"... willingness to take a moral stand, to accept risk and ridicule, [is] the cost of the moral life." -- Chris Hedges
Mensch kann tun was er will; er kann aber nicht wollen was er will -- Schopenhauer. (One can choose what to do, but not what to want.)
King Louis in his finery, the pearl and grey of his raiment satin in the shade, luxurious in his bound empire, hemmed in by Alps and Channel of plastic net bound to fenceposts by cable ties. Robin (the Hood they call him, for he covers his shoulders and his tight-feathered head with brown as if to conceal the red blazon on his breast, and to no avail his yellow-rimmed eyes) tilts his head and asks with half-parted lips What's this, What's this I see behind the forest of grass and the high hard fence?
The emperor answers not, the fat worm of his scepter still on the grass, not waving high and flicking tailtip back and forth. A still as if he sees Robin not, as still as if he is unaware that this outlaw fills him with arrow-strokes of contempt. The king lays and lies as he lays, feigning sleep or illness, his humors balanced behind slitted eyes. There is no swaying of rump or setting of hind claws in the earth. He is inert. Robin hops closer, closer to the thicket of grass behind fence. Cocks his head again, looking to me observing from the England of my deck, and back at the sun-stunned and pent king. It can't reach me? Robin the Hood asks. Then I shall have some fun. He hops closer and closer to the fence.
The Sun King sleeps in his private Versailles. A hop and a hop closer, a tilt forward. The twisted spring of His Highness uncoils, an explosion in three dimensions, and he is through the weakness at the corner of the fence, sleek and gray. He strikes down Robin with a blow. But Robin flies. The King's claws were pulled by the treaty that brought him to the throne. Robin flees for the safety of his home country the sky while earth-bound cat and bemused human sit in the capitals of their Lilliputian nations, and laugh or snarl as to their natures.
Last night I was playing around with Wikipedia. I've been hanging around there for the last month or so, reverting vandalism, making minor edits to articles, and generally making a nuisance of myself. I had intended to go to bed by 12:30 or so, but got sucked in (working on an article about my friend Lief Jonker's film "Darkness: The Vampire Version") and around 2:00 went outside with our friend and housemate F to have one last cigarette before turning in. As we stood and sat there talking in low tones, a guy walked past on the other side of the street.
Then he turned around, went to my neighbor's vehicle, punctured the tire with one swift sidearm swing, and ran. F and I sat there for half a minute, essentially frozen. F called out "Hey, what the f%$#?" but the vandal didn't hear him. I don't think he was even aware we were right there watching him. I called the cops. After talking to them for a while, I got a ride in the back of a cop car to go ID a suspect. I'm 80% sure it was the same guy (I didn't see his face, but his clothes and build and hair were the same) and F was 90%. Turns out he was underage, drunk off his ass, not a local, and had a warrant out.
One vandal off the street. My neighbor wasn't happy this morning, but at least the cops caught the guy -- and the neighbors will be pressing charges. Hope I don't have to testify in court, though. I will if I have to. I feel bad for my neighbor. I helped him with the tire and drove him to the tire store so he could get a new one.
I know why I didn't chase the guy down myself -- he was armed and had already shown himself to be violent, at least to innocent vehicles. I'm not going to risk getting stabbed over a tire -- "I'm a lover not a fighter" -- but for a few minutes, at least, I felt like a bit of a coward.
But justice, I think, will be served. And boy am I sleepy this morning.
Started, scrapped, and restarted second P.I. story. I was reading an article by Orson Scott Card (who frankly I am conflicted about, when he's good, he's good, and the rest of the time, most of the time, he bores me to tears) that rang true. He was talking about an early novel that he had written as a group of novellas. He identified the problems with that, and I realized I was doing the same thing.
That may be fixed. This second P.I. story brings threads and characters from all the pieces together. I'll have to do a significant rewrite of the ending of the criminal story to get everything to mesh. That's good, the current climax is as little weak anyway.
The internet was made for people who hold grudges. ******* Got a good start on killer cop story. Continuous minor edits on the other 2 pieces to get them to mesh as a novel. ******* Deleted 85 instances of the word "my" from the P.I. section. Thanks, Mittens! ******* Test on Islam Friday. Guess I'd better read the textbook Thursday. Heh. ******* The 10-15k word novelette is a great format to work in -- long enough to have some room to play and let things develop, short enough to allow consistent pacing. ******* I don't want to do my speech in Communications class. But I will. It's worth 2 letter grades. Tee-dubya-oh. I'd be willing to bail on the class and take a B, but not a C. ******* Tuesday nights are a little dull if you don't watch "Lost" and everyone else in the house does. On the other hand, I've spent many an hour screwing around on the computer on Wednesdays. ******* 30,000 words. ******* Ever read something on the web attributed to George Carlin that isn't by him? Me neither. ******* Does Blogger have a hit counter widget? Or have they decided that my need for external validation is annoying and they have decided to break me of it? ******* I believe it was Stephen King who said that writers are masters of revenge. Or was it Harlan Ellison? No, now that I think about it it must have been George Carlin. ******* Spent half an hour researching a company that irritated me last fall. Looks like I'm not the only one. Don't buy anything from www . unbeatablesale . com. ******* Can't wait to get over to State. ******* ****** ***** **** *** ** *
Not counting schoolwork and deleted/rewritten scenes, and not counting the first chapter of the SF novel, I've written 27,000 words this month. Two novelettes linked by setting, tone, and a few characters.
I'm pumped. I have to write a paper today (about 3000 words on the modern Mormon church, not about the dogma so much as the business and politics of being a religion on the cusp), and then I can get started on the next piece.
I haven't decided if it's going to be a cop story or a contract killer story. I read a bunch of Block and watched Grosse Point Blank over the last couple days so I won't end up covering terretory that's already been done. Maybe I'll make the cop a contract killer. Pretty good cover for him, if you think about it.
I've been writing in bursts of 1000-2000 words/day. Get up in the morning, read over and make minor revisions on the piece I'm working on, then either continue from where I left off or scrapping the previous night's work and totally rewriting it. Break for school and whatever else needs doing, then work from where I stopped before lunch. It seems to be working for me as I've only had to scrap a night's output twice. Bith times it sucked, but I was able to save a couple hundred words.
If you count schoolwork, those false starts, and the SF, my output for April is probably in the neighborhood of 40,000 words. I can live with that. That's probably the highest output of decent work I've had in my life.
It will be interesting to see if I can maintain it, if I've established a new pattern or if, when my mood swings back to black, if I'll go back to nothing for months on end. Somehow I doubt that. One of the things I've been learning in school is how to perform on demand. Professors don't accept writer's block as an excuse for not doing aan essay. Why should I accept if for my personal work? I've always been my own worst critic -- now I need to be my own best teacher.
Finished the pulp noir picaresque "The Toes You Step On Today". Sent it off to Mittens, and she likes it.
So do I. It's not perfect, nothing I write ever will be, but that's OK. The perfect is the enemy of the good, and that's something I've let hold me back most of my life. Done with that.
Started another noir piece. They are amazingly easy to write. (Still letting my subconscious work on the next chapter of the SF novel, hope to get to that this weekend). This one's "Red Mask", and it's almost a parody of the hardboiled PI pulp -- but not quite. I'm not interested in mocking the form, I want to play around with it, turn the conventions and cliches on their heads.
I'm heading down to the library between classes today to pick up a copy of the latest Writer's Market. Let's get this little fledgeling out into the world. Somewhere, there's going to be someone that wants to pay us some money for the right to share it with the world.
I'm in full-on manic mode right now, and intend to ride it as far as I can. Averaging 1500-2000 words/day -- not including schoolwork. Working 5 days a week that's 30k/month -- and that means a novel in six weeks. 3X slower than Spillane, but (I certainly hope) much better than what he published.
So, while waiting on part 3 of 4 of the crime story (which I believe would be classified as a "novelette" according to Wikipedia's chart of lengths), I've been playing around with a long-delayed science fiction novel. I find I am an iceberg writer, with pages and pages of notes, charts, sketches, and vignettes that may or may not ever make it into the story itself -- but I need that background, that depth of field, to accurately describe what's going on.
Our friend/relative/housemate F really helped by reading the first two pages of narrative and telling me to go on. I was having trouble with how to get started (from a story perspective), how to select the exact point at which the narrative should begin. As Iain M. Banks says in his fun non-Culture space opera "The Algabraist", you can reach backward as far as the Big Bang if you want, but that's not really practical: you have to select some arbitrary point in time as the beginning. This is true in any fiction, really, but seems especially true for science fiction. When your story is set on an artificial planet a billion years old, settled by humans generations ago, after a thousand-year (subjective) space flight from a future Earth that has since suffered a political cataclysm... where, exactly, do you begin?
With the point at which your main character's lives change is when. That moment from which there is no turning back. There will be plenty of time to fill in the backstory -- I'm planning on interpolary chapters to tell the story of the voyage, and of Earth (at least as much as needs to be told).
The thing that really made it all pop for me was, while discussing the planet with F, I suddenly realized everything I needed to know about the ultimate purpose of the planet, the design of its creators. I knew what it was, and how it worked, but did not fully comprehend the why, and whether or not the why is part of the story or not (I rather suspect it will be) it is a vital piece of that deep background I referred to earlier.
Physical laws in science fiction are like grammar -- you are only allowed to bend them if you have sufficient reason to do so, and you cannot simply throw them out or you are writing fantasy, not SF, just as you would not be writing in English without grammar but in your own language using English words. My construct does not break any laws, but whooboy it bends them.
I really, really, really don't like one of my classes. It's a required class, so I have no choice but to take it, and I can't slack off on it, because I need to keep my GPA, both for prctical reasons (a 4.0 is going to help me with financial aid, class placement, and moving forward in school) and for personal (I have to prove to myself that I can do this, that I can not only succeed but excel at it).
But this class irritates me. I went into it with a bad attitude and that has not changed. I feel like it's a waste of my time and money because I am neither learning anything nor having any fun. Either of these suffices for me -- I have another class where I don't think I am learning anything, but at least the material is enjoyable.
With more and more non-traditional students like myself in school, I think it needs to be acknowledged that we don't need some of the basic classes that kids fresh out of high school require.
I'll go to class, and do my best, and hope for an A. But I'm going to complain about it.
Thinking about what Stephen King says in "On Writing" about the Constant Reader. We all have someone who, even if we don't specifically write for them, has in important influence on the finished form. J is my collaborator, so I don't count her as my CR. No, the person whose opinion I've come to respect over our years of friendship is none other than... Mittens! (Whose blog is linked over to the yonder on the right there, go visit. I'll wait.)
This is of course presupposing that anyone other than Mits is reading this blog. If you are, thanks. It helps to have an actual as well as a potential audience.
I've come to the end of the second drafts on the first 2 stories in the 4-part noir piece I'm working on, and am almost finished with the third. J is working on the putline and plotting for part 4, and will be redpenciling 1 and 2 in the next few days for the third and hopefully final draft. I've also passed it along to a couple other readers who I trust to give real feedback (Hi there, Mary!) if they choose to.
The second draft of story/story element #1 (I describe it that way because there is a very strong probability that once we are done we'll put it together into one piece, as that is what they really are -- #2 and #3 don't actually stand up alone, and the character development of Rex inthe first three means we would have to do a lot of recapitulation in #4 if we were to try to make it stand alone. Yes, for the first time since our sales back in 2004 we're beginning to seriously contemplate trying to publish!) will be printed in my college's literary magazine soon. Exciting, in one sense, to be in print. A curious letdown in that I won't be getting paid, and I assume the requirements for acceptance are a little lower than they might be for a pro mag. It's still a credit, and I'll be happy to see how people recieve it.
These crime stories, this pulp fiction, is dealing with sexuality issues as well as heists. It's difficult for me to find that line where I am letting the reader know enough about the intimate lives of these characters without bludgeoning them with it.
Thank you, Mittens, for your reading, your editing, your encouragement (and more importantly, your discouragement when I do something stupid. Fawty foa murda does, indeed, suck.)
Once J has worked these first three parts over and given them her touch (and once I've worked over the fourth and given it mine) they will be by W.E. Rifin. Good deal.
J has found the worst of the flaws in the second story, so I'm holding off on finishing the third for now so we can go into rewrite. So these stories will be W.E. Rifin joints. Cool -- they will be much better for her work on them.
Over the last few years I've learned to face that I am not as good a writer as I would like to be -- or thought I was. Together, though, we complement each other's strengths. Fortunately, as far as we can tell, we don't have any major shared weaknesses.
Another iron on the fire is the Ignorance Awareness Walk I'm working on with my friend Pierce. We did some brainstorming tonight, hopefully we can pull off a public consciousness-raising anti-discrimination event this summer. It's her idea from the start -- I'm adding input and organization. Because I do have organizational skills. Just not many...
I had a gadget on the bottom of this page, a Hallowe'en Countdown. Somehow it got a malicious script in it and caused this page to redirect to ads for who-knows-what. It was not infectious, as far as I can tell. Apologies to you, Dear Reader, I shan't allow any more of those sorts of things here.
Just wrapped second story. Looking like a series of four linked pieces. This one was fun to write as the main character is both bigoted and not all that bright. The lesson from Joss Whedon and Jayne -- everybody thinks they're the hero of the story. It's fun to tell a series of events from different perspectives in different voices. (Pssst, Mittens -- I'll email them to you if you are interested in reading them, just for fun (I'll accept critique if you are so moved, but really I just want to share them with ya ;) ))
It's been too long since I wrote anything serious. It's time. J and I have plenty of stories to tell, and I think we'll be able to tell them better now than we could before.
I have advising day coming up soon for State college, followed by registration a couple days later. I need to talk to an advisor, as I'm a little bit torn right now -- do I go for a B.S. in Community Psychology, or do I get a Bachelor of Elective Studies, which will allow something along the lines of 2 majors, a minor, and a couple elective courses? Decisions, decisions.
So this afternoon a car pulls up in front of our house. J sees the driver give a passenger money, and the passenger gets out and walks to a nearby house. Gets a nervous/guilty look when they see her watching. So F and I and our guest P go sit on the front porch to smoke. When the buyer leaves the house, rather than get in the car, motions to the driver (who has been sitting in front of our house with the engine running for 5-10 minutes by this point), walks to the end of the block, where they drive and pick them up. I mean, come on. Can you make it any more obvious what you're doing? Just drop the buyer off and drive around until a predetermined pickup time, or pull up to the house you are visiting and everybody go in for a few. My problem is that they involved me. If something were to go wrong, then I have to deal with the fallout in front of my place, or if they get busted, they might think I'm the one that called it in, which I didn't. But how could I prove that? Leave me out of it, people. Please.
I just submitted a short story to the college Literary Magazine. It's a bit of pulp noir set in the fictional city J and I have been constructing background on for the better part of a decade (1 trunk novel that died in rewrite, a few thousand words of assorted vignettes and fragments, and a piece we're playing around now with that may become a novella, a script for a comic, or a screen/play). This story serves as a sort of prologue to the longer piece -- the main character of the long piece is a supporting char in this one, and we'll probably have some reference to the aftereffects of this tale.
We're really leaning toward the pulp, the noir, the caper. It's a fun genre to write in, and the conventions are so well-established that you can find ways to push them and still keep the intellectual rigor of the boundaries.
The writing I've been doing for school seems to have primed the pump. Good deal.
Here's one that will ring true for any book lover, from Lukyanenko's _Twilight Watch_, from a scene where Anton is looking at the witch Arina's book collection:
"A lot of them are just lumber."
Who among us doesn't have a lot of just lumber in our libraries? We love all our books, but when it comes down to it, only 5 or 10 or 15% are really prizes, treasured friends or uncommon editions with intrinsic value or just hard to find -- there's a lot of filler rescued from charity booksales, garage sales, acquired in a stack from the used bookstore because they looked like they might be worth a try. Even the ones that are not great, don't mean anything personally, medioce books in fair condition that if you were to sell them would only be sold by the inch or the bag -- we keep them, because we can't bear to part with them just in case we might want to read them again, or pass them on to someone who might appreciate them...
J and I are working on a new story. We're in our best work mode -- she does characters, plotting, dialog, I flesh out narrative detail, structure, and extra brainstorming when needed. It's interesting so far and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes, as the eventual length is still undetermined.
Our friend/cousin F just moved in. We're enjoying having him here. He seems to like it as well.
Since 8:00 am, the house has been full of contractors winterizing. It was -15 when they arrived. Four guys filling up the empty spaces in the walls with insulation, and so far one of them has almost fallen through the laundry room ceiling and they misplaced the clipboard with the work order on it. They seem to be a fun group of guys, but I may start drinking as soon as they leave. The cat is trippin' as he's spending the day in the bathroom.
School started for Bucky today, mine starts next week. The house would seem empty without him -- except, of course, for the contractors. Kinda glad he's out of the house today as I am not sure how he would deal.
Ready to go back to school, see if I can pull it off 2 semesters in a row. I need to get my application for State in this week. I am putting it off because I'm a bit intimidated -- not by the school, but by the application itself, as it's aimed at high school students, not at guys in their 40's trying to make the most of a second chance.
Trying to see if I can get a job at F's place as a popcorn slinger. Little or no money in it, but better than the big fat nothing I'm looking at when unemplyment runs out. I have no idea how much unemployment I have left -- about 6 weeks worth if I don't get another extention, but I don't know what the dates are and if I even qualify. Afraid to look. Procrastination as a talisman, if I ignore it maybe it won't go away.
I'm thinking about conceding the sprouts game I have going -- I am sure that I will lose at this point, and better to go out with my dignity intact.
I've been playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Very good game, lush well-realized world. This is the game that Divine Divinity was trying to be. The character leveling system is interesting, especially the way that dungeons are set up to always be close to your level, so there's no "Oh, I'll just go knock over an easy one for supplies". If it was hard at level 3, it's going to be harder at level 13. One thing it seems to lack, fortunately, is the incessant "get this to give to this person so they will give you that so you can take it to them..." booooring quests, the kind that killed Zelda: Mask Of Majora and Baldur's Gate. So far the quests I have done have been rescuing people, recovering artifacts from deep and scattered dungeons, stalking NPCs, and combat missions. I've been able to spend about 2/3 of the game time dungeon diving and the other third wandering around talking to people, picking plants for alchemy, and exploring the world to find the dungeons. There's an Unofficial Elder Scrolls Wiki that has a lot of good information and organized in a way that lets me find out important info (like, for example, which dungeons are NOT related to the main quest so I can safely delve without risking messing up something I may need later) without being spoilers. Knowing that Devastated Mine is full of bandits or that Caerbannog Cave is home to the Black Beast before going in is something I could have conceivably learned if I was actually living in this world, but I don't look at the maps to find treasure chest locations etc. Also, the game itself is perfectly named, for it is Oblivion, mental rest and recharge before next week when I'll be learning Oral Communications, Psychology of Women, Comparative World Religions, Diversity and Social Justice, Critical Thinking, and American Literature About War. Guess which two I think I don't really need to take? I'll have to watch that and make sure I don't slack off on them, as it would suck to ruin my GPA out of arrogance and laziness -- been there, done that.
I have sworn off all FaceBook game applications. No more Mafia Wars, FarmVille, or Vampire Wars. They are too little fun for the amount of time they consume. I quit FarmVille some time ago, when it started to be too much work for no reward of any kind -- I suppose that does make it an accurate simulation of real farming...