Thursday, January 29, 2015

Something for Thursday

Bach's Suites for Unaccompanied Cello almost defy commentary for me. They simply...exist. A lot of Bach has that feel for me -- it's almost as if Bach didn't so much create his music as present it, as found, from some primordial realm.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Punnery is afoot

There was a thing on Twitter where decided to raise money for mental health awareness by donating five cents for every use of the hashtag "BellLetsTalk". Author Guy Gavriel Kay turned this into an excuse for puns, since he has a long-standing love of punnery. He solicited puns on the hashtag, and he got a lot of fun, creative ones in return.

This was mine:

And a few minutes later, Mr. Kay responded (which I then retweeted with added exclamation at the front):

Yup. I retire tonight with the warm glow of accomplishment!

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

So here's a question that I posed the other day on The Twitters, after seeing it discussed by a few other folks. There's an awful lot of writing advice that counsels writers to "grab the reader on Page One!". You have to hook your reader immediately, and if you can do it with a great opening line, so much the better.

Here's my problem with that: My own experience as a reader runs deeply contrary to this. I honestly can remember very few books I've read where I knew on the first page that I didn't like the book. This seems to me the equivalent of walking out of a movie after the first ninety seconds. Now, I don't really have a hard-and-fast rule as to how long to give a book. Some readers I know say "Six chapters", while others have said "One hundred pages". I tend to keep going until I find myself realizing that I simply am not invested at all in the events of the book or its characters, and not only does it seem unfair to me to conclude that I don't have that investment on Page One, but it also generally takes me a while to get to that level of investment. Guy Gavriel Kay's The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy is as beloved a book to me as any, but I distinctly remember not really getting into it until quite literally halfway through the first installment, at which point something shattering happens. (By construction, one of his characters is a fellow who initially seems a bit on the "soul-dead" side, and then you get the explanation for why he's that way, and that's when GGK has you. But that's for another time.)

I've also had any number of times the experience of starting a book, abandoning it because it wasn't "grabbing" me, and then giving it another go a while later and loving it.

Ditto first lines. A great first line is a wonderful thing indeed, and even when I write I try to come up with a first line that hints of amazing things to come. But to insist on a "great" first line from a novel always seems to me an awful lot of pressure to put on just a few words. There are many great first lines, but I'm not convinced that every great novel has a great first line. I certainly don't recall the first lines of many of my most beloved books -- the afore-mentioned Fionavar Tapestry, or GGK's The Lions of Al-Rassan, which might well be my favorite book ever. I know the first line of The Hobbit ("In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit"), but I couldn't tell you the first line of The Lord of the Rings. Everybody knows "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" from A Tale of Two Cities, but that's not even the entire first line; who can recite that entire amazing opening paragraph? I certainly can't. Lather, rinse, repeat, across my entire library.

What say you, readers? How much do you expect from first lines or first pages? Do you have general rules for when to abandon a book that's not getting the job done at that point in time?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


I haven't done one of these in quite some time, but here are some photos from recent weeks here at Casa Jaquandor....

The road through the wood #ChestnutRidge #wny #OrchardPark

Watching for something.... #Cane #DogsOfInstagram

I think every farm should have something to delight people who drive by! #wny

The dee-oh-gee and his kitteh friend! #Cane #Julio #DogsOfInstagram #CatsOfInstagram

For #NationalHandwritingDay. I only print now; my cursive is a barely-remembered skill. From THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING. #KingArthur

Lester is hoping for sushi. He won't get any, but hope springs eternal! #Lester #CatsOfInstagram

Moon over Buffalo #moon #sky

Knox Farm in East Aurora, NY

Snowy alley stairs #EastAurora #wny

Winter sky #winter #wny

Your daily dose of sleeping Lester. #Lester #CatsOfInstagram

And 12 hours later, I'm right back at it. #AmWriting

Reviewing my notes. Parts of this book flow wonderfully; others, not so much. #AmWriting #overalls #DoubleDenim

Stretccccchhhh...guess I oughta get something done today.... #overalls #Dickies #sleepysunday

All in all...I am greatly enjoying this winter.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Non-sentential Links

Just to shake things up, some links which are not sentential in nature. Wow!

::  Writer-acquaintance Ashley Carlson (whose new book, The Charismatics, is both available and good!) has some thoughts on strategy for men who are trying to appeal to women on e-dating sites.

::  A good question, asked by Anne Leigh Parrish: "What if we all wrote with the idea that no one might ever read us? Would this silence us, or set us free?" I'm not sure. I don't like the idea of not being read...but I can't write with the assumption that a specific group of readers will read me. Good question...thoughts?

::  Wow! SamuraiFrog, one of my favorite bloggers, has been blogging for ten years! Congrats to him!

::  Who cares if the movie came out last summer? I love it to pieces, so here's Lance Mannion's review of Guardians of the Galaxy. (My review here.)

::  Ach, I wasn't paying attention and missed the birthday of Robert Burns! Sheila O'Malley, as always, had things well in hand, though. (We did watch an episode of Outlander, which...well, it doesn't count at all, I guess. But a time-travel romance drama set in Scotland is nice.)

::  Finally, I have to end on a sad note. I started reading John Scalzi's blog right around the time they acquired a fuzzy little kitten. That kitten became a beautiful long-haired cat, who has just passed away after twelve years. Don't read this right before driving or handling cutlery.

Keep on truckin', folks, and if you live in NYC or Boston or points in between, stay warm and safe!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A few odd items

Because oddness abides, man.

:: Since he's playing in the Super Bowl next week, it stands to reason that someone out there is writing erotica featuring Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. got nothin'.

:: "Let It Go", in Welsh. Because the old tongues of Northern Europe make everything better.

:: A photo gallery of shopping malls, taken in 1989. I do kinda miss malls, sometimes. I mean, we still have 'em and all, but I rarely go there anymore, because the stores are...well, they're the same everywhere, and my needs in terms of "stuff" have changed and diminished over time.

More next week!

(Sorry about the relative lack of new content recently, but the usual reason applies. I've got some decent momentum going on Princesses III: Even Princessier (not the actual title), and I have to keep the pedal to the floor!)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Something for Thursday

Seems a bit of light-hearted music is called for this morning, so here are a few selections of such.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

From the Books: "I Never Met a Story I Didn't Like"

I borrowed this book from the library a few weeks ago, and after plowing through it (and finding it quite hilarious), I reviewed in on Goodreads. But for this space I wanted to excerpt a particular chapter that I found interesting. Author Todd Snider is a folk singer by trade, so his advice here is directed specifically at singers, but I think it can be applied to anyone in a creative endeavor.

Young singers sometimes think it's about making people like you, but it's not. It's about how many people you can get to decide whether or not they like you. That's what you have to do to fill your refrigerator. Do it every day, nine to five.

You are not trying to be liked. You are trying to be judged, as often as you possibly can, so you can keep your refrigerator full.

If I was better at what i did, people would say nastier things about me.


The truth of this is that you asked someone -- everyone -- to feel something. And if they do feel something, you do not get to control what that feeling is. Whether it's a fan, your mom, a journalist, or the paper boy, you sing them your song and ask them to feel. Don't be a dick and try to control what and how they feel after that. Do the world a favor and leave those people alone. They already did you the favor of listening to your whole f***ing song. Now you want to tell them to do something else? Or you want to be angry because they did what you asked them to do? Jesus Christ.

When my first record came out, I saw a review of myself. The writer began, "I hate Todd Snider." That was the first line of the review. It got me past my waist into the water. Come on in, kid, the water is freezing. "I hate Todd Snider, and I'm about to tell you why," was the full first line, in a San Diego newspaper article that was supposed to be previewing my show. When's the last time someone told you they hated you, un-ironically? Teenage girls don't count.

I wrote a letter back to the person who wrote that review. I still have the letter. I pull it out and read it when I need to feel embarrassed for myself.


Making up songs, critics will tell people that you've done well or poorly. Again, those are the critics that you have asked -- begged, really -- to have an opinion. And then they give you one, if you're lucky. A bad review is a good review. The worst review they can give you is no review at all, and that's the one they give almost everybody.

That's an interesting notion: by reacting to your work at all, someone is doing you a favor, even if they think your work is the worst thing ever and they are willing to tell people that. I'm not entirely sure I agree here, but the general notion seems to be that if you're going to be an artist, you do not want to inspire indifference, and that's something I completely agree with.

(Good book, by the way, if you're interested in stories from the world of country-folk music.)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Where no cookie has gone before!

The Great Bird herself, the mighty starship Enterprise.

Made of gingerbread and stuff.

This is the handiwork of a place called the Blackmarket Bakery. And it is awesome.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Screws fall out all the time, the world's an imperfect place.

xkcd nails it on screws!

In my day job I see a lot of different screws. There are way more screws out there in the wonderful world of mechanical fasteners than Randall Munroe even bothered to depict here, but the reactions to the existence of those other non-Philips or non-flathead (or "straight blade") screws tend to run like this. I don't know how many times in my years at this job it's happened, but if I had a dollar for every time I'd had this conversation:

"Uh, Kelly? I was gonna do this job myself but then I saw the screws and they look like normal screws but they're got this square thing in the head instead of Philips and is that a real thing and do they even make a driver for those?!"

This is when I say "Why yes," and I pull my from pocket my trusty Klein 11-in-1 driver, and for one brief moment, I achieve a status in their eyes that is absolutely Gandalfian or Dumbledoresque.

Now, when I encounter a screw that I do not have a driver for, that's when my command of expletives comes in handy, because really, there's just no need to use a screw that obscure!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Something for Thursday

Time for something epic! Some chap uploaded the music from the epic movie The Vikings, so here it is. This is great stuff, exactly the kind of music you want for a popcorn-on-a-Saturday-afternoon flick like this:

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

My least-favorite word. What's yours? #words

Copacetic is my least favorite word. I remember at the end the 1990s, suddenly everybody and their brother was using this word, and for some reason the word annoys me. I got to thinking about this when I read something on Facebook yesterday about how awful the word moist is, which got me to wondering: What is your least favorite word? (Excluding naughty language.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Bibles: Not just for God anymore!

I read this post by today, on the subject of story bibles:

What is a story bible?

A story bible is where you keep all of those essential details about your book/s. It how you stop those pesky inconsistency errors from sneaking in and make sure that things make sense. For example, if say Ryan had have received an injury in Wyrd Calling that left him with a scar, then that would go into the story bible so that the scar didn’t magically vanish in later books. It’s also where I keep a track of names, which bits of backstory were mentioned where, which species have been mentioned and how, physical descriptions of things, geographical notes, everything.

I, too, maintain a story bible for The Song of Forgotten Stars. It began as a bunch of separate files, but eventually I got tired of having to open three or four files every time I sat down to write -- or opening them but not opening the right one, and having to stop and go into Windows Explorer because I opened "Locations in the Galaxy" and "Dramatis Personae" but I didn't open "The Bestiary", in which I've been collecting details on various creatures on my main planet (or referred to as living on others). Before I started work on Princesses In SPACE III: Yukon Ho! (not the actual title), I collected the various files together into one large file called "Forgotten Stars Reference Guide".

So, what do I put in there? Well, I try to remember to put something of everything in there. Every little detail I make up along the way needs to be in there, from Princess Tariana's hair color to what interests young Otona Cheyendi. This minor character's full name, because I might only refer to him by his last name before I need to remember his first again. The names of various stars and planets. How many moons this planet has, how many planets that sun has. Names of historical figures I mention in passing, and what they did to merit being mentioned in passing here and there.

In short, every single little detail belongs in the Bible. Does every single little detail actually make it into the Bible? Well, no. I don't have that much time, and I can't stop writing a passage in which I'm making things up just to go and make new entries in the Bible. So when do I put things into the Bible? When I think to do so. Lots of times this involves my sudden need for a piece of information and my discovery that it isn't in my Bible. So off I go to look it up in the manuscript, at which time I also make a Bible entry, and then I resolve to do better. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I think what I may do from now on is set aside a bit of my writing time on Saturday or Sunday to Bible Maintenance: making sure that new stuff is in there, or that I've updated old stuff (like names that I have changed along the way). I do need to get more organized about this, since the world of these books keeps getting bigger and bigger. I'm also starting to feel the need for maps, which is difficult because I'm working on the planetary scale. Do I do Mercator projection? Grab a white ball and draw on it with marker? How should I map a planet? To say nothing of -- gasp! -- an entire galaxy? Stay tuned!

Oh, and I'm going to stop calling it my Bible. Since my main planet in these novels is called Xonareth, I shall retitle it the Encyclopaedia Xonarethica!

Zap! Pow!!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Buffasaurus Rex

So, Rex Ryan is apparently the new head coach of the Buffalo Bills.

Not my first choice, really; but then, I didn't really have a first choice. I don't hate the hire, but I've never been a big fan of Ryan's. He strikes me as a media-savvy guy who uses a "larger-than-life" outward persona as a way of creating more of a sense of being a great coach than is really warranted by his record (which, after exiting the New York Jets after six years with playoff appearances in his first two, is still a losing one). Somehow Ryan is a "big name" despite a relatively unimpressive roster of actual accomplishment, so we'll see how he does in Buffalo, where the media spotlight won't be nearly as intense, and where he'll mainly have a single group of annoying sportwriters to irritate when things aren't going all that well.

I don't have too many thoughts on how he'll perform as head coach, really. He's a "defensive mind", but that doesn't really mean much. Bill Belichick is a defensive mind, but his success in New England has been mainly by virtue of his offense. Likewise, Brian Bilick was regarded as an offensive genius when he took over the Baltimore Ravens way back when, and proceeded to win the Super Bowl with one of the NFL's greatest defenses ever. If Ryan can bring in offensive coaches who can make head-or-tails of a currently crappy (but potentially talented) offensive line, and somehow figure out the going-on-two-decades-of-crappy quarterback situation, then great.

I am mildly biased against Ryan because I never liked his father Buddy, but that's obviously unfair, isn't it? Mainly I never really got why everyone was so impressed with him in New York, especially as the afterglow of those first two playoff seasons receded into memory (with the first of those appearances coming simply by virtue of the Colts simply playing dead on the last day of the season, with the top seed already locked up). I do think that Ryan is a likely upgrade over the freshly-departed Doug Marrone, who appeared less and less into things as time went on here.

Ryan inherits a team with a very good defense, most of which should return intact (as well as getting back a very good linebacker in Kiko Alonso), as well as an offense which, while crappy this year, isn't totally without talent (part of the line, and the receivers). Quarterback is a big issue, but maybe the jury really is still out on EJ Manuel, and they can always bring in a veteran backup or challenger to the starting job. Despite local handwringing by Buffalo News sportswriters, the trade in last year's draft for Sammy Watkins, which left the Bills with no 1st-round pick in the upcoming 2015 draft, was hardly the equivalent of the infamous Herschel Walker or RGIII deals that left their respective receiving teams with no 1st-rounders for multiple years. The Bills should be able to get back to the quarterback drawing board sooner rather than later, if they determine that's needed.

In any event, it seems to me that with the roster he's inheriting, coming off a 9-7 record that should have been even better, it's not unreasonable to expect Ryan to get the Bills into the playoffs within two years (assuming that they don't end up 11-5 in one of those weird years where an 11-5 team is left in the cold, which does happen now and again).

So let's see what you got, Rex. Impress us. It's not like the bar for being impressive is all that high around here, after fifteen consecutive non-playoff seasons and only two winning records since 1999....

Sunday Stuff

Weirdness and coolness are two sides of the same coin, people.

(Whoa! That's deep. Or it seems deep but is really shallow.)

First, a picture from Tumblr. This is not an inspiration for anything I'm writing.

I don't get the "short shorts" thing, nor do those high-heeled boots seem terribly practical wear for a woman who is flying through space with a blaster in each hand....

Second, here's a list of the most romantic lines from literature.

Third, over the last week there was on Facebook a lot of linking of articles saying that warming your car up is a bad thing to do. On the other hand, here's an article in defense of this practice. I do start my car and let it run a minute or two before driving, but that's just it: a minute or two. I'm not letting it run for ten minutes so the insides reach a toasty warmth, but neither am I starting it and then flooring it down the street, either.

More next week!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Something for Thursday

The first Something for Thursday of 2015! Let's start the year off with a bit of optimistic music, shall we? Here's the overture to The Marriage of Figaro, by that Mozart fellow.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Presidenting always LOOKS cool, anyway

2014: The Year in White House Photography.

I continued to be fascinated by photographs of Presidents of the United States in their daily activities. Here are a few from 2014 (more at the link above):

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

"A Long Way Above the Ordinary World"

The other day, Guy Gavriel Kay cited this poem on Twitter as a measure of support for authors in the Rookie League ( I one?), but of course, he couldn't post the poem to Twitter, because it's longer than 140 characters. I had to go look it up, and what a wonderful poem it is! It's "The First Step" by Constantine Cadafy (text via).

The young poet Evmenis
complained one day to Theocritus:
"I've been writing for two years now
and I've composed only one idyll.
It's my single completed work.
I see, sadly, that the ladder
of Poetry is tall, extremely tall;
and from this first step I'm standing on now
I'll never climb any higher."
Theocritus retorted: "Words like that
are improper, blasphemous.
Just to be on the first step
should make you happy and proud.
To have reached this point is no small achievement:
what you've done already is a wonderful thing.
Even this first step
is a long way above the ordinary world.
To stand on this step
you must be in your own right
a member of the city of ideas.
And it's a hard, unusual thing
to be enrolled as a citizen of that city.
Its councils are full of Legislators
no charlatan can fool.
To have reached this point is no small achievement:
what you've done already is a wonderful thing."

It's nice to have the notion expressed in so wonderful a poem to which I can refer in the future, when I find myself engaging the dark thoughts that I'm never going to get anywhere or amount to anything as a writer, because I suspect that no matter where you are, there are times when the step you're on feels like it's only the first step....

Monday, January 05, 2015

"I wonder why that guy won't talk to the media!", or, Great Moments in Buffalo Sports Journalism

Here's a thing that happened. Last weekend, the Buffalo Bills' 2014 season ended with the team out of the playoffs. Locker cleanout day was last Monday, and then the team dispersed for the offseason.

Fast forward to this past Saturday, two days ago. Rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins, a high-profile player because not only was he a 1st-round pick but the Bills traded up to get him, sends out this tweet:

This caught the eye of Buffalo News columnist, and eternal claimant to the title of Official Source Of All OBJECTIVE Knowledge In Buffalo, Jerry Sullivan:

There was, as you might expect, a miniature pile-on directed at Watkins for saying that Buffalo is "so boring".


Ayup. The guy wasn't even here.

Sullivan wasn't the only person to offer up an assumption that Watkins was dissing Buffalo as "boring", but he was, so far as I could tell, the only professional journalist to do so.

I hope he'll remember this some time next summer or next season when he whines about how Sammy Watkins avoids the media.

Friday, January 02, 2015

A brief writing rant (in the form of six tweets)

[POSTSCRIPT added below.]


On the other hand, for all that kvetching and rending of teeth and gnashing of garments, I have actual numbers from the first few days of 2015:

Huh. These last few writing days have FELT cruddy, and yet the output's been great.... #AmWriting


Uncertainty is an interesting thing, innit?

Bad Joke Friday

I haven't done this in, oh, forever, but it occurs to me that I can get use out of the bad jokes that The Daughter just loves to text me. So here's one from this morning!

Thursday, January 01, 2015

All right, 2015, it's just YOU and ME!!!

I don't much do "resolutions", because it always seems slightly unrealistic to suddenly expect to adopt an entirely new approach to life or something based merely on the flipping of a calendar page. I do, though, set goals. Here are mine for this year:

1. Watch 26 movies that I've never seen before. I have a few titles in mind, but others will be things I find along the way. (And I won't count Avengers II or Star Wars VII among them.) I feel I need to broaden my cinematic horizons a bit. Twenty-six movies is one movie every two weeks, which given my schedule should be doable! I'll track these on the blog, somehow.

2. Read 52 books. That might be a bit on the ambitious side, given that I'm not the fastest reader and some of the books I really want to read are dootstoppers, but we'll see. Some books I'll fly through, whilst others will take longer, so we'll see.

2a. Half of my fiction reading will consist of independently published books. This is important to me, both as an indie author and as a reader in general. There does seem to be a still-existent, if slowly-weakening, stigma against independently published writing, which seems more and more strange to me. We love independent musicians and independent film makers and independent comics creators, so why not love independent authors? More and more I'm of the view that a publishing contract should no more be an indicator of an author's quality than a recording contract should be of a musician's.

3. Read 24 short stories. I never read enough short fiction, so I want to get back to doing that. I own a lot of short fiction collections and I can find a lot more online.

3a. I may do this, actually (I just saw this on Facebook):

4. Rewatch Cosmos (the Carl Sagan original) and then the Neil DeGrasse Tyson follow-up. I meant to do this in 2014 and didn't get around to it.

5. Do more cooking, learn to cook more things. There's no reason not to. This is a continual goal of mine, and every year I do make some strides in the kitchen. This year I want to figure out gluten-free fried chicken, if nothing else!

6. Listen to more music. I'm not quantifying this, I'm just doing it.

7. Erect shelving in my library closet and create my "Archive" in there. I need to get my CDs organized, likely into binders. I also need to rip more of my CDs to the computer and uploaded to Google Music.

8. Hang the new light fixture above our kitchen sink. The fact that this item is number 8 on this list is not indicative of how important this one is; I'll be getting this done before the 18th of this month!

9. Finish moving in! If nothing else, the Living Room Box Pile must go.

And these aren't even my writing goals (you can read about those on the official site)! Wow!