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O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Killing Me Softly - War Stories

Rewriting. Short handing the first person's story in the frame. It's not vital but talks to what they're doing. It was one of two substories that I actually started the story, before I found out it was a Cthulhu tale. I had killed the other story. Now it's this one's turn.

But I keep adding it back in. Must... resist... overkill... not... needed...

Okay, if I type F-16 or HARM Missile one more time in the story, I'm going to have to have words with myself.

Three hundred words in and I've already cut 500+ words. Surgery with a chain saw. (Yes, it needed to be done, I have 1,300+ words still to be excised). Word count 6309.

edit It's now 11:34. I'm 2290 words in and we're at 6113 total words. So another 190 or so words and I got to put in a Warner Bros Cartoon allusion.

My favorite line so far? "Damn Qaeda, always throwing monkeys into the wrench-works." Hey, a Cthulhu story with humor.

Story Bone

"We're going to need a whole bunch of Holy Water," he said breathlessly. "Got something in a two-liter size?"

The priest paused for a moment, "Come on back to the baptismal font, we've got it on tap."

"Oh, a kegger."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Energy Craziness

John McCain wants to approve reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel as a part of his lying and pandering about a fake energy policy.

Okay, everybody know what you get when you reprocess? Without going into all the isotopic relationships and boring the heck out of you (here's a wiki if you're really interested), you get fissile material as a by product. Than means weapons grade Uranium or Plutonium (depending on the reprocessing technique you use).

Yeah, 'cause we need more of that in the world.

Suddenly, it's Wednesday

Not only do I ask where the Summer has gone, now it seems to be weeks flying by without so much as a howdy do. Of course it doesn't help that my schedule has been Run, Run Rudolph for a while. There were places to be (Confluence, hey Sam, Josh, Jim and Carey and everybody else I ran into there), time wasted waiting (not enough to do something, but just enough to have me start playing my own hold music in my head).

There's the rewrite. (Must get to it).

Throw in a redo of the brochure project. The client likes it all, but wants to change things. At least that means we hit a ground-rule double for the first major visual representation of their business.

Add to that the various Village work that needs done this week (including some extra heaviness that I just got an email about, ::hangs head in weariness::), a "co-ed wedding shower" (read: we're gonna drink) for my nephew and his soon to be. Been cleaning up in a major way as we have somebody coming out to clean the vents. Which is good, because they need cleaned, and the things I'm going through have been sitting there for awhile (when you have to dust something off before throwing it away, it's been sitting too long).

Work work work, and questions

I have a rewrite I need to get through the eldritch pipes this week. I'm going to restructure the whole front of the story (it starts off slow). The parts of the story will remain, it's just I'll short hand some of the beginning. It was a frame up, and I spent way to much wordcount on a sub-story that doesn't advance the plot. Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, kill your darlings. Then I've been debating some other parts of the story, how I describe some things. When I get to the meat of the issue, when things start getting all squamous and 'sploady, there are other parts that need to be cut and two scenes that need combining. The story suffers from too much "they went here, did this, then other there and did that" kind of exposition. I can cut most of that out. One character that had remained nameless now is named. There a bit more interaction and touching of puppets that needs to go on. And the end of the main story can be cut a little shorter (it spoke more to a continuation of thoughts than to the story itself). I like the way the frame ends, though, probably keep most of that. Oh, and did I mention is needs to go on an gibbous diet and lose 1500 words? And that it's a military story, and I've learned a little more about some of the new terminology.

Hey, and while I'm thinking of that, I know some of you have been in recently and have served in Iraq, so I have some questions. I've debated keeping in some pejoratives given the Helix kerfluffle. The characters (all military who served in the sand box) in the story refer to the Iraqis as "Hajjis" and AQI as "Towel-heads." Am I way off base here with the usage, and was it "accepted" to use those terms between each other? I know in general I shouldn't use them (and in a omniscient narrative, I wouldn't, these are all in "dialog" or "first person"), but I was going for verisimilitude. What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Free Books!

All around great ham and frequent commenter Ken McConnell is running a contest to win a copy of Barren Worlds. All you have to do it comment on his blog that you want one. How simple is that? Go and enter.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Audacity of Hope

At Confluence this past weekend (which had really great programing, BTW) there was a panel on Utopias. While the panel was supposed to be nominally about utopian fiction, James Morrow as moderator took the panel in a different direction. He asked the panelists (his wife Kathryn Morrow, Kathryn Cramer, Joe Haldeman, Charles Oberndorf) what they had done, or are doing, to bring about utopias in their own lives. Well, five great stories later and the panel is almost out of time. At the end, I got the last question, what was greeted with a reaction I didn't quite expect.

I asked that since in most fiction (excluding libertarian fantasies which tend to exclude small details, like reality, to get their systems to work) and in real life, most utopias fail or become dictatorial, or in literature are used as farce, why do we still dream of these?

Apostasy is my strong suit. Have you noticed?

Anyway, I was responded to first with the same look that people give to the person that farts in Church during the epistle. Then began an attempt to assure me that, basically while they didn't use these words, hope springs eternal and shouldn't we "progress"?

I'm highly dubious of the later as it tends toward personal preference and elitism, and has unpleasant political ramifications (as when it's is carried out to the nth degree). Ie. Your progress may not be my progress.

No problem with hope. I have the same feeling when I start flipping TV channels. Heck, I'm a speculative fiction author who thinks he'll be able to do this as a retirement income. If that's not a symptom that I have hope, it must be brain damage.

But really, I know of no utopia in real life that has survived. Some communities have lingered, but they're dependent on tourist trade (Chautauqua, Lillydale) coming in for seminars and events. The Amish who left the old country for their utopia in American have long been compromised (even some Old Order). I think this is why the Free Tibet Movement has such strong support here in the US (full disclosure, I am a proponent of getting China out of Tibet, or Province 13 as they call it), it's the belief in Shangri La; or for our US westerward expansion, the belief in Beaulah or Goshen; or the technological Biosphere; the personal belief that if we flip this switch just one more time the lights, or whatever wasn't working, will work this time. Did you know that at the advent of electric generation there was a plan of a supercity built at Niagra where the majority of North America would live in electronic bliss? They called it Metropolis; not making this up. It was also to be a utopia.

So, given the reality (and literary custom) of utopian epic fail, why do we still believe in Utopia? What drives us to make things better? Where does this belief in "progress of the human condition" come from? Haven't we learned that vox populi is vox deu? (Utopian dreams tend not to be populist ones, although those playing the populist card tend to make their dreams sound like utopian ones, "the shining city on a hill" for example.) And vox populi likes "American Idol" and "Survivor" not opera and Shakespeare.

(Also, full disclose, I ended up a councilman because I attempted to help make my community better by avoiding a Potterization, ala "It's a Wonderful Life," from happening to my village. That'll learn me.)

Picas and points and agates, oh my!

My day job has some unique legacy issues. Back in the olden days, when there was a good chance of chopping of fingers, going blind or mad from the tools we used, before the advent of these cool things called computers and desktop publishing, my profession had our own forms of measurement. You might be familiar with some of these, Picas, points and agates. It's just like the metric system, only worse.

Things changed when computers came in. Picas (and by extension Points and Agates) actually changed size to make it 6 picas in an inch (and 12 points to a pica means 72 points in an inch). The old standard roughly translated to 72.4 points in an inch.

Now some places, newspapers mostly, use even more esoteric measurement systems based on columns (think the width of a column of text). When you buy advertising in newspapers you still buy it by column inches. So if you have a 2 column by 3 inches ad, do you know what a column is? Well, no. Each newspaper's columns are different sizes (depending on paper size, column tabulature, gutter, margins, etc). And a 2 column ad is not twice a 1 column ad because you have to account for the gutter (between columns). Sound like fun so far.

Now, when computers replaced people automated the workforce, most markets and designers made the switch to decimal inches (some still use fractions, but fractions are just division). Not newspapers. WTF is up with them?

Hello, lets get with the 90s, guys. Really, designing in picas is out. It died in 1988 with the advent of laser printing. Stop beating the dead horse already.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

MARGLE!

Okay, some joker has spoiled one of the main jokes of my book. Now, granted, I've done it a little differently, but I'll have to change some things.

I present to you (via Jay Lake) a Best of Criagslist entry Your Pets Will Not Be Flagged For Removal By Jesus During the Rapture.

Although, if I can criticize, this person isn't really very serious. Do they have a nationwide network, or are they only looking at Kansas City (their ad doesn't say). Also, $50 is a pittance for animal care which may last many years. Yes, they may be serious, but they either haven't thought this through very much (as I did), or they're ripping people off. Just think how much you spend of animal feed in a year. Now add in medical care, and time for socialization (walking, playing, etc). Plus, it appears they haven't quite thought of the actual legalistic aspects of this. Just saying. Pets are considered property. I'd go through the whole list of things needed, but I won't here in case they are vanity checking through Google. I've thought about a lot of this stuff. If they do find my blog through googling, dudes, you need to find yourselves a good probate lawyer if you're really serious about this. They'll help you with much of the business side of this. You're going to need bank accounts and escrow mechanisms. Pay pal ain't cutting it (except to fleece the masses).

Margle. I need to finish this book before somebody takes the other jokes.

Behaving Weirdly

Well, much of the programing for today is over (or at least the programing I wanted to see). There were several overlaps, going into panels late, missing some all together while I attempted to juggle schedules and priorities. I've also been a dick, which is what this post is about. Today, I'm feeling very pricky. It's like I'm grumpy, and I see myself being pricky, and I should stop it, I know how to change it, but I don't follow through. It feels too hard to change the course of action.

I'm now at the point where I should be feeling the effects of the drugs. It's been about four weeks. So I may be a bit over cautious and judgmental of my behavior. I'm not sure if this is better or if this is a part of my over all crankiness lately.

In one of the panel rooms, if the door is closed it quickly becomes a sauna. And people keep closing the damn door because other people continue to talk really loud in the hallways (which is strange, because most people here I've seen before at this con). Just a note, very poor con behavior to talk loudly in the hallways where panels are being held. And I've found myself being very upset at the people who close the door and those talking loudly. I've also been a little over sensitive to loud or piercing noises.

I didn't get much sleep last night, so I'm also feeling the drag of that. The combination of stuffy rooms, the need to be more outgoing than normal, it's really wearing me down quickly this time. I hope I'm not putting a weird vibe back out into the world with it. This is a place I want to be, and I'm having problems engaging. I'm surrounded by people who work in the publishing business, I should be going great guns, but I'm dragging and not being the general newbie pain in the rear I normally am. Not good.

Anyway, time to find caffeine and food to hold off the hunger pains before the possibility of having dinner with friends (we're playing it by ear, they're off to book stores doing signings). So, a regular eating schedule may not be in the future.

Story Bone

All around fabulous location manager Nathan sends us this story bone. Which, as he says:

Full disclosure: this is from a joke Larry Brown told on Letterman tonight.

You know the day you're going to die...just not the year.

There was a whole anthology called Machine of Death whose basic theme was "what if there was a machine that could tell you how your were going to die." But was very cryptic about it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Teh Intertubies Is Quiet

Was checking the blog roll earlier and in between things. The internet is quiet. Much to quiet.

Did the zombie apocalypse come and I missed it?

Well, time to go drop off the laptop and head to the parties. Or, well, party. I think there's only one.

Writing in the Land of Three Rivers

Pittsburgh that is.

Here at Confluence! Woohoo! I'm so unprepared for this. Some things happened last night that made any attempt to get ready go out the window. Hopefully I can share all that madness with you soon.

But here at the Con that I attended third, after World Fantasy in Madison and Marcon. The con where I learned the ropes, how to work and what to watch for (thanks, Tobias, Sam and Josh!). This is also the earliest that I've ever arrived at a con. Heck, the dealer room isn't even set up and I have a few hours before the first panel that I really want to see. The students from Alpha (a genre writers workshop for the youth of America) just piled in. My God, they look so young. That's one of the problems figuring out you were supposed to be a writer later in life, all these young punks full of energy. As they say, though, Cunning and Guile beat Youth and Energy any day of the week (insert manic laughter here). Seriously, though, it's not a zero sum game. It's just a little daunting seeing them being so young getting their start.

So besides having a bunch of fun ahead (woohoo! Other writers, talking about things that are interesting, hearing from top people about the business, and drinking! - okay, not so much of that this year) I have some work to do this weekend. I have my laptop (and I'm not afraid to use it) and my red pens (yes, my precious, my red pens, my precious) so I'm ready. I'm a bit tired, but when has that not been a problem this year.

And now the mind starts wandering because I need to say that for the past six weeks of work I've only had one 2-liter bottle of pop during the day. At night I've been going through about 2 bottles a week (maybe a little less, the weekends are killers). I have a feeling that tea may not be all that I need next week at work. I'm going to be dragging my rear come Monday, I just know it. It's worth it, though.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Wheel of Morality (a hasty semi-coherent rant)

Well, I've been reading the blogs, and slowly getting pissed. See, it seems that "The Dark Knight" (a movie I would like to see, no spoilers are gonna stop me) has a moral. And we've all gotta focus on the moral.

And here is when I get pissed. Do not, ever, give me a morality play. I don't care if we agree, I don't care. I'm here for the entertainment. "V is for Vendetta" was almost over balanced here, but ended up being a good show. Only when you look at the back story (what was changed for the movie, etc) does the moral card become clear and heavy. In the movie it's clear, but not that heavy.

Let me plant a flag in the sand here, probably to abandon it later.

If all your movie, show, story, book, has going for it is the moral card, not interested. This might be why I was unable to get past the first few chapters of "Left Behind" (you know, besides being so poorly written I had used up most of the terms of the Turkey City Lexicon before reaching Chapter 2). It's all morality play, all the time. This might also be why most slasher movies just bore the crap out of me, it's all about the morals. Teenage couple having sex, yep, they get popped off first (hint to the kiddies, you don't have to be completely undressed and unaware of your surroundings to have sex, just a pointer there). The girls who wear black bras under white shirts, the narcissistic jock who is more impressed with his body than any of the girls around him, yeah, they're all headed for the axe. Boring.

Now, do something well, say like "Serenity" and I'll accept the moral end of the story (What, you say, "Serenity" has a moral? Yes it does. One that fairly well drives the whole movie and starts making clanking sounds in the last half hour). Because, while the moral is so much a part of the plot, the characters don't take a moment and explain it all out, "As you know, Mal..." See? I mean, "Serenity" is all moral, the plot wouldn't exist without the moral, but the moral only gets two appearances in dialog in the whole movie. Plus, it's hard to tell the white hats from the black hats (with their actions) except for knowing whose story it is.

Now Star Trek was mostly morality plays, but there were occasionally a good story mixed in. The Next Generation, though, kind of got lost midway through and, as a friend put it, became "As the Saucer Section Turns." Which made the morals stick out all the more. But STNG has "The Q." And John Delancy played that character so well, most people missed that what they were seeing was a morality play. Every Q episode was a morality play. Fairly big ones too.

Want to know how I know that? See, while Trek is technically Science Fiction (light on the science please), the Q episodes were fairy tales; and fairy tales are nothing but morality tableaus. Q was a fairy, the Q Continuum was a fairy hill (as was the Nexus from "Generations", BTW), and those episodes were all about what it means to be a human (which is what most fairy tales are about). Q is the Greenman, John Barleycorn, and Puck all rolled up into one. His morals aren't our morals, he doesn't care about humanity (but secretly likes us), is more than willing to screw with us, is concerned about the survival of his continuum and is willing to take a human bride to save it... beginning to see the connections here? Or am I the only one who read my Briggs? I love the Q Episodes, BTW, not so much the Deep Space Nine or Voyager Q Episodes (mostly because Q was just playing with people, not being all Q'y, he was a cardboard Q).

Most people can miss the moral if the story is entertaining. And that's my point. If all you got is your moral, don't expect me to spend my time. Make it entertaining, slip in the moral, even make it the most central thing, and I'll enjoy the heck out of it so long as the journey is fun. And it doesn't hurt if you blow shit up.

I think this has a lot to do with literary critiquing methods. Can I find the Jesus relationship to Frodo Baggins in less than a thousand words? Sure. Can I diagram the eschatological arguments of The Da Vinci Code? Not hard. Can I mine the modern cultural references and allusions of my favorite SF Authors? Somewhat. But it's not like I'm collecting literary coupons like green stamps to trade in for fabulous prizes. Like Rick in "The Mummy" I'm just looking for a good time.

Oh, and keep the True Meaning of Star Trek, Batman, Superman, Firefly, etc to yourself. Don't care (and they're just a show, cartoon characters, etc).

Don't get me started on the SF that just has cool science without a story.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Bio

For the conference this fall, as well as some markets, they require a bio. I've resisted writing one, but now I gotta. Here it is. Not everything made it in, but I wanted to keep it under 75 words and be entertaining. Let me know what you think.

"Steve Buchheit was born to write, but only figured that out 35 years later. He has mowed lawns, flipped burgers, been a computer geek, shelved books, tossed mail, given tours, been an elected politician and a graphic designer, lived on both coasts and now resides in Ohio. For seven years he has been writing. So far he has been rejected by the best in the business, but has no plans on giving up."

Digging Our Way Out of the Oil Crisis

Well, it happened today. I missed exactly who proposed it, but someone in Congress finally made the move to open up the Shale Oil reserves in the West. And the report was somewhat true, the shale oil out West is the only oil reserve in the US that would actually make a real difference in the world wide price of oil. To bad we still don't know how to extract oil from shale commercially. It is believed we can develop the tech and as long as oil is above $100 a barrel we can get the oil out. But we still don't know how we're going to do it.

Also, extracting the oil isn't drilling, it's digging. Just like the Alberta Tar Sands, Canada's oil production (remember that Canada is now our #1 oil importer), is an open pit mining operation, just like shale oil would be. If you know what mountain top removal is, open pit oil mining is worse. There's no valley to throw the trailings into. With oil rigs we have the technology that if the oil reserve isn't right below the rig, we can sort of drill to the side and reach the pocket of oil and pump it out. Can't do that with shale oil. You have to haul the shale out of the ground. And the ground isn't suitable for tunnel mining. It has to be open pit. So when the you see a map of where the oil is, understand that to get all that oil, all that area must be disturbed. That is, we have to make that whole area an open pit. It'll be bigger than the Grand Canyon.

And to reiterate, we have no commercially viable technology to extract the oil from the shale. We can do it in the laboratory, but those methods aren't scalable or require more energy to extract it than we get from the oil we can extract.

But there's a whole lotta oil there.

Happy News(es) for Another Writer

All around excellent person Mer Haskell has sold another one. And she posts some tapestry art of the story. Woohoo! She also receives a unique communication from another market. She's on fire. You all should go congratulate her. Mer, you rock!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Random Things (more than five)

It seems to be a meme lately. Some random thoughts of the day.

1) Writing thought. It's been almost three years since I got the idea for this novel, and I'm still psyched to write it. That's so frickin' cool. I just need to carve out more time to write it.

2) Health thought - TMI. You know, it's now afternoon (written about 1:00pm) and I haven't pooped yet today. What's up with that? (situation corrected, in case you cared)

3) Work thought. Work is getting deathly slow again, I still don't have my new platesetter, the new iMac I'm going to use still sits in boss' office in box for the past two weeks, am I going to be laid-off or fired?

4) Money thought. Bank account is below my comfortable zone, but still in wife's comfortable zone. Lots of expenses yet this summer. Are we going to make it through to fall?

5) Work Related Thought. Asphalt Seal Coating? Wow, I mean it was bad enough when they clubbed the seals to death, now they're coating them in asphalt?

6) Newsworthy Thought. The Butcher of Srebrenitza has been arrested, and for a small part of me, I'm happy. Only a few more steps until he's tried for genocide, or as he called it (and popularized the term) ethnic cleansing. Do they still hang people for genocide at the international court? I hope so. Normally I'm not very blood thirsty, but Radivan defaulted on his payments to the humanity of the world a long time ago.

7) Political Thought. Getting tired of the oil controversy. Here's a link to a NPR story this morning about the oil leases and why opening the coastal shelf won't do anything. It's worth the listen.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Just Pointing Things Out

About a decade ago I started notice several trends coming out of the right-wing chattering classes. All of these have later been categorized in their various incarnations including the rise of conservative institutions, talking over the opposing view, and talk points memos.

So I'm here to point out a new tactic. Grab the floor and run out the clock by continuing to talk as fast as possible. It doesn't matter if it's on subject or not. Also, don't forget to include as many accusations and innuendo (not to mention talking points) as possible before the moderator puts down their foot. This way they feel they can not only control the message, but they get extra points in that the opposing view point, because they're too polite by not monopolizing time, can't respond to.

You can see some of these tactics at play on blogs as well. The various keyboard brigades will mass in their comments at specific times. And they'll make extra attacks while somewhat defending their points.

Writerly Stuffins

Via Matt Staggs linkee-poo, and then through Charlene Teglia, (was going to link directly to the articles, but I think good internet etiquette dictates I should stop the link-through here) some very excellent writer advice on "Story Rules", "The Six Biggest Mistakes Even Bestselling Authors Make" (with an extra 4 bonus mistakes), "13 Things to Do When You Run Out of Plot".

All of them worth reading.

Also, while you're at it, Matt Staggs has a video about How to Write the Great American Novel. Apparently it involves atlases, stretching, and writing naked (or in cowboy hat and chaps). Who knew? Giggled myself silly I did. Especially the look of the video (which has the classic School Movie over played, about to snap, marks in it).

(Really, you should all be checking out Matt's blog, not only are there octopi, he usually has many very good links. Too many in fact. Dude, like don't you have a real job?)

Politics Gong Show Style

In honor of Comedy Central bringing back the Gong Show (which just isn't going to be the same without Rip Taylor and his bag of fairy dust, IMHO), here is my contribution to the political debates.

Personally, what I would like to see is a Presidential Debate done in the same fashion as the Gong Show. We could have a panel of a senior CNN political reporter (Wofl Blitzer perhaps), a senior Fox News reporter (Brit Hume maybe), and an NPR political reporter (I suggest Cokie Roberts) sitting in the panel chairs with someone like Jim Lear as moderator. The panelists would then be able to ring the gong if they detect 1) Not answering the question (goodbye "I first would like to" statements that take up half the time alloted to answering the questions), 2) Obvious bull (said panelist who rung the gong would then have to explain reality, opposing viewpoints could be given time), 3) Pandering or 4) Attacking without stating their own position. You might not even have to limit the response times.

Yes, I would definitely make time to watch such a debate. Heck, it would make a seriously good drinking game if nothing else. It not like we're ever going to go back to a Lincoln-Douglas kind of open debate of ideas. Might as well make it entertaining.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

Well, tried to get work done this weekend, and did a lot of little things, but not anything major. Rewrote parts of "History of Lightning" (yes, it's not done, but I cleaned up some of the language getting back into the story).

Kristin Nelson is spilling the beans about young writer mistakes. Here, and here, once you get over those there's this, a riff on titles, and don't do first chapter info dumps. I've been guilty (and continue to be guilty in some ways) of all of these. Including my favorite, substitution of dialog for action (including the recent "History of Lightning", yeah, part of what I fixed).

John Scalzi takes the Whatever on summer hiatus and then promptly reminds us all that Tor.com is finally open for business including a new short story by him and a Laundry story from Charlie Stross. john goes off to work and finds the rest of us another time sink. So there was another hour of not getting work done (I love me my Cthulhu/Laundry universe, Atrocity Archive is one of those books I was halfway through and thought, "Damn, I wish I could have written this."). Patrick Nielson Hayden gives a sort of mission statement.

Next weekend is Confluence, which (as long as the waters don't rise) I'll be attending. If you're in the Pittsburgh neighborhood and want to attend a very cool writing (and filk) focused con, Confluence is some great fun. I need to rewrite some poetry with notes from the critique group in case they have an open poetry session (like last year). Also I get to catch up with some very cool people I know who attend (and whom I met there a few years ago).

I need to write a bio for ConClave. Was going to do that this weekend, and I've had some ideas (yeah, like I'm going to write a serious one). It also would be good to have since most of the magazines I've submitted to recently have asked for one as well (you know, like if I get published).

Finally watched "Pan's Labyrinth" last night. Wow. There is so much going on in that film, and it looks fabulous. I mean, really, it's gorgeous. The story travels some well worn paths of fairy taledom, lost princess, special sight, rules not obeyed, magic, and finding your true way through the world. It is by no means a children's story, although it revolves around a child. It is brutal in some places, and implicates more brutality off screen. Just like Hamlet, most of the main characters find themselves dead at the end. Still, I recommend it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Burn!

So, watching a TV show with the sister-in-law last night, Burn Notice (normally it's on after my bed-time). It's slick, that's the best I could say for it. The main character narrates much of the show ala Noir detective movies, although the rest of the show really smacks of a Miami Vice/Magnum PI mash-up. One of the things that was narrated (the parts of which normally start with, "In the spy business" - I don't know any "spy" that talks that way) was about the use of nitrogen gas for assassination and how it was "untraceable."

Um, yeah, like a standard blood chemistry test the pathologist/coroner would run wouldn't show high levels of nitrogen and low levels of oxygen. The first thing they would ask, "Was this person a deep-sea diver?" Plus, you know, the first responders to the scene wouldn't notice that it was really hard to breathe in the room?

So while I was watching it with a wry grin (the premise is a bit to take to begin with), that right there broke the "suspension of disbelief."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of satire

Satire, d. 2008, RIP.

Irony in the US died in the early eighties. As Steve Martin said in Roxanne, "Oh, irony! Oh no, we don't get that here. See, people ski topless here while smoking dope, so irony's not really a high priority. We haven't had any irony here since about '83, when I was the only practitioner of it. And I stopped because I was tired of being stared at."

When President Reagan, the Howdy Doody of presidents, can travel to East Berlin and say with a straight face, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," while all the time illegally funding the Contra rebels with illegal arm sales to Iran, the country that killed our Marines in Lebanon, while also selling chemical (and other) weapons to Saddam Hussein (why look, there's Dick Cheney and Donnie Rumsfield), all after we funded the Mujaheddin to toss the Soviet Army out of Afghanistan, if Irony was on life support then, that alone would have pulled the plug.

Irony officially was dead when we had to add the phrase, "..., NOT," to anything remotely ironic so people would actually understand what we were saying was supposed to be ironic.

Which brings us to the present day and the Obama New Yorker cover and the general public and newsroom (hyperbolic) response. Clearly, satire is dead in the US.

When the President can stand before the press and say the phrase, "Some people say it will take 7 years to get the oil (from off shore drilling). Well, just imagine if we had started this process 7 years ago," and the press room doesn't break up in laughter while someone reminds the President that in 2002 he fought Congress to spend $120 million to buy back leases from the oil companies for land off the west coast of Florida called the Destin Dome. You know, 2002, when we still had deep sea drilling rigs here in the US. Before we shipped them over to Nigeria. ("Mr. President, with all due respect, you were a lousy oil man who saw three oil companies fail under your leadership, and your Presidency isn't going much better, just WTF should we take your advice on where to drill?")

If the President can satire himself and nobody gets the joke, including the President, satire in the US is at best moribund and declining.

So we need a new word we can add to the end of sentences that are meant to be satiric, just like the "not" for ironic statement. My suggestion is "Psych!" That phrase would also work well with the current political bait and switch tactics.

"Where have you gone George Carlin, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
What's that you say, Robin Williams, Mr. Carlin and left and gone away."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On working, it's just the little things

It's amazing how much time can be soaked up by, "It's only a little thing, can you do this to help?" And then another thing. Then another.

Just saying.

Hope you all are doing fine. Unread blog messages when I left work, 126. You've all been busy.

I have two proofs out for the client. Wanted to get a "simple" concept done tonight so I could go to the client tomorrow. That didn't happen. Didn't bring enough boxes home tonight, by a factor of four. Sigh. The good thing about working in a printing company that uses a digital press, lots of copy paper boxes (well, boxes of that size, I don't think most people are copying on 12x18 Futura 80# Cover Stock).

It's that feeling that I've forgotten something important that keeps nagging at me. Oh, yeah, after the first full week of full dosage, not much change. Well, maybe my determination has gone back up, but inside I feel the same. I guess if anything I've noticed that the intense full-on anger I used to feel has moderated a bit. I think that has more to do with being exhausted. I just don't have the energy for a full on piss and vinegar rush.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Oh, bother

This week my wife and sister-in-law are painting all over my house, and I need to get these brochure designs done and out. So blogging might take a back seat. At the day job, we're back to busy (I have a big newsletter in that'll soak up all the down time I've been having).

So time is tight and tempest fugit. You know now that I'm going to be posting three blog entries a day, right?

It's a sickness.

Aquent Updated

The good people over at Aquent wanted me to let you all know (well, they wanted to make sure I knew) that there aren't any freezes on their hiring now. I didn't want to confuse anybody with my last post, but when I said when I was last between positions, that was three and a half years ago. In the design business, that could be eons. Yes, it changes that quick.

At the time that was in the middle of the current downturn for my industry in the Cleveland Market. Getting interviews was pretty tough, salaries were dropping like apples on Newton's head. Fortunately I have the resume and skills that are killer (or at least I like to think that). Also fortunately for me, I was not only able to find work in my field in the space of a month and a half, the job paid better and required less. Not less work (good gracious no), but less "Is PMS177 the right yellow for this client, or maybe PMS170" less work. The work I do now is more technical in nature, and more production oriented. And I am nothing if not a production wonk (many young designers could do with a good production class, IMHO).

The job also leaves my mind free for writing and freelance design work in the after hours (you know, if I wasn't doing all this Village work). That was a major concern. At the last job I would come home, step out of the car, and feel like my head was going to spin off. I think that was a symptom of high blood pressure, although whenever I was tested I was rock steady (always has been, go me). At the end of the week I felt (creatively) like a wrung out sponge, and I would recharge just in time to go back to work.

I should say that Aquent has been very good for my industry, at least from the worker side. Design, especially now, is a cut throat business. It is staffed with "true believers" and people who can't imagine another way of living (yeah, it's that serious, take a good designer to a place that only has bad design in the environment and watch them go nuts!). Aquent did the first major salary study (that I remember, other magazines came along after). They also helped in redefining the titles and roles we all play. To say the design organizational structure has flattened is an understatement (although, I see it moving back to more layers, or maybe designers just forgetting that they also need to be Production Artists and leaving it up to the printers). Aquent, through their publications, gave us some guide posts and standardization (not all places learned, I was a Sr. Designer in my previous three positions, which seriously undervalued all the extras I was doing).

So in conclusion, if you're in the creative field (commercial writing, design, photography, web design, marketing, etc), you should check them out.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Lurker-fu rebooted, and career path

Well, the day job has been a bit light, so I've caught up on may various blog readings (at least the ones at work). I haven't read all of the the back log, or checked the linked articles that looked interesting (both Jay Lake and Matt Staggs regularly have linkee-poo posts), but I've reached zero "unread" articles. Considering that two weeks ago I was still at the 300+ level, that's pretty good.

At the day job, now, I need to start doing "professional development" items. Like reading the InDesign manual to see how I can code XML tags to automate and flow text into forms with the proper style sheets like I can with Xpress. So far, I've learned a lot I didn't know about InDesign (I'm one of those people who learn by doing, reading software manuals is a sure cure for insomnia).

Just a little tidbit about my software capabilities, when I was in between jobs I did register with a few temp agencies. One of them was the Creative Group (formerly MacTemps sorry, Creative Group is a Robert Half International company). I would have also registered with Aquent (edit Aquent was MacTemps) but they were on a freeze for interviewing new people. The Creative Group put me through their tests. Normally they only test for three programs, I did five. For all but one I got their top rating, and that one was InDesign. See, I had never before used InDesign, it was brand new to me. I missed their top rating by one question (out of a hundred, I think). For Photoshop I only missed one question overall (it was the History Brush, who the heck uses that thing anyway?). Yeah, I'm a freak of nature I am. The tests weren't that hard, BTW.

So I need to learn about things that most people that use the software probably don't even know you can do (flow text, apply style sheets, break text over frames, all by using tags - and, yes, I see your designs, you don't know how to do these things). And I need to learn more about Prinergy and Preps, the ripping and page imposition software for the big presses. I know Prinergy a little (enough to get me in trouble), but pagination I'm just a newbie at (I have to do it manually for the plates I set, a legacy of the old ripping software, but Prinergy can output an imposed PDF, and that I can rip).

So for all you youngins out there, even in the same job you need to retrain and update skills. I'm midway through my design career. I was originally trained on how to do paste-up on art boards. We used to present designs using marker layout on black-core boards. All of that is (mostly) gone these days. When I started, the job I do now involved the use of vacu-form tables and ultraviolet light exposures, then composition on golden-rod, then a final burn onto the plate (analog degradation of image was a big concern). Now, digital file to plate, no film intermediary. The world has changed. Not all for the better (the majority of ephemera printed today would never have gotten the approval to print only two decades ago, I know it, our pressmen know it, the client doesn't care). When we get work that reminds us of the older days, we all cherish it.

I hope I'm doing such work for my current client (wood worker). But sometimes I feel like I'm shoveling crap from a desk. Mostly because I'm using substandard photography (but it's all we have, and there's no budget for real photography). Hopefully I can counter that with design, layout, copy, and execution. The world changes.

Story Bone

When does rapier whit become old-man grumpiness?

It's the other "coming of age" story.

Friday, July 11, 2008

But at night I'm a junk food junkie

Hi, my name is Steve, and while I appear to be a normal, rational human being, I (not so) secretly watch Ghost Hunters on the SciFi Channel (note to scifi.com, not everybody has broadband). Ghost Hunters is a "reality TV show" about The Atlantic Paranormal Society, which is one of many organizations dedicated to "hunting" ghosts (and since they've hit it big, well, let's just say there have been changes, congrats guys, but really, a TapsCon?).

So, why do I watch? Well, it's good TV (or at least when they do it right it's very good). The International version doesn't do it for me, so here I'm just talking about the US version. And it's one of SciFi's most popular shows, so I'm not the only one.

Let's get some things out of the way. On the show, they like to say they're scientific. "Rational," sure. "Methodological" yes, they are. "Skeptical" well, it's a matter of degrees. "Scientific" not so much. At least they've stopped looking for "orbs" (which consumed much of Season 1's "Findings" time - when they review their tapes, I don't think they ever found one that was credible). Their reliance on some tech is a little iffy, as I don't think they've proven what they're seeing. But some of it helps them find rational explanations for some of the "ghost activity."

Now, if you haven't watched it, you should know that most places they go to, they don't find anything (or, in the past two years, they have found two places that have tried to fake evidence). Much of the "ghost activity" they find a rational answer to explain it. So in that sense, they do pretty good. The crew they have now works pretty well together, and they get along (not exactly the experience of Season 1 and parts of Season 2). They're like family. As one of the "investigators" said of one of the two founders, "He's like a brother to me. A big, mean, older brother" (they sometimes play practical jokes on each other). They go to "famous" haunted places (places they have tours of) and private homes. They mix it up (although they're now going to more famous places).

If you accept the basic premise that it is a reality show, and the producers (or the cast) aren't doctoring the tape, some things they've had on are interesting. The EVPs they have I tend to discount, on the whole. But there are some things on video that, other than them doctoring the tape, I would have a hard time explaining how they did it (to be fair, there's somethings they've had that with proper prep I could pull off and make look realistic). There was an episode halfway through Season 2 where they go to a lighthouse in Florida. That was a very interesting episode. I highly recommend it (if their site wasn't so damn slow I'd get you the number, and maybe a link to the video).

So, again, why do I watch it? It's the only "paranormal investigation" show I can watch. With some of the others I'm rolling my eyes by the first commercial break. Some are just so damn annoying I can't stand it. It's also one of the few "reality shows" I can watch. But I'm watching it for writing research. They answer a lot of questions, and it opens that world to me (like categorizing "paranormal" activity, the tech, the methods, how they move and talk, and some of the lore and history of hunting ghosts). You never know what you can find out.

It could be little things. Like "haint blue" (this wasn't from Ghost Hunters, but I've been thinking about it lately, and the house she references in the article is close to where I live, relatively). In Appalachia, especially in the hills, there's a custom of painting the ceiling of porches a specific shade of blue. I had noticed this before from Tennessee and some of being in West Virginia (even in Southern Ohio I remember seeing one). When I asked about it I was told "so it looks like the sky." Well, the person who told me that was blowing smoke. Turns out the blue is "Haint Blue." As a writer of fantasy, dark modern fantasy, horror and ghost stories, this kind of detail is what turns my knobs to 11.

There's been a lot of info on the show that I can use. How a ghost haunts (they're not all the same). If you're looking to hunt down the ghost, and your house has activity all over except for one room, the ghost hangs out in that room (and doesn't like it when you invade it's space, this is for "intelligent hauntings"). What happens in the room when a ghost "manifests"? What can a manifestation look like? What is a haunted house like? How do people behave around ghosts? Now I know.

And like I said, it's plain fun, good TV; very entertaining.

Ground fire!

If you're hooked into the SF writing blogosphere, you've seen all the bruhaha currently burning up the ether. I'm not going to reiterate it all here, if you're really interested just check Tobias' blog.

There's a bunch to be outraged and sad about here, but mostly I'm sad because nobody knows what's what anymore.

When they were younger, my nephews started cursing. They knew the words, many of them were painted on bridge overpasses their school bus would drive under. It's not like the adults in the family didn't use that language sometimes (not frequently, we did try to watch ourselves when the kids were around), but they didn't know what the words meant or referred to. Hilarity ensued until some of us stopped laughing long enough to edumacate them as to what they were actually saying.

My niece also sometimes IMs me. There were several TMAs she (and her friends) were using wrong, which lead to a few conversations of, "Just what the heck are you saying?"

So now I get to the part where I'm reading the dirt fight that is this scandal, and I keep chuckling to myself.

I try my best not to use racial or sexist epithets in real life. Words can hurt, I know that. I did grow up with those words around me though. I've heard people use the N word, with great gusto, when I was young. And, in fact, heard it again two weeks ago in conversation about the presidential race. I didn't shout the person down, although that was my first impulse. I changed my tone in the conversation, extricated myself as quick as possible and changed my perception of the person that used it. There will be later ramifications of it.

However, I have written characters who use them. And for the epithet in question, the story, "My Favorite War Stories" uses a number of them. That's a story about soldiers, talking to other soldiers about the people they had to kill or felt were getting in their way to get to the people they had to kill. Those words are never kind. So I did have to know what words to use.

Which brings me to the term used in the rejection letter that started the whole fire, and why I keep chuckling. Does anybody else know "sheet heads" is an epithet for KKK members? That's what I remember from my childhood. Did some of the brain dead talking heads co-op that epithet to try and change it, or am I remembering incorrectly? I believe the proper epithet the editor was looking for was "towel heads," although "hajii" is also used.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Are We That Ignorant?

Okay, so while I'm doing some email work I'm watching Ghost Hunters International. They're in New Zealand, a island country, former British Colony, so they speak English, natively. They're interviewing the caretaker, I think, of this stone building, and they're using subtitles to let you know what she's saying.

Yeah, let that sink in a moment.

Sure, she has the New Zealand accent, but it's not all that deep. And they're putting subtitles up. I have the sound turned down fairly far, and I can still understand the woman.

Then, as they're doing the set up, they subtitle Barry, who is a team member. Sure, his brogue gets a little thick when he's excited, but I've never not been able to understand him.

Are we really that ignorant? Do they think we really need that? Seriously, WTF?

Final Exams, January 19, 2008

Is it just me, or has the President just thrown all pretense aside and is basically saying, "I'm not going to do anything. I kept the good times rolling when I was in office. It's now up to the next administration to clean up and do the heavy lifting on (Iran, War on Terror, Global Climate Change, actual diplomacy, fixing the economy, just insert anything that a government really should be doing here)." Lame ducks are one thing, usually they don't just take out the veto pen and say, "This is all I'm going to do until January." It's like he's waiting until the term paper is due, and then going to cram all night, January 19, 2009 to be Presidential.

As the skit on the Daily Show went, "What?! I mean, I thought it was incompetence all this time, and he could have actually done something? HE could have made a difference? He could have made it better? But instead chose to punt? WTF? Now I'm pissed off."

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

And then the Muse Giveth

After posting my "Defending the Muse" post, I then got another 850 words on "History of Lightning." Including a crucial piece of information.

On the Defense of the Muse

Justine Larbeliester (an amazing wonderful person, married to another wonderful person) has been posting about writing novels. You really should be reading her blog. She has the greatest ability to expound on subjects and imbue them with humor.

She recently had a post about muses. She doesn't believe in them. That's fine. Many writers don't have Muses, and they're excellent writers. Some writers can explain the Muse away with plumbing the depths of the subconsciousness. Other writers just chalk it all up to having ideas, they know they get ideas, it's all them, even if they don't understand it. Sure, there's all that.

I have a Muse. She is there, I can feel her moving, just as I can feel the trickster moving. When I'm in her embrace the writing is easy. It all just comes out. The words flow, and sometimes (just sometimes) those words are magical. Sometimes, it's all crap.

Hey, it's the truth. Look, no fiction sales yet. If having a Muse was a sure fire way to write deathless prose, I'd be published for my fiction. Muses don't work that way. Muses bring out the best in you, not the best in the world. My Muse is working with what she has. Which, while it's getting better, isn't the best. I'm no Neil Gaiman.

So, just what does a Muse do?

The Muse gets my ass up off the couch and in the chair in front of the keyboard. Not from her inspiration or commandment, but from my desire to feel her flow through me. It's like a drug. I need it. I write to find it. She's not always there, and sometimes she gives just a little.

See that last entry on Cat Valente's advice (which you really need to read). I wrote that wanting to let you all know. What did the Muse do? Well, she wrote the "Drink deep from her well," line. Did I type it, sure. Did I think it, yes. But she wrote it. How do I know? I had to rewrite that entire paragraph to punch up the Norn allusion. That was the Muse's contribution, Cat=Norn. It was up to me to get all the details correct.

Sometimes the Muse will drop whole scenes in my head. It may be a motion picture, usually it's a still photo. Or she could drop text in my head (those are moments of panic, as she doesn't wait for me to get to a keyboard or paper, and her timing is not always the best). However the best work she does is as I type.

If you think having a Muse means it's all skittles and beer, that the typing comes easy, all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the sites, well, you're Muse is different than mine. My Muse works me hard. She expects me to do the heavy lifting. And if I don't listen to her, if I don't do the work? She goes away; for a long time. That's not good.

If you think having a Muse is an excuse for not writing, because you're waiting for inspiration, you're not doing it correctly (or your Muse is different). I write to channel the Muse. Sure, she'll smack me upside the head with something when I'm not ready, but the majority of her work is looking over my shoulder and adding little bread crumbs to the trail. Only later do I discover them.

So, the question for me is "Why write?" Really. I can make more money doing freelance design. My day job and night job would certainly like it if I stopped writing. Writing short stories in SF/F/H does not pay. So why do it? There's the Muse again. Heck, this whole blog is hers. Yes, I write the words, I do the photos, the silliness, the pissedness, all of that. But she is here. She made me do this. It was her thought that if I wasn't going to use all the ideas she gave me, somebody might be able to. Hence the story bones.

Could I dissect the Muse down to the balance of grey and white matter in my head, the ability of my neurotransmitters to fire in certain patterns, the workings of the subconscious mind (which is 16X faster than the conscious mind, BTW), giving all of those enough stimulation to keep them going? Sure, probably. But what a barren, joyless world that would be.

I have a Muse. She can be a pain in the rear sometimes, and a hard task master at others, but I'm keeping her. If you want to take my Muse, you're going to have a fight on your hands. She's that good. She rocks my world and keeps me sane.

And because I know Camille is watching, this is a little over 840 words. Time and words better spent on stories and the novel for sure. But I feel better now. And so does my Muse. After all, she made me write this.

You Can Touch My Monkey

If you write fantasy, especially the kind of fantasy I like to write, or horror (I've been reading a lot about that, I guess "horror" is on the outs, even though more and more people are writing and reading it, the name is going away) Catherynne Valente has an essay you must, absolutely, without fail, read and internalize. She calls it Touch the Puppets. I've tried to explain this concept so many times, and compared to her explanation, my attempts were utter failures.

If you write, Cat is explaining an essential ingredient of story. So basic, it's like what salt is to cooking. People often forget wars were once fought for control of salt. And just like salt, her wisdom is best used in small doses. There's a "just right" quality to this advice. Not enough and you don't notice, too much and it can sour the dish.

Catherynne Valente has just revealed one of "the secrets" and she did it so you'll understand. You didn't even have to hang on a tree or sacrifice an eye to get it. Go and drink deeply from her well. It's powerful stuff.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Poetry Writing TMI

All around fabutronic Sheila asked how I write poetry in the comment thread of a previous entry. My response went on so long (see comment about over description in previous thread) I thought it should be it's own post.

How do I write poetry? Well, I feel like I'm bragging here, but unless the poem is very long (like this "Death Magic" poem I keep going back to, "Down below the grindylow...") the first round of edits is all in my head (even for this long one I ran through the individual stanzas in my head a few times before writing them down). A few poems I catch lines out of the air, and I won't get the next line until I write down the line I have (the Muse is a harsh mistress sometimes). But most of them, I hold it all in the gray cells. Mostly because they come at the worse times. Like when I'm driving, or in the shower, or somewhere where I can't write it down.

I then repeat them over and over to myself, to help me remember until I can write it all down. While repeating it, I'll find internal rhymes and rhythms to punch it up a little. I'll try image substitution.

"What the Sea Sends" was written twice in my head before I could write it down. Once it was down it changed substantially (was about a woman in a widow's watch room, looking at the sea, ended up being more about the sea, and the single woman was replaced by sea crones, and they were dancing on the waves instead of in the room). It came to me while I was driving to get an oil change. Once I had my car logged in I could write it down. Then I immediately rewrote it, as in not even pause to reread what I had written. Then I rewrote the first stanza (3 stanzas). And then the image of the sea crones dancing came, and I rewrote the second stanza to include them. Then the image of green sea glass eyes came and I rewrote the first stanza and completely dropped the widows watch. And at last I rewrote the third stanza to mirror the first, with about half the beats as the first for drama.

Then it was time to drive home, and I worked out rewriting the second stanza to make it more "magical" and give purpose to the crones. And just as I pulled into home, go the image of "sheets to the wind" and "widows reeds blowing" for the second stanza. Then that night I rewrote the second stanza again, several times to get that image to work right and fit with rhymes and rhythms.

Then I went over the poem about three more times, checking every word.

Now, this was fast. About four hours and I had it done, or what I felt was done. I read it to the SF/F Poetry critique group, and they made some suggestions (and I had the only contentious point of the night, some people loved the "sheets to the wind" some hated it, argument ensued). If Andromeda doesn't buy it (or if they ask for revisions) I have some notes on what I want to change (not big changes, mostly to the third stanza to tighten it up).

Most poems I'll reread and edit on different days from when I write it. The haiku I sent to Diet Soap was written in an afternoon, and then rewritten in another afternoon. Not much time for either (although the first day did take some time to get it all right, but I screwed up the syllable count).

I knew she could do it!

Camille Alexa is on fire and I'm so glad I "know" her. Not only does she have some more reviews up for Green Man Review, and has purchase information on Courting Morpheus (which she has a story in), she also recently sold a story to Abyss & Apex. Really, if you haven't checked out her blog, you ought to. If for no other reason than to tell her how wonderful she is.

And, can I take a moment here to say, I knew you could sell the the pros, Camille. Congrats. At $.05 a word, that should be a SFWA qualified sale (I think A&A is on their list).

Is the whole universe in retrograde this year or what?

Well, this weekend saw lots of activity, hopefully I'll be posting photos of the Mespo Ox Roast later. And just like the rest of the year, when I get to have a happy time, life comes along to knock the stuffing out of me.

Mom is back in the hospital. She has something (they're not sure what, although they have ruled out c. diff as a culprit) that's flushing her intestines out. On Saturday she got too dehydrated, called my sister-in-law, and had her drive Mom to the hospital. They started putting IVs into her, and put her in isolation, started running the tests. So far, they don't know what it is (or Mom isn't telling us). And liquid is still just flowing through her. I'm assuming here they've done tests for salmonella, kidney and liver function, c. diffecil (which she was exposed to the last time she was in), and the other usual suspects. That they haven't been able to diagnose it worries me.

Mom had been sick most of the week (we had originally planned to go to Mom's on Saturday, but she called it off). Of course, she didn't tell us the whole story of just how sick she was (or I would have insisted that my brother take her to the hospital on Wednesday).

Anyway. I know some others of you are having great years. This year just seems to want to kick the stuffing out of me. Every time I think I've moved the pieces on the game board of life a little farther ahead, along comes something to knock me back a few spaces.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fireworks Rejection and a teaching moment

Received an email rejection for Running of the Deer today from John Bowker, Associate Fiction Editor over at Ideomancer. The letter was very personalized to the story and he explains why he won't be purchasing it, even though he liked parts of it.

Now, I did send John a thank you note, and I meant it seriously. It was a really nice rejection letter and he liked much of the story. In fact (if I may quote him) he says "there are a bones of good story in there." If you don't think that didn't make me squee, you don't know me very well (hint, check the name of the blog).

But here's a good teaching point for new writers. Mr. Bowker's main concern over the story is he felt there was extraneous workcount for things not related to the story. I disagree with his assessment. Many readers of the story keep asking for more detail. When I write, I tend to up word count with most revisions, because, as my wife says, "(I) know what's going on in (my) head, (I) just forget to explain it all" (yes, I cut words for final, and many of those original words get rewritten). However (and here's the big "however") all that doesn't matter because Mr. Bowker is the Associate Fiction Editor for Ideomancer. He felt the story was padded. Fair cop. Because he's the friggin' editor. He knows his market, he knows his readers, he knows his other editors.

Some new writers at this point would get all wacko. Just ask Nick Mamatas about this (he's banned people for life from submitting to Clarksworld for being wacko, and even though he's leaving, those bans are still in effect). There's also a website out there that has angry writer's responses to rejection letters (it's not worth my time to google it for you, because that's bad behavior you all shouldn't be emulating). Get over yourselves people. They're the editors. They don't care what my readers have said or asked for, they don't care if my Mom thinks it's a good story (actually, I don't share much of my writing with my Mom), they care what their readers ask for because that's how they stay in business. It's their professional judgement.

As Wil Wheaton says, "Don't be a dick!" This is good advice for us all in many aspects of our lives, but very much so for our writing careers.

So, in conclusion, thank you Mr. Bowker for not only reading my story, but taking the time to personalize the rejection letter. It is very much appreciated (including the "bones" comment, I don't know if that was intentional, but it made my day). I'll reread the story to see if I can cut more (well, I can always cut more). I like Ideomancer, and I will certainly send more stories and poetry your way.

Heinous F$%kery at Clarion West

If you're alive and on the writing blognet, you've probably heard about this before, if not here it is.

edit-update Do to the fast generosity of the internet, Clarion West has "now received nearly enough money to replace the four student laptops stolen July 4." The SF/F community on the web rocks again.

Via (practically everywhere, but I'll link to) Cherie Priest (because she has the best info), some insolent fucktard broke into the sorority house the students at Clarion West were staying in, while said students were at classes, and stole, among other things, four laptops.

As everybody says, most of the students are giving up a lot out of their lives to attend Clarion. It's a six week program, many quit their day jobs to go (the main reason I haven't applied either to Clarion or Odyssey). So these people (not all are college kids) have limited resources to replace the laptops, let alone replace them quickly enough to continue the program. Clarion is an intensive writing program (most people who've gone through it say it takes months to get over it, ie. they're so wrung out from writing that they have to recharge).

Well, I can't go to Clarion (either the original or the West version, both of which are now on the Pacific Coast, go figure), and I wasn't able to get my act together to apply for Viable Paradise. So I'm going to donate what would have been my application fee to VP for their laptop replacements. I can't help by purchasing a new laptop, and the one I have to spare only runs Windows 3.2, but I can do a little.

Friday, July 4, 2008

"I See Fireworks"

Happy Fourth to all those of you in the US. Today is a day of celebration. Sure, there are remembrances, but this day is set aside for celebration. The Fourth is a grand day. Growing up on the East Coast, the Revolution is more alive than it is here in the Midwest, but I still remember my youth.

Today's celebration will be a little smaller. We're having dinner over at the neighbors, where even more neighbors will be over. Tonight we'll light off some sparklers (not into really big fireworks). Tomorrow we'll go to the annual Mespo Festival which is mostly a junk sale, but they (the Mespo Fire Department, which puts this on) sells bar-b-que pork sandwiches with home made sauce. Really excellent. As in, the least time we've spent in line for the sandwiches is 45 minutes. The junk sale covers the entire village green. As a benefit, Mespo is my model for Windswept, Ohio, the place where many of my modern fantasy stories take place.

So, time to clean up (sister-in-law is coming over tomorrow to go to the Mespo thing), put out the flag, and have fun.

On a personal note, I started the medication yesterday. Wednesday was pretty bad for me, and these things take about four weeks to start working. So a couple more days of one pill, then I go to twice daily (as long as I don't have a reaction).

However, today is the Fourth. What the heck are you reading this for, go out and enjoy being free.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Story Bone

Well, it's not so much of a bone as a thought process.

It probably has to do with the preponderance of time travel stories on Escape Pod, or the imminent arrival of "Sound of Thunder" (which, from what I hear, while an excellent short by Ray Bradbury, was a movie on full suck) on SciFi, but I've been thinking about time travel. Now, being an affectionado of Star Trek (in most of it's incarnations) I'm also no stranger to time travel functions. And in almost all circumstances, they get it all wrong (except "City on the Edge of Forever"). Not exactly the same curiosities as everybody else's "oo, what happens if we run in to something very historical, and then change it."

Sorry, not seeing it. More likely they would want to do the "if I only knew then what I know now" kinds of trips.

There's so many problems, physics aside, with time travel. "Terminator"? Go back in time to kill Conner? Why, transmit high end terminators back to a specific point at the beginning of the war and win decisive victory. Or at least a delaying movement, to build more terminators, to keep sending back to the same point, until victory is achieved. And why wouldn't both sides try to game the system this way? Armageddon.

The next major problem is the functionality of the time machine. Other than doing the short wormhole, then taking one end and using relativistic speeds create a short trip to the past through the wormhole (not exactly good fiction as the wormhole time trip is a fixed time in the past). So most other things you need to hand-wave your way around include becoming decoupled form the space time continuum in some fashion. The problem with that is the rest of the universe isn't exactly marking time in fixed areas of the space time continuum. The Earth revolves, and orbits in a non-circular path around the Sun. And the Sun isn't holding still either. and neither is the local cluster (yes, I could have teased it all out), so without powerful time mapping software, you're going to end up in the middle of the vacuum (odds are).

So if there is time travel, it'll be "magical tech" (ie. it has the Heisenberg Compensators and nanotech). And if the smallest thing can adjust the future, than just your presence there (breathing the air) will affect the future. Any trip back or forward will destroy the timeline. Most stories have the characters not trying to mess with the purity of time (even Douglas Adams eventually did a subplot on that), or preventing something catastrophic only to fail, or make it worse. I say, lets muck about in time. Since I now know that this one girl I knew whom I tried to get it on with, really liked "this" why wouldn't I go back and try to get my younger self laid (of which then I would have the memory)? Why wouldn't I go back and tell myself, "Don't sign that, don't go to this party, move faster here, slower there, and for gosh sakes, lighten up Francis." Why wouldn't I do my own version of Groundhog Day?

(Slightly) Unfair Comparison

There was someplace, when I was young, where people struggled hard to not get very far. Where travel was hardly affordable, difficult at best, generally discouraged at worse. Where security was tight to keep the people safe. Where they mistrusted anyone "foreign" to the point of having watchers trail them. Where people were fed a daily dose of misinformation about how wonderful their lives were and how horrible everybody else in the world was doing. Where the government fought wars in other countries to try and instill their own virtues. Where they threw people in jail for long sentences for minor infringements to help keep the streets safe. Where pensioners had to choose between eating or heating their homes. Where the people we told myths about how wonderful, powerful, and smart they all were, not to mention lucky to live when and where they did. Where the people were given a regular dose of popularism by those in power, who would then retreat to their million dollar mansions in gated communities. Where the patriotism and loyalty of dissenters were called into question, and they could easily be labeled, "unfaithful" and dropped down a hole. Where they spent egregious amounts of money in foreign lands to prop up the myth that they were prosperous, while borrowing from those foreigners to keep up appearances. Where the "haves" continued to gather more unto themselves and impoverished whole new classes of "have-nots" all while suckering the new have-nots with speeches saying, "We're all in this together." Where the haves honesty felt they were in the same class, even as the looked out from their luxury class cars on the have-nots and convinced themselves that deserved what they had, had done what was necessary. Where the haves skewed the markets and business practices to help themselves. Where the people were told by the politicians that if everything went right, things would all be wonderful, in five or ten years. Where the people felt, and were generally encouraged to feel, disenfranchised and eventually became apathetic.

So, how are you feeling lately, comrade?

When I was a younger man, back in the early 90s, I read a white paper by a True Believer UFO-ologist. HE was talking about The Plan(tm). How Russia would fragment, the Russians would gain greater freedoms, but still be economically enslaved to an oligarchy. How in the US, we would tout winning the Cold War, then slowly lose our freedoms all under the guise of "National Security" (I believe he even said that fear of terrorism after an attack would be the signal). Until we, the masses "we", ended up in the middle, paddling in the same canoe in the same river. I laughed back then, categorizing the author as one of the Tin-Foil Hat Legions. I just remembered that paper recently. It's not so funny now.

There must be 50 ways to tip young writers

(Grocked from Matt Stagg)

Cat Rambo is spilling the beans on Ten Tips For a New Writer.

I keep trying #2 and getting waylaid by the jobs and life. They're like highway men, waiting to shake me down for extra time and energy as I travel through the dark forest.

#4 is very important. It's a hard lesson to learn. I was fortunate that when I started, the markets I submitted to would take up to eight months to respond. Helped me learn to keep writing real quick.

#5 is something I've been struggling with since I started. I think I did the right thing by downshifting to short stories. I haven't had any published, yet, but I've learned how to tell a story and how to write it.

#6, 8, and 9 are pieces of advice that you must do. Much of writing advice falls into #10, but these three are golden rules.

And these days, #3 is very important. Word-of-mouth kinds of conversation are made 12x easier by these intrumunets.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Oil Comparison

This morning there were a few stories on NPR about Iraqi Oil Production. There's some no bid contracts going out to get the Iraqi fields producing.

That link goes to a few of those stories. Although there were numbers in the radio report that I don't see here. One of those numbers was about increasing output by a million barrels a day in the first year, and then keep adding an extra million barrels for the next five years, and being able to do that without much problem. There was also the statistic for an oil well in the US, a good well, producing about 100 barrels of oil a day. In Iraq an average well can produce 100,000 barrels a day.

Still think we can drill our way out of this?

The off coast oil is estimated to be 18 billion barrels (this, again, is the mean, the odds favor much less). In five years, about the earliest time that oil could be online, Iraq could be producing 1.6 billion barrels of oil a year, extra. Without breaking a sweat. Our output would be much less (as we would just begin tapping the reserve).

Ain't math fun.

The Explosions You Hear This Friday

... may just be my head exploding.

Argh. So, anybody else having a bad week? Last week was bad. I had to play the dick. This week is going just as well.

I just can't get things together. Not writing is bugging the crap out of me. Not having time to finish tasks is also bothering the heck out of me. The gremlins have gotten loud again. The experiment of writing during down time at the day thing is crumbling. Not much is being accomplished except frustration.

Last week, at the doctors appointment, I was only down 3 pounds, but Friday was my heaviest day of the week. Fridays and Thursdays seem to be the heaviest. Since most of my appointments are on Friday, I guess that evens it all out.

I do have a prescription. I haven't filled it yet, but my plan is to start on July 4th, my own independence day. Possible side effects include insomnia. If that happens, guess what I'm going to do with that time?