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And no one sings me lullabyes
And no one makes me close my eyes
So I throw the windows wide
And call to you across the sky.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dis, dat, and da udder ding

On the novel I got about two hundred more words out today. Sigh. Well, I didn't expect to continue the 1000 word in a half hour clip I did yesterday, especially since I don't know where we're going with this chapter. I think I've decided to build up the tension a little with some extra character building. Can't always have action, have to develop more story.

Things are wacky at the day thing. It's going to be a busy week. And we're approaching a holiday which helps give clients artificial markers along the calendar. So big time control issues. And no matter how hard you push, that camel just ain't going through that needle's eye.

My need still hurts where I gouged it. There's usually some blood on the bandage everyday. I'm hoping it's still healing and it's just that the cut is on a joint that I continue to break the scabbing by walking, etc.

We had a significant rain today. I was at work but Bette could check the rain barrels. Apparently my jury-rigged drainage plan works as designed. I'm somewhat proud of that. Now I just need to design and build the new diverter.

Still darn tired. Must get more sleep.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Strange Days

Wrote out most of Chapter 14 on lunch (I really like writing at lunch, I like having a lunch to write over). I don't think I got everything out about it, and it's one of the smaller chapters at 1195 words. It's some more set up and moving pieces, but it goes pretty quick. While Gary doesn't trust Santana, this is a chapter where he starts learning to trust him. If Santana wanted to pull something over on Gary he could have done it here, Gary will realize that in the cab ride home.

This chapter came out quick (I got about 900 words out in half an hour, the rest when I came home tonight). I knew basically what would happen, although there was a wrinkle they needed to work out that I didn't expect but made sense and I had to put it in.

I'm not sure where we go from here. I'm thinking maybe it's time for another background chapter as Santana and Gary make their way back to the safe house. During the critique there were plenty of questions of just what was the "Disaster" which changed SF so much. I may explain that now.

I've been toying with some of the concepts of the New Weird (as defined by Jeff VanderMeer which he posted yesterday, perchance). I've been having problems defining just what this novel is. It still isn't New Weird as it doesn't have the horror component (although there is some "gore" but we cross over it pretty quick, after all the main character's job is to kill people with a sword, that's not a bloodless job), but it's closer to that definition than the "urban fantasy/noir" classification I've been using so far. Part of Jeff's definition includes alternate history/universe which I think may solve an issue I've been struggling with. The "Disaster" was essentially "The Big One" on the west coast. The earthquake that radically alters the landscape, crashes and burns everything. The big reset button gets pushed for almost all of California and most of southern Oregon. The rest of the west coast isn't in better shape. There's a recession going on at the same time and the US government doesn't have the resources to rebuild an entire state, so California looks across the pacific. Asia comes in to help but also wants business interest control. After about twenty years, the rebuilding is near complete. There's fewer people, organized crime families have risen to prominence because they were able to get things done during the reconstruction. they could funnel the money and move projects forward where the local governments couldn't. The Chinese feel they can't make back their investment and pull out leaving the newly respectable crime families and local governments in charge in a stressed power sharing arrangement. The Federal Government continues to try and make inroads, the State is week and the cities operate more or less as independent City States. Our story takes place about thirty years after that.

However, technology hasn't advanced all that much (it has a little, but not in a "singularity" way, I have issues with the traditional definition of the "singularity", which has now morphed to be where an AI gains sentience). So how do I justify tech that's only slightly forward looking, and a geopolitical situation closer to today than what might be the case 100 years in the future? Well, if the Disaster occurred during the energy crunch of the 70s, that would make the story take place about a decade from now. Alternate timeline via natural disaster. A super-Katrina like event would have been beyond the US economy of the mid 70s to have dealt with. There are internal politics stuff that would change (Ronald Reagan would never had made president leading possibly to a second Carter administration, which would have brought Pat Buchannon in the 1988 race against Walter Mondale).

So that's what I've been toying with. I think it could work. I was also willing to simply never put all that in the book. Maybe it's time to make my characters life a little more hellish, pushing up a counter attack earlier, which then would drag out a subplot longer. But I need to set some of it up first. That might make more sense with returning to the safe house.

Them 'Taters Got Eyes!

All around hoopy frood and frequent commentor Ken McConnell has got himself a gig as Guest of Honor at this year's Fandemonium. Freakin' cool, dude.

So if you find yourself out in the land where the potatoes roam free the first weekend in August, check him out at the Nampa Civic Center (311 3rd St. S, Nampa, ID 83651).

Congrats, Ken. Hope it's a spectacularly good time.

I've got a crummy job. It don't pay near enough to buy the things it takes...

Sometimes I'm a big goof. I saw Todd start up his contest and forgot to give a shout out to it. We shall rectify this situation (said with a German accent).

Hey look, Todd Wheeler has started up his summer reading contest and lassoed a sponsor. Good on you, Todd. This year's charity is the Children's Literacy Foundation. Considering in my own state the Governor and Legislature are cutting library funding like it was the new crack, I wholly support this contest.

This year I'm not eligible for prizes having been a previous winner. BUt I'm sure you all qualify. Read a book, get a chance at spiffy prizes (Random Michelle won the first week) and make Todd and Bear Pond Books fork over the dough and books. What could be easier and more fun. And you know you're going to read books anyway.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Few Dings

The physical manuscript, check, and cover letter are off to VP. I put those in the mail before I started the work outside yesterday.

What I had originally set out to do with the rain barrels is done. Of course when you start any project, there tends to be things that come up going down that road that alter one's plans. As is the case now. I need to create a ledge for the new rain barrel to hold buckets while filling. Also, Bette tells me that she does have to scoop out buckets of water so I'm going to make that ledge double as a step to get into the rain barrel. And like all major projects it's not complete unless I hurt myself someway. When cutting the rubber edging to put the downspout through, I lost control of the utility knife and took a divot out of my knee.

I'll also need to design and manufacture a new diverter for the old rain barrel. Once I have that in place I can finish loading up the drainage pan with stone.

Also finished up Chapter 13, the first of Act II. Word count now stands at 23182. Most of that is draft zero, so I expect it to expand a little which will place me just about where I thought I would be and where I'd like the novel to finish out at (60-90,000 words). But now I enter the long, dark, tea-time of the writer's soul. The dreaded "middle."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Your Freudian Slip Is Showing - The Annals of Unintended Humor

You know I am a real proponent of new energy and specifically use-point-generation (which means power is generated or captured at the point where it is used) (sorry Matt). But really, any power generation that uses renewable sources (biomass, generated gas, etc) or ambient sources (solar, wind) really gets me going.

Now, only slightly switching topics, I'm sure some consider me an ideologue from some issues because I do take a tough stand on some things which they might consider "political." However if I do have a position on some issue that somebody might find it difficult to knock me off of my point, it's usually because I have thought it through and previously considered their position and found it to be left wanting. Then, at that point, I try to enlightened them to what I've already run through. Only if I know them. If I don't know them I have the option of making fun of their position while trying to keep others from falling into the same mental trap. That's the life of the trickster.

But to show I'm an equal opportunity offender, and a critic of my own "field of expertise" (just like John Hodgman) I offer up this piece of unintended humor. (recent web ad)

Well, at least their only asking us to roll over. Unlike the other energy industries which have been bending us over.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Cat Blogging Friday

See Vivian? Here, maybe this will help.
You can tell what fun it is to go find them to wrangle them inside. And both of them have the same coloring. Fortunately for us that pile is gone now (although the ground still has that color patterning).
Here's Cleo helping us out a little by "hiding" on top of the bright blue tarp. Have I mentioned that she ain't too bright? Actually, this wood pile is her favorite plaything. She sleeps on top, or she can crawl under the tarp and hide is she needs to. Our little special needs kitty.

Chicken Dance

Coolio Daddy Dan sends a link to some interesting technology. Now, I'm not one to buy into the "technology will save us" philosophy, but this is very cool. One of the problems with converting to a hydrogen economy is the storage of the fuel (hydrogen). People are working like mad on battery tech (hello Bolivia!) and trying to get fuel cells to be practical (they are, but they cost too much and are prone to breakdowns). And now most of the promising technology to store hydrogen safely and efficiently in a portable fashion (unless you want all our hydrogen cars to have to carry those "Flammable/Explosive" icons on them) has been hideously expensive (like the price of a BMW, one of the nice ones). Well, necessity is the mother of something and some enterprising people at the University of Delaware have come up with a very cost effective method. Chicken feathers. Baked chicken feathers.

Those scientists. They're always thinking. Even when making a late night KFC run.

Large fuels cells just became more practical.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

We walk through the door, so accusing their eyes...

Just finished keying in the fourth round of edits. I think that's it. I could, of course (and probably will) rewrite this part another half-dozen times, but I think it's good enough to show people (again, I apologize to all my fellow Hasting Point Writers One! for having to read such a crazy first draft). I think it's more than enough to get me in to VP. But then, what do I know. I don't think there's anything majorly wrong with it. I chased all the plot bunnies out with a stick.

Applying early does have it's advantages and I'm applying late in the game.

Final word count for the first five chapters, 8690. I did cut some, added elsewhere. Maybe a total of 300 words changed hands (which is below normal for me, again, maybe novel length is my strength). I did a bunch of rearranging but only at the sentence and intra-paragraph level. I didn't move paragraphs around or pull parts out to stick in other chapters.

Tired beyond tired. Tomorrow I'll print out a good copy, write the cover letter, and package it all up for a Saturday trip to the post office.

Seriously hoping this light at the end of the tunnel isn't a west-bound dragon.

Good Words About Writing

On today's Writers Almanac with Garrison Keillor we find that it is the birthday of George Abbott who wrote Damn Yankees. He said, "I was not a successful playwright until I took parasitical advantage of other people's ideas."

John Scalzi gives an explanation on why news writers are kind of old. And it all depends on your definition of old. I'm young, damnit. I'm only 18 in my mind (sometimes younger).

Brad Torgersen illustrates the bathtub theory of a writer's progression. This is also along the theory of "you have a million words of crap you need to get through before you start writing at the professional level." Although it has pictures. Mmmm, pictures. (grokked from Jay Lake's link salad)

Jim Hines is pontificating about what a story is over at SF Novelists. And he's running a contest to see if you can come up with a better definition. Ooo, contesty.

Justine Larbeleister is pontificating on what being an artist is really about and economic models, blah blah blah. She makes the argument about helping others and doing what you love and blah blah blah. Me? I'm in it for the money. All the filthy lucre I can get. (For those of you who may be new, I'm being ironic here. Don't believe me? I write short speculative fiction, go check on how much that pays. When you pick yourself back up off the floor you'll find you believe me then. I don't think even Dan Brown got in it for the dough. JK Rowling is, well, JK Rowling.)

Across the streams of hopes and dreams where things are really not

So, when I tell people about the theory of type and how the brain perceives things (and how the ability to read a written language rewires synapses in the brain and alters its structures) most people give me the "Just how friggin' crazy is this nutcase," look.

Here's an interesting optical delusion that helps demonstrate that what you see is not actually what is there (by showing errors in color processing) (grokked from John Scalzi's whateverettes). Your brain adjusts and makes shorthand images of reality. And this demonstration doesn't even touch on hardwired predispositions and cognitive spacing, let alone language processing and higher functionalities.

We're weirder than you think.

Looking for my lost shaker of salt

Finished third series of edits. Did a lot more than what I had marked up in red, so I think I was skating a little last night. I think once more through it should be good. I broke chapter four into chapter four and chapter five. Word count for chapters 1-5 now stands at 8738 (chapter five is spot on at 1000 words).

One more hard copy proof.

Very tired. It's been two weeks of midnights and then up at a little before 6.

Time for bed.

Almost forgot, some good news came in today. I'll share it when I can, but it did make me walk on sunshine before I stepped on a pop-top, blew out my flip-flop, and had to limp all the way back home.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

But at night I'm a red pen junkie, God Lord have pity on me

Went through the hard copy last night for round three of edits to the first four (maybe thinking five) chapters. There wasn't as much as I thought there might be which leads me to four conclusions.
  • I'm getting much better and/or novels are my natural length

  • The first round of edits were more thorough than I realized

  • I was really to tired (up again till midnight) and close to the material to be completely honest with myself

  • I'm fooling myself and under the deadline gun while being lazy so I intentionally am shirking my self-editing responsibilities

I really want to say it's somewhere between the first two of those, but I have a feeling it's between the second and third bullets.

So let me be clear. There's enough red ink on all the pages (no, there are no pages without marks) that those who have an aversion to the red pen would be dry heaving by now, but it's not as much as I normally have on the second draft edits (more like four or fifth draft). I've marked something that need changed, but nothing big. The big things are mostly sentence and some paragraph re-construction. There is not a note saying, "must add paragraph here" or a big red X through a whole paragraph. Actually most of the paragraph stuff consisted of, "This belongs with this paragraph" or "this is a new paragraph, not part of the last."

About the biggest change is thinking I need to divide the fourth chapter in two. Same arguments as dividing the first chapter in two, so I think I'm good with doing it. There's a lot going on. It might be good to break it up between large group and small group interactions. Plus I'm thinking of pulling some of what was chapter five into the end of what was chapter four. That I need to think more about.

Tonight I'll go over it again, make the changes and then go over it again. The plan is to have it in the mail on Friday or Saturday at the latest.

In other novel news a part of what is probably late Act II or maybe early Act II started coming out. I completely didn't expect this. Looking through the stuff it does plug some plot holes and makes sense with moving up the one reveal to the end of Act I instead of being at the end of Act II. I'm also happy that the story is 1) coming out of order again (most of my stories do this) and 2) I'm still being surprised by the story.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Midweek Rejection

The good people over at Abyss & Apex send word they're not going forward with A History of Lightning. It was their standard form letter.

But, hey, Weird Tales is open again. So off to Ann it goes. Good luck little story.

Which reminds me there's plenty of things out there that I haven't heard about lately. I'm going to take that as a good sign.

Call!

Okay, I was going to start with a rant about how the conservative side of the argument is a bunch of wankers for using the Iran issue to attack the President (because they are expecting everybody to forget that Iran already has some pretty heavy sanctions against it, and there's nothing that the US can "increase", we would have to convince the rest of the world to do something, good luck with that). Especially the performance of Lindsey Graham on tonight's Newshour. It just goes to show that the Republican machismo is all swagger and no substance (say, go to the Pentagon and tell them we have to support the Iranian resistance, or ask Congress about passing another spending bill, yeah, it would be all empty rhetoric). (oh, and just because I have to, with the way the president handled it we have fewer dead people on the streets and we have the world with us because he allowed the Supreme Leader, the Revolutionary Council, and their support mechanisms make their mistakes on the world stage without having any credibility to say they were responding to "outside influences")

But then the president came on answering questions from the podium in the Press Room (which I think makes it official that President Obama in his first six months has stood for questions more times than President GW Bush did in his entire eight years) when he started answering questions of the Health Care Proposal.

The question about a "Public Option" quashing all the "free enterprise" insurance out there and driving everybody to the public plan while demolishing the free markets, and oh, maybe everybody will get a car aka Oprah Winfrey (but only a Chrysler or GM). And that's when the president rolled out the main reason why I voted for him. He said, basically, the private insurance companies (and proponents of "totally free enterprise" business) claim that they can provide better service, more attuned to their customers, for a cheaper cost than anything the government could provide so he doesn't buy their argument that a plan run with the supposed government inefficiencies and non-responsiveness to customer needs would run them out of business. Or in other words, he looked at the critics and said, "Logic, ur doing it wrong."

The president called. And did it well. Our president, doing logic right since 2009.

About the writing

Lilith Saintcrow want's you all to know, that a good book ain't all you need. Truer words could not be said. Fortune favors the prepared and be professional. Of course, you still have to have a good story, that goes without saying. But if that's all you've got, and especially if you screw up the first three bullet points she makes, it won't go anywhere. (grokked from Jay Lake's link salad)

Speaking of Jay Lake, he discusses telling stories with character. This is one of the reasons writers go to convensions and hang our with other writers. We know this works, and we know other people not involved with writing think we're crazy when we discuss it. The first time it happens most writers don't know it. The story just dies on the page for them and they drop it and move on. And for those writers who obstantly claim they've never had the experience, look deep in their eyes as they say it. Notice that twitch, the twinge of the iris dialating? That's the ghosts of characters past laughing.

Jim Hines talks about series vs. standalone novels and gives some data to back up his assertions. My own personal preference these days is for the continuing stories where the individual novels can stand alone instead of the "you have to read the first five 600+ page books to get what's going on in this one" kind of series.

Jeff "nice-stash" VanderMeer wants you to know about the Brain Harvest flash fiction contest. Oo, and you get to use one of those plot lines that all the other editors have cried, "Enough! If one of youse guys sends us anotherin' of these we're going to get all Meggedo on your asses." Oh, and Jeff's the referree, I mean, uh, judge, yeah, that's the one. (although they are charging a reading fee)

Joshua Palmatier blogs about a recent editorial discussion. He shares a lot of the conversation and for new authors who think they're "speshel" (ala Lilith Saintcrows post) it might be an eye opener. Josh has a number of good, solid books behind him. He's an excellent author, and some of the changes they talked about will require another rerun through the manuscriptand writing additional material. Notice that the "you comma spliced here" comments get short shrift, because they aren't too many at this point. This is after he thought the novel was good enough to send out, and good enough to be purchased (IIRC). Writing is about the rewriting.

And because all the cool kids are linking to it, the when do you ever stop whoring yourself post by Larry Nolen. Well, as a creative professional, and I pretty much say it never ends, Larry. It's just the price and the services offered that change. Matt Stagg pretty much sums it up.

One of the things discussed off hand at the Hastings Point Writers Workshop was the dearth of writing advice lately. I had to agree with that. It's still out there, but there aren't the droves of posts going over these things like there used to be. I count myself lucky I was paying attention when they were thick as theives. Maybe it's our turn to spill out what we've learned? I don't think so. The others, when they spilled, were much further along the path than where I'm at. Even Tobias Buckell's excellent "Getting Past Being Joe Blow Neopro" was written at a stage I haven't accieved yet. But when I can share, I try my best to. I owe all those others who went before me and who are helping me now. I owe them a lot.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Noir dreams of conquest

Chapter four's first rewrite is done now. It came in at 3220 words, the longest chapter so far. That gets me to 8335 words for the first four chapters which puts me over the 8000 word application limit. Time to go through and edit from hard copy next.

Bleed red little manuscript!

I printed out the other chapters today, double-side, 7 to 9 pages each. The physicality of the words on paper left me less than impressed. Sigh. I know it's just a mind game the gremlins are playing, but still. You'd like your words to have heft. Don't you?

Your random sample.

The gunboy remained stoney faced and still throughout the conversation. His face looked disinterested while his body language let me know he was paying very close attention. His weight sat slightly forward, on the balls of his feet. His stood a full four-inches shorter than me, but all five-foot seven of him looked like muscle under that suit. Not so much the taught piano wire, he was more the tuning fork used to tighten the wire properly.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dig Dug

The hole in the front yard is finished. With the sister-in-law's help we got it all cleaned out, and then started filling it back in with clean (mostly) dirt. We finished up about half of what had been opened up when we ran out of the grindings from the stumps on the one set of trees, leveling out another part of the yard in the process. Now we'll need to dig into the big pile-o'-dirt we have to fill in the rest.

Yes, there are pictures but I'm way to tired to monkey-dance for you all tonight. I hurt, I'm tired, and I need to get the second draft of Chapter 4 done (staid up until past midnight last night and only got about 2/3s the way through). Chapter 4 (formerly Chapter 3) isn't going so well. I'm hoping that by the time I got to this chapter I had the voice and the direction down well and that's why I didn't do much to it last night. It's now over 3000 words, so as long as all the other word count holds out the application for Viable Paradise will just be the first four chapters (somewhere around 8100-8400 words). This week I want to print out the hard copy and go to work on it with the red pen. Normally the first time I do that word count stays about even (the deletions/rewrites tend to equal the new stuff put in). I think I should have it ready to go by Thursday. Even in its current state I feel much better about showing it off (still working through the embarrassment of "I sent it out like this? What was I thinking?") and making the shot at getting in. I'm sure there's still plenty to be embarrassed by in there. That's what the next rewrite is supposed to help me weed out.

And then I'm giving myself until the middle of September to finish it out for at least draft zero of the whole. I suck at self imposed deadlines, though. But I want to get it out so I can get back to the Post-Rapture novel and maybe have part of that ready for next year's Hastings Point Writers Workshop.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What on my iPod right now

Okay, this is a meme going around Facebook, and I thought I'd post it here for your amusement.

What's on your iPod?

Once you've been tagged... (1) Turn on your MP3 player (or Jukebox software). (2) Go to SHUFFLE songs mode. (3) Write down the first 25 songs that come up--song title, artist, and genre--NO editing/cheating, please.

1. She Talks to Angels, the Black Crowes (okay, I was playing this to start)

2. Heartache Tonight, the Eagles

3. Late for the Dance, Susan Werner

4. American Woman, the Guess Who

5. Go or Go Ahead, Rufus Wainright

6. Love Child, Diana Ross and the Supremes

7. Cool Breeze, Sting (Living Sea Soundtrack)

8. Like a Rolling Stone, Dylan

9. I Drink, Blake Shelton

10. Secret Agent Man, Johnny Rivers

11. Something So Right, Annie Lennox

12. Rockaway Beach, the Ramones

13. Running Up the Stairs, Leo Kottke

14. Turn to Stone, Joe Walsh

15. Hats off to (Roy) Harper, Led Zepplin

16. Savior, Dee Carstensen

17. Another Mystery, Dar Williams

18. Laptops, David Holmes (Oceans 13 soundtrack)

19. Other Streets and Other Towns, Mary Chapin Carpenter

20. Sam Stone, John Prine

21. Couldn't Stand the Weather, Stevie Ray Vaughn

22. God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind), Randy Newman (he he he he)

23. The Gypsy Life, John Gorka

24. Ten Years Gone, Led Zepplin (didn't think we'd get two by the same group, but, hey, it's Zepplin, man)

25. The Celts, Enya

If you like, feel free to claim yourself tagged.

"Lovely Rita Meter Maid, lovely Rita Meter Maid..."

Flower Pr0n





Sunday is the solstice. In honor of which, some of the flowers my wonderful wife has installed around our house.

Between the rain drops.

Some people wanted to see the rain barrel all together, so here it is (I still haven't had the opportunity to do the drainage project on the older rain barrel). You can see the extra row of bricks, and the dirt backfilled to mostly up the cinder brick base. Also you can see the diverter connected. For this to work right, the black flex-pipe opening needs to be level. With all the rain last week the barrel is full (57 gallons) and the diverter seemed to work correctly. Still more to do there. But I need to wait for when it's a little drier and can empty out the old barrel.

Here is what I did today.It looks like a hole in the ground because that's exactly what it is. This is my rock garden, the construction crap our wonderful developer left for us and claimed they were "landscaping rocks" (which the top layer was, somewhat). Over the past eight years I've eliminated some of it, clearing off the top layer of rocks and leveling out the ground. This year I'm determined to finish it off. Today the sister-in-law came up and she likes to get involved with stuff. We worked on it together. You can see we crossed the halfway mark. We did about as much today as I did on working on it four or five other times this year. I may actually get this done this year.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Iran Question

There's been a lot of gnashing of teeth and rending of garments here in the US over the election in Iran. People on all sides of the issues have gotten themselves in a titter.

There are people dead on the ground over it. Much of the crackdown is happening behind the wall of secrecy the Supreme Leader has tried to draw down. President Wacky-eyes has trotted out the usual suspects for Iranian persecution, the West, the US, the media.

The conservatives in this country (who, strangely enough also blame the West, the US, and the media) are using this issue as an attack on our President. It's an excuse to point and say, "Not one of us," all because the current president has a brain and knows if he comes out with a strong message in support of the opposition (which, as Stephen Colbert so rightly said, doesn't outright hate us, just really, really, really doesn't like us) more people will die and the forces of oppression will win another political coup of saying the US was all behind the troubles. It's just another reminder that the conservatives 1) do not play well with others, and 2) are willing for others to die in support of their causes.

Because of the mismanagement and over-stretching of the previous administration, including the breaking of the economy and straddling the government with a debt burden previously unimaginable (both of which then forced us to add to that debt burden to fix the problems inherent in their philosophy) the US is not in the position to offer aid and support to a revolution in Iran.

Or do I need to remind anybody that war is economy and we already have two wars going on, an increasing belligerent N. Korea which is suffering from a convergence of a military that believes nuclear weapons are the solution they've been looking for and a dying leader who will mask his failures (of politics and body) by going on the offensive, and a resurgent Russia that has pretensions and a seriously longing for the easy days of the Soviet Union.

There are things we can do, however. We can keep focused on the issue, we can help the opposition get their message out, we can keep the Revolutionary Guard from focusing internally by exploiting their over reaching across the middle east, we can make sure that the current leadership of Iran doesn't gain a measure of credibility for cracking down on the opposition by inserting ourselves overtly and loudly in the argument.

The ones shouting loudly that the president should shout loudly like them are the ones who believed the nuclear option to end Iran's nuclear program is a viable plan. It isn't. To breach the hardened, buried facilities would require two direct strikes by some of our most powerful warheads. There are (IIRC) three facilities. That's at least six warheads from two ICBMs. And Iran owes lots of money to Russia and China for those facilities. They might not be so happy that we destroyed their investment. While the Iranian air force and special forces are laughable, their tanks forces aren't and they have more up to date equipment than the Iraqi's, because they weren't stunted in their growth by a decade of an arms embargo. They aren't demoralized and haven't had their officer corps decimated by purges. They aren't a match for us, but we don't really have the troops to spare.

Also, for Israel to strike for us, using two of their three devices, they would have to fly over Iraq, which would put us in a difficult situation.

So, to engage in empty saber rattling would merely bee a pissing contest with people using rifles. It may make us feel manlier, but it'll kill people on the ground and give the government currently grasping at the straws of power some legitimacy in their attempted crack down. Or, in other words, it would only make us feel big and strong and do nothing to actually help us towards our goals. It's an empty act of machismo.

Story Bone

"Suicide birds."

There's a poem about that trying to get out, but if you have something good, go for it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dragon pierces cloud, seven star

After not writing anything last night (after doing all that outside I was beat, but I did read before going to sleep) I got to work on the rewrite. Chapter Three (formerly Chapter Two) had been 1130 words. It now weighs in at 1695, a gain of 565 words. Pretty hefty load, but I did a bunch more world building, introduced Baron in person, did a better job of explaining things, added in some things about Gary. I'm pretty happy with it. I didn't delete much this time, and only rewrote about a fourth of what was already there. The majority of words came from new material.

So in total, Chapters 1-3 are now at 5115 words. Chapter Four is currently at 2790 words, so I have a feeling my submission to Viable Paradise will be Chapters 1-4.

Your random sample comes from the first paragraph.

"I woke up a few hours later with an IV in my arm and an Iowa-sized throbbing in my head."

Showing again

As I've said before, healthcare issues are near and dear to my heart. In my post about the AMA, fellow blogger John the Scientist (for whom I have much respect for seeing his posts on other blogs), gives a counter argument to my assertions and some data points you might want to check out. I've also written a quick response to him, and with the data he shows some of my data in the post is inaccurate. I think both sides of the argument are done well enough to deserve calling your attention to it (because the post was a few days ago, or maybe only yesterday, it's all blurring together) in case you're also interested in healthcare reform.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Everything looks worse in black and white

The long promised photos. First, the over all scheme of things, putting two rain barrels on the same downspout.The green barrel is the one we've had for, I don't know, six years now. It drives me insane. The diverter, that metal, open thing, is what directs water into the barrel. There's a hose on the side for overflow but it is way, way, way too small to handle the flow. So when my wife said she wanted another one, my major concern was how the diverter works. I highly recommend thinking about this before purchasing a rain barrel (here's a little flash animation showing how the new diverter works, this is the company that made my new barrel). The new barrel is the orange one to the right. Okay, so it is supposed to be "terra cotta," it looks very orange. This picture doesn't do it service. Below the barrel you can see the platform I built. I couldn't finish it up on Saturday because that platform isn't friggin' high enough. Argh! On the bottom is a course of cinder block (resting on paver sand on top of #4, all tamped down and leveled) and on top are tumbled brick. The brick are four inches tall, the cinder block is eight inches, so that's sixteen inches up and it needs another four inches. Don't worry, the cinder block will be covered by both dirt (look at the level of the bed with the Irises, that's where it will come to) and larger rocks. Since the cinder block was $1.50 each, and the brick are $4.00 each, yeah, I'm cheap because you're not going to see it.

Tonight I finished up the platform, cut the downspout, and installed the new diverter (no, I don't have photos yet). I messed up the first cut and had to replace part of the downspout (used what I would have used on the drainage project below). But I got it all finished in between clouds. Seriously, it started raining like fifteen minutes after I finished cleaning up.Here's the base of the old rain barrel. I wanted it to look nice. Unfortunately because the overflow doesn't quite work (and the top tends to plug up, another design problem I hope I solved with the new barrel), water rolls down the side of the barrel and is washing down the foundation. So here you see the start of my amelioration of that problem. Once the barrel is empty and I have time, I'm going to pull out all those rocks and do this right. I'm going to do a base of #4 (all purpose stone), and tamp the ever loving hell out of it. Then I'll use paver sand to create a slope out to the front of the rock pile, install that pan (maybe cutting out the one side for better flow) and then add in the gutter funnel and pipe (not shown here) to take water away from the house). I still want to do something better than the current diverter (I have a plan, next time I'm at home depot I'll see if I can pull it off). Then I'll refill the pan with rock to make it look nice. Then maybe I won't freak every time it rains.

Once I get it all online we'll have about 100 gallons of capacity.

As a bonus for waiting, here's the stone path around our front stairs.You won't find rock like that in a home improvement store. Why? Because I harvested them from my own yard. They're nice, thick slate. They aren't quite settled into their new positions yet, but they will. They're big. Most of the slate I pull out are smaller, or thinner. I've used some questionable ones on the walk on the other side, and then I end up pulling shattered pieces out of the lawn after a while. I've harvested some more slate, but probably not enough to replace the shattered steps. If we get a dry spell I'll try and get some more (may even try to break my own this time).

So there you go. I'll try and get finished photos for you (I still need to put in the rocks around the bottom of the new barrel platform and redo the old one for drainage).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Splits

First chapter is broken into two chapters now. Finished first rewrite. Chapter 1 was 2768 words. Now Chapter 1 is 1958 and Chapter 2 is 1462, for a total of 3420 words (+652). There's more description, slightly more background, and some more internal thought process being shown so you can see Gary isn't the superman he appeared as at first. Also I hope his mistakes show a little more (some people didn't see him making mistakes because he lived at the end).

Random sample from (now) Chapter 2:

The body in the ball of lightning appeared human in the way Raggedy-Ann appears human. The blackened shaped whipped like a flag in some unseen wind, arms a legs moving without the volition of their owner.

Just goes to show

Dear AMA,

It seems many of your members booed the President when he spoke about not capping malpractice awards with his tort reform. Afterwards some of your members trotted out the old argument that run-away juries and their high awards for malpractice are what's sending your rates higher.

I call shenanigans. See, in Ohio, the state I live in, we also had such an argument in 2002. Our State Legislature, in an attempt to correct for a problem that didn't exist (general practice doctors leaving the state in droves that resembled wildebeest migrations), did tort reform limiting malpractice award caps and raising the bar for bringing suit. Do you remember what the average change Ohio doctor saw in their malpractice insurance in 2003 (and 2004-2006)? It was only a 16% increase. To be fair, our averages over the previous decade were 12-18%, so it could have been 2% worse. Yes, in 2007 and 2008 premiums didn't increase as much as the national average, but they were still over 10%.

The insurance companies' response when asked why rates didn't decrease (as was the case in Texas)? They never said that lawsuits were the problem, and they never said they'd reduce rates if tort reform were passed.

It's not the lawsuits. It's the bond market and slumping "profits." As a professional organization that represents members who hold advance degrees, I expect better research, reasoning capacity, communication, and common sense. Also, if you wish tort reform, I demand open, searchable databases of past and current lawsuits, including the final outcome, of those lawsuits. It should be searchable by the doctor's name. It should also include any disciplinary action by the state and national boards.

Thank you for your time.

This is Captain America calling

The incomparable Jay Lake talks about how writing a novel is like jumping off a cliff. Now, Jay talks about finding water on the way down. Ray Bradbury used the same analogy, but said you need to build your wings while you fall.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Just like me, now with less of me

Three pounds less to be exact. Today was the three month check up, and that's where I weighed in. So I continue in the right direction, but not as fast as before. I keep bouncing off of 300, although I've staid closer these past few weeks than I ever have. Maybe that means I'm about to break on through to the other side.

Oh, and the new Subway commercials, you know, for a business based on selling white bread sandwiches, they can kiss my furry butt. Oh, and continue this bull you're going on, and I might just see about a truth in advertising suit. Because, you know, I've even ordered your "double meat" option and they don't look like your advertising. And yes, I've worked in advertising, I know the limits and evasions, and you're on the other side.

So now I need to go call to see if I have Jury Duty tomorrow.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Oh Great Internet Brain...

I'm in the middle of rewriting the first chapter, which is a mix of world-building, character setting, and action. I'm about halfway through the action and I'm already up to 3200 words (first draft, or draft zero, however you like to count it, was only 2770 words). And I'm stuck with a question that maybe you all can help me with.

Since the work is growing again, I'm thinking of breaking what was chapter one into two chapters. Now, while we jump into the action pretty quick, there is a natural lull in the middle of the action. I could break it at either 1600 or 1800 words (there could also be a break at 2600 words, but that only feels like a break because of the horror of the action slows the pace down slightly). At 1600/1800 words there is a bit of a pause that would allow a clean stop before starting the next action sequence. Literally going from one room to the next.

So, here's what I'm thinking. For an action scene, 3500 words (my guess of where it will end) feels way too long. The original 2800 was too long for the critique group (many people commented that it felt like it should have been a faster read). At 1600/1800 that would make the first chapter a fast read (and the second chapter coming in at about the same would have the same feeling). But then I would follow an action chapter with an action chapter instead of an action/rest/action/rest sequence (although I do have two rest chapters together later on). I could put some back story in between, but that feels artificial and would lead to a "Wait, we're about to die here, WTF are you doing going away from the action now" reaction from the reader.

What do you think? Would you be opposed to having two action chapters that concern the same characters right at the beginning of a book? If you knew the main character had just escaped death and was about to jump right back in would that lead you to "turn the page and keep reading all night" from a cliff-hanger approach? Or would you rather have a longer single chapter that left you feeling like you tried to eat the five-pound hamburger challenge because it would be free if you finished it, but now you're packed to the gills and there's still two more pounds to go?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I know why the caged writer squawks

And now I know why writers complain about not being able to write. It's the secret handshake to get back to writing. Got another thousand words out yesterday, there was a twist I didn't expect in there, but I finished out chapter 11. Also started the rewrite of chapter one. I am so embarrassed I let it go out that way for critique. After I started the rewrite I went back and read the critique comments.

I'll start on the marks on the manuscripts next. There's somethings I know I need to do, including more character building. I see now where people felt Gary was a "superman." I didn't play up the parts where he screws up (but still makes it through). While it's told first person, and I'm not including much interior thought, which might help people understand where the cool, calm, snarkish exterior comes from. Just a thought with this. When I'm writing ghost stories, or dark fantasy, when things go to crap my characters don't stand around with their feet on the ground going "OMG, there's friggin' zombies eating my brains! It's so weird. I'm so freaked out." Mostly because most people don't really react that way.

Before people are parents, or have to care for someone else, the thought of catching someone else's sneeze in their hand, or wiping the butt of someone else can lead to the "ZOMG!" moment. However, when faced with that, most people just role roll with it. Or is that me? I don't know, maybe there's been so many times in my life I've thought, "I could never do that." But when faced with it I cowboy up. It doesn't mean I don't screw up, I often do that.

So when Gary needs to do something, he does it. Or tries to. And by attempting it he appears competent.

To just keep it going tomorrow, "OMG, I can't write, nothing is coming out." ::waits, looking toward the heavens::

Hard Hat Area

Today was full of hard work. I finished when my hands were so coated with dirt that even after washing with lava soap for ten minutes they looks a little dirty. I had four nails bleeding (cut nails last night). My back hurts. And I'm not done.

Built the platform for the new rain-barrel. With $40 worth of stones, paver sand, and #4 (general usage stone), it's not high enough (raised 16 inches). Sure, if it were the only rain barrel it would be, but I need to get it higher than the other barrel. Fortunately it should only take $14 more in stone. This is the first time I did stone work than needed to be level, so that was fun.

Dug a hole for a new redbud that's been ordered. Actually I had to dig two holes, one where we wanted it, and one where there weren't as many three-inch plus roots in the way. Still will probably have to build a raised bed around it because I don't think it's deep enough. Below where I dug it is more root than soil. And I've already used an axe to get as deep as I did.

Helped put in another edge around a flower/herb bed. Dug twelve-foot trench, helped backfill. Now I just need to find some more landscaping stones.

And then I also moved another five wheel-barrels full of rocky dirt from the "rock garden" in front. This is where our wonderful developer left us "landscape rocks" which turned out mostly to be pea gravel and slag. I've never been able to mow over it (mounded and rocky on top), so it's very weedy. I've just gotten tired of it, so it's got to go. If I rented an excavator I could probably get it done in a few hours. Over eight years I've reduced it to half of when we moved in. Since the early spring (when I started on it in earnest) I've cut the rest by about a fourth to a third. This part, though, it much deeper than the other things I've done. I'm going down at least a foot below grade (mostly about 18" before I get more clay than stone), so it's much harder. With the breaker bar (a six foot shaft of iron with a chisel on one end) I'm able to keep going (before, if I let it go too far into the spring, the whole thing would concrete, only with the early spring rains and after the thaw was the ground loose enough to shovel) I'm using it like a pick-axe, breaking loose dirt and stone to then shovel out. It's heavy and dirty work. I now have enough removed that I started back filling. So there were two more wheel-barrels.

So there's a lot of work. I took some pictures, forgot to when I started, but I have some of the work. Hopefully get those posted tomorrow.

Friday, June 12, 2009

This sow's ear just isn't cooperating...

So, now not only do I sometimes have to scan in photos from a newspaper article to use in a high-quality print form (in case you don't know, newspaper photos are some of the lowest resolution images you'll ever see, sometimes even "web graphics" are better), I now have to scan in color copies of newspapers (see Analog Copy Degradation). Must... restrain... fist... of death.

Yesterday was busy, busy, busy, but for no real particular reason. The little things opened wide their leviathanian mouths and gorged themselves on all my time. And this weekend doesn't look much different. I should do photos of the work we're doing outside. This weekend will involve stone work (which I need to pick up some more on the way home tonight).

After a healthy start on Monday, the writing has only dribbled out since then. Late meetings on Monday and Tuesday, along with some other stuff I can't talk about yet (and not in the good ZOMG News! kind of way, mostly in the soul sucking kind of way) pretty much sapped me out of energy this week. And now, since I've committed myself to applying to Viable Paradise, I'm a little freaked out at it. The goblins are howling and gibbering in the back of my head. I haven't had them for a long time. Add in the whole "this may break the bank" front brain thinking and it's a triple psychic-whammy.

Hopefully I can work like mad tonight, and then tomorrow, so I have Sunday to write like crazy. It's past noon and I haven't even checked the weather outside yet.

So, how's the digital TV signal conversion going for everybody?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Superstars drive fancy cars like souped up Cadillacs all shuzzi'ed up on the boulevard

You know, I don't often take the social network quizes (like, "Which apple are you most like"), or at least not as often as I stumble across them. Most of them I could probably game the system to get the result I want to see. Then, the not so prolific but sometimes commentator dendrophilous had an interesting one on her LJ called Which Fantasy Writer Are You. And, well, being one myself (so is dendrophilous, BTW, and a good one at that) I just couldn't resist.

So, who am I most like. Steven Brust, Glen Cook, Michael Moorecock, Ursula LeGuin, Neil Gaiman, the Professor himself?

Nope.

Apparently I'm Orson Scott Card. (my snarky comments in italics)

Orson Scott Card (b.1951)
-7 High-Brow, -1 Violent, 3 Experimental and 23 Cynical!

Congratulations! You are Low-Brow, Peaceful, Experimental and Cynical!

These concepts are defined below.
Thanks, I only have a college degree, so it's a little confusing.

Although primarily known for his science fiction novels, Orson Scott Card is also a prominent fantasy writer. His suite of books known as The Tales of Alvin Maker are among the finest examples of how fantasy can combine page-turning narration with a discussion of deeper moral messages. The books are set in an alternate world where, among other things, the French Revolution never happened, which has made America look quite different than in the world we're familiar with. Apart from showing a different political map, the world of The Tales of Alvin Maker features functioning magic, the European settlers of North America bringing various forms of folk-magic with them to their new home. Here they confront Native Americans, who also use magic, but of a slightly different type. The protagonist, Alvin, is a seventh son of a seventh son and as such has great magic powers at his disposal. Much of the series comes forth as an attempt to discuss the birth of the US and celebrating its virtues without shunning away from the mistakes that have been made.

This quiz merely looks at the author's works, not their personal philosophies (so, that's good or I might have to re-evaluate my whole existence).

Card is one of the most appealing story-tellers alive today and has the ability to combine his light and easy prose with experimenting with what fantasy can be, by bringing up subjects such as racism and slavery, by using alternate world settings and last but not least by letting the "small world" of family-life (complete with sibling envy from those who weren't born with the ability to do magic) have a prominent place in his stories.
Card is also one to propagate against violence, but without falling into the trap of being unrealistic or romantically pacifist. The question of who should be reading Card, those who want to be entertained or those who want to be challenged is easily answered: They all should!

Speculation, citation needed (channeling my inner wikki).

You are also a lot like Katharine Kerr.

Know that name, haven't read her yet.

If you want some action, try Lian Hearn.

Don't know.

If you'd like a challenge, try your exact opposite, China MiƩville.

I've read China and liked his stuff.

Your score

This is how to interpret your score: Your attitudes have been measured on four diffent scales, called 1) High-Brow vs. Low-Brow, 2) Violent vs. Peaceful, 3) Experimental vs. Traditional and 4) Cynical vs. Romantic.

Didn't we cover this before?

Imagine that when you were born, you were in a state of innocence, a tabula rasa who would have scored zero on each scale. Since then, a number of circumstances (including genetical, cultural and environmental factors) have pushed you towards either end of these scales. If you're at 45 or -45 you would be almost entirely cynical, low-brow or whatever. The closer to zero you are, the less extreme your attitude. However, you should always be more of either (eg more romantic than cynical). Please note that even though High-Brow, Violent, Experimental and Cynical have positive numbers (1 through 45) and their opposites negative numbers (-1 through -45), this doesn't mean that either quality is better. All attitudes have their positive and negative sides, as explained below.

I, as Steve Martin says, was born a poor black child...

High-Brow vs. Low-Brow

You received -7 points, making you more Low-Brow than High-Brow. Being high-browed in this context refers to being more fascinated with the sort of art that critics and scholars tend to favour, while a typical low-brow would favour the best-selling kind. At their best, low-brows are honest enough to read what they like, regardless of what "experts" and academics say is good for them. At their worst, they are more likely to read what their neighbours like than what they would choose themselves.

Yeah, yeah, I like beer instead of wine and bratwurst instead of caviar. Mmm, bratwurst. Although, you know, it's not like I'm unread when it comes to the classics.

Violent vs. Peaceful

You received -1 points, making you more Peaceful than Violent.  This scale is a measurement of a) if you are tolerant to violence in fiction and b) whether you see violence as a means that can be used to achieve a good end. If you aren't, and you don't, then you are peaceful as defined here. At their best, peaceful people are the ones who encourage dialogue and understanding as a means of solving conflicts. At their worst, they are standing passively by as they or third parties are hurt by less scrupulous individuals.

It must be my clever, mild-manner disguise that has them fooled. Well, to be perfectly honest, I am quite peaceful. Until I know for certain the other person won't be, and then I open the can of whoop-ass I have ready. Why mess around with bullets when you can nuke their butts I always say.

Experimental vs. Traditional

You received 3 points, making you more Experimental than Traditional. Your position on this scale indicates if you're more likely to seek out the new and unexpected or if you are more comfortable with the familiar, especially in regards to culture. Note that traditional as defined here does not equal conservative, in the political sense. At their best, experimental people are the ones who show humanity the way forward. At their worst, they provoke for the sake of provocation only.

Bette would be surprised to know this. Although I have made it a part of myself to try new things whenever I can (like different menu items).

Cynical vs. Romantic

You received 23 points, making you more Cynical than Romantic. Your position on this scale indicates if you are more likely to be wary, suspicious and skeptical to people around you and the world at large, or if you are more likely to believe in grand schemes, happy endings and the basic goodness of humankind. It is by far the most vaguely defined scale, which is why you'll find the sentence "you are also a lot like x" above. If you feel that your position on this scale is wrong, then you are probably more like author x. At their best, cynical people are able to see through lies and spot crucial flaws in plans and schemes. At their worst, they are overly negative, bringing everybody else down.

Well, duu-uu-uuh! Oh wait, that goes against the strongest score I got in this quiz.

So yeah, a little problem there.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I got a crazy teacher, he wears dark glasses

No, this isn't about Kim Jung Not-doing-so-well. Although I've been thinking of a post about him and those wacky North Koreans who seem stuck in the 1950s mind set.

This is about future planning. With somewhat better personal fortunes going forward (although there are forces aligned against us) I'm putting some plans back in place that I had taken off the table earlier this year. I'll be attending Confluence this year. I'm not on the program, but a bunch of really good people are. And there are several friends I like to catch up with. Plus, they have excellent programming, and are very literary (and Filk) focused. Maybe this year I'll get up and do a poetry reading.

Another event I had taken off the "wants to go" list when the day thing went to 32 hour weeks, and now is back on the list is Viable Paradise. I have a good 8000 words out to send, and with the feedback from Hasting Point Writers ::waves at everybody:: I can make it an excellent submission. The price still has me worried. Without sharing a room, it'll be a little north of $2000, and I seem to remember in the past they had rooms for four people, but rereading their site it looks like two people (or a very familiar three) in a room. I wanted to apply for the past three years and just never had it together enough. I really wanted to last year but found myself without 8000 words that weren't in submission and being a little scared about money. The teaching group is the same this year, so it feels like the universe is giving me a second go at it. And when the big U does that, one should listen.

There's also ConClave again this year. It's the weekend at the end of the week that VP is running. So if I get into VP, I don't think I could swing it. After than there's the Feral Writers Retreat at the end of the same month. If things keep going the way they are, if I don't get into VP, but get invited to the Feral Writers again, then I'll have to decide (as that much time off in one month probably won't happen, of course I could be wrong). With my determination going strong I'd be more favorable to Feral Writers, although I had a great time last year at ConClave with both old and new friends.

All this is contingent on the day job going strong (I believe I'm showing my value to the company still). The night thing has it's own issues. There are those forces aligned against us (like $560 in car bills for regular maintenance, brake pads and tires, and another $120 to spend in three weeks for the 100,000 mile maintenance). We're doing some work outside this year, so cash is flowing for that as well. Last month we went through an obscene amount of money, and this month looks about the same.

So there it is.

Today, Chapter 11, start of Act II, came rushing on me. It's almost as action packed as the first chapter, and we get to see just what a cold-hearted SOB Santana is. As he'll say later, "They don't pay me. They guy that does expects me to be this way." Just realized (Sha-Blam-ski!) what they'll get out of it (other than plot movement, what they had to do given the situation, but could be seen as violence for violence sake. It also solves another plot bunny. So probably 300-600 words came tumbling out over lunch. Keep it up little brain. Keep driving me on, oh Muse.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Councilman on the run

Busy day at work, and busy day on council (played stand-in water board liaison tonight for a packed house of people upset with some bills), so not much from me tonight.

So, anybody else out there listen to podcasts at work? If so, I have a question. Is it just my place but when I start playing a podcast, that's the time that everybody around me starts making noise. They talk, call out to each other, etc. But when I'm not playing podcasts they all keep quiet.

Now, I wait until things are quiet to play a podcast so I can listen to it. Once I start, then everybody starts talking to each other or talk loudly on the phone, the heating/air conditioning starts up, people get paged. When I'm not playing a podcast, things get very quiet.

So I'm starting to do experiments. I'm tried listening to the latest "Writing Excuses" on "Non-liner story telling" today. It's only 16 minutes long, and I've stopped and started it four times.

Tomorrow night looks about the same (as the same issue will spill over to there). Fun fun fun for me. Plus all the other stuff going on with the village.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Weekend Roundup

Well, first, good guy Jim Wright decided to try for more disability pay and gave himself a good cut (eight stitches and a splint). Why don't you go wish him a speedy recovery.

And now back our regularly scheduled blog.

SWAG FOR ME!


Fab writer, fellow Genre Bender (which I need to blog more for soon), and all around ham (radio operator) Ken McConnell sent me his book Starstrikers. Thanks, Ken. After reading some of his stuff elsewhere (The Renoke and Ocherva) and blogging with him, I can't wait to get into this. On to the guilt stack it goes. Thanks, Ken.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words.


On the left is the door to the house from the garage, on the right is the pantry I built a few years ago. Above (not pictured) runs the steel beam that supports the second floor. So right where the spigot is, the weight of the house rests (somewhat). You can see where I was able to open up. Beneath is the closest I could get to the spigot from that end. There's a cross beam there, and wood up to above the spigot (you can see the line I created with the knife trying to find an opening). To the left, that opening goes between the two studs. Sixteen on center they're not. That side is mostly open, but it didn't help me see what's going on with the plumbing behind the wall.

A little less conversation and a little more action

Puttered around the house today doing small things to catch up. Did a bit too much nervous eating (mmm, Thomas' English Muffins, yum). And just happened to finish out draft zero of Act I in Bladesman. Ten chapters are in the bag, and the word count clocks in at 19130. Which isn't too bad. I was hoping for 20-30,000 per act to bring the novel in between 60-90,000 (see the inestimable Swivet - Colleen Lindsay - on wordcounts). Considering the second draft of my writing typically adds another 5-10% to the word count (adding in descriptions, tightening the language, including those things in my mind that I meant to say but somehow it just never made it to the page), I'll be fine.

I know there's a lot that needs to be reworked and worded. There's a whole chapter I'm not happy with (but I've gone against myself and have rewritten parts of it). I have some notes of things that need to be added in and where they need to be added so I'll go back and do that before going on (it shouldn't take more than an hour tonight). And I know I haven't described much, it's not a "white room" situation. I think most people could fill in details themselves with what I give, but there's some atmosphere stuff I could do to increase its noir-ishness. Also, I figured out the only two people I've really described in any detail are what will become the main antagonist (who for most of Act I you think is, in Act III he'll come on stronger once his boss is removed) and Javier Hernandez. I don't think I've shown how old our main character is (I've hinted, but haven't said directly), nor have I described him much at all, except you get "athletic" from the context. So yeah, I can see this first part growing by 3,000 words, even with rewriting and tightening the language (yes, I don't just add, my second draft typically sees at least 30-50% new material, much of the rest changed slightly, while only increasing word count <10%).

The story is going slightly astray from what I planned. Not so much on the content, but on the timing. What's revealed at the end of Act I had been planned for the middle of Act II (the middle of the novel, where things should go from bad to worse quickly). Such are the ways of living things like stories. I know what will take it's place, something that may add to the critique of "You watched too many James Bond movies growing up, didn't you?" Why, yes. Yes I did. Hopefully I'll be able to pull it off in a good way. It makes sense with the plot lines and how the story is moving, fitting into the motivations of the antagonists. So I'm good with doing it. And it should lead to some pretty good action.

So how does Act I end (I hear you asking)?

"Which one of the bastards is out to replace me," Javier said not making it exactly a question. He stood up and looked ready to go strangle someone with his own hands.

"Your dead son-in-law, sir," I said.

To his credit, the old man only needed a second to process that. He deflated a little seeing his prey wasn't close by. "Why that little shit," was all he said.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

That's a way to spend the day

So, I had big plans for the day. I got up early (for a weekend) to get ahead of the curve.

But as you know, the universe has other plans. We have an outdoor (frost free) spigot in the garage and it decided it was going to leak. So we went out to find water on the garage floor and the strip of carpet we use in front of the door (so when we go out into the garage in the winter our little toe-sies don't freeze) was soaked. There went the day.

Now, it's done this before. Sometime when we use it a little grit gets in the valve and prevents it from closing. That wasn't the case this time. It seems that yesterday somebody banged into it. So I'm thinking cracked pipe or something in the stem. I did a quick google search and basically the way to repair the stem is to replace the whole damn spigot. Which means cutting and sweeting pipe. I've avoided that until now, but I guess I'll learn today.

Then I try to open the wall to see what I'm dealing with. The wall on the inside of the house is both wall-boarded over and behind the furnace. There's no room to even crawl back there. That means opening up the front side of the wall. Fortunately it's inside the garage, so it's not like I'm going to have an outside hole in the house.

I try my utility knife. No good. Then I try a wall-board saw. And I have trouble. After about half an hour with a funky stud sensor (yeah, I should get a better one now), I discover that most of the wall has wood behind it in weird places. I open up a few holes and discover I can't get close to the spigot line. Fortunately there's no water behind the wall.

That's when I realize I need professional help. Now this is the fourth time I've need plumbing help, and I've never gotten a recommendation form anybody I've asked. I must have rephrased my question because this time I get a recommendation, and a highly recommended recommendation. For somebody half and hour away. And someone who is very, very busy (which is a good sign). So I get on the waiting list (hopefully sometime this week is his expectation, but no promises), and the good advice about getting a hose cap to block off the leak.

What's left of the day includes cleaning the garage out, removing the wet stuff, mowing the lawn before the neighbor's party get too crowded (sorry Mike, I was going to get it done beforehand), and some small stuff. I needed to level the air-conditioner, which I didn't get done the way I planned, but it's stable and should be good until I can figure out how to do it properly (just a hint, even if they installer says, "Oh, no, you don't need to prepare a base, we've got this plastic thing that's work just a well," don't believe them. Prepare the site first, which I was going to do, but the installer convinced me not to, bastard). I reconditioned the stone base around the ramp to the shed. Experimented with the breaker bar to see if what I planned would work (yes it will, but since the party was still going on I didn't want to make all that noise). And then go through the food stores in the garage and get rid of what's beyond expiration. Well, Bette did that part. I helped with the compositing. Oh yeah, I also turned the compost piles.

After all that we didn't want to cook so we took the recycling out to the bins and had chinese in Middlefield.

Hopefully your day went better.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Diamonds in the rough

For the casual reading before falling asleep I'm going through Coyote Road (ed. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling). The first few stories were fun and exciting, but I have to admit that much of the middle reads like the authors phoned it in (there were enough sparklies to keep me going, like "Honored Guest" by Ellen Kushner). I kept waiting to be surprised by the stories, or for that moment of magic which would just never come. I had a number of "if I had written it, I would have gone this way" or "I would have done this" moments.

So I nearly was at the point of putting the book back on the shelf until I hit Kelly Link's "The Constable of Abal." Have I mentioned lately that I heart Kelly Link. She kept me going to Jeffrey Ford's "The Dreaming Wind" (where I'm at now). And she gave me a story that's like a little mustard seed of the mind. Damn she's good. I've seen the other stories in other places, but not this one. And, IMHO, it's one of the best in the book.

Well, there went the day

Things got mightily busy there for a moment. The day job had a few panic moments. All is well and good now. At least as far as I know.

Yesterday we found out that we were invited to the niece's graduation on Sunday. We would have liked to go, but we had already scheduled lots-a house work this weekend (it's been piling up). Also, the father-in-law is going to be there, so even if we could have rearranged things, that right there quashed any desire to go. Really would like to be there as the niece is singing a solo. Wish they would have given us more notice.

So this weekend will also be filed with guilt. Yippie!

We still have a pile of dirt to manage, and a partially dug hole in the front yard (my "rock garden" - ie. the pile of supposedly good rocks our developer left us which turned out to be mostly construction crap). Each year I would move a few wheel-barrels full of material out of it, reclaiming the space for grass. After the spring rains the pile concretes over and further digging isn't fruitful. But I have a plan for this year, and a tool. With keeping a big hole of the one side I'm going to use a breaker bar to crack out more of the rocks, and then can shovel up the loosened soil/stone mix. I'm about a week behind mowing the lawn (time and rain). And we haven't picked up sticks for ages (and there was the half of a tree that came down lately). We won't get it all done, but hopefully can make a good dent in it.

Also should take pictures of the front garden, which we also need to put in edging as we rebuild it. Last fall we dismantled most of it so a service could take down two trees and grind the stumps. We are happy that some of the cohosh and other plants survived. And Bette's been planting more flowers in there since the bed gets more sun now (there's still three oaks shading it for most of the day).

And that's just the outside. Plus trying to fit in the other stuff, like writing. The good thing is as my body slowly freezes up after doing a lot of hard labor, my fingers (usually) still work pretty well.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Roll on up for my price is down, come on in for the best in town

On the New Hampshire law, and everybody getting wiggy about "religious organization" exemption.

What most people are saying, and what I've also said, is exactly true. Churches are not required to perform marriages, or even recognize marriages that violate their own religious beliefs. Take for example the Catholic Church which has some of the most restrictive rules regarding marriage. However, having worked with many catholics, there are several loopholes and procedures to work around a lot of those rules (such as how to get an annulment even if there are children).

What most people miss is the little known dirty secret of churches. They aren't all that high and mighty. Many churches in the US (not all, but I'm willing to be it's somewhere north of 50% of the church organizations) allow people to rent their property for functions, who may not be members of the church. Also, and here's the dirty part of it, they have been willing to perform marriages, with their clergy/ministerial staff performing the ceremony, if the couple makes a sizable donation to the church regardless of if the couple or family are members. And that's the problem.

See, once you do that, it becomes a "business function" and then you have to follow state laws on anti-discrimination. That is, as a church with church property, you may deny the satanist group who want to rent out the church pavilion in the park like setting of your lawn for a bar-b-que, but if you've rented to other organizations not affiliated with the church, that group can sue you for discrimination and win. It's happened (not with satanists but with groups that certain churches didn't like).

Now do you see their dilemma? They already have a history of performing marriages for hire by ignoring their own rules for the quick buck. They've set precedent. If the state allows gay marriages, and a gay couple ask to be married in the church, by the church officials, if that church broke their rules before and the gay couple can prove it, the church is in big do-do.

And it's all because they intentionally misled people that marriage is a religious institution and they allowed themselves to go the way of the money lenders with their own temples. All because they wanted the money.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Marching to Shibboleth

Slacktivist on the assassination of Dr. Tiller.

What he said.

Three, it's a magic number

Two new anthologies by all around hoop frood John Joseph Adams and one from those good guys over at Hadley Rille.

First, an open anthology (which are getting like hens teeth these days). Here's a post on the guidelines to The Way of the Wizard. Reading period is NOW through March 31, 2010. I do have notes (and I think one minor part of a stub, I'd have to look) on a story set in Windswept that could fit this, but I don't know if I have time to get it out. Maybe with the subconscious boost of a possible market it might come rolling out later.

Next is an antho he might have some openings for (read his description) called The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination. I've got nothing, but I have to say all the happy points in my head are pinging around with the topic.

And I almost missed this one, from Hadley Rille Books, Destination:Future. Deadline is June 30th (this month). I do have something I could send, but I want to do a slight rewrite to it before sending it back out again. Also don't know if I have time. Might need to make it, though. Hadley Rille has been very good to a few people I know, and I've never been able to make their deadlines.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Silence Is the Enemy

Thanks to Janiece for pointing this out to me. Here is the article she's referring to.

The ongoing systematic rape and destruction of culture in Africa and SE Asia is a generational crime of untold magnitude. In these areas, the devastation of the ingrained behaviors of rape and "male prerogative" will leave a lasting mark equal to that of AIDS. And the sad thing about this is, it's not just Africa and SE Asia. It's just in those areas, rape has been used as a weapon of war and is now considered (somewhat) "normal" and because it's "way over there" we can talk about it without getting too uncomfortable.

By not talking about it, by not being open, by not shining the light of recognition on this tragedy, we give succor to those who have perpetrated and continue to exploit young women (and boys) this way. Doctors Without Borders is one of the few external aid organizations that has programs to help mitigate at least some of the physical damages caused by this practice. Yes, for my own giving Medecins sans Frontieres is always up near the top of the list (in the top 10).

And, as I said, it's not just in Africa and SE Asia. Here in Ohio, Toledo is a main gateway and nexus in the trade of humans (not all for sex, but all from some form of slavery or indenture). Puerto Rico and Haiti are becoming known for their sex trade (the main cliental is from the US and Canada) just as Indonesia is known in Japan and Australia. Not all the girls (and it's mostly those under 20) and boys join this trade willingly. Those "Asia Massage Parlors" you pass on the highways or by airports here in the US, many of those women are working off debt (either their own for being smuggled into the US, or family debts back in their home countries).

Dr. Freud has been misaligned for various things along the years. Mostly now he is known as the father of psychoanalysis even though his major theories have been repudiated (Penis Envy, Oedipal Complex, analysis of dreams) after his death, they still persist in the cultural zeitgeist. Most people don't know that Dr. Freud was much reviled in his own time and was thrown out of the professional psychologists organizations he belonged to because his first theory of neurosis was even more inflammatory. His original theory, the one he was dismissed from polite society until the time he recanted and came up with dream analysis and his Oedipal and Electra complexes, was that most neurotic behavior and disfunction stemmed from child sexual abuse (he didn't use that word, but his description is the same).

It wasn't until nearly a century later that we had an somewhat open discussion of those issues. In the 80s and early 90s there was a cultural partial awakening over the issues of sexual abuse and rape (mostly against children, but this is also when "date rape" and "marriage rape" started to be understood and talked about). Since then there has been a back-peddling by society fueled by the scandals within the Catholic Church and a "we're just tired of talking about such an icky topic" attitude.

And the problem still goes on. African soldiers thrown out of war continue to see it as their right to rape women, the sex trade on island countries and domains expand their reach, we have Warren Jeffs and the FLDS Church, children like Natalee Holloway get taken and sold (my theory, although abductions for the sex slave trade is an ongoing problem here and abroad), and rape is still under reported even though statistics tell us that one in every three women have some experience with sexual abuse and/or rape.

Given how our western culture still labels consensual sex as "dirty" and "doing the nasty" I doubt we'll have a full and open discussion of the problem. But maybe, just maybe, if we keep talking about it, don't let it slip under the conscious radar, and give support and voice to those who have been victimized (and to be fair, most don't want to be public) we'll inch the marker that delineates what is "acceptable" and what is "unacceptable" a little farther along toward what is right and just.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Ted Steven's Memorial Broadband Initiative



Across the street from the day job. (it's an extended highway/road widening repositioning project, with huge honking drainage culverts). Yes, you could walk through them standing up (and I'm north of six feet).