Sunday, March 29, 2015

An A-to-Z Thing

I saw this at Ken Levine's blog, so I thought I'd do it quickly.

And by the way, I told a bunch of people that I'd be doing some much-belated Ask Me Anything answers last week, but that was before last week turned into the Bataan Death March combined with the final flight of the Hindenberg, so...hopefully this week. In the future, by the way, I'll eschew Ask Me Anything! if it coincides with me trying to get through the meaty part of a book. I don't want to leave people dangling quite the way I have, both this year and last (when February saw us starting preparations for moving).

And now, the A-Z thing.

• A-Available/Single? “Hey dear? Am I single and available? I’m sorry, what? But it’s not my turn to do the dishes and clean the litterboxes! OK, fine....”

• B-Best Friend? Aside from The Wife? Probably this one dude who is one of my beta-readers and is the source of whatever insight I have on the game of hockey.

• C-Cake or Pie? Pie. But then, I’ve never been hit in the face with a cake, so maybe I’m missing something amazing.

• D-Drink Of Choice? Rum. Or Scotch. Or bourbon. Or beer. I also like water.

• E-Essential Item You Use Everyday? My phone, tablet, and laptop. Love the electronics. They make my life better!

• F-Favorite Color? Purple! But I honestly don’t dislike any colors.

• G-Gummy Bears Or Worms? Ewwww. I don’t like Gummi stuff.

• H-Hometown? Orchard Park, NY.

• I-Indulgence? There are these white-chocolate and toffee chip cookies at The Store that make me weep.

• January Or February? February. The Wife’s birthday, the Super Bowl, and spring training starts.

• K-Kids & Their Names? The Kid. Singular.

• L-Life Is Incomplete Without? Love.

• M-Marriage Date? May 17.

• N-Number Of Siblings? 1

• O-Oranges Or Apples? Apples. I enjoy oranges, but apples are so versatile and amazing!

• P-Phobias/Fears? Clowns tend to freak me out. Dogs, too. I like our dog, but I remain deeply suspicious of other dogs.

• Q-Favorite Quote? “I love you!” “I know.”

• R-Reason to Smile? Overalls and coffee for a Saturday morning writing session.

• S-Season? Fall.

• T-Tag Three or Four People? OK, you’re all it.

• U-Unknown Fact About Me? I cannot roll my R’s.

• V-Vegetable you don't like? Broccoli. That shit can go extinct, for all I care.

• W-Worst Habit? Swearing a lot, eating too many sweets.

• X-X-rays You've Had? My collarbone, when some shitty kid pushed me off my bike years ago and broke it.

• Y-Your Favorite Food? Pizza. Or burgers. Or ice cream. Or jambalaya. Or spanish rice. Or fried fish. Or....

• Z-Zodiac Sign? Libra.

Nothing terribly interesting there, I guess!

Sunday Burst

Interesting, pretty, and/or odd stuff.

:: Pretty: The Big Dipper, enhanced. More here.

:: Also pretty: The clouds of Orion the Hunter. More here.

::  Odd: Dude named Zayn leaves mega-boy band One Direction. Actor Billy Zane is slightly baffled by the outpouring of grief.

:: And then there's this. Welcome back, Mr. Bond!

More next week!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Bad Joke Friday

I went to a zoo the other day.

They only had one animal: A single dog.

What a Shih Tzu!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Something for Thursday

Good lord, what a work week this is shaping up to be. I had every intention of getting some blogging done, and it's all I've been able to manage to keep the momentum going on Princess In Space Book III: Fast and Furious (not the actual title).

The weather is also doing its part to keep my gloom groove going. Spring, I've maintained for years, is not only Buffalo's worst season, but its two months of gray and occasionally snowy dampness is the real reason why so many Western New Yorkers claim to hate winter: because after months of late fall plus winter proper (which are really quite bearable), along comes spring with its emotional promises of better times, which don't come until mid-May.

But even gloomy weather can be cheerful, right? We must not forget the lesson so ably taught by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the movie Top Hat (which is an insane eighty years old this year). Here's "Isn't This a Lovely Day".

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Name a food you've tried in the last year for the first time, and your reaction.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A vignette from the airport

I had to pick my mother up from the airport yesterday. Generally I find that in terms of people-watching, I prefer bus terminals to airports, because at bus terminals you get the crazies. Airports seem to bring out the inner asshole in people, such as the lady who crosses the very wide drop-off lane outside the airport, by herself, and only when she's on the opposite side does she turn to yell at her five-year-old kid, who has remained on the terminal side of the lane. Yeah. Make sure she's with you when you cross a street, why don't you.

And then there's the small waiting area for arrivals. There used to be more of this seating and it used to be nicely spread out, but in our post-9/11 desire for massive amounts of security, the passenger screening area has taken up pretty much that entire part of the place, with only a pretty small room set aside for people to wait for their arriving loved ones. There were three people in there yesterday, so I took a seat in the back row, away from everyone else. Behind the waiting room is a little cafeteria-restaurant thing, with a seating bar between that and the waiting area. In walks a cluster of three people who decide that they're going to stand at the seating bar and have their loud and boring conversation, and they're going to do it right behind me. They could have stood anyplace else and not bothered anyone else, but that wasn't an option.

So yeah, if you like annoying people, the airport's the place for you.

But then, there was the Young Woman In Blue Jeans.

She was the only Young Woman there, but she also had on blue jeans. And a nice winter jacket, leather torso with cloth arms and faux-fur on the cuffs and collar. Her long, brown hair fell about her shoulders, and most of all...she looked nervous. No, not nervous. Anxious.

The Young Woman In Blue Jeans could not stand still. She'd check her phone for the time. Then she'd check her phone for the flight status, ignoring what the teevees on the wall had to say about flight status. She'd look around, for no apparent reason because she was clearly there waiting for someone, and she'd rock back and forth from one foot to the other. Then she started this entire cycle again, and finally, she disappeared for a few minutes.

When she reappeared, she set up camp in the exact same spot, waiting for whomever was to come through the exit corridor, and did the same things again: she checked her phone, she rocked back and forth, she spontaneously looked around. Maybe she riffed her fingers through her hair. She tried calmly leaning against the wall, only to give that up seconds later for more foot-rocking.

And when she returned from her brief disappearance, she had a piece of paper in her hand. A full-size sheet, 8 by 11. She'd written something on it, in Sharpie. One of those signs you hold up at the airport to identify yourself to someone. But it didn't have a name on it; she'd written a lot of words there, and I found myself curious as to what they said. She finally angled toward me just enough that I was able to read her impromptu sign:

who lives in NEW ORLEANS, LA

A lover, I suppose. New lover? Old lover? Lovers meeting for the first time after getting to know each other online?

I never found out. Mom came out of the gate first.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday Burst

Strange things are afoot, Watson!

:: Dude is getting married, and creates e-mail list to keep his buddies apprised of wedding plans. A typo results in a complete stranger being on the list. The stranger comes clean. The stranger ends up getting invited anyway.

:: I may have linked this before and forgotten to delete the link from my bookmarks, but it's still an interesting article: you know that pint glass that is the dominant piece of glassware for beer drinking these days? Apparently it's awful. Or so I'm told. I still like them, but other glasses are cool, too.

:: I haven't dug too deep to see if Stardancer turns up on Kindle Cover Disasters. Lord, I hope not...I'd hate to be in the same company as this:


(Note to self: Remove all references in current manuscript to the spaceship Intrepid Monkey.)

(Note to self: Buy the book about the adventures of the Intrepid Monkey.)

More next week!

Weird Stuff My Camera App Does

So I've been using a camera app called Camera MX for quite a while, on my phone and tablets. I like its functionality the best of all the camera apps I've tried, but there's a button on the screen marked "FX". I never touched that one, until out of curiosity, I did. Turns out that the app does all kinds of crazy things: various filters, mirrored images, and even kaleidoscope settings.

Here's a normal-looking selfie that I took for reference, and then a bunch of photos from the same perspective, taken using the odd filters and stuff. The one with my head thirteen times strikes me as...well, it's kinda creepy. Like a horror comic book with a Jack Kirby cover.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Something for Thursday

For a while, this song had an odd way of playing each and every time The Wife and I went someplace. It was guaranteed. That's mostly because it featured strongly in the playlist of the Satellite Radio thingie she has in her car for a while, but even then we'd hear it in stores and restaurants and all over. We don't hear it much anymore, but still when it pops up, we have a laugh because we dubbed it "our song" even though it's an incredibly weird song for a couple to designate as such, no?

Here's Imagine Dragons with "Radioactive".

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

What fruit or vegetable makes you Oh so HAPPY! when you go to the store and see that it's in season?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Hank Speaks: How I Edit

A fellow writer asked, via Instagram, how I go about editing as a writer who generally doesn’t outline at all. Generally speaking, my Inner Editor acts in different ways at different points in the process. Because I don’t feel like writing the phrase “Inner Editor” a whole lot of times, so he has a new name: Hank. Yeah, my Inner Editor sounds like a Hank. He’s an annoying and insistent fellow who is nevertheless always, always right. Seriously, Hank is always right. And even when I think I have him dead to rights, and I've caught him in a blatant error...he's still right.

During the actual writing of the first draft, Hank is required to sit down and shut up, except for instances of the story going in the wrong direction. One of those happened just this morning! I was starting a scene, and for some reason I was badly stalling on it. Sometimes when this happens it’s just my mood, but other times it’s an indicator of something worse going on, and that was the case this time. I put Hank in the corner with a six-pack of beer and some DVDs of 1970s sitcoms, and he was happy for a while, only occasionally looking up to see what I was doing. But as I sat and sat, staring at the screen and then writing a few sentences and then staring some more and scrawling a few more sentences and just a-struggling along, Hank finally let out a giant belch, which is his usual signal that I need to listen to him.

“They’re in the wrong place,” he said.

“Who?” I asked.

“Your characters. They’re in the wrong place. They can’t be there.”

“Why not?”

At this he rolled his eyes, because they answer should have been as clear as day...and it was. There’s a very prime reason why my characters could not be in that location at that time, without something else very inconvenient happening by virtue of one of them being there. The characters in question are looking for a third character who may or may not be a villain and who has certainly gone to ground. So they’re looking for this guy. Problem is, there is a very noticeable physical characteristic about one of these characters that can’t be disguised away, so it follows that they cannot be in this location.

“Thanks, Hank!”


That kind of thing is all that Hank is allowed to talk about when I’m writing a first draft. He’s allowed to notice when I’ve taken wrong turns, and he nags louder and louder and louder until I listen. One time, when writing Stardancer, it took me three chapters before I realized that he was right and that I was ignoring him at my book’s peril. Hank’s sense, in moments like these, is for the storytelling. Hank is not allowed, at this point, to bring up anything about grammar or word choice or characterization or scenes that should not be.

When I’m done drafting, into the desk goes the draft (or onto a bunch of electronic storage media), for several months. Then, and only then, do I let Hank have a look.

That’s when he gets out his tools: scissors, hacksaws, chainsaws, butcher knives, meat cleavers, and a fifty-five gallon drum of White-Out.

Yup, Hank’s second trip through the manuscript is a brutal one. That’s when he gets to complain about anything and everything. That paragraph is too long. That paragraph is too short. Using an awful lot of words to say something simple here; but here, what’s the big damn rush? You can get poetic there. Is there a need for that adjective? How the hell did that disgusting adverb get in there? Does this conversation really need to go on this long? You do realize that this character is acting like an idiot here, don’t you?

Those are all very essential things for Hank to spot, but what I like even more are the bits where he says things like: “Hey, this scene here? You don’t set this up very well.” Also, I dig things like when he points out things I hadn’t properly considered, such as random plot elements that don’t end up going anywhere. I tend to have a lot of these as a pantser, as a lot of times I’m writing along and I think, “Maybe this character ends up being important somehow, so lets draw him forth a bit,” and then he disappears completely; then, months later, Hank reads that passage and says, “Yeah, cut this fellow. You don’t do anything with him.” A good example of this is in the early going of Princesses In SPACE!!! Book II: Even Princessier (not the actual title), when I have a character show up who basically does nothing but glower at Princess Tariana. She wonders what his deal is, but he glowers at her a few more times, exits stage left, and...that’s it. Never went anywhere, so out he went when Hank got there.

Hank is also ruthless when he sniffs out passages that were obviously written when I wasn’t quite sure what was supposed to happen next, and thus was basically riffing to fill the day’s word quota. Hank ends up getting quite the workout on that second trip through the book...and then he gets another workout at proofreading time, when he’s even more ruthlessly seeking out typos and errors of that sort. Even then, he can’t stop entirely, and he ends up cutting even more useless, needless words along the way. Hank is very good at this, and he’s saved me a lot of grief. Sometimes, once in a great while, Hank will deign to drop me a compliment here or there. Hank is a pretty crusty guy, after all.

Hank is most ruthless, however, during dialogue passages. Boy Howdy, is he ever. He'll gleefully cut a ten page conversation down to three pages, if he can -- and sometimes indeed he can, because I've seen him do it. He'll delete many words from characters' mouths; he'll strike down entire speeches. Long talking scenes frustrate Hank, which is probably good because I actually enjoy writing them -- maybe a little too much, so it's useful for Hank to come along and say, "Talk talk talk, that's all your characters do." Hank likes action.

Hank also likes clarity. He hates it when I'm vague and when he can't picture something in his head as I'm describing it. He'll drill the hell out of me if he's having a hard time figuring out what I'm describing.

Yeah, I’d be lost without Hank.

What ultimately makes Hank – and therefore my own editing – successful, in my view, is how ruthless I can be when reading my own writing. I’m not sure where this “gift” comes from, but I’ve long had an ability to be very hard on myself, and I think this is essential in appraising one’s own writing. True story: a number of times in my professional career I’ve had a boss come to me, at Performance Review time, and give me a blank form with the instructions that I was to appraise my own performance and then we’d compare notes. Every single time I’ve done this, I’ve painted a much bleaker picture of my own performance than my bosses. Maybe that’s a self-esteem thing, or maybe it’s a perverse sense that if I can be harder on myself than they are, the actual discussion will go better. (Which is, I must admit, what generally happens.)

I don’t approach my manuscripts with the sense that I’m actually not good and that the books are terrible, because I simply don’t think that’s the case. I’ll likely carry to my grave my conviction that with Stardancer I wrote a good book. But I’ll never believe that it can’t be better, and to this day, whenever I peruse that book to look things up, I’ll hear a voice in the background, saying, “Dammit! I shoulda caught that.” It’s Hank, of course. He’s ever trying to improve, which he’ll need to do, assuming that I keep getting better at this for a while.

Whether that’s a good assumption or not, of course, is a matter for time to tell.

Monday, March 16, 2015

I've become "Takes the dog to the drive-thru" guy....

1/4: Cane gets a donut on Sundays when we are going home from the park.

It turns out that Cane loves...donuts. This all started the first couple of times we had him in the car when we decided to pick up coffee at Tim Hortons. One location here actually keeps a box of plain TimBits (which are their corporate name for their donut holes) which they offer to dogs they see come through the drive-thru. Cane loves 'em, to the point where (a) he knows when he is in a Tim Hortons drive-thru line, and (b) if we're in the line and we're stuck behind traffic and not moving, he starts whining.

Anyway, I've started going to a different location near home, because the line there is always shorter than the other one. Cane and I have a new little "tradition" brewing where I take him to some local park or nature place and walk him for a while, so he can smell all the things and generally do dog-stuff, and then on the way back I stop at Tim Hortons. Only problem is, this new location with the shorter lines doesn't carry the plain, unsugared donut holes, so I just pony up the buck for a whole donut for him, which I break up into four pieces.

And then I pull over and feed him the donut.

2/2 Cane waits while I break up his donut. #Cane #DogsOfInstagram

3/4 Cane gently takes donut pieces from my hand. #Cane #DogsOfInstagram

4/4 Cane chows down. Usually not in my eadrdrum...  #Cane| #DogsOfInstagram

One really nice thing about Cane is that he's incredibly gentle about taking treats from your hand. You barely feel him do it, which is nice. And it's really funny to see how excited he gets when he realizes where he is.

All in a day's life of owning a dee-oh-gee!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sunday Burst

And now for something completely (meaning, non-pi or pie related) different!

:: Via John Hodgman, here's Vampire Kermit attacking Vincent Price.

:: Toronto is often used by filmmakers as a stand-in for other cities. They're usually pretty good at keeping the very obvious Toronto landmarks offscreen, but sometimes they miss a few. I've seen most of these movies, so I'm left baffled as to how I missed these.

::  It's funny how the Internet can sometimes remind you of weird stuff you'd long-since forgotten. Years ago, there was an ongoing thing in PARADE Magazine (for those who don't get it, PARADE is a supplement that's in a lot of Sunday newspapers) when one of their regular columnists, a woman named Marilyn vos Savant who is billed as "the world's smartest woman" wrote an entry on what's come to be called "the Monty Hall Problem". This resulted in quite the kerfuffle, because her answer to the problem is apparently (a) incredibly counter-intuitive, and (b) actually correct. I remember this unfolding over the course of several weeks in the paper, with some ancillary discussion at home (unavoidable with a math professor living in the house). I'd forgotten about it until reading this article.

That's all for now!

Pi Day Followup

It turns out that I'm far from the only person to use Pi Day as an impetus for a pie in the face, which is actually kind of nice to learn. I mean, I want to be weird, but not ridiculously out there, if you know what I mean. Anyway, here are a few examples of folks who put their faces on the line for mathematically-initiated silliness!

A reporter makes a bet with the quarterback of the Tennessee football team as to how many digits of Pi he can rattle off. He wins.

Two guys offer a demonstration. This is amusing because they start off with that slightly-macho, jaded humor thing common nowadays...and then they start giggling when the pies come into play.

This woman coupled Pi Day with an pieing challenge for ALS, like last year's Ice Bucket craze. (By the way, ignore her advice on goggles and shower caps. Go big or go home! Don't be a muggle! You're not going to look any more dignified if you try dressing up like a deep-sea diver for your pieing. In fact, the Pie Gods will mock you forevermore if you do such a thing!)

Another challenge-type video here. This woman actually made this video last year, but she retweeted it yesterday for Pi Day, which is how I saw it. She is raising awareness for Huntington's Disease, and what I like about this (besides the pie) is that she uses clips from an episode of the best medical teevee show ever, Scrubs, to describe the disease and its effects.

This fellow invented a mechanical device for pie-throwing. Some logistics need to be worked out, obviously, but the idea is intriguing.

Actually, I'm not sure this has anything to do with Pi Day or not, but it got posted yesterday, so here's Suzanne Somers getting pied by her Dancing with the Stars dance partner.

Long live Pi, and pie!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Happy Pi Day!

Yes, today is Pi Day! I don't usually do much to observe Pi Day, but this year's is a special edition, since this is the only year in this century when the digits will line up so perfectly.

And how would a goof like me mark the occasion? Well, it would start with this:

And end like this:

Properly celebrating Pi Day with a pie in the face!

Long live Pi, and pie!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Something for Thursday

You know what I feel like, on this crisp almost-spring morning? I feel like Beethoven. Well, listening to Beethoven. I don't actually feel like Beethoven himself, because he's been dead almost 200 years. Ewww.

Here's an entire symphony: the Sixth, specifically, perhaps better known as the "Pastoral". It's one of Beethoven's relatively rare attempts at making concrete representations with his music...and besides that, it's just an amazingly beautiful, sunny, and charming work. My favorite part is in the second movement when the dance-step is off kilter, as if to depict a bumbling country dancer who can't get the beat right. Beethoven isn't the first name that leaps to mind when one thinks of "charm" in classical music, but he had charm. Let's not forget it!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

I'm sure I've asked at some point what your preferred sandwich condiment or spread is -- mayo, mustard, butter, whatever -- but I haven't asked about technique. So: when making a sandwich, do you spread your condiment of choice on one slice of bread, or both?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Writing Outside the Lines: on outlines

New writer acquaintance Briana Morgan has a nice post up about the evils* of outlining:

When I started using them [outlines], I felt trapped, bogged down, and nothing like myself. My whole process felt constrained. I suffocated. In my writing workshops, I was taught not to write without outlines. My professors frowned or scowled when I shunned the thought of planning. “You can’t write like that,” they said. “You’re setting yourself up for failure.” Well, they were half-right.

Outlining doesn’t work for me. For the longest time, I tried to fit in with other writers who swear by it, but the process felt forced. I was sure that everyone knew I was faking. My productivity ground to a halt. I put so much pressure on myself to do what everyone else was doing, instead of focusing on what worked for me. Since outlining wasn’t working, I must have been doing it wrong.

I don't outline either...except for when I do. Heh!

Generally, the writing community seems to have settled on two terms to describe the respective camps: Plotters, referring to those who outline (thereby plotting everything in advance), and pantsers, meaning, those who write by the seat of their pants (or overalls, as the case may be).

So, which am I? For the most part, I'm a pantser. I roughly figure out a starting point for the book, come up with a vague idea for what's generally supposed to happen, and then I start writing. Sometimes I have an idea of structure for the book beforehand (the current Forgotten Stars novel, Princesses III: The Sequel to Get Equal (not the actual title), has three viewpoint characters after two in Book II and just one in Stardancer), but sometimes I don't even have that much. How can I go on so little?'s pretty much what I've always done. In my experience, my characters will do things on page 300 that I have no idea are even possible on page 30. New ideas will come to be a third of the way through, and I generally find that those new ideas are usually better than whatever I had already planned. A good idea always trumps the plan, if I even had one.

Here's the thing: when you write a lot, you come to deeply trust the process upon which you've settled. I'm such a pantser that I started writing Princesses III: The Wrath of Spock (not the actual title) without even knowing exactly who my main villain was going to be; then, when he suddenly showed up in a scene that surprised me to have a villain in it, I still had no idea just what he was hoping to accomplish. I had to get to know this guy as my characters did. No doubt this may sound like utter lunacy to many writers, but it works for me. My approach to all this mirrors what Stephen King says in the brilliant On Writing:

The situation comes first. The characters – always flat and unfeatured, to begin with – come next. Once these things are fixed in my mind, I begin to narrate. I often have an idea of what the outcome may be, but I have never demanded of a set of characters that they do things my way. On the contrary, I want them to do things their way. In some instances, the outcome is what I visualized. In most, however, it’s something I never expected. For a suspense novelist, this is a great thing. I am, after all, not just the novel’s creator but its first reader. And if I’m not able to guess with any accuracy how the damned thing is going to turn out, even with my inside knowledge of coming events, I can be pretty sure of keeping the reader in a state of page-turning anxiety. And why worry about the ending anyway? Why be such a control freak? Sooner or later every story comes out somewhere.

I pretty much completely agree with this. I have a situation: Two Princesses from the planet Gavinar are on their way someplace else but something happens and they wind up on a mysterious planet whose inhabitants see them as fulfillment of prophecy...and they just might be. That's it. Who are the Princesses? Well, I had to figure that part out. Where's the planet and what's the deal with the people living there? Those details showed up, one by one, as I wrote that book and got my Princesses stranded...and then I figured out the planet's little foibles, some of which I'm still figuring out and being surprised by.

I never would have tried outlining any of that. For Stardancer, I actually did have an idea of how that particular book's main conflict got resolved in the end, but not so with Princesses II or with Princesses III. I just charged full-speed ahead, because that's the only way I can work.


Because I do occasionally turn to the outline. Once in a while. Not very often.

And here's the key: not for very long, in terms of book length.

Sometimes I get stuck, like anybody else. Sometimes I genuinely don't know what comes next. This actually has two "flavors", as it were. The first is easy: I get an increasingly persistent sense that I've gone in the wrong direction someplace. The fix here isn't to outline, but rather to backtrack to the most recent spot where I felt things were still going in the right direction and try something else. The second, though, is when I know that what's happened to this point is right, but I'm just not sure what happens next. Then I might outline a bit, maybe the next few scenes, just to work through some ideas and get a notion of the direction I'm going. This isn't even always outlining, per se, but mostly a jotting down of ideas.

When I actually sit down to straight-up outline, though, is almost always when I'm nearing the book's final act and when things are about to get complex. Almost always by this point not only do I know what's going to happen, but the characters don't do a lot of deviating, either, and if they do, it's to do something cool that doesn't really change the "big picture" of the ending. So I outline, very roughly, just to figure out the way the moving parts of the story have to line up: what happens first, what happens second, what this person is doing, how that person will respond, and so on. It's the writing equivalent of how plumbers will lay out the sections of pipe on the floor, in order, before applying the PVC adhesive or starting to solder things together. That's it: outlining the sequence, but never the entire story. That, I just can't do. If I try outlining an entire novel from Chapter 1 to the Epilogue, I can quite simply guarantee that the story will change dramatically by Chapter 5, and the outline will be useless.

And besides...outlining doesn't feel like writing to me. Outlining always vaguely feels to me like a writing-like activity that doesn't necessarily lead to actual writing. It feels like all those times on The Brady Bunch when the boys were "fixing" their bikes but rarely riding them anywhere.

So that's why I don't outline, except for when I do.

* Outlining isn't evil. It's just a practice that some folks do and some don't.

A Very Public Service Message

Nobody on Earth celebrates "St. Patty's Day." Spelling counts, folks: it's St. PADDY's Day.

Thank you.

Monday, March 09, 2015


Wow, I've been neglecting the blog, haven't I? Yes, I've been busy. No, I'm not sick. No, I'm not trapped under a refrigerator. Yes, it's my usual reason: Momentum on the novel-in-progress, plus some very busy days at The Store, plus some extracurricular stuff like school concerts and a training class for the dee-oh-gee.

My usual regularly irregular posting habits will resume, I promise! And I know I still owe a bunch of Ask Me Anything replies. Hold on, folks!

Friday, March 06, 2015

Bad Joke Friday

Some guy recorded his wife telling him a bad joke, and then made a video animation of the joke to go along with her telling it.

Oh, and she's telling it after having had a bit too much to drink.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Something for Thursday

Sorry for the lack of posting -- busy week and lots of writing! But here's one of my favorite Dougie MacLean songs. It's about the relationship of teachers and students, and the way we learn by just being in their company.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Something for Monday

OK, I promise that this blog isn't going to be all-Nimoy-all-the-time, but after I got done collating the material for the Sentential Links post, I saw this on Facebook. As I've noted, I've been obsessing somewhat over the Glen Campbell song "Gentle On My Mind" for a while now, ever since I heard The Band Perry's version on the radio a few months ago. Well, it turns out that Nimoy recorded that song as well, and you know what? He does a pretty damned good job of it. If your only impression of Nimoy as a singer is that "Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" thing (certainly the case with me), you may find this surprising. Wow!

Sentential Links (the Leonard Nimoy edition)

Bloggers I like react to Leonard Nimoy's passing:

:: I met him one night at an event at the New School. He was there with director Stanley Donen. It was just a quick “Hi, how are you” kind of introduction, but he was one of those celebrities where it was impossible to believe that it was actually him, there in the flesh. His face, as Spock, with the ears and the eyebrows and the hair, is so much a part of our culture that seeing him outside of it, as just a regular elderly guy in a suit, laughing with Donen, that face, that look, is so distinct that it floated around in my head as I looked at the real-life guy. I thought, “Now THAT’S the role of a lifetime, if it’s an after-image forevermore.” And he handled it beautifully.

:: I imagine it’s a strange thing to be a famous actor, anyway. People love and admire you for your having impressed yourself on their imaginations as various someones who are not you. Must be stranger still to be famous for one particular not you.

:: I have all of Nimoy's albums, and while I don't share his assessment, I do think that as a singer he's a terrific actor. I don't think they're embarrassing, but they can be very earnest and Nimoy's vocal range almost doesn't exist.

:: This quote I found on Daily Kos is true: “We lost the man who played the first ‘cool’ science nerd… Maybe that’s why his death is having a bigger impact on many of us than we would have thought, until now.” As his last tweet read: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP.”

:: Not much of an anecdote, I know, but it's all I've got. I really didn't know the man but if that's what he was always like, I wish I had. (This is a great anecdote.)

:: To be honest, I think I felt more grief yesterday than I did when I lost my real grandfathers, neither of whom I was close with. But Leonard… ah, Leonard I felt like I gotten to know, and I liked him. It’s not the loss of “Spock” I’ve been mourning. It’s the kind, good-humored old Jewish man with the quick smile and the big laugh and the unmistakable voice, the lively wit and strong sense of social justice, the celebrity who seemed genuinely concerned for his fans when he urged them to learn from his example and stay away from cigarettes.… (Jason has to outlive me so he can write my obit. That might be inconvenient for him, as I plan to live to the age of 137, but them's the breaks.)

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Sunday Burst

Weird and wonderful things abide....

:: I recently discovered an amazing photography artist, Michael Shainblum, whose work really evokes an amazing sense of wonder. This particular photo, from his Instagram, seems like it might have been cover art for an incarnation of my book!

:: This has been all over the place this week, but deservedly so. I love it when someone alerts the world to a rare natural occurrence, if only just to show that our world has so very many ways of surprising us. What happens here is that the super-cold temperatures in the Northeast have had the effect of giving the water in the ocean shallows a Slurpee-like quality. As the waves break, they look like something otherworldly.

More photos here.

:: If the music in Mary Poppins had been recorded not by a wonderful Disney orchestra and the practically-perfect voice of Julie Andrews, but rather by a death-metal rock band, it might have sounded like this:

:: Finally, as a final farewell to Leonard Nimoy, here is his wonderful intro to the X-Files crossover episode on The Simpsons.

More next week!