Jan 31

When Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy!

Mother Nature dropped in for a visit Friday night. Boy, was she ever pissed! She spent all night and all day Saturday dumping ice all over everything. 3 days later, we have electricity and phone again. Thank God for that firewood I stacked up last weekend!

The big problem, see, is that Georgia is pine tree country. Pine trees don’t do ice well at all. We spent all day Saturday and all night Saturday night listening to the limbs break and the smaller trees fall down. When a pine tree sheds a limb, it sounds like a rifle shot. It was like being in the middle of a fire-fight. Not real comfort-making. No damage to the house or cars or people, though, so we’re all right.

The other thing is that pine trees have this strange affinity for power lines. If a pine tree can fall on a power line, it will at the first opportunity. If it’s only shedding a branch, the tree will throw it in the direction of the nearest wires. They connect more often than not. Georgia Power still has lines down. They were going through Sunday and just cutting the lines that had been knocked down, trying to get power back to as many people as possible. It may take the rest of the week to sort this one out.

Maybe that will be the disaster of this winter, though we still have 4 weeks of February to get through. For some reason, we get the ice storms at the end of January, but any snow that’s going to fall will be in February. Around here, it’s February that’s the cruelest month.

Needless to say, I got jack done as far as writing. I should be able to finish the cleanup tomorrow and get back to what passes for normal around this loony bin.

Jan 27

Here we go again

“Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life.” — Dean Vernon Wormer

An appeals court judge in New York is letting the lawsuit against McDonald’s go ahead. You know the one: 4 teenage girls are suing Mickey D’s because they got fat eating Chicken McNuggets. I have trouble believing this shit. At what point do we stand up and say: “Look, you’re a dumbass. You’re fat because you eat too much of the wrong foods. It’s your own responsibility to take care of your health. God knows, the information you need is readily available. Just because you’re too lazy to pay attention is no reason to blame your problems on somebody else and expect the rest of us to pay your bills.” God, I get so mad…

SQL Success!

Finally got my query to work, and the Subject Index to Vision is now live! Well, it still has stitches showing and bolts in its neck, but at least it’s breathing and moving around. Sometimes, success is relative. Next is to move the book and Web site reviews into MySQL and get that index working on my site. I’ll get to that Real Soon Now.

Move ’em out!

Went over my notes one last time on “A Time To Every Purpose”. One final read-through and it will be ready to go. The first 5 markets on my list are (in no particular order): Abyss and Apex, Strange Horizons, The Harrow, Parageography, and Shining Waters Fantasy Literature. There are a lot more possibilities, but these are my current favorites. I’ll spend a couple more days evaluating them and put them in priority order over the weekend. Maybe I can get the story out the door early next week.

Next on the agenda is a read-though/edit on “Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet”. After an edit/polish, I can send it out for crit and get to work on “The Easy Way Out”.

Jan 26

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…the race is not to the swift,

nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. Ecclesiastes 9:11

Sometimes, I have to stop and remind myself that this is not a race. If I miss a self-imposed deadline on one of my short stories, that’s OK. If it were a real deadline, then stress would be appropriate. Right now, the most important thing is for me to take my time, learn the craft, and do the best I can. Breathe, relax. That’s better.

So I took the day off from actually sitting at the computer typing. Stacked 2 stove cords of firewood, then worked on the subject index for Vision for a while. Oof! It’s been a long time since I fooled with SQL, and I never got very deeply into it at that. Now I have to figure out how to do a complex query using JOINs. RIGHT, LEFT, INNER, OUTER, AAAAAGGGHHHH!!!. Deep-fried brains right now. Every time I think I have a hold on it, it slips away. I used to be pretty good at this stuff. Oh well, time steals all things.

Got a lot of thinking done, anyway. Looks like “The Easy Way Out” is going to turn to the dark side. Goody, goody, goody, goody. Heh-heh. Murder and mayhem are only a thought away. We likesss it, yessss my Precioussss.

Jan 25

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Will this never end?

Spent the morning working on “A Time To Every Purpose”. Completely rewrote the climactic scene to fix a breakdown in internal logic and to show more of the mechanics of the magic that’s happening. Gained 100 words to 4200.

I thought that would be about the last I would have to do. Just a final polishing edit and send it out. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha,…

After further review, I realize that I have at least one more scene to rewrite in the middle of the story to punch up the action. I also need to go through and make sure the suspense over Darien’s final course of action is clear and builds through the story. Maybe I can get it out next week.

Also finished a 1300-word article for Vision on fundamental punctuation rules. Title: “Commas and Colons and Dashes, Oh My!”. I’ll polish it up tonight and first thing in the morning and send it in. A couple of other ideas are brewing: “When Imagery Attacks” on how imagery and description can get you into trouble, and an as-yet-untitled piece on subject-verb, pronoun-antecedent, participle-subject, etc. agreement. I’ve seen a lot of dangling participles lately, so it might be time for a brief review.

Still hanging fire is “Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet”. Got the printout, got the red pen, have not yet had the time. Soon, though, soon.

Jan 24

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The Doors of Perception

Fear turns aggravation into crisis and pests into slavering monsters. Finished reading through, marking up, and typing in the changes to ATTEP. Now at 4100 words, a net gain of 150. Next up is a run through my first reader and a final read-through and edit pass. I want to get it out the door by the end of the week.

Left on the immediate agenda is editing TYSBAS and sending it out to the crit group. Also, “The Easy Way Out” still awaits my decision on whether to turn it down the road to horror. I’m leaning in that direction.

Washed in the Blood is still in my thoughts. I hope to get back to it soon.

Jan 24

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This is the part where I earn my keep

I can’t avoid it any longer. It’s time for the dreaded read-through on “A Time To Every Purpose”. I let it sit all weekend so I could get some distance. Now I have to look at it with a fresh.

This is the worst part of writing for me. Frankly, it scares the Hell out of me. What if I’ve been fooling myself? What if it’s really no good? I know it’s crazy. This is a good story. It’s well-written and has some of my best description and most compelling action. but that damned internal critic just won’t shut up.

Okay. Deep breath. Stereo on. Red pen in hand. Page one…

Jan 23

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Half full or half empty?

When I read this article (Link from Silent Bounce. Holly got it from Paperback Writer.) I had two thoughts. How can people like this sleep at night? and How can people fall for this? These questions ultimately lead back to the more fundamental question: Are people intrinsically good or evil?

The people who run PublishAmerica make their living preying on people’s hopes and dreams. It’s unimaginable how many lives they have destroyed. I am deeply saddened by the fact that trust has become a fault rather than a virtue. Jackals are everywhere, just waiting for anyone to show a sign of “weakness” by being trusting. That is just disgusting. The human race does not need this kind of insensitive, uncaring slugs. They live on the sweat of other people’s brows, contributing nothing, they raise hopes and shatter dreams. Though I don’t believe in an Old Testament God, Cosmic justice would be well served if these people were delivered into the hands of such a being. “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord. I will repay.”

Unfortunately, the victims must also bear a share of responsibility for their situation. /no one should ever put their dreams, their heart’s blood, into the hands of anyone that they have not investigated thoroughly. Everyone should realize that trust is just not possible in today’s society. Sad, but true. Paranoia is simply good sense these days. With information so easy to come by, the only reason for anyone falling for this scam is greed. Anyone who just wants to see their book published should go to a vanity press. At least with them you know up front that you are subsidizing the publication.

The responsibility for the success or failure of our work rests with us. Part of our job is to find the best place for our work and to put in the hours and sweat necessary to get it there. There is no easy way to publication. Down that road lies wreck and ruin. If we truly believe in our work and give it the attention it needs, then success is attainable.

Jan 20

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“Had to cry today…”
Steve Winwood, Had to Cry Today on Blind Faith

Not feeling very well right now. I was already wrestling with some emotional issues. Then, I got the news from my doctor: Next week I start on insulin twice a day (70% NPH, 30% Regular). That really sucks. It REALLY sucks. It means I have lost more ground to diabetes. That’s ground I can never get back. Diabetes is not only incurable, it is progressive and irreversible. As a matter of fact, the medical profession at this time is not even sure exactly what Type II diabetes is, much less what to do about it. Ack.

Being diagnosed was a nightmare come to life for me. I have seen what this disease has done to my mother over the years. First, she lost her vision over a period of years. Laser surgery didn’t help. Nothing helped. Then, she had a sextuple (!!) bypass, brought about by one of the really nice side effects of insulin: atherosclerosis. Shortly after that, she had to have an aortic aneurysm repaired. More plaque. While on the operating table, she had her first stroke. Left arm and foot weakened.

She made it to retirement about that time, which was good timing, because about six months later, she had a really bad stroke that completely paralyzed her left side and left her barely able to eat or talk. That was four years ago. These days she can’t hold herself upright for more than a few minutes at a time. She can’t talk anymore. She lives on Ensure and an occasional cookie as a treat. The worst part? She’s an RN. She knew what was coming. And she’s trapped in there now. I hope the heart attack gets me first. I don’t want to end up like that.

Anyway, that’s weighing heavy on my mind right now, and fiction will have to wait a day or two. I’ll be spending time writing in my secret journal for now. A lot of things that don’t need to be said in public. And spending a lot of time on the treadmill cussing and sweating. Great way to work out anger.

Jan 18

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Still kicking

Thanks for the “virtual dancing smilie”, Debra! I’ll send you one when you finish that first draft of “The Ghost Jewel”. Now you have an incentive! 😉

Finished a major revision of “A Time To Every Purpose”. Net gain of 950 words. I think I left some stuff out, so I’ll come back to it after it sits for a while.

Got a crit back on “The Easy Way Out” that confirmed a couple of my suspicions about the story and the main character. The crit also offered a suggestion about a possible turn of events in the story that would move it well into the horror genre. This has caught my attention and is being given serious consideration. We’ll see what everybody else says.

On the evolution of stories

Something I’ve run into several times recently is the problems thjat I run into when a story evolves away from the original inspiration. Most of my stories are based on a specific line or picture that pops up in my mind. When that happens, I say “Hmmm. There’s a story here.” and start figuring out what it is. Often, the story I wind up writing has little to do with the original inspiration. That’s OK. I can always recycle the line or scene or character later.

What bothers me, though, is when a story evolves only slightly, but far enough that the original inspiration becomes marginal to the “real” story. It’s very hard for me to let go of a much-loved idea or sentence. Sometimes I will hold on to it in spite of the damage that it does to the story that’s trying to get out. That’s a problem.

The notion of “murdering your darlings” is widepsread in books and articles about the craft. A writer has to be able to let go of anything that stands in the way of the story. I have to keep trying to develop the objectivity to see these things and to take out what doesn’t fit. Even when it hurts. That’s what the “Ideas” file is for, though. I need to use it more.

When imagery attacks

“He lay across the room.” In the Deep South this is a very natural way of saying what other people say as “He lay on the other side of the room”. I got gigged on this in “The Easy Way Out”. Once I actually read the words literally, I laughed my ass off. Either he’s a great big sucker, or it’s a real small room. That got me to thinking about some other strange turns of phrase in the English language, including some of our most loved/hated cliches, and some of the worst imagery in the history of hack writing. I think that’s “fixing” to turn into an article for Vision. Working title: “Chasing a Greased Pig: the Search for Just the Right Words”.

Enough foolishness. Got 2 crits to work on, and “Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet” demands to be whipped into shape.