Friday, May 31, 2013

Thrusters on full!

Final May stats. Really good month. Bring it, June! #AmWriting #PrincessesInSpace

So May's done, and so is the month's writing output. Tomorrow we're into June. I'm concerned a bit about a few headwinds I expect to encounter. First, there's a week-long vacation toward the end of the month (but I'll absolutely be taking my computer along for that, so I will DEFINITELY get some work done), and second -- and more importantly -- I am now reaching the part of the book that has been the vaguest in my mind for the entire time I've been writing it.

So far, this book has been a much different experience than the first. I know just about all of what happens in this one, except for most of the third act. Which I just reached. Oddly, I know how the third act ends, but getting from there to the end is a bit troublesome right now. But I'm confident that the Muse will show up and toss some ideas at me out the window of his crappy car; I'm learning to just keep showing up to do the work, and trust the Muse to offer what help I need, when I need it. Hell, just yesterday he handed me the solution to a plot element that I'd been wondering about ever since Chapter Two.

Anyway, the work goes on. Keeping my upper limit at 180,000 words, I need to produce 78,000 words (roughly) between now and July 31. I can do this, absolutely!

As for May, specifically: I only had eight out of thirty-one days where I fell below 1000 words in total output. But I also offset those with eight days where I was over 2000 words for the day. My lowest output came on the 17th, with just 515 words; the evening that day was taken up by some family obligations, though, so that day's output was just what I managed to cram in during my early-morning, pre-work session. My largest day of output was the 28th, just this past Tuesday, when I cranked out 2680 words.

So now, on to June and the third act of this book. My new quota is 1300 words a day, which is a bit more than the 78K words I need to reach 180,000 by July 31, divided by the 61 days in June and July. I set the quota high so that every time I meet it, it puts me a little more ahead of the game. Now all I gotta do is figure out what happens over the course of those 78K words.

As always, Zap! Pow!

More potential cover art

I keep looking through Tumblr for artwork that puts me in various states of mind as I work my way through Princesses II: Back to Rydell High (not the actual title). Here are a few recent instances of such.

The one up there with the blimps -- I'm not writing a steampunk, by any means, but there's a feeling there that's kind of like what I'm writing, even though the tech is well advanced beyond dirigibles.

Anyway, onward and upward -- the other day, I passed the 100,000 word mark, which is cool because on May 1 the book stood at just over 59,000 words. My May goal was to get to 90K words, so I more than exceeded the goal. Now my goal is to finish this draft by the end of July and then move on to a horror/thriller book I've been kicking around while I let Princess II: ET Returns to Elliott (not the actual title) rest for a while before editing this fall.

And after the horror/thriller, I think I'll be ready at last to take another whack at The Adventures of a Boy and the Lighthouse That Loved Him (which is really not the actual title).

Zap! Pow!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Something for Thursday

Apropos of yesterday's discussion of country music, here are the Dixie Chicks with "Travelin' Soldier". This is what good country music sounds like!

UPDATE: Credit to former blogger and current Twitter maven Ben Varkentine, who posted this song on Twitter the other day and thus kicked it into the forefront of my radar screen!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

You're not a special snowflake, Buffalo.

One thing I've been thinking of late, with regard to Buffalo's eternal quest to reinvigorate itself (or just stop the bleeding), is that folks in this area are too convinced of Buffalo's inherent unique and wonderful nature, and that all we need to do is keep shining the already-existing facets of our little diamond and one day the rest of the world will see how shiny we are.

This seems to me...complete nonsense.

Buffalo has loads of notable architecture. But what city doesn't?

Buffalo has a vibrant arts scene. But what city doesn't?

Buffalo has potential for waterfront development. But what city doesn't?

Buffalo has lots of local colleges turning out fine students. But what city doesn't?

Buffalo has a long industrial tradition. But what city doesn't?

About the only thing that Buffalo has that is genuinely unique among American cities -- minus a handful -- is its proximity to an international border. But Detroit has one, too, and it's not really helping there, either.

There are a lot of cities in America. Quite a few of them are doing very well, and some, like Buffalo, are not. If all the things we always cite as reasons we should be doing better aren't getting it done, what does that tell us?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Their last full measure of devotion

Tomb of Unknown Soldier

Know, all who see these lines,
That this man, by his appetite for honor,
By his steadfastness,
By his love for his country,
By his courage,
Was one of the miracles of the God.

-- Guy Gavriel Kay

"The Green Field of France", by Eric Bogle

Well, how do you do, young Willie McBride,
Do you mind if I sit down here by your graveside?
And rest for awhile 'neath the warm summer sun,
I've been walking all day, and I'm nearly done.
I see by your gravestone you were only 19
When you joined the great fallen in 1916,
I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death-march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

Did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined?
And, though you died back in 1916,
To that faithful heart are you forever 19?
Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Enshrined then, forever, behind a glass pane,
In an old photograph, torn and tattered and stained,
And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame?

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death-march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

The sun's shining down on these green fields of France;
The warm wind blows gently, and the red poppies dance.
The trenches have vanished long under the plow;
No gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard that's still No Man's Land
The countless white crosses in stand mute in the sand
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man,
And a whole generation who were butchered and damned.

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death-march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

And I can't help but wonder, no Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did they really believe when they answered the call,
Did they really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain
The killing and dying, was all done in vain,
For young Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death-march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

I know what they mean, but....

Someone just found this blog via the search engine string "Klingon foreheads for sale".

That is all.

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome!

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: Moving large numbers of cars around at once: Here's how they used to do it.

:: I'm stealing these re-made Disney DVD covers from Tumblr, because...well....


:: The lost, submerged Egyptian city of Heracleion. This is amazing stuff. Who knows what secrets our planet still holds from us!

More next week!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Another test

Ignore this one too, if you please.


Ignore this post; I'm just trying to see if something's working right.

Tired writer is tired....

Thinking hard, originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

Every so often -- a couple of times, every six weeks or so -- I have a really early work start at The Store. This is to do PM* work on refrigeration cases that is best done when the respective departments aren't yet open for the day's business. The tasks are enjoyable, and in truth, the atmosphere of The Store in the wee hours is kind of nice: not too many people are there, the place is being worked by the Night Crew (which is a group of folks I rarely get to interact with), and there's a kind-of perverse sense of satisfaction that comes with having a pretty important job done before the rest of the world is waking up.

The problem with the 3:50 am waking time, though, is that later on the day, when I try to write, my brain is pretty much shifting into "Me no put words in pretty strings" mode. This is inconvenient, because I refuse to set aside my quota or my general mission in life of Never a day without a line. So I spend a writing session doing a lot of staring thoughtfully at the computer screen, often rubbing my forehead because that's what we Humans do when we're trying to think up stuff.

I got just shy of 700 words done yesterday. Not great, but at least I didn't goose-egg it, either. Today, I'm operating on a full-night's sleep, two cups of coffee, and I'll do some other routine-breaking stuff that always helps get the juices flowing. Back to SPACE!!!

Zap! Pow!!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

21 Reasons You Think You Don't Have Time To Write

Stolen from Tumblr. I'm going to bold the ones that I can definitely plead as 'guilty'.

1. You are letting people tell you that you should be doing other things with your time.

2. You can’t live with the level of clean that your family accepts as normal.

3. You haven’t decided to treat your writing seriously and so no one around you treats it seriously, either.

4. You haven’t made yourself a writing space.

5. You haven’t realized that you need help.

6. You do what is urgent rather than what is necessary.

7. You don’t let your kids and other people solve their own problems.

8. You think that someday you will have more time for writing.

9. You are spending time doing things you actually don’t care about.

10. You are actually using distractions as an excuse not to write.

11. You are terrified of writing, of actually sitting down and putting yourself on the page.

12. You are too busy criticizing the best selling books that you are reading to write something better.

13. You don’t know what to do with a blank page.

14. You don’t know how to turn off your internal editor.

15. You talk a good game, but you don’t play it.

16. You need to do a little planning and research before you start.

17. You don’t actually like writing. You like having written. (Join the club.)

18. You need to write the first line of the next chapter before leaving for the day.

19. You need to spend time remembering what it is you love about writing.

20. You have convinced yourself that you need 2 hours to write and don’t know how to use the 20 minute chunks you actually have.

21. You don’t have notebooks scattered through the house, including in the bathroom, to jot down inspiration.

Now, I'm guilty of #21, but I don't really jot down much. Maybe I should!

The one that took me the longest time to defeat was number 20. I don't think in terms of time per day, just in terms of words. But it was important for me to realize that carving out two uninterrupted hours or writing a day just isn't going to happen, until I manage to get to the point where I can write full time. Will I ever get there? I hope so. For now, I'm just going to write my arse off. And if twenty minutes is all I have, then hey -- that's 300 words or so, if I'm on my game. If not, it's 200 or so.

Write when you can...and be liberal in your definition of "when you can"!

Something for Thursday

Here is "Death of a Nightingale", by Tangerine Dream. From the album Turn of the Tides.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Two Hundred Years of Wagner

Today is Richard Wagner's 200th birthday.

The overture to Tannhauser, my favorite of Wagner's overtures. There's a sense of epic adventure and emotion here that amazes me every time I hear it.

From Lohengrin -- my favorite Wagner opera -- the Prelude to Act I and "Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral". Wagner's reputation is often one of bombast and thick, dense orchestration. This music is as delicate as anything.

The overture to Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg. Wagner's other main reputation is one of unrelenting seriousness -- but this is as sunny as anything you'll hear by anyone else.

The Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde. The emotional payoff here is one of the most staggering I know in all of music, anywhere, in any genre.

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

What's your 'limit' on social media sites? Not as in 'How do you limit how personal you get', but...what's a prominent social media site that you know of but don't use because you're on enough already? I have a LinkedIn account, but I almost never use it (and in truth, I don't even know what it's for or why I should use it), and I just deleted an account on something called SchoolFeed because it wasn't what I thought it was going to be and saw little use for what seemed like a Facebook-clone for people who attended the same school.

(And sorry for the lack of posting this week...downtime has been a bit tougher to come by than usual, and the novel comes first!)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Finally! A Flickr app for Android!

I've been waiting for this. Hooray!

Past tenses and such

Kevin Drum has a post on the IRS scandal, which doesn't interest me all that much (this whole 'scandal' strikes me as everybody chasing the wrong bouncing ball). What does interest me is this sentence at the very end:

They are among the first in what is quickly becoming a whole new subgenre: the story about how the Cincinnati office of the IRS is completely and totally FUBARed.

Here's my thing: Isn't FUBAR already past-tense? Can something really be FUBARed, when the -ed suffix has already been used in the F part of the FUBAR acronym? Seems to me that FUBAR covers all bases, in terms of tense:

"That's gonna be so FUBAR!"

"Wow, that is really FUBAR."

"That whole thing was just so FUBAR."


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Making Fun of Benedict Cumberbatch

I'm stealing this from Tumblr.

No, there is no point to this. Yes, I'm going back into my writing cave.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Busy Busy Busy Busy Busy

Heckuva lot going on this weekend, folks. I'll barely be able to scratch out time to write, much less post anything here. Keep faith! Content will one day appear here again, THIS I SWEAR BY THE BLOOD OF -- well, that's too weird. Back to the mine shafts!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Something for Thursday

I heard this on the way to work, and hey, you never know when the occasion might strike for a good old pompous British march. So here is Crown Imperial by Sir William Walton. Stiff upper lip and all that, lads!

Cheerio, chaps!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Does it bug you when song lyrics make no sense? And when they don't, do you try to figure out a meaning for them?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Return to Earth

Astronauts returning from the ISS looks like this:

Expedition 35 Landing (201305140001HQ)

Expedition 35 Landing (201305140003HQ)

Expedition 35 Landing (201305140006HQ)

Expedition 35 Landing (201305140004HQ)

Expedition 35 Landing (201305140005HQ)

Expedition 35 Landing (201305140009HQ)

Expedition 35 Landing (201305140008HQ)

Expedition 35 Landing (201305140010HQ)

Expedition 35 Landing (201305140013HQ)

Well done!

(Sorry for the lack of a whole lot of content this week...there's a lot going on at Casa Jaquandor this week, so my focus is on keeping the pedal to the metal on Princesses II: A Clash of Princesses.)

Monday, May 13, 2013

This is a bookshop!


Sentential Links!

It's time! For Links! And overuse of Exclamation Points!!!!!

:: Ending a campaign is a difficult process. One of my games is coming to a close within a month or so, and I'm actually extremely nervous. This current campaign is the final one of three that have taken three years to come to fruition, and now that the end is nigh, I have to worry about making it truly epic and worth the investment my players have put into it.

Part of the trepidation comes from the inevitability of The Big Reveal, in which a secret that I've hidden clues to throughout the campaign is unleashed, leaving the players hopefully with minds blown. Pretty much the entire game has been leading to this moment from level one all the way to level twenty. How does one reveal a game changing secret without making the players feel betrayed or cheated, and how does one end a campaign three years in the making?
(One question I've considered over the course of the "video games as art" debate is: what about non video games? The story beats of a really well-run and well-designed game can become a HUGE part of one's story DNA.)

:: Yankee Candle is overrated. (Ayup. But then, I pretty much like candles more for light than for scent.)

:: Sidebar #1: Did you see where Melissa Joan Hart is trying to get a project funded on Kickstarter? And here’s her big incentive: She’ll follow you on Twitter for a year. Oh, be still my heart! You and Melissa will be BFF’s! Every day she’ll go on Twitter to see how you’re coming on that dress you’re making for the prom. OR… she agrees to follow 20,000 people and never once looks at her Twitter page. Which do you think is more likely? (Huh? Of what possible use to me would be having Melissa Joan Hart as a Twitter follower? But then, I'm incredibly ill-attuned to things like who follows me on Twitter or on the blog. When people unfollow me, it often takes me months to realize it, if I ever do. So as an incentive, I...simply do not get this, at all.)

:: When some guy loses his life savings playing a carnival game, you just say, “Hunh?” When a government ministry lays down millions to buy pixie dust, you have to say “Wow!”

:: Well, one of the things I listed on the update was to go Somewhere Else and write a book. I’ve thought about this so often–whenever I’m in a new city for more than a few days. Writing books is the great activity of my life. Some people look at place and imagine the club scene–I imagine what it would be like to write a book there. For me, the process of writing is such an otherspace–out of my own everyday and into the unknown and odd and untethered to such things as like, a normal workday clock or regular meals.

:: I was asked to write the following quiz up by my boss, to distribute to the new hires. (Note to self: do this quiz.)

:: Back in the Spring of 1980, when I was 16 years-old, my family took a vacation trip to Washington D.C. with a side trip to the Amish country of Pennsylvania. I was particularly excited to visit the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum because I knew that the original U.S.S. Enterprise model, used in the filming of Star Trek, was on display there. Everything else about that trip was pretty much of secondary importance to me. What really mattered was getting to see that iconic starship with my own eyes.

:: I absolutely adore this, and can't wait to hang it up. Anne may not be Dale Arden, and god knows I'm a long way from anything resembling Flash Gordon... but she awakens many of the same yearnings this painting always has. I'm thankful she's still standing with me in this strange future land in which we've found ourselves... (Wow! I want one!)

:: I do know enough about myself and this farm to know this is a phase. And all this fear and frustration and deadlines and bill calls will ebb and flow away. Right now I need to focus on the work, and working a little harder to make ends meet, but it'll all be fine. Whenever I feel panic wash over me I just sit outside on my porch and take a deep breath or seven with my eyes closed. I tell myself when I open them I will be surrounded by a farm I built by hand, through nothing but scrappy willm hard work, and the kindness and devotion of a readership all over the world. And when I open my eyes the proof is all around me. It's in the waddling ducklings parading to the well. It's in the sounds of Joeseph the sheep on the hillside. It's in the flickering ears of Merlin, the toss of his mane. It's in a dog with a sore paw, and a house with apple blossoms crowning a rack of antlers, and in the heart of the girl breathing slow on a porch.

Good things are on the way, and the only way out is through.
(I love that: The only way out is through. I'll need to remember that.)

More next week!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

This man can NOT be allowed to return to Earth.

I just don't have the mental capacity to process the awesomeness of this.

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: The video may be funny, but believe me, kids -- there's nothing funny about Bitchy Resting Face. I am a sufferer of the male equivalent, "Angry Resting Face", in that my facial features seem to default to an expression that society has decided is equivalent to SMOLDERING RAGE. I wish I had a nickel for every time somebody walked by when I was just standing there and said, "Wow, you look like you're ready to rip someone's head off!", when what I'm actually thinking is, "Do I want turkey or roast beef on my sub today?"

There's a very odd societal thing we have going on right now where any facial expression that's not a grin is interpreted to indicate a negative emotional state. It would be mildly annoying, but that gonzo assumption can have some unfortunate effects in the professional world.

:: I always wonder just what we'll do in Buffalo if we ever get the waterfront developed, because that will eliminate one of the three major topics of discussion around here, leaving us stuck with the Bills (ugh) and the Sabres (double-ugh). But, over the last couple years, things are really starting to happen down there, which is nice. And in addition to the actual development that's underway, we have also seen a very welcome reduction in the amount of gonzo ideas being tossed about for the waterfront. I, for one, am thrilled to see the Era Of Goofy Buffalo Waterfront Proposals come to an end!

Only...not everybody got that memo, because someone cooked up a really detailed idea for cable cars on the waterfront. And not San Francisco-style cable cars, either -- we're talking about the little ones that hang from an overhead cable. Like this:

What's more, this isn't envisioned as a tourist attraction or 'something to do on the waterfront'. This person actually wants this cable car system to be part of Buffalo's commuter infrastructure. People who work downtown would drive to the cable car station and ride the cable car to their downtown job, or to a Metro Rail station so they might then get to their job. Cable car systems of this type -- or 'aerial trams' -- aren't the fastest moving of transportation systems, so how they'd be embraced by commuters is hard to imagine.

The article concludes with this: "Even our long-held hopes of rapid transit to Niagara Falls and the Airport might one day be possible for far less money than expanding MetroRail!" Did I read that right? An aerial tram from Buffalo to Niagara Falls, which is 25 miles away? Aerial trams don't tend to go much over 30 mph, so are we really expecting people to sit in an aerial tram for an hour to get to a place they could drive to in less than half that?

Now, I like cable cars/aerial trams. I like riding the ones at amusement parks. And I'm sure I'll have a thrilling time riding one if I ever vacation in Switzerland. But as a major part of a city's transportation infrastructure? A flat city like Buffalo that already has tons of roads, surface parking never more than a block away downtown, and declining population?


Oh well. More next week!

It's all her fault.

This is what my mother wrought!, originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

If my mother hadn't instilled in me a freakish love of books, Casa Jaquandor wouldn't look like this.

(Well, that's not entirely's not her fault that my filing system is based on the age-old concept of the "Teetering Stack of Doom". That's all me. But believe me, the first thing I'm gonna buy with the money from the inevitable movie deal for Princesses In SPACE!!! (not the actual title)? Shelves!)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Everything I need to celebrate John Scalzi's birthday!

ScalziFest, originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

Happy birthday to a guy of whom I am eternally jealous and for whom I wish a swift, swift descent into madness and doom! (But not for a while yet. I do enjoy his writing, after all. So I hope he gets another 6-12 books done...but after that? DOOM!!!!!)

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Tales in the Photo

OK, there's a photo making the rounds on the Internet via various sports fansites and gossip whatevers. It's of a nicely-dressed blond woman making an effort-filled obscene gesture in the face of one of the opposing team's players at an NBA game. (I'll put this below the fold, because it is an obscene gesture.)

Something for Thursday

In honor of the passing of special effects genius Ray Harryhausen, here's one of his many enduring effects: the evil dueling skeleton from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

National Coconut Cream Pie Day?

Apparently it's today. National Pie Day, Pi Day, and now this. I miss all the cool stuff!


A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Someone is visiting you for a few days, and they have never been anywhere near your part of the state/country/planet. What's one thing that you make ABSOLUTELY SURE they see or do before they head back home?

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

A Vignette

She didn't look elegant at first, with her enormous purse on her shoulder and her white NorthFace fleece jacket. She wore her shoulder-length hair in a tousled style, and her glasses were slightly off-angle. But her lips were rose-red, she had solid control of that purse, and her white jacket was immaculate.

There was a bookcase between where she was standing and where I was working at one of the tables, and she stood there, against that bookcase, looking around the library as if she was supposed to be meeting someone. But there was something nervous about the way she was doing it: she was looking around quickly, right to left to right to left, drumming the fingers of her left hand on the bookcase as she did so. I wondered what she was so nervous about. Was she having a clandestine meeting with an old lover, perhaps? What an odd place to do that – the public library where just several feet away was a guy pounding away on his Macbook, and two old guys sitting by the magazines talking about their respective health troubles.

But as she drummed her fingers on the top of the bookcase, I could see that she wore no ring on any of her fingers.

She decided that she had arrived before her expected party, and opted to sit down. So she came around the bookcase, into the area where the tables were. She had on a skirt of brilliant crimson, the most wonderful red ever. Somehow the skirt matched her lips exactly. She put the purse on the table next to mine and took off the white Northface jacket. The skirt was actually the bottom of a dress, the whole of which was that gorgeous red. The V-neck didn't plunge too deep, and she wore a necklace of wooden beads that rattled ever so softly – had we been anyplace other than the library, I wouldn't have heard them. She slung her jacket onto a chair and started unpacking her purse.

The beautiful red dress was also a maternity dress.

She pulled out a purple plastic water bottle, and her keys which hung from a long lanyard. She also pulled out a spiral-bound notebook and an iPad. Her nervousness from before disappeared entirely, which struck me as odd – if she could set that feeling aside so easily, why had she been nervous in the first place? She sat down and went right to work, taking absolutely no notice of anyone around her. She alternated between tapping the touchscreen of her iPad – only using her slender index finger – and jotting notes in her notebook with a number-two pencil. I returned to my writing.

Minutes later, her awaited party showed up. A teenaged girl, maybe fifteen or sixteen. The girl plunked her bookbag down on the table. "Hi!" the woman said, looking up and giving the girl a radiant smile.

"Hi," said the girl. "OMG, you look amazing!"

"Thank you!" said the woman. "How was your break?"

"It was OK. We didn't go anywhere."

"Sometimes that's the best kind of vacation. So, where were we?"

The girl pulled a thick textbook from her bookbag. "The Depression just started."

"Bummer!" The woman laughed. "All right, let's get into it. Can you tell me some of the causes of the Depression?"

Ah, I thought. That was it: she was a tutor. There tended to be a lot of them in the after-school hours at the library, and we were now sliding into that time of day. Their conversation delved into the Depression, and my attention returned to my writing. I spared one last look at the pregnant woman in red before I left, though.

Why had she been so nervous at the start?

Monday, May 06, 2013

Sentential Links

I have linkage for you. You will click them. And then we will all frolic in the Land of Links!

:: If nothing else, that phone call was a valuable reminder that words have power, and the online world is not so insulated from the real world as we all like to believe. (This is a very powerful post...but you have to read his backstory to get it. It's all very sad, all the way around.)

:: Oh, man, Darrin’s bio-dad is just not going to give up on his mission of assholery, is he? I have literally no idea what he thinks is going to happen if he goes public with the knowledge that Dead Lisa had sex as a teenager and had a kid and gave it up for adoption. (This storyline on Funky Winkerbean is seriously goofy. There's this guy who keeps lurking around and sneering and saying things like "Soon we'll all be one happy family again!" FW is one of the worst things ever, and yet, I can't look away. It's like getting to drive by a mangled car wreck each and every day, in which nobody actually died. Except the fictional characters, who all suffer endlessly.)

:: I’ve thought for a long while that any long-running series eventually stops being about anything other than itself. Each individual story might be about something; “Let This Be Your Last Battlefield”, for example, is about the absurdity of racial prejudice. But that’s not what ‘Star Trek’ is about. Other episodes of the series were about friendship, or about sexism, or about obsession…until eventually, all you could really say about the series was that it was about the Enterprise crew and the things that happened to them. Each episode was like a color transparency, laid over each other episode until all you could see was a character-shaped hole.

:: Writing is one of the arts, or it used to be before people started treating it like a career choice. When I find myself suddenly without my Mojo, I mentally backtrack until I find where I lost it. Nine times out of ten, it’s waiting right at the point when I began to think instead of feel.

:: Tycho Brahe, apparently, used to put on his court robes every time he looked through a telescope.

One must approach one’s work with awe and respect.

I think that’s really cool.
(As I noted in Sheila's comments, I've over the last several months stopped writing in my PJs and whatnot. I dress for work. Even if it's putting on overalls, it's something. I'm getting to work.)

:: Because there has not been a triumph of reason over irrational fear, or an embracing of the statistically probable over the unlikely (or some might say a return of denial to avoid messy reality), but rather a choice to live my life in a more peaceful way. I learned in war that violence can happen to me, a white kid from suburban Buffalo. I learned it is not something that just happens to other people. I learned that when you are being shot at you should take cover behind your weapon. That if you are shooting at them they will put their head down and not shoot back at you. That when bullets fly – and they will, remember – that I should fight and not hide. (Brian Castner is a deeply thoughtful individual with whom I do not always agree, and with whom my disagreements almost always prompt me to at least think a bit more about my position; even if I usually come back around to my original way of thinking, I'm on better footing. My opinion of guns has not changed, but I've considered it more.)

:: The great thing is that I've met lots of new and interesting people out there in the blogosphere, with many viewpoints and stories to tell. I expect I'll continue to visit them from time to time. Another benefit of this challenge has been the act of blogging every day without fail - getting into the habit and making it part of what I do. I'm also happy that I actually had something to say, whether it was in poetry, a quote or just a few words about wellbeing, which is very important to me. (This really is the main benefit of the A-to-Z Challenge. For me, I have found that two years in a row, it results in a brief and small influx of new readers, but they all tend to disappear again. If there's one thing that bothers me about blogging here in 2013, it's that the old sense in Blogistan of various communities emerging doesn't seem to happen much anymore. But I'll do it again next year; in fact, I've already picked my category.)

:: The main knock on the iPad as a camera is that the thing is big and people look goofy taking pictures with it. But, you know. If you’re the sort of person who judges another person for using an iPad to take a picture, who is the actual asshole in that scenario? Hint: Probably not the dude holding the iPad. (This really doesn't bother me, although it can get distracting at things like school concerts. You can always tell which parents have kids onstage for each ensemble because all of a sudden, a whole new set of iPads get waved in the air.)

More next week!

When the Muse taunts me

The Muse is a fairly capricious being.

When we think of The Muse -- that otherworldly being who is the source of all things poetic -- we generally think of a being or beings who look like this:

But after however-many-years of wandering in the wilderness, chasing after the dreams and visions offered by The Muse in the hopes that my efforts at making use of one of those tiny scraps of an idea might, in my hands, become something worth reading, I've come to the conclusion that The Muse does not look like that at all.

First of all, The Muse is a guy. Why is this? I don't know; I didn't set it up. But he's a guy. But he's not a classical Greek God of a guy. No, he's a dumpy fellow. Picture the love child of Danny DeVito and Tommy Chong, at the age of fifty-five. That's The Muse. He's cranky, probably from being too short, and lackadaisical, probably from smoking a lot of weed.

The Muse ain't much for hygeine, it turns out. Or presentation. He just doesn't care how he looks, because he knows that all the power is his. He knows that he's got the goods, and that we want 'em. And he knows that he doesn't have to give up the goods at all, and that when he does, he only has to do it on his timeframe. So when he shows up, he's not all tall and muscular, wearing a perfect toga and a laurel branch on his brow.

No, The Muse shows up in a dirty tank-top that might have been white once-upon-a-time, but it was likely stained in the package. It's just slightly too tight on his pot-bellied frame, as if it's one half-size too small. Nevertheless, he insists on tucking it in, so that it comes untucked in the course of his day. So when he shows up, he's got one side tucked in and the other side hanging there so you can see flashes of his gut.

His pants are also filthy. They're brown slacks, shapeless and dirty. There's a ketchup stain on his thigh, but he doesn't care. His shoes are some strange blend of black, brown, tan, and gray, all in one color that has never had a word attached to it, in any language.

The Muse is cranky and foul-mouthed. He has no manners to speak of; he smokes and drinks and is insanely rude. When he talks, it's with a thick accent, and almost never the same accent two days in a row. But that doesn't matter, because he almost never sticks around long enough to have a conversation. He doesn't even talk to you when he drops by to give away ideas.

In fact, he doesn't even give ideas away. See, he's got so many of them that he doesn't need 'em. In fact, he doesn't have 'so many' ideas; he has all the ideas, every single idea anyone ever had or is ever gonna have. And he just drives around with them, in his 1973 Dodge Dart. The whole car is painted metallic green, except for the right fender, which has a big old dent in it and is still the color of primer. The passenger door has a big orange '7' on it, but not the driver's door. In this vehicle The Muse speeds around town, never once obeying a speed limit (unless he goes on the Thruway, in which case he gets in the left lane and goes 45).

Once in a while The Muse drives by your house. And when he does, he might slow down for you, or he might not. If he slows down, he won't stop to talk. He won't even look at you. He'll just throw a wad of garbage out the passenger side window, to land on your feet. It'll likely be a paper bag from McDonald's. It'll be a few days old, so it'll be stinky and the grease will have soaked through the paper a bit and there will be smeared ketchup on it. But that doesn't matter, because you have to open that bag up, see. You have to dig through it, past the wax paper cup that's still sticky with Coke syrup and the French fry thing with ketchup on it. You have to do this because you're after the Big Mac wrapper. There's still cheese and ketchup and Special Sauce on it, but you can wash your hands later. Because on the inside of that wrapper? That's where he wrote your Idea.

And the Idea won't always be relevant to anything you're working on. Sometimes it'll be the key to solving a particularly sticky point in the tale you're telling right then, a point where you're stuck. Maybe you read it and realize that the key to a happy ending is having Captain Renault round up the usual suspects. Or maybe the Idea is a notion for a new tale, entirely -- "Hey, what if there's a great white shark who realizes that there's good eatin' in the waters off a New England resort island?". Or maybe the Idea is something else.

The Muse visited me this morning. Drove by and chucked something out the window. It wasn't a McDonald's trash collection this time; instead it was a bag of non-returnable bottles. Took me a while to dig through it and find the Idea, but there it was. I won't say what it is, but it turns out to be the essential key to the story, the thing that will make it work. This morning, The Muse gave me the way to win the ballgame.

But not on the novel I'm writing now.

No, today The Muse drove by and chucked me the key to the plot of The Adventures of Lighthouse Boy (not the actual title), the project which I shelved a while back so I could let the plot simmer in my head a time longer. Now that I'm trucking away on Princesses In Space!!! II: Ocarina of Time (not the actual title), I've had the other tale fall into place. And I won't get to that one again, most likely, until 2014 at the earliest.

I stood there, sticky bag and useless bottles in hand, reading what The Muse had scrawled on the back of a cash register tape. "Oh, come on!" I shouted. "What the hell good is this gonna do me right now?"

In reply, The Muse only laughed. He's got a nasty laugh, that guy.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to do.

(image above via)

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome!

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: I saw this picture on Facebook yesterday, paying tribute to The Princess Bride.

Turns out that it's created by a guy who sells them on Etsy. He's got more, including this Firefly one!

That's terrific!

::  I saw this on Tumblr yesterday and it's in perfect harmony with my increasingly oddity-centric way of thinking.

Tumblr originally credited Virus Comics for this. I haven't found it on that site, but the art certainly matches.

More next week!

Saturday, May 04, 2013

A Writing Update

Boy, these action shots of me writing aren't really action-filled.... #AmWriting

I haven't done one of these in a while because there's really not a lot of nifty, new stuff to report. So far I have received zero nibbles of interest in Princesses In SPACE!!! (not the actual title), which gives me a sad, but there are a LOT more agents to query. Somewhere out there is a person who will believe in this project. I just have to find that person.

As for Princesses II: A Game of Princesses (not the actual title), work continues apace.

Cruising into May. #AmWriting

My target for the first draft is 180000 words, so I'm about a third of the way there. I've set a goal of reaching the halfway point by the end of this month, which means that on May 31, the manuscript needs to be at least 90000 words. This should be quite doable, at a daily quota of just over 1000 words. I'm already ahead of schedule, which is necessary because the Real Life Calendar has a few events on it this month that might make hitting the quota quite difficult a couple of times.

This also assumes that I don't encounter the same problem I had a few times whilst writing the first draft of Princesses Episode One: The Phantom Princesses (not the actual title). There were a couple of instances during that book when I realized that I had taken the wrong turn at Albuquerque, so to speak, and had to backtrack to get things fixed. This is where the "Kill your darlings" edict comes in handy; you have to be willing to scrap work already done, sometimes. There was one bad turn in the first book that I didn't even recognize until I was four chapters past the point where the thing had been still pointing in the right direction. Scrapping four chapters constituted roughly 28000-35000 words...or, put another way, more than an entire month's work. Ouch.

However, not only was it for the best, but I also suspect that it won't be as much of a difficulty this time around because the chapters that got dumped came at a point when I was still feeling out my characters and my world. What happened is that I realized that a couple of important characters were related to people other than whom I had them related to in the first place. That may not make sense, but the general gist of things is that had I left it the way it was, I would have had a terrible time establishing some of the central conflicts in the book. If the conflicts don't work, the book doesn't work. There were also a few issues of worldbuilding that had to be fixed in those same chapters.

Now, however, a lot of that heavy lifting has already been done. How the characters relate to one another is pretty well set, now that I'm in the sequel; ditto how the major setting works. This time I've got a much clearer mental picture of how things are going to shake out, so I can concentrate on the good stuff. Which is nice, because it's turning out that this book is more of a rollicking adventure than the first one. So far I've got quests, narrow escapes, and a map to hidden treasure. Oh, and spaceships. Zap! Pow!

Onward and upward, folks!

(But first, I need to check some moves on Words With Friends....)

Yes, I should be writing. #AmWriting #ButNotReally #WordsWithFriends

May the Fourth be with you!

Every year it strikes me as odd that we celebrate Star Wars on May 4 because of what is -- come on, we must be honest -- a really bad pun. For me, the real Star Wars day will always me May 25, but hey, society hath spoken. Whadda you gonna do?

I shall celebrate by reading some comics and doing some writing. (Which is what I do most days, but I digress....) Meantime, here's some Star Wars art that I swiped from Tumblr.

Ummm...wait a second, something's wrong about that last one....