your technology end up going awry?

Monday, July 21, 2014


Sorry about the complete lack of content the last few days, but I've been busy doing stuff. Important stuff. You've no idea, folks!

One thing I've been busy working on is a video trailer for Princesses In SPACE!!! (not the actual title), and it turns out that Windows Live Movie Maker is an enormously frustrating program to use. If I had time and motivation, I'd chuck it and learn to use a different program. Luckily I don't intend to post the trailer until September or October, but I want to get this done, and this program is giving me major fits.

Anyway, stay tuned!

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Been a while since I did one of these, so here is some recent photographic evidence of my misdeeds!

So far this summer has been one of many blue skies.

...and much green.

I've added to my library a little:

And that top book, about how to make drinks, has turned out quite useful, as the wonderful Mojito has become a staple at Casa Jaquandor!

The cats continue to discover the magical realm beneath my desk. Julio, the resident foot-fetishist, especially loves curling up around my feet when I'm trying to work.

Writing continues, slowly....

At 9:00 am on a Saturday morning, downtown Buffalo is abuzz with activity.

Lester and Julio guard the upstairs. Patience and Fortitude, they ain't.

Lester does not wish me to be successful.

It's all about caffeine and air flow.

It's also about reading outside and sipping Scotch.

It's been an oddly cool summer thus far. Usually I spend July suffering endlessly and not even thinking about wearing overalls, but on the 4th of July this year, it was cool enough!

In fact, by the time the sun was dropping and it was time to start thinking about heading out for fireworks, a sweatshirt became handy. This is unprecedented, folks!

From afar, at dusk, Buffalo Niagara looks like this.

I also baptized our new fire pit.

Some stuff I haven't done:

One day the rains came...

And an hour later, were completely gone....

Minty M&Ms!

Drink up, folks!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Shorter Jeff Simon

"In any article I write about Roger Ebert, half the words will be about how I hate Gene Siskel and that teevee show that proved that they were both better critics on teevee than I'll ever be in print."

Seriously, this guy's inability to ever ever ever mention Ebert without also venting his eternal hatred of Siskel and their teevee career is at this point pure pathology.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Something for Thursday

Conductor Lorin Maazel died this week, at the age of 84. He lived a fine and long musical life, and I, for one, will miss his work. Maazel conducted the very first New Year's From Vienna concert that I ever watched, and he frequently returned to that same event over the years, and he regularly turned up on various televised classical music events. Maazel always seemed gregarious and enthusiastic about his musicmaking, and that's a quality that is never in great enough supply, I think. Maazel never failed to convey that he really wanted you to like what he was doing.

Anyway, here is Lorin Maazel conducting The Ring Without Words, a concert version of orchestral extracts from Wagner's great Der Ring des Nibelungen tetralogy. Thank you for so many years of great music, Maestro Maazel!

(Maazel grew up in Pittsburgh, by the way. The best things in life seem to come from either Pittsburgh or Buffalo....)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Of these two phrases, which is more annoying: "At the end of the day....", or "It is what it is!"?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dispatches from the Faire

This Saturday past, we traveled to the shores of Lake Ontario for the Sterling Renaissance Festival, which we have attended most years over the last decade or so. We missed it last year, owing to our vacation in Cape May, NJ, but this year we were back in form, so off we went! I love Renaissance Festivals in general, ever since I attended the Minnesota Faire back in college. I find them enormously entertaining, and I especially love buying things directly from the people who made them. You can't beat that, and I never quibble price for something that was not only not mass-produced in China, but might well have just been made a day or two before.

Some photos from our day at the Festival, starting with the icky one right off the bat. We were sitting down for a water break when The Wife and The Daughter both freaked out, simultaneously. Seems this little guy was hanging out on my shoulder. The Wife knocked him down, and I then used a twig to move him to safety under the bench. This is quite the close-up, by the way; he's really only about an inch long.

One of my favorite things about the Festival each year is seeing older couples, in period dress, still very much dating each other. This makes me happy.

Maybe new this year -- or possibly last, as we weren't there -- was this Faerie, who spent her day roaming and interacting.

One vendor whose wares we never stopped to appreciate before is the one that makes bronze sculptures for yard display. We haven't had a yard, so what was the point. Well, this year we have a yard, so we looked. The items there are stunning and wonderful, but also way out of our price range. And this spouting dragon, towering above everyone, didn't even have a price tag that I could see.

This next item, however, did have a price tag. It's a pirate ship where all the details are made of glass, right down to the water on which it sails.

Ten thousand dollars will let you bring that home!

No, this is not George RR Martin. At least, I don't think it's George RR Martin. I didn't ask him.

And, as always, Her Highness the Queen!

Hopefully we have so good a time next year!

Monday, July 14, 2014

"Just one word at a time, man."

“When asked, "How do you write?" I invariably answer, "One word at a time," and the answer is invariably dismissed. But that is all it is. It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China, if you will: one stone at a time, man. That's all. One stone at a time. But I've read you can see that motherfucker from space without a telescope.”

--Stephen King

A friend asked me a question about my particular writing process the other day, and it struck me as an interesting question that I haven't mentioned before, so I thought I'd go into a bit here, too. I often like reading about the processes other writers use, not necessarily in a 'comparing notes' kind of way, and certainly not in a 'If I write the way they do, I'll be successful!' way, but in the sense that it's just nice to be reminded that even for the really good ones, the ones who make it seem so effortless, the ones whose footsteps I'm trying to's still just a job. However they do it, they still have to show up someplace and get the words down somehow. Writing, for all its wonders, really does lead to an awful lot of quasi-mystical bullshit that isn't always warranted. Sometimes it really is like laying bricks to make a wall to repel the invaders.

Anyway, the main question that my friend asked was a mechanical one of how I handle the content and its organization into computer files. When I wrote the first draft of Princesses In SPACE!!! (not the actual title), I wrote a separate file for each individual chapter. Actually, I did this with The Promised King as well, way back when, so that approach had precedent. What I found as I got further and further into the book, it got harder and harder to easily refer back to earlier events. This comes up a lot, especially when writing a sci-fi epic: What color was her hair, again? What did I call that one beastie? How many people did I say populate this planet? I'd have to open chapter files one by one until I managed to find what I was looking for.

Additionally, at the end of the process, there was the additional tedium of cutting-and-pasting all of this into one large file, which was also a pain in the arse. Then, at editing time, I would just work on that one large file, so I came to the conclusion: why not just write the thing in one large file to begin with? So, that's what I've done ever since, starting with Princesses II, GhostCop, Deliverance, Eh?, and now, Lighthouse Boy. It's just easier that way for me. I've yet to run into any kind of upward limit on filesize, although I wonder if Lighthouse Boy might not get there, as that book is turning out to be well-and-truly massive. I intended this, so I'm not dismayed, but wow, what a big story I have going on there: I'm over 150,000 words right now and only about halfway done. I wanted to write a doorstop, and by golly, I am!

Now this is all necessary because I use OpenOffice to write. I like OpenOffice; it's perfect for my needs and it has all the features I'd ever want. Plus, it's free, which is also nice. There's another program out there, though, that I'm told allows a more...and now I'm groping for a word...we'll call it a more holistic approach to crafting a novel. It's called Scrivener, and it is beloved by people who use it.

Scrivener apparently provides an entire internal environment for writing. You can gather research notes and all sorts of other materials into the same project folder, so when you write, everything's right there without having to open other programs. I'm told that Scrivener makes it easier to move scenes around if you wish: apparently it allows writing in small atomic pieces that you can then arrange as you see fit. I assume that when you're done, it then automatically stitches everything together into a single file. Scrivener also has e-publishing capabilities built in.

I did try Scrivener, very briefly. (It allows a free trail period.) It was not my cup of tea. I tend to think in very linear fashion when writing, and I only go back and revise anything I've already done if there is a pressing need to revise something earlier based on what's happening now. I'm referring to putting the gun on the mantelpiece, for instance, or adding bits of foreshadowing when I realize I need a character to be able to do a certain thing. I don't generate large amounts of reference materials, and I just don't think in terms of individual scenes when I write. Scrivener is deeply counterintuitive to me as a writer, so I didn't try to adapt to it at all. It's the perfect tool for some, but for me, it's just a nonstarter.

So that's about it: I use OpenOffice to write my books as single, large files. For backups, I have three external hard drives and a flock of flash drives, and I upload my work to both Google Drive and Dropbox daily. (Google Drive is my primary cloud backup, so things automatically upload there whenever I save them. I have to manually save to Dropbox, but Dropbox has saved my bacon once already by virtue of its archiving of older versions of files. This came in deeply handy one day after I screwed up and overwrote my newest version of a file with an older one, instead of the other way around.

So, writer folks of the world, how do you write?