Monday, January 31, 2005


Okay. Stayed up late. Had weird dreams that left me feeling exhausted and wondering why the aardvarks wanted my mail ever so badly. Then awoke, sort of. Here early. Will be here till 7. Have had one unnecessarily cold bowel of cereal, a hugely unnecessarily small sandwich, and, uh. That's it.

I am hungry. I am tired. I am dangerously close to hallucinating from this combo. A mongoose just walked in the room. Or maybe Feisal. It's hard to tell anymore.

I want to go home.

Don't I whine great?

To make this post not entirely loserville, I should note I got some good work done on Little Robber Girl during a noshow today.

Motivation can be a bitch

So I'm working on this story, and realizing just how much I struggle with character motivation. It's a tricky one. Bad man kills people. Bad man eventually stops killing the people he's be killing and starts to help them. Why? I'm starting to get a sense of why, but it's amazingly hard.Especially when you sit down and list reasons he might do so, and discover that most of them are either trite, unworkable, or just plain silly. And, of course, the most believable one is also the hardest to write. Top that off with a story structure that will be challenging, and we'll see if we're in faceplant territory. This, by the way, will be "The Children's Crusade," which I may have mentioned years ago when the first glimpses of the story appeared in my head, and will now finally be written. Much differently from what originally was poking the gray matter, in fact. So different, in fact, that there will only be children in the one bit of interweaving story, but not actually in the main story. But the title makes sense, because there are Children, only not children. See? Good.

And for extra fun we have a protag who will first be seen by the reader brutally killing someone. Though I may reconsider that. But it would have to be really early on, at least. Eeep.

And I have to create a Fae-like race. Eep.

And figure out the politics of a fantasy city/country. Eep.

Did I mention Eep?

"Ford, you're turning into a penguin. Stop it.'"

[Listening to: Mi Barrio Loco - Los Mocosos - Shades Of Brown (3:59)]

Okay. I really should be in bed. Long day ahead and all. But brains do not always cooperate. These things happen.

Anyway. I had one of those great moments tonight. You know the ones -- the ones where you get reminded of one of the important facts of this life of ours. One of the good ones. Chatting with a friend, talking about this and that, and suddenly both of us were learning things about each other.

How do I explain this? Day to day, we kind of go through life seeing people. We see them laugh and cry and smile and talk and do all those Things Humans Do, and it's easy to get lost in that surface detail. But then there comes that moment, a very Martin Buber kind of moment, when you see past the surface. And when you do, you are reminded that beneath the surfaces people project out into the world there are entire universes. Complexities. Strengths. Amazing things. The moment is usually brief, but changes how you see that person forever. Make sense?

I had one of those moments tonight, with a friend. Before tonight, I would have told anyone that this person was amazing. And I would've meant it, but not truly understood it, if you get my meaning. Now, when I tell people, I will actually have some idea of the full meaning of that. Not really, of course. We never truly understand the full meaning of that. But for brief moments, we get some sense of it.

A good thing to be reminded of, right now, when things have been a bit tough for me. There's some amazing folk around me. And I got to know one a little better tonight.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?

[Listening to: Singapore - Tom Waits - Beautiful Maladies - The Island Years (2:45)]

So chillin' on a Sunday night. Long week at work ahead. Should think bed soon.

But like Spookit,, I was queried by Junli with the question "what is one thing you know you couldn't live without... besides the obvious like water and body parts and shit?"

Words. Using them. Playing with them. Building sandcastles of stories from them.

I remember, way back in the day, reading Lucius Shepard for the first time. It was the story "R&R," which was later made part of his novel Life During Wartime. Reading his work was one of the things that opened me up to the power that language can achieve in the hands of a master. And I coveted. Oh how I coveted.

Words are so so limited, and yet so much can be done with them. Good and bad. It's that odd combination of extreme limitation and extreme power that entrances me.

I told Junli my greatest fear. It's not any form of physical torment or agonizing death. It's Wernicke's Aphasia. To not be able to understand, and not be able to make myself understood. I saw a video once of a guy suffering from it. You could see the pain on the man's face as he tried to speak, and couldn't say whatever he was trying to say. Other words came out, meaningless.

But words. Yes. Such fragile things. They can be destroyed so easily (think of the word "nice" and you'll know what I mean). But they can change the world. Pretty heady stuff.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Sometime Later, Less Freaked

[Listening to: In Fear of Dub - Bauhaus - Mask (2:54)]

Typed in the poems. One, I think, may turn out decent. The other one I'm not so sure about. I guess 50 percent ain't so bad. Of course, I'm a horrible judge of these things. I am getting pretty good at judging my fiction, but when it comes to poetry my immediate thought is always "wow, you suck, you stupid sucky loser sucky sucker."

Which is probably why it is good for me to be doing poetry. I need to attack these self-bashing things. It's really stupid, and a waste of fucking time, and a sure sign of a big stupid loser sucky sucker...oops.

A Little Freaked Out

[Listening to: Dancing - Bauhaus - Mask (2:28)]

So like 10 minutes ago there was a very loud gunshot outside, and minutes later sirens and the helicopter. I think the shot came from the houses just to the west of me.

And then it suddenly strikes me that someone may have died, or been wounded, within spitting distance of me.

This is not a thought that makes for a calm brain.

And so I'm trying to drown out the reminder of ugliness in the world with music, and typing in a couple of poems I wrote today, and trying to banish from my way-too-overactive imagination the image of a crazed gunman breaking into my apartment to hold me hostage before blowing my brains out in the final, fiery gunbattle with cops that results in the entire apartment complex going up in an inferno.

As you can see, it's not working terribly well.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Yawn. Yawn Again. Pine for Warm Bed. Repeat.

So. I'm at work. But not. I mean, I'm not supposed to be here. Today is the blessed day in which I don't start work until 10 am. But I had to come down early, because a certain hoser forgot to turn in his timesheet yesterday, and thus had to come down here bright and early to give it to his boss before she processed the timesheets. And so the glorious prospect of sleeping in a little vanished in a poof of Gregidity.

I so want coffee. No, really want I want is my bed, and the nice warm blankets. But at least I can say this -- it was a beautiful morning, biking in around 7:30. The clouds from yesterday's storm were still around, languidly breaking up, and the just-risen sun was making them -- and this is the technical terminology -- something darn tootin' purty. And everything was very, very wet, and the light was soft and gorgeous.

But all told, I'd have taken the bed. Some days you just don't care if your spirit is enbiggened.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Faster, my pig! Faster!

[Listening to: Don't Fear (The Reaper) - Unto Ashes - Empty Into White (4:06)]

Nothing like starting the day with a good soaking. Had to bike to rain in a downpour (that luckily turned merely drippy about half-way to campus).

[Update: I did, of course, in fact bike to work. The rain was omnipresent, and not something I needed to actually go to. This is what happens when one types after a long day at work.]

Trying to think of some new fairy tale monologues. I think I have an idea for the frog, a take on the whole story from his point of view. May play around with form on this one just for kicks. But we'll see. I can almost hear his voice in my head. This may mean something good, or may merely be an early warning sign for mental breakdown. Other possibilities -- I'm sure the Beast has some things to say. The North Wind, perhaps. Stepsister seems, well, done. That's the thing. While I may hit some of the biggies, part of me wants to listen to some of the lesser characters, too. In Cinderella the father might be interesting -- why do the fathers in those stories marry such evil bitches, anyway? Must be something in there to work with.

And -- sometime I really, really want to try something more ambitious with this. I've always been fond of Robert Browning, most especially of those wonderful monologues, and "Andrea del Sarto" has to rank as one of my favorites:

But do not let us quarrel any more,
No, my Lucrezia; bear with me for once;
Sit down and all shall happen as you wish.
You turn your face, but does it bring your

[Another update, sometime later: it struck me what a wonderful opening that is. Browning sets the scene perfectly with a few simple strokes. He plops us in the middle, and in such a way that we quickly see the catalyst, and the relation of the characters. Neat.]

They are, of course, much longer than the little things I have been doing. It would be much more difficult, but fun, to jump that deeply into a voice. Browning had a way of bringing his people alive, so that when (say) you read "Andrea del Sarto" you come away aching for the man, who becomes under Browning's pen the archetype of the Saliere character.

"Fra Lippo Lippi" is another great one:

If you get simple beauty and nought else,
You get about the best thing God invents:
That's somewhat: and you'll find the soul you have missed,
Within yourself, when you return him thanks.

And sometime, I swear, I will finally do the Mad Scientist monologue. There HAS to be a story there.

I want to be a mongoose

'Allo, allo. I do exist, really. Not so you'd notice out here in cyberspace the past week, but I do exist. Been writing, and working, and darn but I have some late hours at work now. This is not entirely a bad thing (everyone knows that the coolest people work the evening hours at SALT), but does mean, for instance, that last night I went home, had dinner, started to watch Invader Zim -- yay to Shiloe for lending me the DVD -- and, well, ended up falling asleep.

On the other hand, because I worked late I discovered that friend Junli is a poet of great, indeed sublime, ability. (What? Sarcasm? Where?)

Writing news -- got an outline of a new story. Still working on a new draft of the Robber Girl story. A couple of things are tickling my brain. If they don't sort themselves out pretty quickly, I'll probably just go ahead and post it on OWW. Still can't think of a story for the Canterbury Tales contest. On other writing fronts, I want to get back to churning out a few more fairy tale monologue poems. Still trying to figure out which fairy tale had the old hag at the side of the road, and these brothers are sent on a quest, and they all treat her like crap, except the last guy, the youngest, who of course is the best because everyone knows that younger siblings are always better, and so she was nice back and told him what he needed to know and then he knew it and went and did some stuff and got the fairy tale hotty and lots of cash to boot, and then the old lady even had some kind suggestions regarding run-on sentences.

Back to work with me. Have a day. Have two. Have many. In the meantime, you can check out friend Faisal's new blog.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

She was 5'6" of pure dame, and she knew how to use a pistol.

[Listening to: Don't Fear (The Reaper) - Unto Ashes - Empty Into White (4:06)]

Sorry. Went all Dashielle Hammett by way of crappy writing there...

Anyway. Updates:

  • The Little Robber Girl is about halfway through a second draft. Some good changes happening. Still feels a million miles away from the vision in my head, but since we started about a billion miles away...

  • Some outlining/notes on another story. Top secret this, but I categorically deny all rumors that it is in any way Unicorn slash porn.

Why Do They Encourage These People?

Read this for a laugh.

I am really starting to hate these hosers, usually doctors, who decide they can diagnose historical people. It gives them their little 15 minutes of fame, and perhaps something to impress coeds at parties when they're trying to get in their pants. It's all quite silly. A doctor who tried to diagnose a patient long-distance would be considered a moron. Try to do it to someone long dead and you're all cool.

Let's just go over several things for the overly literal-minded "scientists" out there -- you can't assume that what is in a piece of fiction represents ANYTHING in an author's life. Guess what? Let's take the "syphillis was common" argument. Well, it was. And Shakespeare, far from being an elitist art-in-the-ivory-tower sort, wrote for his audiences. He wrote to entertain. He wrote to make a buck. Well, a pound. But you know what I mean. And I'm suspicious of the argument anyway. The analysis seems to be based on highly poetic lines (Shakespeare sometimes had those). Any "sore" becomes syphillis because this guy goes looking for, oh, references to syphillis. When people use poetic lines to prove concrete things, watch out. The results are bound to be silly.

Could he have had syphillis? Sure. Do we know if he did? Not in any way that could be considered concrete and not, as we seem to have here, just large quantities of smoke blown up our...

Sunday, January 16, 2005

"You don't think there's anything amiss? I'm sitting here wearing a red and white checked gingham dress and army boots and you think that's un-amiss?"

Today: made a ton of notes, developed outline for the new Little Robber Girl story (the erstwhile Snow Queen story). Wrote same. First draft, 2600 words or so. Typed and printed and ready to be penned to death.

Duties this week:

  • Start notes and outline for another story. Can be any story, whatever's my poison.

  • Develop this story further, another good draft, then get it on the workshop.

  • Read some Chaucer, looking towards BBCAmerica contest.

  • Try not to get cocky, since the work habit thing only counts when it's actually become a habit.

Right now:
  • Eat some more food, because I scarfed a small dinner in order to keep writing, and am now famished.

  • Watch Doctor Who. Yes, I'm a geek, a nerd, a dork. Bite me.

Oh: contemplate whether she should remain "the Little Robber Girl" or actually get a name. If so, what freaking name. Damn girl...bite me, writer boy.

Friday, January 14, 2005


The very first picture? Not look like much? Well, them European scientists are thinking we're looking at...a shoreline. And drainage. Dear me. More pictures coming in a few hours... Posted by Hello

Congratulations, ESA

Huygens landed successfully and apparently has returned data to Cassini for at least 2 hours from the surface (planned surface life was about 1/2 hour). The ESA has succeeded in landing a probe on the most distant body yet. It is, to put it mildly, a historic day in space exploration, and the European team deserve every accolade that will be heaped on them.

I shall now go away and bounce and wait for cool photos.


[Listening to: O Children - Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - The Lyre Of Orpheus (6:49)]

A Father Ted moment:

Mrs Doyle: Now come on Father, what would you say to a nice cup of tea?
Jack: FECK OFF CUP!!!!!!

This quote is wholly irrelevant. I just thought it damn funny, when I found it while looking for something else. Golly, but I need to get the Father Ted DVDs sometime. I miss that show.

Damnations, but my neck hurts. I really wish I knew what I did to it. I just know it hurts. It's a fairly annoying addition to the week so far, which, as some of you may recall, didn't exactly start out in the best place.

Some random things...

Jun, over at Jun@Clarion, reminds us of a wonderful, sad, beautiful quote from Lucius Shepard:

And, except for the death at the end, and the heartbreak in between, they all lived happily ever after.

It's killing me trying to remember which story that's from. Oh, wait, found it. The quote is actually a bit wrong, unless he used the same basic idea elsewhere. With fuller context for the full beauty of it:

However, it is said of her -- as is said of all those who perform similar acts of faith in the shadows of other dragons yet unearthed from beneath their hills of ordinary-seeming earth and grass, believing that their bond serves through gentle constancy to enhance and not further delimit the boundaries of this prison world -- from that day forward she lived happily ever after. Except for the dying at the end. And the heartbreak in-between.
- "The Scalehunter's Beautiful Daughter"

Sometime I really need to pay some deep attention to Shepard and some of the skills he brings to bear in his stories. I tend to get so caught up emotionally in them that I've never really pulled them apart a bit to see what it is that grabs me so. But this reminded me of one of his great gifts (besides the beautiful language) -- endings. Shepard, more than most, creates endings that are -- well, true. On that deeper level that is the one that counts. It suddenly struck me how many of his endings I can actually remember, that continue to haunt me in some way. Take just the last sentence from "Beast of the Heartland," which caps off a painfully beautiful paragraph that caps off one of the most beautiful stories I've ever read:

Then, as if jolted forward by the sound of a bell, he steps out into the crowds, becoming part of them, just another fool with short money and bad health and God knows what kind of woman trouble, who in another time might have been champion of the world.

When you read that story -- and you should. if you're in Tucson, I'll lend it to you -- that sentence kills you. The sadness and beauty and joy and pain contained in those words are true, and they hit you, and you'll forever have a place in your heart for Mears, the fighter who could have been champion. And who is, I think, in Shepard's eyes, simply because he has found a way to survive, found a way to stave off for another day the grinding down of life.

And that's his power with endings. They're true emotionally. True to the characters, true to the world. They sink into the reader's skin and stay there. The one thing I'm thinking is that Shepard seems to use a lot of non-traditional endings. No easy denouements. More stuff like this, moments of revelation, more, rather than simple The Plot Stops Here. The end of "The Scalehunter's Beautiful Daughter" exemplifies that, in part by consciously invoking a traditional ending device. With a tear, and a sad smile.

I tend, most often, to think in terms of where the plot stops. Maybe something for me to think about, at least sometimes, or for another level, to give endings more impact.

As an aside, I think "O Children" may be one of the most beautiful songs that Nick Cave has ever done.

O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Rejoice, rejoice

Thursday, January 13, 2005

"The only lifeforms the most basic single-celled protozoa, and me. Relationships will be difficult, but not impossible. "

So. Mere hours from now, history will hopefully be made. The Huygens probe will drift down through Titan's atmosphere, do lots of tests, snap a lot of pictures, record sound (!), and maybe get a glimpse of a Titanian Slobber Beast eating lunch.

You can dream, can't you? But damn, this stuff is cool. I'm all excited. An alien world! An alien world dripping with organic goop! Will the probe have a splashdown? That would be so cool. Alien seas! Maybe there will be alien pirates saying "arrrrr, matey" in weird, alien tongues!

If this doesn't excite you, you are a visionless cad. That's all I'm saying.

That's all, really. My neck hurts bad. Not sure why. Hurts to hold my head up (comments about rocks WILL be deleted, smart asses).

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

"The only thing that helps me maintain my slender grip on reality is the friendship I share with my collection of singing potatoes."

A quick note as dinner is on. I just had to note that John Scalzi has a great entry today on his blog, talking about making his new SF novel accessible to non-SF types. I would've done a spit-take if there had been water handy when I read this:

That's my goal: To be the gateway drug of science fiction. Sure, they start with me, but the next thing you know they're mainlining Charlie Stross right through the eyeball. This is not a bad scenario.

Which, really, is a good way of describing a Charlie Stross story. Damn, that man is good.

And Stross, incidentally, refers to himself as a "food ape" (as seen through the eyes of his pet). I now know how Spud sees me. Little twit...

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

"Hey, this has been a good day. I've eaten five times, I've slept six times, and I've made a lot of things mine."

Do you remember the first entry of Pig and Pepper? The line about not annoying you with pictures of my cat? Heh. This ain't Pig and Pepper, is it? Posted by Hello

"Well, when it's not serious when your genitals can go wandering off on their own, I wonder what is?"

[Listening to: Fluxus - The Dining Rooms - Tre (5:45)]

I forgot to mention -- you'll notice I did some minor facelifts here. I'm proud of the picture behind the title (if you don't see it, hit refresh!). The picture may change occasionally, just for fun, and to fit my mood.

I'd change the background color, but that would entail a bit more hairiness (because of the rounded corners on the sections, I'd have to change some image files, too). So probably won't bother anytime soon.

Back to the writing!

The Committee for the Liberation and Intergration of Terrifying Organisms and their Rehabilitation Into Society

[Listening to: You Rascal You - Django Reinhardt - Djangologie/USA (Disc One) (3:06)]

I'm still coveting a shuffle.

Little Robber Girl is coming along. Sort of. She's still playing a bit coy, the little bitch. Fuck you. No, go away, this is my blog. Bite me, Writer Boy. I'm now writing the whole thing longhand, as part of that "shake up the work habits" thang. And beautiful handwriting it is, too. Did you suffer brain damage as a child? It's worked for me in the past, writing portions. Why not a full story? Get away from the computer bells and whistles and just concentrate on putting down quality words.

At least that's the plan. And by the by, I think I'm going to try for the BBCAmerica Canterbury Tales contest. There's an iBook to be had. 1900-2000 word story, have to have it in by mid-February or so. We'll see what happens. I tend to use far too many words to say simple things be wordy, and have never gotten close to that short a story. Wish me luck. I wants the iBook, I wants it bad.


iPod Shuffle.

An iPod I stand a chance of being able to save the money for!

Monday, January 10, 2005

"So... let me get this straight. You want to fly on a magic carpet to see the king of the potato people and you're telling me you're completely sane? "

[Listening to: Knock Three Times - Black Tape for a Blue Girl - Halo Star (3:52)]

Little Robber Girl sez:

Heh. It was my story, after all. I thought I was just supposed to be snarky and take that little Gerda twit apart a bit. Instead, I get to do that AND be the center of attention. And my voice is so much more fun to write than Little Miss Talks-to-Flowers-and-Birds's. 'S true.

Now writer boy just has to figure out why the hell I torture animals. I don't, really. I just like squeaks. But I do love 'em. Really. Pigeons, especially, because they're too stupid to move when you throw stones at them...

Oh, and some of you may have noticed that Writer Boy had a meltdown. He'll be fine, don't worry. Meltdowns are good things, sometimes.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

An Angry Manifesto for my Life

It's 4 a.m. One of those nights.

Lately, I've been having one of those times when every part of my life seems to be under a microscope. I'm taking stock of everything, in large part prompted by the whole writing situation. And the more I look, the more, well, I don't like. The more I'm just plain pissed off.

I hate introspection.

One part is that, simply, I am realizing the full number of really stupid decisions I've made over the last few years. Hell, over my life. Small ones, medium ones, big ass ones. It's simply staggering. My priorities have been pathetic. The most trivial of things have garnered most of my attention. Tweaking my computer. I'll have this program on my computer. No, this one. Or maybe that one. Or maybe...dreams kept coming up in terms of gadgets and things to have. Services to use. We'll leave out the whole What a Fuckass Consumer Attitude critiquing that put me into for a good week. Have to get over it, move on.

Two Big Things:

1. A long time ago, I stopped. Just plain stopped. Stopped living, stopped moving. Forward momentum nil. I'm tempted to quote lyrics from U2's "Running to Stand Still," but I wasn't running, I wasn't trying, not even to stand still. I was just sitting there. That's what I've been doing these many years. Sitting around. Waiting. For what? Someone to wipe my ass for me? I don't know. Just waiting. Or maybe not even that. Just sitting. Nihilistic Zen. A Still Lifeless. Something happened. I was hurt, and responded in the worst, most cowardly way. I hid. I didn't even run away -- I thought I did, for years, even bravely berated myself for it. You ran away! Bullshit. That would have been doing something. The one time I did run away I unran away and rehid so fast it was pathetic.

I know what some will say. Greg, you're being too hard on yourself. Bullshit. I haven't been half as hard on myself as I deserve to be. It's time to be a lot harder, to hold myself to a standard somewhat higher than that of a worm.

Take the writing. I've always wanted it. I've always dreamed of it. It's the only craft, the only "job," that has ever really brought me joy and a sense that I was doing something through which I might make a positive mark upon the world. And how much time have I wasted? How many years have I fucked around and hid from it? We're not talking "oh, I had so much work/school/this/that." It was just Not Doing It. And when I do manage to do it? Back to the silly, meaningless stuff. Let's mess with my little precious manuscript template. Let's fret over which word processor I should be using. Let's sharpen pencils. Write? Oh, I'll get to it. I have all sorts of fucking plans.

That's the way it's been. There is nothing worthy in that. I haven't measured up. I have had a grand dream, a big dream, and then proceeded to be unworthy of it.

Which brings me to 2. I have been torpedoing myself every chance I get. I get close to someone, I manage to walk away. I do something good with the writing, I manage to walk away. Moneywise, I completely -- and I mean completely, there is no hyperbole here -- mismanage my priorities, and so the worthy stuff, the meaningful things I want languish while petty desires are fulfilled. I let friendships languish, afraid to get close, let opportunities for wonderful people to enrich my life pass.

Let me tell you a writing story. When I first started at OWW, I had my -- second? third? -- posted story critted by Kelly Link. THAT Kelly Link, the one whose name now adorns The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror collection. Who is one of the editors on the workshop, and an amazing author in her own right, and picked my story as an alternate selection that month, and critted it -- a hard crit, a deep crit, but one that could help me grow as an author. And in the months that followed, I dried up. I stopped writing. That time, I'm afraid, it was partly sour grapes -- I was just pathetic enough that I was crushed that she didn't proclaim me the next Ellison or whatever. But okay, I learned, got a thicker skin, eventually started writing more, submitted some stuff. Then wrote what to date is the story of my life, the one where some pieces started to come together in my writing, and guess what. She critted it. It was a featured story last year. It was a hard review but incredibly encouraging. It said, essentially, you can do this. With work, you can do this.

I dried up. I ran away. Why the fuck why? Let me tell you -- I was watching Coupling earlier. The episode where Sally thinks she's pregnant, and she has a line where she says "there's nothing so beautiful that Sally Harper can't mess it up." Or something like that. And that's what I've been doing. Whenever something good happens to me, I find a way to torpedo it. I sabotage it. I blow it. Success stares me in the face and I blink.

I only ever sent that story out to one place. Got rejected. It's languished since. Pathetic.

The simple, plain fact is -- I have been given the gift of life, and have, to date, squandered it. If I were to die today, and be called to account, I'd have to say I wasted it. (I guess this is where being agnostic can be some comfort.) And you know what? I'm tired of it. I'm tired of being angry at myself. I'm tired of knowing that I have failed, so far, in this game of life. I'm tired of being unworthy of my dreams. And I'm terrified because I've stopped for so long that I feel like I don't know how to start. But I have to. I have to radically change the very fundamentals of my existence, upend everything. And write my ass off. I used to tell myself I was just a late bloomer. I realize that I have come to be in danger of being a stillborn. Fuck it. I'm going to bloom. This year is going to scare the shit out of me. But what I've been doing isn't worthy. It isn't right. It's time for it to stop.

On the writing front, it's time to stop doing the things that don't work. To radically change my approach. To get serious. That's my new motto. To finally, at last, be serious.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Sam asleep

Sam asleep
Originally uploaded by orgoglio.

Just trying another option for photos on the blog. let's see if it works...this is Sam. Sam sleeps a lot.


That's odd. I saw a mistake in the last post, went to edit, and Blogger doesn't list it among my posts. Yet it's still there. A ghost post? That might be cool. Phantom posts! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHA!

Update: And now it's gone. Hmm. Maybe try again...this is what I wrote:

Christ on a pogo stick. A bit of story so close I can almost taste the damn thing. Familiar with the story of the Snow Queen? Here's the thing -- from the start, my heart has cried to me, "your story begins with the Little Robber Girl!" And so it does. Only I'm not sure, completely, why. Because I can't figure out the damn girl. Right now she keeps devolving into this lecturing twit around Gerda, which is a sign, experience tells me, that she Has Something To Say only I'm not clear enough what it is, so she has to stop being subtle (saying by doing and being) and start mouthing off. Which mostly involves chiding the shit out of Gerda (which, if you've read the story, Gerda is in desperate need of).

And I can almost see it. Remember the Lapp woman and the Finn woman? And there's the whole hot thing going on, lots of fire and shit, and how it contrasts with the Snow Queen's palace? I think, somehow, that has something to do with it. The Little Robber Girl is, in a word, hot. Not that kind of hot -- well, she might be, I guess, but it is not That Kind of Story. But you know what I mean. She's fire, too, in contrast to the Snow Queen. And if you remember the story, she's an odd duck of a girl, given to weird acts of animal abuse, and that figures in, too, somehow. There's a contrast here, multiple ones -- and I don't quite have them nailed down. And so she lectures Gerda, and throws stones at the pigeons, and will no doubt soon be throwing stones at me.

Little Robber Girl here. This writer is a class A moron, I'm telling you. I'm practically screaming at the ass and he's deaf as all get out. Gerda squeaks nicely when I pinch her. I bet I could make this bastard squeak, too. Or, since I'm fire, maybe I'll just flame his sorry butt. For one thing, with that Gerda airhead, he had better start realizing pretty soon that any chick who talks to flowers and birds isn't playing with a full deck. And pigeons richly deserve every stone in their sorry asses. Talking to birds, indeed! What's pissing this ass of a writer off is that I know what the Snow Queen's damage is, and he doesn't. Hah!

Sunset 3

One more sunset picture, looking more directly west. I like the clouds. Posted by Hello

Sunset 2

And another pretty picture...for non-Tucsonans, thems the Tucson mountains. Posted by Hello

Sunset 1

Pretty sunset. Not a horrible picture from the snapshot camera... Posted by Hello

Hold the prize, poochy, I'm poppin' a butt-warm bottle o' cream, baby!

[Listening to: There She Goes, My Beautiful World - Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Abattoir Blues (5:17)]

Writing today? I'm getting to it. Really. In just a few minutes. But, in checking out the Winter issue of the Journal of Mythic Arts, I followed some links, as one does, and ended up on Phillip Pullman's page, in which he takes on the whole issue of the movie versions of His Dark Materials. Those of you who read Pig and Pepper may remember that I talked about this. I opined that I wasn't going to opine, not knowing the full facts about the "taking the God as bad guy out of the the story" claim of the story, but I did have something to say on the way the article smugly tried to imply that Pullman was caving in because of pure, simple greed.

Pullman was pissed off by the same thing.

It's a great article. Go read it. He clears up some facts, including showing how the article basically misrepresented a statement from an interview (he gives you the whole context). He also has a great discussion about the "anti-religion" message of the stories, mainly pointing out that it was anti-the-use-of religion to maintain power and privilege, and is, at heart, about the abuse of authority, and the nature of authority.

I love this part:

As for what it's against - the story is against those who pervert and misuse religion, or any other kind of doctrine with a holy book and a priesthood and an apparatus of power that wields unchallengeable authority, in order to dominate and suppress human freedoms. In Lyra's world, that power is wielded by a mighty and corrupt church, which differs in some ways from the church in our world just as the everyday lives of the characters do. In our own world, that sort of power has been wielded at various times in the name of religion as well as in the name of 'scientific' atheism. It's wielded politically, and it's wielded culturally; sometimes it`s a religious police force that beats women who aren't wearing the correct dress, and sometimes it's a cowardly press, cringing in front of corporate power, that cackles and jeers whenever it sees something it thinks it's safe to criticise.

Body slam! And all this is just one more reason that I have, at this point, virtually no respect for the mainstream press anymore. But man, I'm feeling pretty smug. Called that one, didn't I?

Friday, January 07, 2005

Cleavage is better, but I'll take wordage for now

[Listening to: Hiding All Away - Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Abattoir Blues (6:31)]

Well, after my earlier "2/3 of what I had written I can still use," I decided to start over from scratch anyway. It would have taken too much tweaking, so much that, well, it would have been like starting over anyway.

A couple of false starts after I got the outline hammered out. Then, slowly, painfully, 1100 words or so. Not the best writing day I have ever had -- I've been cat waxing so much today that Spud practically glows in the dark. I've read email, checked up on the Typepad situation (finally ironed out, after a problem cancelling that entailed some hairiness and getting them to void a charge made to my card), read blogs, washed dishes, etc etc. But 1100 words have gotten done. In sitting down and writing what I had etched out first, I found that things zigged slightly, but basically the outline is holding up.

One interesting thing I'm finding is that as I'm writing, now, very different questions are coming into my head. Much more specific ones (what details will convey X? Do I need to work Motif Y into this scene? etc) as opposed to the much more general (what the fuck is going on? where is this going? what the hell are these damn people doing, anyway?). I guess it can help, writing a scene, knowing what the next scene is going to be. At least you know where it has to go, as opposed to just typing until something interesting happens.

You live and learn, folks, you live and learn.

Oh yeah, and for now I'm not going to be updating Livejournal. It's just too much bother trying to do both. I'll start doing it if I start getting all involved in any Livejournal goodness.

That was a bit snarky, wasn't it?

Okay, so I had a visceral reaction there to the Mike Savage comments, didn't I? I should probably amend it -- I may HAVE to have social discourse with such people, because of job or circumstance, but if I know they listen to this stuff, like this stuff, they're never going to be my friends. I think it's time to draw a line, and that kind of talk is a good place.

But more important matters. Writing. So I started trying to plot a bit on the story, and LO! Well, not quite LO! yet, but getting there. I'm finding it oddly useful to look at the story purely in structural terms. I'm actually making it almost like a flow chart, with circles and everything. It's helping to see the relation of scenes and such. Don't have a outline yet, but one is forming (the good thing is that a good 2/3 of what I have written already will work, with some modification, in what I'm setting up now).

Back to work.

Beyond the Pale: A Declaration

Warning: a political moment...

Beyond the Pale.

Go read. Come back. I warn you it isn't pretty.

Now, a declaration:

I have known people, people I like, who listen to Rush Limbaugh and Mike Savage. I have put up with it in that "don't ask, don't tell" kind of way. No more. Today, I have something to say to you, anyone who listens to this crap, who agrees with it, who finds it funny -- you are no friend of mine. I will not speak with you, I will not be civil to you, I will not, in any way, shape or form, have social discourse with you. If you listen to this stuff, if you think it's funny and "Dead-on, dude, give 'em hell, Mike!" -- you are a monster. So fuck off.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Of Plots and Pacing

Over at Jun@Clarion, Jun, who is at Clarion -- in case that wasn't clear -- talks about a trick she picked up from a fellow participant. This is why, of course, Jun (who sometimes is Damselfly, and sometimes damarasfly, and sometimes Charles Foster Kane, don't ask me why) rocks. She shares cool writing tips when she learns them. To wit:

I gleaned a trick from Nathan's story today, of making each section shorter than the one preceding it, a subtle way to build an acceleration into the pacing. This is brilliant. Why did I never ever think of this?

This interests me because pacing is always my problem. If I may toot my own horn -- I can bring characters to life like nobody's business (when I'm not being lazy, a sin I often commit). I can do voice pretty well most of the time. Individual scenes work like a charm. Plotting now, and above all that pesky pacing thing, there's the rub. My stories too often end up following a pattern of: good(or at least decent) beginning -- middle that has good scenes but slowly starts to wander around, getting a bit lost and dazed as the pages progress, and suddenly the story is 30 pages and no end in sight -- end. The end, if it gets written -- frankly, of late, I fell into a trap of getting so lost in the middle that I freak out and run away -- is usually hurried and unsatisfactory. Hurried, mind you, because it seems like it's been some stuff some stuff some stuff no point no point no point END.

She writes in another entry:

We chatted about plotting, and plotting stuff out before you get words on paper, and choosing which scenes will be the most effective way of progressing the story. No real satisfactory "a-HAH!" moments during the conversation, but I think in the end we decided my problem in that area was a mindblock. You know, the whole "I can't plot upfront because [insert habit here]", and so then I believe myself and I really can't plot upfront. which I find a small echo of my own problem. I tend to just sit and write. I have even -- smacks self -- taken a certain smug pride in that. "I play without a net! Eat my dust!" Really have to focus on plot more, focus on just that stuff Sean was tellling her, and also spend much more time thinking about pacing. The question has to be what each scene does for pacing, not just for character. The question also has to be what it has to do with plot. The occasional character-revealing-only scene is fine. But they should -- have to be, in fact, in a short story -- rare.

What comes of all this, in summary, is that I've been realizing more and more that I need to start addressing my writing habits and preconceptions, and try some new approaches. So a small test I'm going to do -- with the Snow Queen story, I'm going to try just sitting down and plotting out the whole thing, and be thinking in terms of pacing for each scene, and then go back to writing it. And give myself the freedom to start from scratch if that is necessary once I've done the plotting. I'll be flexible, of course -- if, when I write, something new comes up, I won't dismiss it because it doesn't conform. But we're going to see if a little structure doesn't help.

Here it is, folks, the mag with the story. Just so you don't think I make this stuff up. I mean, look at those titles. Hoary! Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Yes, Yes I Did

Yeah, so the title changed a little. The story so far -- I have this memory of seeing an old magazine cover -- I think it may have been Amazing Stories -- from like the 30s or 40s, that had a story on the cover called "The Lobster Men From Mars" or something like that. And then it turns out it's a movie from 1989. Now, I may still be remembering the story right, but what the heck. I wasn't sold on the lobster men anyway. So, with a nod to Ray Cummings, ol' Doc Merritt is now battling the War-Nymphs of Venus. And anyone who finds me a copy of that story? I'll be forever in your debt, because I'm DYING to know what it's like just from the title.

A little more research, by the way, shows that Mr. Cummings had quite the writing career, his first book being published in 1919 (Comparison -- The first Mars book from Burroughs came out in 1917). And how about this -- the dude worked for Edison in the teens. How cool is that?

And I've got to say, as I think about how to turn this page (blogger, not Livejournal) layout into something more fun, that "The War-Nymphs of Venus" raises much more entertaining possibilities than "the Lobster Men from Mars."

One year on Mars, and no lobsters in sight

Forgot to include this in today's earlier post. In honor of the 1 year anniversary of Spirit on Mars (not bad for the 3 month robot), JPL has put together a couple of slideshows:

Top 10 MER Images

Top 25 Raw MER Images

Some of the images are gorgeous. Go look and be in awe.

Spiffying up the place

"Eegads, Doc!" Johnson said. "They're giant lobsters!"
Doc surveyed the alien spawn before them, and then pulled out his blaster with studied ease. "Who's for a nice bisque, boys?"

Well, I've been monkeying around a bit with the ol' template on blogger, and have a start on making a few changes to make this a proper home and all. You'll notice there's now a blogroll (made easy thanks to Bloglines), a links section for non-bloggy items, and you can have fun with the "On This Day" section you'll see with each date on this blog, a nifty blogger hack courtesy of New Links.

Writing news -- I'm back to work on a draft of the Snow Queen story. I'll let you know how it goes. It's been fun to write so far, though. That's a good sign.

And I'm reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and loving every minute of it. I'll probably post something about it when I'm done.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

New home, new resolve, or I hope so

Welcome to Cordwainder "Doc" Merritt vs. The Lobster Men from Mars!

So. Those of you who've suffered through Pig and Pepper know the basics. I'm trying to be a writer. But 2004. What a year. Good and bad. I didn't quite make the grade, I'm afraid, in some ways, with the writing. It started out well enough, and slowly degenerated. I let a lot of personal stuff hit me in the kisser and knock me down for the count.

But no more. New Year and all that, and Writing shall be my God. Writing is all. And thus this new blog, this new home. A way to break with the past, as much as anything. A way to shake myself up. And as part of that, things will hopefully be a bit more focussed around here. Writing will be much more the focus, and science fiction and fantasy in general (I figure musing on those counts, since it's part of the thinking aspect of my passion). That's not to say other stuff won't come up. Life will come up, and my thoughts on Big Things, simply because those will also have an effect on me as a writer. But Writing is the focus of this blog from now on.

And, hopefully, this will all nicely be seen both on Blogger and Livejournal in full glory.