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

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Very Public Service Message: Don't Order Pizza Tonight

(An annual repost)

Hey folks, I've mentioned this before on some previous Halloween's, but I think it bears repeating. I write from my experience as a one-time employee of one of our nation's many fine pizza-serving and delivering establishments. Basically, tonight's Halloween, so you might consider refraining from ordering a pizza for delivery this evening. Why?

For one thing, since there are tons of kids about on the streets, with many of those dressed in dark clothing, many pizza delivery places will be quoting abnormally long delivery times, both because business might be up and because they may well be instructing their drivers to take as long as they need to deliver. Halloween is NOT the night to order a pizza and expect quick service. Believe me.

Secondly, if your household is not observing Halloween and will therefore be leaving all of your outside lighting off in order to dissuade trick-or-treaters, please oh please don't order a pizza for delivery. Delivering pizzas at night isn't rocket science, but it's not ridiculously easy, either, and running deliveries on Halloween is actually pretty stressful when you're trying to watch out for kids and figure out what house to go to. And if your lights are off, it makes your house even harder to find.

If you still feel that you just must order a pizza for delivery, despite the above, then at the very least, have some sympathy for the driver and increase your tip accordingly. Or just give him a tip at all, for you cheap jerks out there.

Or, you could just go get a pizza yourself, showing up early at the pizza place so you can eat before going out trick-or-treating or whatever. But if you do that, remember, you're not the only person thinking along those lines; the pizza place will likely be getting an abnormally large number of orders significantly earlier than usual, which will have the expected slowing effect on service.

So, if pizza is on the menu tonight, adjust your service expectations accordingly and don't be jerks. Or, just make it yourself!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Explodey Spaceshippy Badness

Here's what the Antares launch site looks like, post-disaster.


When I refer to "explodey spaceshippy goodness", I'm talking about the actiony bits of a good piece of space opera fiction. In real life, exploding spaceships is not a good thing!

And remember, let's not make fun of this failure or use it as ammunition to mock our space program, OK? There's a reason we use the phrase "Hey, this ain't rocket science", so let's show a little respect to the people who are actually doing rocket science.

Something for Thursday

Need some music for Halloween? I've got you covered!




















Plus, if you want more, check out this list of the creepiest country music murder ballads.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Does it bug you when teenagers come trick-or-treating in fairly lame costumes?

Chapter 3!!!



I've just posted the third, and final, sample chapter from Stardancer. Go check it out! In two weeks, the book itself will be available. I can't believe it's this close!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Holding Pattern Delta!

OK, folks, I've got the final revisions to apply to Stardancer after I finished the last round of proofreads this week, so meantime, here's something funny I stole from...someplace (I don't even recall where, which is a bad habit on my part). Apropos of my recent post on Shirley Jackson!


And now, if you'll excuse me....


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Stuff

Late today with the post, I know. Holy crap, are the next few weeks shaping up to be busy! Anyhoo, a few things:

:: Things you should know about guns. Not an article about gun issues or politics relating to guns (I have my own opinions thereof, obviously), but rather a useful article for writers and storytellers about how guns work and what they actually do when they're discharged and that sort of thing.

:: The Five Scariest Grammar Issues for Writers. Another useful article, although my own personal grammar bugaboo isn't mentioned. (And what's that? Well, I will go to nearly any length to avoid the whole lay-lie-laid-lain-lied thing.)

:: New life goal: A trip to the British Isles where the only places I go are these bookstores. (Certain family members who like traveling to Britain may find this article worth bookmarking.)

More next week!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Countdown to NaNoWriMo!



National Novel Writing Month, or "NaNoWriMo" as it's usually called, starts one week from today. This year will mark my third go-round, after completing the goal the last two years. However, oddly enough, even though I cleared the NaNoWriMo goal of 50000 words in November both times, I still haven't finished either manuscript!

The first year was Deliverance, eh? (not the actual title), a supernatural thriller involving a kayaking trip in the wilds of northern Canada. I still like this story and have every intention of returning to it at some point. I set it aside because it reached a point where I wasn't sure how to proceed and I didn't like the direction I had taken, and then I decided that it was time to write Princesses In SPACE!!! II (not the actual title), because it was about that time that I knew that if I wanted the Princesses series to be a thing, I needed to get going on a second book ASAP. So the kayak-trip-from-hell book is safely awaiting a revisit, maybe in another year or two. after I write Princesses III and a sequel to GhostCop (not the actual title).

Last year I used NaNoWriMo to finish GhostCop and then resume work on Lighthouse Boy, which has again been set aside so I can continue working on the Princesses series. I've discovered over the last couple of years that while I can be prolific and always have something in the hopper, I can really only work on one project at a time, whether it be editing an existing manuscript or cranking out a new one. It's just the way my mind works best, on these sorts of things; I tend to focus strongly on one thing, be it editing or composing, and trying to do both never works as I invariably end up gravitating toward one or the other. So I don't even try anymore. I have time for Lighthouse Boy, anyway, since my current notion is to finish it and then serialize it as a series of cheap e-books. I suspect that doing something like that will be better accomplished once I've established my "brand" a bit, which means getting at least the first two Princesses books out there and at least launching the GhostCop series.

But anyway, NaNoWriMo isn't really about finishing, anyway. It can be, but my experience is that it's more about the work. It's about setting a high goal and working toward it, relentlessly, and with some camaraderie that can't always be found in real life. Fifty thousand words in one month is absolutely doable, but it's also not the easiest target to reach if you're not used to it, and it's particularly devilish that the challenge comes in a month with only 30 days and one of the major holidays of our year. (Well, for now, anyway, since we seem hell-bent as a culture on making Thanksgiving about as relevant a holiday as Columbus Day, but that's a rant for another time.) NaNoWriMo is about producing a big chunk of work, regardless of worrying about if it's good or not. So, in that vein, if you're considering participating in NaNoWriMo this year, here are my thoughts on how to best approach it for success:

1. Know what you're going to write.

Have your mind made up so as soon as you sit down at the keyboard on November 1, you can charge out of drydock, thrusters on full. Don't sit down at the keyboard and then try to decide what story you're going to tell.

Now, "Know what you're going to write" has some wiggle-room. I'm the type of writer called a "pantser", meaning, I write by the seat of my pants. I don't outline entire novels prior to writing, and if I do any outlining at all, it's merely a scene or two in advance just so I can work out the timing and sequence of events in my head in the very near term. Other than that, I rarely have any great idea where the story is going.

Perhaps, however, you're an outliner. You like to have a detailed outline ready to go, or maybe you like to figure out your characters in gory detail prior to writing. Lots of writers spend lots of time doing this kind of prep work -- outlines, character sketches, that sort of thing -- and if you're one of them, have as much of that done as possible before November 1. November is not a time for prep work, if you're doing NaNoWriMo.

2. Choose your style, and the simpler, the better.

Remember, NaNoWriMo is about producing a lot of words in a specific timeframe. Therefore, it's not really the best time in the world for experimenting with your literary style. If your default style is toward the florid but you've had a hankering for writing a crime novel in a kind of Dashiell Hammett style, maybe November isn't the right time. Likewise, NaNoWriMo really is not the time to write your near-future dystopian tragedy in rhyming Iambic pentameter.

3. Give your internal editor the month off.

Again, you're looking to cover a lot of ground in November. You can edit later. There just isn't time for revision, unless you realize that your story has gone well-and-truly off the rails and that you simply must backtrack to Albuquerque so you can take that left turn you missed. If you have to do this, fine, but don't delete the work you've done. Leave it in there. Move it to the end of the file, past a couple of page breaks, but those words are still work you did. When it comes time to verify your wordcount at the end of the month, all Na NoWriMo will do is count your words. Nobody is going to read your work to make sure it's coherent.

So: if you really have made a story error, by all means, go back and take another stab at it, without deleting what you've already produced. Generally, though, NaNoWriMo is not the time to try and make every sentence sing and put every word in its exact place.

4. Know when you are going to write.

This might actually be the most important thing. If you've been noodling around with writing for a long time but new to the crunch of NaNoWriMo, you'll likely be very surprised at the amount of work and time involved in producing 1667 words in one day, much less every day for thirty days. Plan your writing time, right from Day One. It's important. Know when you are going to write. If you normally get up at 7:00 every morning, maybe get up at 6:15 and write until seven. If there's usually an hour after dinner when you're unoccupied, set that aside for writing. On Sundays, maybe join the football game in progress after 2:00 instead of insisting on watching the whole thing. You have to budget your time, because while the NaNoWriMo goal of 50000 words in thirty days is doable, falling behind is also very doable, and getting caught up once you're behind by even a day or two is a lot less doable. Make every effort to start the month ahead, so that if you need to take a day or two later on to produce less than 1667 words, you can afford it.

It's good that this year NaNoWriMo starts on a Saturday (unless, of course, your job doesn't give you Saturdays off). Getting off to a strong start is essential, and with two weekend days to launch, the schedule is quite conducive to it. Take advantage! Don't tell yourself that you can make it up with a couple of 5000 word marathon sessions at some point, because quite frankly, you won't.

What NaNoWriMo really helps is to train the brain -- mindhack, if you will -- to see writing as a job that can be approached in discrete chunks, as opposed to some mystical process driven by the capricious magic of some Muse. Believe me, there's enough magic and mystery in writing already, so it can also be seen as a job where a daily word count is similar to a pro painter's "Get this many square feet of the wall painted today".

5. Don't let friends and family guilt you about your focus this month.

Luckily, this has never been a problem for me, but I know it has for others (there's a long thread about it on one of the NaNoWriMo message boards). If anyone gives you shit about writing, be firm in claiming this time for yourself. If they press, tell them that you have set a personal goal for yourself and you are working toward it. Would they guilt you if the goal you set was, say, running a marathon and you were doing a lot of training? I'm guessing not. Well, it's the same thing. A personal goal that needs met is still a personal goal, no matter what. And if the other person is mocking of your personal goal? Well...I can't really offer advice there, except to note that mocking someone's goals, dreams, and efforts to make those things come true isn't really something that should be endured from a "loved" one.

6. Interact with other people pursuing the same goal!

NaNoWriMo is a fairly big deal. The website has a lot of separate forums, from genre forums to forums for people of similar age groups to regional forums so you can connect with people in your area. Some areas even have "meet-ups", where you can actually go and hang out with other writers who are having their own sessions. I've never done that (in this area, the meet-ups always seem to be held in the Northtowns, which is a bummer), but I wouldn't mind someday. Find NaNoWriMo people on whatever social media you use -- Twitter and Instagram have a lot of them -- and share thoughts and success stories and kudos and cheers and vexing frustrations. Writing can be lonely, but it doesn't have to be.

7. Don't lose the story.

It's about telling a story, after all. So go ahead and tell it!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Something for Thursday

Here's some great music from the epic World War II television documentary series, Victory At Sea, by Richard Rodgers and arranged by Robert Russell Bennett! I got to play some of this stuff in a shortened version at a band camp in high school, and I've loved it all ever since. The "Guadalcanal March" is a particularly fine march.









Wednesday, October 22, 2014

And on the twenty-second day, the second chapter did he post....



That's right, folks! Chapter 2 of Stardancer is now up at the official site, ForgottenStars.net. Go read it! Next week I'll post Chapter 3, and then, after that, the only way to find out what happens next is to buy the book starting November 12!

(What are you reading this for? Go! Click that link and get caught up!)

(Seriously, you need to go. Now.)

(My, you are the stubborn one, aren't you? Here's another link. Will that make you go read Chapter 2?)


A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

When driving around in The Wife's car, we often enjoy listening to her SiriusXM radio thingie. Most often we seem to end up on the 80s Channel, because that's the stuff that we grew up with, and they often play quite a bit of somewhat obscure stuff along with the "big hits". It's not just "Walkin' On Sunshine" or "Come On Eileen" all the time. And what's really cool about that is that the shows are often hosted by the original VJs from MTV. (The ones that remain, anyway -- JJ Johnson passed away ten years ago, sadly.)

Anyhow, for those who may have formative memories from that period, who was your favorite?


Refreshing the memory, we have here, from left to right: Alan Hunter, Martha Quinn, Mark Goodman, Nina Blackwood, and JJ Johnson. My personal favorite? A toss-up between Nina Blackwood and JJ Johnson.