Mar 28

“Well, It’s Cryin’ Time Again…”

The pollen is upon us. So far, just a light dusting, but by the end of the week, we’ll be engulfed in yellow clouds and sneezing out things that cannot even be described. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this stuff piles into half-inch drifts. It covers everything. We ain’t talking hay fever, here, folks. This is pine pollen pandemic. Sinus cement. Allergy overload.

Ah, Spring! When huddled masses yearn to breathe free, when even the birds sneeze and snort and wonder why in the Hell they live here, anyway. Rain, rain come my way. Don’t stay gone another day.

Mar 28


Hi. Thanks for dropping by. My name is Carter Nipper, and I am your host on Noise in the Attic. I write horror/darkfantasy/dark fiction/nonfiction/other stuff. My secret identity is a mild-mannered Librarian in Central Georgia.

Noise in the Attic is my place for reflection, bitching and moaning, celebration, and foam-mouthed ranting. Things get rough in here sometimes, and I am prone to use bad language and address adult topics. My house, my rules. If you like fuzzy, pink bunnies, you’re in the wrong place.

Your comments are welcomed and appreciated. You may disagree with me all your want. Don’t worry too much about getting me upset. It takes a lot to set me off. All I ask is that you refrain from spam, trolling, and flaming. Those activities will earn you a quick black-list.

Look around, enjoy, and let me know what you think. You can reach me at carter (at) carternipper (dot) com.

Mar 27

A Quick Warning

Noise in the Attic may be moving soon. I have downloaded WordPress and am evaluating it on my Web site. At such time as I feel comfortable with it, I’ll be moving over there. I don’t really have anyhting against Blogger, I just like to have control over my stuff. I’ll post a schedule for the move when I know more.

Just as a BTW, anyone thinking about doing the same should really check out this comparison of free blogging software that was put together by Owen Winkler. He put a lot of work into this and created a really great decision tool.

Mar 27

Brick by Brick

Brick masonry is an immensly satisfying hobby. It’s one of those things I enjoy but don’t do well at all. My projects all have a distinctly rustic look to them. That’s fine for the things I do — mainly small flower beds — and I am not going to claim I do professional level work at all. No way.

I also won’t bore everybody with the brick by brick, bird by bird, word by word cliche. You can beat yourself on the head with that if y ou wish, I think we all know it and are sick of it. I’m not trying to make any grand point, here, just talking about laying brick as a rewarding pastime.

Bricklaying requires concentration and attention to detail. The details make the difference. The mortar has to be the right mix and consistency, or it won’t hold. The temperature has to be right — not too hot or cold — or the mortar turns to either sand or mud. The first course has to be straight and level, or everything gets way out of plumb. Each additional course has to be even with the one below and level. One detail wrong, and the whole project goes to shit.

The real benefit of bricklaying as opposed to woodworking, at least for me, is that there is zero chance that I’ll cut off an appendage ot otherwise cause myself harm due to inattention or random stupidity. The worst that can happen is that the wall will crumble. Since I never build anything more than 3 courses high, that’s not that big a problem. I can just rebuild it.

I get a real satisfaction from building. It’s one area of my life where I can actually see some results from the hours of labor. Seeing that small (3.5 bricks square by 2 courses high) bed full of pansies of all colors just feels good. This is something I did, except my wife planted the flowers. It may well outlive me, though that time remains many years away, and a lot can happen. Even though the next tenants of htis house will never know anythiing about me, I left my mark here.

Mar 24

The Agony of Success, the Thrill of Defeat

My fantasy short “A Time to Every Purpose” made the quarter-finals in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest. According to the e-mail from the Contest Administrator, that means it placed in the top 10-15% of all entries received for that quarter. The judges were Anne McCaffrey, Robert Silverberg, Yoji Kondo, Algis Budrys and K.D. Wentworth, so I feel pretty good about that. Now I’m off to research markets and see who’s accepting fantasy right now. This one needs a good home.

I never cease to be puzzled by the way we writers get so much pleasure from “good” failures like this, yet our successes leave us afraid that we will never be able to equal them again. There’s a really interesting psychology at work there. I think it really is a case of the journey meaning more than the destination.

Maybe it’s just me, though. Anybody that’s been around here very long know what a complete weirdo I am. Well, I’m off to celebrate my failure and stress about the possibility of success. What a life.

Mar 22

Past Life Experiences

Your past life diagnosis:

I don’t know how you feel about it, but you were female in your last earthly incarnation.
You were born somewhere in the territory of modern USA North-East around the year 1125.
Your profession was that of a farmer, weaver or tailor.

Your brief psychological profile in your past life:
Seeker of truth and wisdom. You could have seen your future lives. Others perceived you as an idealist illuminating path to future.

The lesson that your last past life brought to your present incarnation:
Your lesson is the development and expansion of your mental consciousness. Find a good teacher and spend a good part of your time and energy on learning from his wisdom.

Do you remember now?

Mar 22

Sleeping With Strangers

I had my sleep study done last night, though how much study they got done is questionable given the amount of sleep I got. I don’t do well in a strange environment with all kinds of electrodes and other dingleberries attached to me. The final total of hardware that I had to wear was:

  • 5 EEG leads on my scalp. During the 4 hours or so I did manage to sleep, I had some awfully funky dreams. That readout should be interesting.
  • 2 sensors attached behind my ears so they could listen to my snoring. I’m sure they got an earful of that.
  • 2 sensors (1 on each side) to detect and measure jaw clenching and teeth grinding.
  • 2 ECG sensors on my upper back
  • 2 sensors on each leg below the knee to see how much I thrash around
  • 1 belt around my chest to measure heartbeat
  • 1 belt around my abdomen to measure breathing rate and volume
  • 1 sensor stuck in my nose so they could tell when and how long I might stop breathing. This one was similar to those oxygen tubes with the elastic band that goes around your head. Damned aggravating.
  • 1 pulse-ox sensor taped to the index finger of my left hand

When I got out of bed this morning, I expected to hear a mad scientist crying “It’s alive! It’s alive!”. I sure had the personality of a monster. I don’t do mornings well as it is. At 5am this morning, I was not a happy camper. And the glue from the EEG sensors left me the worst case of pillow-hair in history. And I forgot to bring a cap, so I had to walk through the hospital like that. I could practically see the townspeople scurrying for cover as I stalked out.

On top of all that, there was a closed-circuit video camera recording every sound and movement. Hope they at least got some good movies.

Now I wait and let the doctors try to figure out if they can do anything to help me sleep. I sure hope so. I don’t even remember the last time I woke up feeling refreshed and rested. I know it’s been a lot of years.

That’s one Damoclean sword out of the way, anyway. Onward.

Mar 15

Fruit Basket Turnover

My life is officially in a state of higgledy-piggledy. At present, I am in the midst of:

  • the last week of Winter Quarter. Which means I have a Library full of semi-hysterical students frantically trying to finish the assignments they have been ignoring for the past 9 weeks.
  • applying for a new position at the College. Which will mean better pay and benefits, but also a longer commute and a much different schedule.
  • scheduling appointments with the dermatologist to see about a suspicious mole and with the hospital to do a sleep study to see if I have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. I’m overweight, I snore, and I don’t get restful sleep. My money’s on “Yes”. 100 to 1 the mole is nothing, but it still scares the Hell out of me.
  • 30 days until Dooms–, I mean Tax Day. I just can’t get motivated to get this crap finished and mailed. I wonder why?
  • A highly secret project that I’m excited about, having a lot of fun with, and hope will make me a little pocket money. We’ll see in a month or two.
  • Spring! Which means getting the garden planted and gearing up for the annual War of the Vines, in which Your Hero does battle with ravening hordes from the tribes of Wisteria, Honeysuckle, Greenbriar, and Wild Blackberry. Which also means that my neighbors will be lighting the woods on fire at any time now, since they’re too damn sorry to rent a Bush Hog to clear their land.

And so it goes. Expect me when you see me.

Mar 12

Inspiration vs. Perspiration

In a comment to my post the other day about the creative process, HawkOwl commented:

I think the “flash of lightning” method is actually detrimental both to one’s writing and one’s development as a writer. First, if you are not writing out of your conscious mind, the reader’s conscious mind is going to find gaping holes in your construct; and second, if you are not generating your ideas consciously, you are gonna be stuck for ideas when you need to move the story along and get ‘er done. And meanwhile you are not learning to make things work. You are just faking it and calling it “inspiration” rather than “grasping at straws.” (And by “you” I mean “one,” of course, not you personally.) That’s fine if writing is a hobby, but if you’re hoping to write in a commercially viable way, I think you have to ditch the “muse,” “flash of lightning,” “talking characters” system and take charge of creative direction yourself.

Firstly, I think I should say that I appreciate having my beliefs challenged, as long as it’s done in a rational and non-confrontational way. That helps me see other sides to the issue and forces me to re-think my position, often to my benefit. So, thank you, HawkOwl. I hope that you and others will continue to help me grow and progress in my thinking about the world and my place in it.

Now to the matter at hand: I think this is one of those cases where we will just have to agree to disagree. I believe in an integrative approach to writing: that is, using both sides of the brain. Inspiration and perspiration both have their appropriate places and both have vital parts to play in creativity. I agree that raw inspiration without conscious guidance is a recipe for disaster. The trick is to find the proper balance.

I believe that craft without art is just dead words on paper. It may lead to good writing, and often will have good value as entertainment. Writers who write this way may even have very long and lucrative careers. That’s fine for those who are satisfied with that. I am not.

I believe that my writing serves a larger purpose than just entertainment. I am compelled to find and imbue my writing with meaning. If I learn nothing from my writing, then my readers certainly won’t, and I question whether that is worth my time and effort. I strive to create a little beauty, a touch of art, a taste of truth in the world. Is that hubris? the overweening pride that leads to a great Humpty-Dumpty fall? Many think so, and they might be right. If I don’t try, though, I will fail before I even start.

Art and craft both have their parts to play in moving beyond good writing to great writing. I forget who originally said that writing is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration, but they came close to what I believe. I just give inspiration more credit than that. In practical terms, I believe that first drafts have be motivated by and imbued with inspiration, though still guided to some extent by the conscious mind in order to prevent the kind of aimless wandering that HawkOwl refers to. This is how I learn.

The flailing about and claiming “art for art’s sake” is what separates the Artistes and poseurs from the “real” writers. Writing without careful attention to craft is verbal masturbation, a waste of everybody’s time. If the audience cannot understand the art, then I don’t consider it art. “Careful attention to craft” is key to my creative process. So is careful attention to inspiration.

I have no quarrel with anyone who chooses to believe otherwise. To each his own. Neither am I going to tread upon the “What is Art?” minefield. I will just say this: my writing is my way of searching for meaning. I think it has commercial potentail, as well. I hope so, and I intend to make it so. In order to win big rewards, though, whether financially or spiritual, I realize that I have to place myself at dire risk. This is why I choose to ride the lightning. If I can tame it, the potential rewards are limitless, if not, it may well destroy me. I’m willing to take that chance.

It may be that only those of us who have looked into the eyes of Death and seen the pitiless inevitability there that can truly understand why I believe these things. Life is too short, too short by far to spend time just existing, just being good enough. The search for meaning, purpose, and truth is the only thing that makes life worth the struggle and the pain.