My get up and go has got up and went…

Today is one of those days where I don’t want to do anything but loaf. And for most of today, that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m blaming it on the weather. For once, it’s relatively warm out but there’s been high winds today and I think a change in pressure is making my head hurt.

Of course, it could be that I’ve overslept. Or a combination of both. I dunno. What I do know is that my brain feels like mushy bananas at the moment.

I’m currently watching the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel. Specifically: Mystery Woman: Vision of a Murder. It’s….ehhhhh? It might be better if my head didn’t hurt and my brain wasn’t currently mushy bananas. But honestly, it’s still kinda doofy.

It’s not bad, necessarily, but it’s pretty clear that the cards have all been stacked in the amateur sleuth’s favor (which, ok, that’s pretty standard for cozy mysteries). I think part of it is they introduced a psychic character but then didn’t really seem to do that much with her except have her on the sidelines after she discovered the murder. (Note: brain is mushy bananas so I may have missed some of the action).

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And now we’ve reached the “Kathy Yells At Commercials” portion of the evening! This is a sure sign that my train of thought is currently derailed.

Ok, Applebee’s, I get that your latest commercial is supposed to be about how a busy person can use your app to order food for their family and therefore be able to provide a delicious dinner while on the run but…what in the world possessed you to use “Runaround Sue” as the music for it? Did — did you actually listen to the lyrics? You do realize that the song is about a guy lamenting the fact that the titular Sue “goes out with other guys” and not “works so hard I never get to see her.”

Also, WTF can’t the husband in the commercial either make or pick up dinner himself? Sure, sure, he’s watching the kids but if he’s using the app, he could bring the kids along in the car. You know, cut ‘Sue’ a break for a change?

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Welp, that’s enough of a ramble for tonight. Writing is still being accomplished. I’m still accomplishing my goals for the 365 Writing Challenge. And hopefully tomorrow I’ll get a nice portion of  Storm Warnings done. Hope you and yours have a happy Valentine’s Day!

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Boilerplate Links:  

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time.Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers. Feel free to join us on Facebook at ROW80 or follow us on Twitter at#ROW80.  Or you can do all of the above!

Visit 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook or visit the lady who started it all, Katharine Grubb and learn more.

365 Day Progress Report #1 — January 2019

In the interests of keeping myself accountable for my writing this year, I’ve compiled a progress report for the first month (well, “month”) of 2019. I’m also going to be doing quarterly reports, but that won’t be showing up until April (Jan-March).

The idea being this way I can get a better grasp of what days/times/etc. work best for my writing.

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365 Day Writing Challenge — January 2019 Report:

GOALS:

  • Write at least 4 days/week (5 weeks in month; 20 days/month, allows for 13 off days)
  • Write at least 2,500 Words/week (total 12,500 Words/month)
  • Daily Goal: 357 Words/day (357 X 7 = 2,499, rounded up to 2,500)
  • Total Days in Month: 33 (JAN 1ST TO FEB 2ND)  

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

  • Total Words Written: 17,380 Words  (178% of Monthly Goal)
  • Average Words/Week: 4,458 Words  (178.32% of Weekly Goal)
  • Average Words/Day : 540 Words (151.35% of Daily Goal)
  • Total number of days on which I wrote: 26  (130% of Goal)
  • Total number of off days: Seven (53.84% of allowed Off Days – this is a case where being under goal is good, so yay me!)
  • Most Productive Week: Week Three (January 13th-19th) 5,826 Words (233.04% of Weekly Goal)
  • Least Productive Week: Week Two (January 6th-12th) 2,574 Words (102.96% of Weekly Goal)
  • Top Three Most Productive Days:
    • Sunday, January 13th, 2019 –  2,606 Words (729.97% of Daily Goal)
    • Tuesday, January 1st, 2019 – 1,404 Words (393.28% of Daily Goal)
    • Saturday, January 12th, 2019 – 1,289 Words (361.06% of Daily Goal)
  • Top Three Least Productive Days:
    • Saturday, January 26th, 2019 – Eight Words (2.24% of Daily Goal)
    • Sunday, January 6th, 2019 and Tuesday, January 29th, 2019 – Zero Words counted; Wrote both days, but did not count words.
  • Longest Stretch of No Writing – Two days; Monday-Tuesday, January 7th and 8th, 2019
  • Longest Stretch of Writing – Nine days; Friday, January 25th-Saturday, February 2nd, 2019 (and counting!)

Baby, It’s *All The Expletives, Deleted* Cold Outside

So, if you live in the Midwest, have access to social media/the news, or some combination, you’re aware that a huge wonking chunk of the United States is experiencing unseasonably cold temperatures. As in, it’s warmer in Antarctica, Siberia and possibly on freaking MARS than it is in some areas of the US today. Where I am, in Southwestern Ohio, we’re experiencing temps in the negative single digits with wind chills down into the negative 20s.

I did not go to the library today. Other than sticking my head outside for a minute, I haven’t left the house at all today. Yesterday, I ran errands and picked up supplies for today — a roast for the crock pot along with all the fixings (new potatoes, baby carrots, onion soup mix, mushrooms), some Oreo cookies, milk, pop, etc. — because the plan was to stay hunkered down inside the apartment with the Amy for the duration of the freezing weather.

I also filled up my gas tank. And I’m hoping like hell that I won’t have cause to regret not having gone out to start my car today. I should have gone out during the day when the sun was up but I didn’t and I’m sure as hell not going outside now that the sun’s gone down.

Instead, I stayed inside today, took a couple of naps, listened to some audio books, joined the Amy for lunch (she had to work today — thankfully, she works from home), played Facebook games and surfed social media and ate some seriously delicious pot roast (if I do say so myself, which I do).

The secret to my pot roast is dry beefy onion soup mix and Coca Cola. Mix the two in a cup, stir and pour over the roast and fixings. Don’t fill the cup too full, because the soup mix makes the Coke foam up. Also, use crock pot liners, those are the greatest invention ever.

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In writing news: I hit 3,337 words for last week and wrote for six out of the seven days. So, yay! Go me!

I’m also still working on the current draft of Storm Warnings (meaning, I haven’t restarted it for the umpteenth time) and I’m really happy with how it’s playing out. I’m not going to meet the deadline I had for it, but I’m comfortable with that. I’ve learned a couple things from not meeting that goal that I’m going to try to incorporate in my writing habits going forward.

The most important of those lessons is to be willing to start over if what you have isn’t working for you. I’ve restarted Storm Warnings probably about five or six times and have finally managed to find a format that works for me. I’m thinking in the future, a bit more pre-writing, trying out different strategies and such might be a better way to go about things. Especially since I want to get to the point where I’m turning out stories at a faster rate than once every couple years.

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We got a surprise delivery of baked goods from the Amy’s mom! Blueberry muffins and a lemon poppyseed cake! Yes, she drove over here in the freeze. She said she wanted to get out of the house and since she has a garage and could go from garage to our place back to garage, it wasn’t too bad. She made it back home safe and sound. The muffins hit the spot after pot roast.

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Writing Goals for the Week: 

  • Keep on trucking with Storm Warnings
  • Check in with AROW80 members, especially my accountability buddy

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Boilerplate Links:  

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time.Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers. Feel free to join us on Facebook at ROW80 or follow us on Twitter at#ROW80.  Or you can do all of the above!

Visit 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook or visit the lady who started it all, Katharine Grubb and learn more.

Starting Over, Again!

I went to the library today! Well, actually, I went to two different libraries today and did some writing at both of them! Not as much as I would have liked but I’m getting back into the swing of things so I am happy.

I also hit up a local grocery store and got some delicious roast turkey and a kaiser roll for lunch. Made an impromptu turkey sandwich in my car and munched on it while I watched the rain.

One thing I can say about Midwestern weather — don’t like it, you just have to wait for it to change. Last Saturday, we had six inches of snow, Sunday and Monday we had single-digit/sub-zero temperatures with high winds, Tuesday we had temperatures in the 30s, with a bit of rain and today we had rain and temperatures got into the high 40s/low 50s. Almost all the snow we had is now gone.

We’re not supposed to get more snow this weekend (I don’t think) but it’s going to get cold again. Yayyyyy. Then again, I have friends in Duluth who are seeing temps in the negative 30s so, I will not complain if I have to wear an extra sweatshirt this weekend.

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Writing Goals: For the 365 Day Writing Challenge, I set a goal for myself of writing at least 4 days a week and writing at least 2,500 words per week. So far, I have been over my goals every week, both on words and on days! Happy me!

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WIPpet Wednesday Math: (1+2+3) x 2 = 12 +1 9 = 31, so here are the first 31 paragraphs of the current draft of Storm Warnings:

One day, if he was very lucky, Louis Zane would meet Al Jolson and punch the Jazz Singer right square in the snoot. Maybe that would make them even for the fact Louis had had “April Showers” stuck in his head all evening.

The logical part of his mind conceded that this was as unlikely while his well-brought up side noted it was unfair. His pedantic nature wanted it noted that Al Jolson only sang the song – if anyone should get punched, it should be the guy who wrote it. Which set his curiosity to wondering who exactly that was?

One thing that the entire committee agreed on was this: punching Jolson, even in a fantasy, was still a better option than pasting one on his boss, who’d put the damn fool song in his head in the first place.

Either way, April could take its showers and the flowers that bloomed in May and shove them wherever it was that the moon went in June.

It didn’t help that his lower back was starting to join in the griping, adding its complaints about his decision to come traipsing out on a cold and drizzling April night, wasting his night off to come stare at what his strict Norwegian grandmother would have described as “a bunch of gruesomely heathenish gewgaws.” After all, he could have been back home in his apartment, nestled in his favorite chair, listening to The Rudy Vallée Show and rereading Thank You, Jeeves while getting on the outside of some decent scotch.

But instead, a pair of golden-brown eyes that were the polar opposite of roguish had asked him to come and he’d been powerless to say no to them.

“Lou? Are you all right?” said the thief who’d stolen Louis’s poor heart – and his night off – clean away. Oscar Miller looked over at Louis from where he’d been sketching one of the exhibition’s more heathenish treasures: a six-foot high pentagonal granite pillar carved with runes and designs.  “Is it your leg? Zeeskeit I told you not to wear those new shoes tonight. Do you need to sit down? There’s a bench around here some place.”

“No, it’s not my leg. My shoes are fine. I don’t need to sit down.” Louis wasn’t entirely lying. His leg wasn’t bothering him, not any more than it usually did and while he probably was going to regret wearing his new Oxfords, he didn’t need to sit down. “Remember, I grew up in the sticks. I used to walk five miles to school, one way, in snow up to my waist. Standing around the Shikagou Art Institute waiting for a lecture to start isn’t going to kill me.”

Oscar’s concern melted into a grin that could have made the May flowers bloom even without April showers. “It was three miles last time,” he said. “Uphill. Though the snow was only up to your knees.”

Louis returned Oscar’s grin, though his was the moon to Oscar’s sun. “Yeah, well, not all of us grew up soft like you, city boy,” he said. “Seriously, I’m fine. We’ll be sitting soon enough. Don’t worry about me, I’m just still peeved at Wallace.  The man’s a blister.”

Oscar’s smile dimmed, the sun going behind a cloud. “He’s still after you to do that interview with Goltz, isn’t he?” he asked. “It stinks that he’s not even giving you a choice.”

Louis shrugged. “Oh, he gave me a choice,” he said. “I can do the interview or I can clear out my desk. So, I’ll be doing the interview tomorrow evening. It’s going to be a slog, but I’ll pick up an extra bar of Lifebuoy and scrub myself extra hard afterwards.”

Oscar looked pained. “I’m sorry, Lou,” he said. “You could still tell him no—”

“—if I wanted my career to be as crippled as my leg is, sure,” Louis said, then sighed. “Which, believe me, I’ve considered, especially since listening to Goltz rattle on about how wonderful ‘der Furher’ is and how his German-American Peace Alliance is just a social club and not a bunch of Nazi boosters like the Silver Shirts or the Bund is going to seriously test my ability not to deck the fascist prick.”

Oscar chuckled. “Have I told you lately that I’m proud of you?” he said.

“Yeah, yeah,” Louis said. ““I’m just blowing off steam. I’m a big boy, if I didn’t want to talk to lame-brains and crackpots, I’d have stayed the hell out of journalism.  I’d be back on the dairy farm, staring at a cow’s backside instead of talking to a horse’s ass.  Enough about me; go back to enjoying the art.”

“You’re sure?” Oscar asked and for a brief, reckless moment, Louis considered ducking in to give Oscar a quick peck on the cheek.  Instead, he went with the better part of valor and smiled at him.

“Yeah, I’m sure. I’ll be fine.” Louis gestured at the pillar in front of them. “What’s the deal with this thing?”

Oscar’s enthusiasm crept back into his voice. “I’m really glad I brought my sketchbook. Some of these carvings are just incredible! You’d think they’d just been carved.”

“Really?” Louis edged closer to Oscar, leaning in to look more closely at the pillar. “You can tell just by looking?”

Oscar proceeded to point out various motifs and portions of the carving, gushing all the while about the use of line and form. Louis didn’t understand half of it – his appreciation for art didn’t extend much further than a deep-seated admiration for the illustrations in the Arrow Collar ads – but Oscar’s enjoyment was contagious. Especially when he shifted from discussing the art of the pillar to how he was planning on incorporating some of the designs into his latest comic strip.

“See, these look just like Martian hieroglyphics,” Oscar said, pointing at a group of runic carvings running up one face of the pillar.

“Speaking from experience, are you?” asked a voice that was as rich as cream and confident as Lou Gehrig playing stickball against a kindergarten class. Oscar’s eyes went wide and Louis turned to see what had stunned his companion to awestruck silence.

Grant Godiva would have turned heads even if he hadn’t been as rich as Masa Musa, even after the Crash of ’29. While he was touted in the press as a self-made millionaire, he’d started off with generous support from his inventor father, who’d turned a patent for a newfangled drill bit for oil fields into a lucrative business by leasing the part, rather than selling it. After his parents’ deaths, Godiva – then only a lad of seventeen – had gone on to sell the Godiva Tool and Die Company and used the money to found Magnum Enterprises, a holding company with interests in motion pictures, aeronautics, medical research, radio, newspapers and just about anything else that caught Godiva’s interest for more than five minutes. There were those who said the young man had really just created a way to print his own money, which seemed borne out by the fact that Godiva had brushed off the worst of the market crash like a bull brushing away a pesky fly.   Louis fought against his own impulse to gape like a hick just in from the sticks and turned his attention to the woman on Godiva’s arm.

Josephine Maxwell was the granddaughter of former slaves who’d become millionaires after achieving their freedom.  Her parents had both been born into wealthy families and had passed along not only that wealth but also a family tradition of hard work and social reform along with a not-inconsiderable fortune. Her father, Caleb Maxwell, held various business interests in Shikagou and throughout the rest of the United American States. Her mother, Martha, on the other hand, stuck closer to home, organizing various improving committees from the family’s Bronzeville neighborhood home while also finding time to run the Shikagou Crusader.  Josephine didn’t have a real job – instead, she did odd jobs for both of her parents, assisting them in various aspects of their financial and social obligations.

In addition to now being the second richest person Louis had ever met, Josephine Maxwell was also a tireless crusader for social justice and reform. While she’d always been involved in various causes, from women’s suffrage to the plight of the worker to racial equality, Josephine didn’t just march and hang up banners. Under her nom du masque, Belladonna, she fought crime and corruption on a much more direct level.

And over the last year or so, she’d roped Oscar and Louis – though not necessarily in that order — into her crusades as well. Louis helped mostly by funneling information her way – which had more to do with why he’d agreed to do the Goltz interview than his editor’s threats – while Oscar was serving as something between a partner and a protégé, working under the alias of The Green Carnation.

Tonight, all three of them were in civilian drag, having opted for a night at the museum to both enjoy the exhibition of Grant Godiva’s Britannic treasures and allow Josephine and Oscar to take a much-needed break from Oscar’s training. For his part, Louis was simply glad to have the opportunity to spend time with Oscar even if the venue wasn’t his first choice. Still, there was always the chance for a late-night supper at Hott Pepper’s Steak House over in Towertown.

 “Hello, Maxwell,” Louis said, giving Josephine a friendly, if somewhat curt nod. “I was wondering where you got off to. Didn’t know you ran in such exalted company. I’d have dressed better.”

Truth be told, Louis did feel more than a little shabby next to Josephine and Godiva – especially Godiva who was dressed to the nines and as handsome as a Michelangelo painting. If, say, Adam had climbed down from his fresco and climbed into a midnight blue suit pinstriped with gold thread, slicked back his hair and persuaded Mikey to sketch in a pencil-thin mustache.

Like Godiva, Josephine was dressed to impress in the height of fashion, but she drew the eye more because of how understated she was. Unlike Godiva’s top-dollar pin-striped suit, Josephine wore a simple tailored suit that was well-made but not flashy. The black-olive wool of the skirt and jacket contrasted well against both her chestnut brown skin and the tawny lion-yellow silk of her shirt.  While she wasn’t what Louis would have called classically beautiful, her features were strong in ways that would have been harsh on a woman with less presence.

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This Week’s Goals:

  • Keep working on Storm Warnings
  • Be better about checking my personal email and visiting other members of AROW80 and WIPpet Wednesday

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Boilerplate Links:  

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time.Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers. Feel free to join us on Facebook at ROW80 or follow us on Twitter at#ROW80.  Or you can do all of the above!

Visit 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook or visit the lady who started it all, Katharine Grubb and learn more.

Visit The WIPpeteers for more information about WIPpet Wednesday

Early Morning Update

Hello! It is 0632 local time, I have successfully survived the second Snowmageddon of the month — last week we got about seven inches of snow over two days, this weekend (the 19th-20th) we got probably about six inches total, plus we had freezing rain and high winds and single-digit temperatures. So, that was fun.

Oddly enough, despite us getting six inches of snow Saturday night/Sunday morning, I ended up not having to scrape my car because the wind cleared the snow away for me. So, that actually was kinda fun. Or at least neat.

I’m working still on Storm Warnings — I started my draft over yet again but I am REALLY happy with this draft. I’m thinking of changing the focus of the plot slightly. I’m also thinking this might be the first story in a series that maybe I can turn into an interconnected book some day.

Also: for Week Three of the 365 Day Challenge, I hit 5,826 words for the week! And I’m on target for this week! W00t!!

And now, I am going to bed. ‘Cause I am sleepy.

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Boilerplate Links:  

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time.Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers. Feel free to join us on Facebook at ROW80 or follow us on Twitter at#ROW80.  Or you can do all of the above!

Visit 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook or visit the lady who started it all, Katharine Grubb and learn more.

An update and a film review

Or, a film review and an update.

The Amy and I went and saw Aquaman tonight. One of the local movie theaters was running a flash sale this week where all tickets for all shows was five dollars Monday through Thursday, so we figured what the heck? It wasn’t quite as good of a deal as when we saw two movies in one day for free (due to pre-purchased tickets and a gift card) but it was close enough.

Full disclosure: I like Aquaman and have ever since I was a kid. Which is saying something because when I was a kid, Aquaman was that member of the Superfriends whose claim to fame was owning a jet ski and being able to talk to fish. It’s probably because I was going through an oceanography phase around the same time (what, didn’t every young girl in the mid 1970s/early 1980s go through an oceanography stage?!).

Aquaman as a character gets a lot of undeserved grief because of that old Superfriends cartoon. Unfortunately, the possibilities of the character didn’t get explored well (or, at all) back then, which is a shame. He’s gotten better treatment in recent comics, though. Which pleases me.

Aquaman is the third movie I’ve seen in the last four weeks or so (which for me is a lot of movies to see in a fairly short time). Back in December, we went to see Bumblebee and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, both of which we saw in the same day thanks to the previously mentioned gift card/pre-bought tickets.

No Spoilers Ahead: Of the three movies, Aquaman was probably the weakest. It was fun, but unlike Bumblebee and Spider-Verse, we didn’t leave the theater raving about the movie. Instead, we left it talking about how the movie was just a little bit extra and not really in a good way. It’s a damn pretty movie and the underwater scenes are well done (though, some of the voice work could have been better because it was kind of hard to hear what characters were saying). Jason Momoa joins the ranks of actors in superhero movies who seem to have been born to play a particular hero.

The movie did to some things well — namely, they handled Aquaman’s origin story quickly (easily done since there’s not much to it beyond “lonely lighthouse keeper meets Princess of Atlantis, baby ensues”) and jumped from his childhood to his adulthood, with him in full hero action without getting bogged down in unnecessary details.

We did get to see a few important bits of his upbringing, folded into slower portions of the movie. I liked the origin we got for Black Manta — though I would have liked to have seen more of him in the movie. In fact, I think they could have focused the movie on that story and left the other portion for a sequel. Or balanced the two storylines better.

The movie does set up a sequel but I’m thinking they’re going to have a harder time setting up the stakes because of the way things were handled in this movie.

Overall, I wasn’t disappointed in the movie, but I’m glad I didn’t pay more than five bucks a ticket for it.

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Writing Update: I’m still working on Storm Warnings and I’m thinking that I might end up doing something different with it than I have been (yes, I could be vaguer!). Still also toying with the idea of the Open Novella Contest, but am less sure about doing that. I dunno. I am waffling so much, I should go sit in syrup.

Oh! On a happy note: I’ve made my goal of 2,500 words for the week already! I just need to write one more day to make my “write four days out of the week” goal too!

Right now, I’m tired and I think I’m going to go to bed. Hope you guys have a good week!

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Boilerplate Links:  

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time.Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers. Feel free to join us on Facebook at ROW80 or follow us on Twitter at#ROW80.  Or you can do all of the above!

Visit 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook or visit the lady who started it all, Katharine Grubb and learn more.

AROW80 Check-In for 1/9/2019

Quick check-in because I’m trying to get some more done on Storm Warnings, which is actually kinda/sorta coming together.

  • 365 Challenge: Week One — I managed to write at least four days and I hit a grand total of 2,735 words for the first week.
  • Blogging — I posted three times last week, so happy about that
  • Storm Warnings — I’m making some progress on it and hoping to make more tonight and tomorrow. All thoughts, prayers and well wishes accepted.
  • Other Writings — I have a vague idea for the Open Novella Contest which I’m still not sure I’m going to do; it largely depends on how far I get on Storm Warnings.
  • Accountability Buddy: AROW80 is trying something new by having participants work together to keep each other encouraged and accountable. I met my Accountability Buddy this week and I look forward to working with her!
  • WIPpet Wednesday: January is the 1st month, this is the 9th day of it 1 + 9 = 10. Here’s ten paragraphs of Storm Warnings — be warned, this is raw, unedited first draft stuff so, it’s gonna suck.

It was the kind of thing that, eventually, Louis Zane knew he’d look back on and laugh – or at least chuckle ruefully over while he poured himself a stiff drink. But at the moment, he was nearly ready to chew nails and spit carpet tacks – not that he could show a sign of his frustration. Or, rather, he could, but not in the way he would have liked.

What he wanted to do was stride manfully over, grab Oscar Miller by his lapels and shake him until the peanut that served as his brain rattled back into place inside his stupid, handsome head and read him the riot act for playing hero like a damn fool. Unfortunately, he couldn’t for several reasons.

The first was simply that the closest he could come to a manful stride was a somewhat dignified limp, thanks to a left leg shortened by a bout of polio when he was six. Then again, he did have a stout ironwood cane that could easily be used for the beating of sense into the aforementioned stupid, handsome head. Louis dismissed that idea on the grounds he’d simply break the cane.

The second was that berating Oscar in public would give the game away. As far as the assembled bystanders knew, Oscar Miller was simply a poor dear who’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time when a group of ruffians had decided to try and rob the Shikagou Art Institute. The only people who knew Oscar’s secret, that he was in fact the Green Carnation, Shikagouland’s newest member of the costumed adventurer set, were Oscar, Louis and, of course, Josephine Maxwell, Oscar’s mentor/partner in crime, who was currently daubing at a cut on Oscar’s forehead, likely in hopes of disguising how quickly it was disappearing.

The third reason was that, once he’d finished berating Oscar for foolishness, Louis would have wanted to wrap his arms around the stupid, noble idiot and hug him until his ribs creaked. The sight of Oscar, sprawled on the marble floor of the Pen and Ink Gallery, looking dazed like a poleaxed steer had caused an icy hand to tighten around Louis’s heart. Never mind that his intellectual side knew Oscar was fine, or would be once his bell stopped ringing. Never mind that the gallery was full of cops, museum staffers and rubbernecks, none of whom were likely to be all that sympathetic to a couple of gays. Much as Louis wanted to be the one tending to Oscar, it was safer to let Josephine do it.

So, since he couldn’t yell at Oscar and he certainly couldn’t fuss over him, Louis took refuge in the next best place: sarcasm.

“If you really wanted to get hit with a rock, we could have gone to Lincoln Park instead,” Louis said, looking down at Oscar, who was looking up at him with a sheepish, still slightly dazed expression. “You didn’t have to come out here just to ram your head against some poor statue.”

“Megalith,” Oscar said, the faintest trace of a grin starting across his face. “Remember? That’s what Dr. MacSeoin called it. It’s a tenth-century Viking Age megalith.”

“Yeah, well, so it’s a rock with a pedigree,” Louis glanced over at the six-foot tall pentagonal granite pillar, which was carved with designs Louis’s strict Lutheran mother would have called ‘gruesomely heathenish’ where Dr. MacSeoin stood conferring with Grant Godiva, the pillar’s nominal owner. The pair of them were examining the spot where Oscar had hit the pillar, periodically gesturing toward it as if to illustrate a point. The scene reminded Louis of being back on his family’s dairy farm, watching his father and uncles debating the best treatment options for a cow who’d done herself an injury. Louis frowned as Godiva pointed to something he was sure might be a smear of Oscar’s blood on one of the pillar’s faces. “Uh-oh, better get your checkbook ready.”

“To be fair, he didn’t smack into it by choice,” said Josephine, looking up at Louis with an enigmatic smile. “One of the thieves threw him into it. I’m sure Mr. Godiva will be understanding, given the circumstances.”

Plans for this week include continuing on with Storm Warnings and maybe start drafting out ideas on the Novella contest. I’ll check in again soon. Have a good week and happy writing!

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Boilerplate Links:  

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time.Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers. Feel free to join us on Facebook at ROW80 or follow us on Twitter at#ROW80.  Or you can do all of the above!

Visit 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook or visit the lady who started it all, Katharine Grubb and learn more.

Visit The WIPpeteers for more information about WIPpet Wednesdays

Quick Update for 1/6/2019

Seriously going to have to keep this fast because I literally have to leave for work in five minutes. So, here’s what’s up:

  • Still working on Storm Warnings — and I’m going to need to ramp up the speed on that if I’m going to meet the due date.
  • Considering taking part in Wattpad’s Open Novella Contest II — which would mean needing to write 2,000 words of an idea that fits one of their prompts by January 29th.
  • Needing to get back to Omegas: Cake Walk — which has no deadlines but my self-imposed one of getting the damned thing done this year.

Beyond that, all is well, hope you guys are having a good week. I did manage to hit my goals for the first week of the 365 Writing Challenge — here’s hoping for continued success in Week Two!

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Boilerplate Links:  

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time.Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers. Feel free to join us on Facebook at ROW80 or follow us on Twitter at#ROW80.  Or you can do all of the above!

Visit 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook or visit the lady who started it all, Katharine Grubb and learn more.

Ok, Don’t Get Used To This…

Second day of the new year, second post in the blog! W00t! Got a streak starting here folks — but, like the title says, don’t get used to it. I am going to be working on posting more often, but I’m not at a point where I’m ready to go daily yet.

This is the first check-in for the first round of A Round of Words in 80 Days for 2019. And there is not a whole heck of a lot to report, since I announced my goals yesterday. I have worked a bit on Storm Warnings and did some tinkering on a couple spreadsheets I’m going to be using for tracking purposes.

Spreadsheets, I’ve discovered, are incredibly useful for writing purposes. You can use them for all sorts of things — time lines, plotting, tracking progress, etc. Also, if you need to do a lot of fiddly math, it can do it for you. AND with Excel, you can do things like conditional highlighting to get the spreadsheet itself to show you bits you deem important. Spreadsheets are seriously fun — and I realize just how dorky that sounds but I do not care, I am owning my spreadsheet love.

Plans for tonight are to work some more on Storm Warnings — which’ll carry over into my plans for tomorrow and Friday. I’m hoping some solid working time will lead to me having a completed draft by this time next week. Fingers crossed, folks and I’ll catch you on the flipside.

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Boilerplate Links:  

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time.Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers. Feel free to join us on Facebook at ROW80 or follow us on Twitter at#ROW80.  Or you can do all of the above!

Visit 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook or visit the lady who started it all, Katharine Grubb and learn more.


1/1/2019 — First Post: Begin As You Mean To Go On

Ok, first post of the new year! Wherein I shall outline my plans for 2019 in the hopes that putting it out into the universe will help me keep myself accountable in the coming months.

First things first: this year, I’m doing the 2019 iteration of the 365 Writing Challenge, which is sponsored by 10 Minute Novelists, a writers group that is centered around the idea that big goals can be achieved in small steps. In the words of Katharine Grubb, who initially developed the plan that turned into the book Write a Novel in 10 Minutes a Day, that eventually inspired the Facebook group:

I developed this system because I wanted to do it all. I wanted to give all to my family and pursue my writing dreams. I knew that if I looked for big chunks of time, it would never come.So my theory was that ten minutes were better than none at all. And if I did this six times, I would have written for an hour.

http://www.10minutenovelists.com/write-a-novel-in-ten-minutes/

NOTE: If you’re wanting to participate in the 365 Day Challenge, it’s currently closed for 2019 but what you can do is join 10 Minute Novelists over at Facebook and see if the group is a good fit for you — and prep for 2020!

I’ve done the 365 Day Challenge before — trying for the goal of writing at least once per day for 365 days (actually, I think that year was a leap year so 366 days). I came pretty close, but I did miss the odd day here and there and most of the writing I did was personal journaling and research notes. This time around, I’m hoping to create actual works of fiction and maybe the odd non-fiction essay/thought piece as well.

This year, the Challenge offered some different options, including the ability to choose how many days per week you wanted to commit to writing, how many words per week, etc. Toward that end, I’ve set myself a goal of 2,500 words/week and to writing at least 4 days per week. Which works out to writing 625 words on each of those 4 days or writing 357 words a day for 7 days. Or, obviously, any combination thereof.

This goal is admittedly a pretty low hurdle for me. I can write 2,500 words in a couple of hours if I get going (and if I’m typing, but even writing by hand 2,500 words is achievable within a day). There’s a reason I’m setting this goal low and it’s pretty much a take on Grubb’s reasoning: small goals are achievable. In addition, achieving one goal encourages you (or in this case, me) to achieve the next goal, which leads to achieving the next goal and the goal after that and the one after that and then the next thing you know, you’ve got a whole big stack of goals piled up around you like a goal-hoarding dragon.

The goal combination is also, I’m hoping, ideal for fitting in with the rest of my life. My job duties have changed drastically, which means that I have less downtime at work — which is when I used to do a lot of my writing. On the upside, I’m getting better about scheduling things that need to be done so I just need to start applying those skills to writing as well.

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I’m also still participating in A Round of Words in 80 Days — The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have a Life — which, like the 365 Day Challenge, lets you set your own goals and isn’t focused around writing novels like, say, Nanowrimo (though Camp Nanowrimo, which is in April and July, does something similar).

Though, as another aside, Nanowrimo itself isn’t exactly strict about policing how people participate — the main idea is that you challenge yourself, see what you can accomplish and if you win, you win! And if you don’t win, you’re still further along than you were on October 31st, so booyeah and rock on, you crazy diamond.

If you want to participate in A Round of Words in 80 Days, you can jump in at any time. They do ask that you have a blog — but it can be a pretty basic blog (like, say, this one).

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Another requirement for AROW80 is that you have specific, measurable goals for each round and that you post them in your blog (which is why you need a blog). So, since the first round of 2019 started yesterday here’s my goals for this round:

  • Finish Storm Warnings — which I have now started about five times, but I’m currently working on a draft that I’m liking. Writing short is freaking hard, people.
  • Finish Omegas: Cake Walk — which is still in the same limbo it’s been in for the last few months.
  • Post in my blog at least weekly as part of my checking in with AROW80.
  • Post and track my progress in the 365 Day Challenge on the group’s spreadsheet.
  • Write at least 4 times a week and produce a total of at least 2,500 words.

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Overall Goals for 2019: Finish SOMETHING — specifically, finish at least one of my current projects, preferably before the end of the first round of AROW80 (which is March 21st, 2019). Specifically, finish Storm Warnings by the end of this month since I’m working against a deadline on that.

And speaking of which, I’m going to close out here and get to work on Storm Warnings.

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Boilerplate Links:  

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time.Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers. Feel free to join us on Facebook at ROW80 or follow us on Twitter at#ROW80.  Or you can do all of the above!

Visit 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook or visit the lady who started it all, Katharine Grubb and learn more.

AROW80 Update for 12/5/2018

Let’s just assume that the traditional “It’s been a while since my last update” mea culpa/opening has been written and move on from there.  Ok? We good? Ok, moving on then. 

First things first: Omegas: Cake Walk is currently stalled while I’m working on another story, working title Storm Warnings,  which is…currently stalled. (Anyone else sensing a trend here?) Working on them was going to be my project for NaNoWriMo 2018 but due to a variety of reasons, including plain and simple “Don’t Wanna, Not Gonna,” that didn’t happen.  Am I disappointed? Yeah, especially since 50,000 words would likely have finished both projects and I could be sitting here basking in the joy of having finished them.

But, I didn’t work on them as hard/as much as I could have or should have so instead, I’m sitting here five days into December, with nothing really done to speak of and still in a heck of a slump. Which is not a fun feeling, let me tell you. 

I’m more annoyed about not having my short story done than I am about not having finished Omegas: Cake Walk.  O:CW has been in the works for a while now so I’m used to the idea of it not being done — plus, finishing this draft just means exchanging one phase of the project for another (namely, paring the book down from 150,00 words to a more manageable size). 

am disappointed that I don’t have Storm Warnings done though I’m also inclined to cut myself some slack for reasons I’ll get into in a moment.  The main reason I’m disappointed is because the story is going to be relatively short — under 8.,500 words (so 0.0567% of  Omegas: Cake Walk’s original hand-written length) — so dashing it off should have been relatively quick and easy.  Especially since I had 85% of the plot worked out prior to starting NaNoWriMo, so by rights should have been able to knock Storm Warnings out in a week.

There were some things about Storm Warnings that made (and make) it trickier than other stories I’ve written. First and foremost is the fact that it’s a historical piece, specifically, it’s set in 1937. Well, a 1937 since it’s also an alternate universe, which makes things easier and more difficult, simultaneously! Fortunately, the internet is supremely useful for looking up facts both mundane and obscure — and ‘alternate universe’ can cover a lot of relatively minor sins.

The other problems are related to the first and have mainly to do with issues of characterization for my heroes and my villains. In both cases, I’m writing about people very different from me and wanting to make sure I do them justice.  In the case of the heroes, this means not wanting to make Identity 101-level mistakes and in the case of the villains, this means not wanting to create scenery-chewing, cut-rate Snively Whiplash-clones. And in both cases, I want to remain true to historical accuracy — which, at the risk of sounding arrogant, is the thing I’m least worried about. History is on my side in a lot of what I’ve got planned. 

Sorry for the vagueness, I’ll go into more details once the story itself is done. 

In other news, I’ve started watching the newest season of Doctor Who, the one with the lady Doctor. It’s the first season of the show I’ve watched more than one or two episodes of (the last season I remember watching had the version of the Doctor who carried the question mark umbrella; the episode was Paradise Towers, I think?). I like the female Doctor and I like her companions — especially Ryan and his grandfather.  I’m still working my way through the episodes available on demand through Spectrum. I just finished the episode with Rosa Parks and it about made me cry but that’s partly how well done it was and partly how hormonal I am at the moment.  I’m seriously alternating between “This is so touching!” and “I’d eat my entire foot if I could get it in my mouth.”  (Instead, I’m going to eat some  fancy popcorn and maybe some jelly beans. Sweet Erma Bombeck, perimenopause is like second puberty — nobody wants second puberty!). Oh, and I had an idea for one of my older WIPs, Butcher’s Bill, so that’s happy-making.

And on that note, I’ll check in with you guys later.  It’s time for Arachnids in the UK — I need to alternate between eating and being creeped out.  And finding Jodie Whittaker adorable. 

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Boilerplate Links:

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writingchallenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time.Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellowROWers. Feel free to join us onFacebook at ROW80 or follow us on Twitter at#ROW80.  Or you can do all of the above!

AROW80 Update for October 17, 2018

Hello! It’s been a couple weeks since I posted, so I’m doing a brief update.

I’ve written a bit more in Omegas: Cake Walk and finally gotten myself out of the plot hole I was mired in. I haven’t gotten very far from where the hole was, but at least I’m out of it and in a position to get further down the road.

Part of the reason I haven’t been working on Omegas: Cake Walk is because I’ve been working on a short story, set in the same universe, but in the 1930s.  It’s going to feature some of the heroes from that universe’s Golden Age.  I’ve been working on those characters for a while and I’ve recently discovered a way to put them all in the same story, which pleases me no end.

I’ve been working on an outline of that story, using Lester Dent’s Pulp Master Plot Formula — Dent was a well-known pulp writer back in the 20s and through the 50s. He created Doc Savage and wrote at least 159 of the 181 novels published by Street and Smith (he wrote under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson).

Dent’s formula is pretty simple, It’s built around the idea of a 6,000 word story, broken into four equal 1,500 parts.  Michael Moorcock summarizes the formula thusly:

“[S]plit your six-thousand-word story up into four fifteen hundred word parts. Part one, hit your hero with a heap of trouble. Part two, double it. Part three, put him in so much trouble there’s no way he could ever possibly get out of it…All your main characters have to be in the first third. All your main themes and everything else has to be established in the first third, developed in the second third, and resolved in the last third. 

(Source: How to Write a Book in Three Days: Lessons from Michael Moorcock  — which includes Moorcock’s expansion on the formula for novel-length works.

The formula worked and worked well for Dent, who said of it:

“This is a formula, a master plot, for any 6000 word pulp story. It has worked on adventure, detective, western and war-air. It tells exactly where to put everything. It shows definitely just what must happen in each successive thousand words.

No yarn of mine written to the formula has yet failed to sell.

The business of building stories seems not much different from the business of building anything else.”

(Source: https://mgherron.com/2015/01/lester-dents-pulp-paper-master-fiction-plot-formula — which has a link to the formula in a .pdf format. There’s also Karen Woodward’s series on the formula that goes into more detail on each section — and also includes Michael Moorcock’s novel-length version of the formula).

One last Plot Formula Link: HOW TO USE PLOT FORMULAS/ — has information on nearly a dozen different plot formulas, including the Dent formula as well as suggestions about how, when and why to use them.

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There are (roughly) two schools of thought when it comes to writing stories these days — one school are Pantsers, people who just sit down and start writing without having done much/any previous planning about what’s going to come next in their story. They write ‘by the seat of their pants,’ as it were. The advantages to this method is that you can do whatever you want and are free to discover the story as you go. The downside is sometimes the story will dead end and you’ll have no idea where the heck to go next.

The other group are called Plotters, those are people who need to have an idea of where they’re headed on this story. They map out exactly what they want to have happen before they start writing in whatever level of detail they find necessary/most helpful to them.  The advantage to this method is that you know where you’re going, you have a road map to follow so avoiding dead ends should be easier. The disadvantage is that you might find yourself feeling beholding to sticking to the outline/road map, even when that outline/road map turns out to be taking you through some very dull territory.

Also, dead ends will still show up. Because dead ends are sneaky bastards like that.

Then there are those who are kind of a hybrid of the two, what’s called a Plantser  — writers who like to know where they’re going but who aren’t opposed to discovering some things along the way.  The advantages are that like a Plotter, you have a map to follow and like a Pantser, you can go off trail as you choose and, hopefully, be able to recalibrate your storytelling GPS and find a new way forward.

I’m a definite Plantser. Omegas: Cake Walk is the first story where I started off with a full outline and I credit it with me not only finishing the (mostly) handwritten draft but also for me being able to continue with the typewritten draft, which has led to me having to recalibrate my storyline like I’m driving on I-70 during construction season (so, driving on I-70).

Non-Ohioans, feel free to insert local highway project that has been under construction since the Year Dot. (or, D.O.T.).

With Omegas: Cake Walk, I didn’t use someone else’s outlining formula. Instead, I created my own system which worked pretty well — it amounted to deciding the story would take place over a week and then breaking the story down day by day and deciding what would happen on each day. In terms of the story-week, I’m on Friday night, with everything Getting Real on Saturday and the wrapping up on Sunday so I’m getting close to the end!

The story I’m currently plotting — working title, Storm Warnings — is the first time I’ve used an established writer’s system and I have to say, I’m thinking of using this for all my shorter pieces and possibly also for longer pieces as well. Dividing the story into quarters makes it easier to think of it as interconnected parts.  It also forces me to think about my middle and my ending rather than toploading all my creative energy on the beginning of the story, helping me to avoid notes like “Things happen, which leads to the conclusion which I’ll figure out at some point…”

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Another thing I did when I decided to make this story approximately 6,000 words long — I went and looked at the fanfic I’ve written in the past to see if I’d written anything that was about six thousand words. I knew I’d written a couple longer pieces (over 10,000 words), and a lot of short ones (under 3,000 words) but I didn’t think I’d written anything more mid-range and I was feeling insecure about my ability to write a nice, short, tight story.

I found one, a Transformers fanfic that was my attempt to explain what happened to the Combaticons after they were recaptured by Megatron at the end of the episode “Revenge of Bruticus. ”  The story, “Payback” is actually one of my favorite fics that I’ve written. It was the second one I published back when I was writing and posting fanfics.  You can click the link to read it (and I’ll be hiding in a metaphorical closet because you might be reading it — auuugh!).

Note: For those who know nothing about the original Transformers cartoon — the Combaticons were a combiner team (read: five robots who made a bigger robot so that Hasbro could sell six toys for the price of five)  who tried to kill the evil Decepticon leader Megatron by pushing the Earth into the Sun for reasons that I’m sure made sense to them at the time. They failed because the Autobots and Decepticons joined forces to stop the ultimate form of global warming.  And the next time they show up in the cartoon, they’re happily working for Megatron.

And on that note, I’m done for this post except to add that I’m planning on writing Storm Warnings and working on the end of Omegas: Cake Walk during Nanowrimo. Wish me luck! And good luck to you guys in your endeavors!

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Boilerplate Links:

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time. Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers. There’s no Linky Tools link this week so feel free to join us on Facebook at ROW80 or follow us on Twitter at #ROW80.  Or you can do all of the above!

AROW80 Round 4 2018 — Goals Post

Still plugging away at Omegas: Cake Walk — though I have actually made some small progress this week, in that I finished Chapter Twenty-One (mainly by deciding, “Ok, ending this chapter here, starting new chapter with the next scene!”) and I’m working on Chapter 22.

Looking at the official AROW80 post for the new round, I’ve decided to try setting some S.M.A.R.T. goals for this round.  S.M.A.R.T. goals are ones that are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound. 

So, here goes something! —

  • Specific: Finish this draft of Omegas: Cake Walk.
  • Measurable: I’m currently on Chapter 22; I’m going to have to do a little work to figure out  how many more chapters the book will be, but I’m going to make a Wild-Ass Guess and say that the book will be 30 chapters long, so I have eight more to go. This is, of course, subject to change.
  • Attainable: I’ve written 22 chapters so far; I can write another eight. I can do this.  The first eight chapters of Omegas: Cake Walk is about 54,000 words. That’s roughly half of the current manuscript and I don’t think the end of the book really necessarily NEEDS another 54K words (since that would put the total manuscript at around 188,000 words total which is waaay longer than it probably needs to be — then again, it’s much easier to take words out than it is to put them in so, we’ll call 54,000 more words a good estimate and is definitely do-able.
  • Realistic: 54,000 words in 80 days averages out to about 675 words per day. Considering I’ve done 50,000 words in 30 days at an average of 1,667 words per day, I think 675 words per day is reasonable (even if I likely won’t be writing 675 words every single day — didn’t yesterday, for example — I can still easily catch up on the days when I can write more freely).  Especially come November, since I’ll be doing Nanowrimo again this year. (I’m dunmurderin over there, if you’re looking for a writer buddy)
  • Time Bound: This round runs from October 1st to December 20th. That’s 80 days (hence the name) so there’s my boundaries.

Boilerplate Links:

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time. Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers. You can post your own link at the Linky Tools link or join us on Facebook at ROW80 or follow us on Twitter at #ROW80.  Or you can do all of the above!

Welcome/Introduction v. 2.0

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve created a Facebook page for myself in order to be able to share blog posts over there (Facebook did some kinda shenanigans and made it so you can’t share to a profile any more, just to pages — which is confusing to me because I thought my profile was my Facebook page).

Since I’m eventually going to get up the courage to start sharing my new page with people other than just my girlfriend, I thought I would do an introduction/welcome post here.

And what better way to start than to update relevant sections of the original introduction I did for this blog back in 2013:

Introduction, Part Two: Electric Boogaloo: (cheesy, I know but does it help that I did see both Breakin’ movies in the theater back in the day?)

I honestly don’t remember seeing the first Breakin’ movie (which doesn’t mean I didn’t see it in the theatre, just that it didn’t stick with me if I did), but I do remember being in the theatre for Breakin’ 2: The End Joke That Never Dies.,  And that’s honestly about it, since the movie wasn’t exactly memorable — there was dancing, there was a contrived 80’s movie reason for people needing to dance to solve their problem (which was also contrived n the style of the time).  It’s probably up on YouTube.

I have better memories of Howard the Duck — then again, I’ve watched Howard the Duck again since the 80s. (Though I didn’t see it in the theatres, since back then if I wanted to go to a movie, a significant section of my family would have to want to see the same movie — namely the part that drove and/or could pay for the movie as I had no drivers’ license nor disposable income to speak of).

I bit the bullet and switched over to a WordPress blog because for one thing, it seems to be the most popular option among folks in the challenge and for another, it looks like a better way to get feedback than Tumblr.  I’ll probably get around to deleting the Tumblr blog I started eventually. But if it’s still there in 2016, don’t be surprised.

It’s 2018, heading toward 2019 and the Tumblr blog is still there. It’s an off-shoot of my original Tumblr — and yes, I am beginning to wish I hadn’t gone with ‘crotchgunsamurai’ as my main Tumblr handler.  (In my defense, it’s a reference to the original live action Transformers movie, specifically the part where the Nokia phone is brought to life and sprouts a gun from its crotch and the crazy government agent makes a remark about Nokia phones having the spirit of the samurai — despite being a Finnish company, not Japanese and…look, I just wanted to be able to surf Tumblr and share things! And I liked that little robot! He was fierce!

My main email handle, dunmurderin is also a Transformers reference, though from the 1990s Generation Two comic (which was…odd; it’s the series that had Transformers reproducing by budding. Yeah. The 1990s!). Starscream is talking to himself about how Megatron’s sending him a message about his ultimate fate:

He’s telling me that once his new army is fully mobilized, my services will no longer be required. And given my past record of treachery, I doubt that means a pension and a sign that says ‘Dunmurderin!’

As much as I’m not a Starscream fan, I like this quote. It tickled me, so I used it for my email and the rest is history. And some very strange looks when I’m asked to spell out my email.

Back to the intro!

So, since this is kinda/sorta a fresh start, I’m going to introduce myself again.  My name is Kathy, I’m 43 years old, I work in a call center and I’ve been writing off and on since I was 17 but making up stories and worlds and assorted oddness since I was little. I can still remember being about five years old and talking to myself before I went to sleep and having to stop when my mom would come to bed — and then there was that magical day I realized that I could keep talking to myself when she came to sleep if I just started talking to myself inside my own head. Mind. Blown.

I’m 48 now, but otherwise the rest of this stands. I still work at a call center, my name is still Kathy.

I also owe my cousin Kate a debt of gratitude for getting tired of me, at 12, saying “One day, I’m going to write a story about…*insert blathering about characters and situations*” and telling me, “Why don’t you DO IT THEN?!” with all the wisdom of her then-ten year old self. Thanks Kate! You are the reason I now know that it’s possible to make a notebook go football shaped if you insert enough Post-it notes into it!

And I still owe Kate a debt of gratitude for telling me to shut up and do it. It’s been a long, long journey to get to this point, but I’m where I am now because of her getting irritated with me all those years ago. Thank you cranky ten-year-old Kate!

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That’s it for now. See you again soon. Welcome!

 

AROW80 Goal Post for Round 4 — October 1st, 2018 to December 20th, 2018

Ok, this list is going to be super-short and to the point:

  1. Finish Omegas: Cake Walk.
  2. Plot out the Will Cartwright story that started this whole Universe 46534 megillah all them years ago.
  3. Blog more regularly than I have been — like, at least once every couple weeks or something, you know? I could use the outlet.

Beyond that, looking forward to the library nearest my house reopening on September 23. It’s been remodeled and it looks super-spiffy on the outside. Can’t wait to see the inside!

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Boilerplate Links:

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time. Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers. [No Linky Tools Link this week, so feel free to join us on Facebook at ROW80 or follow us on Twitter at #ROW80

AROW80 Check-In for September 19, 2018 — the Final Check-In (of Round 3, 2018).

It’s the Final Check-In, and I feel fine.  I’d rather be feeling accomplished but I’ll settle for fine. Fine is good.  Fine is a place to start anew from.

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Today, I’m actually working on Omegas: Cake Walk — as in, I’ve actually managed to write some words that are (oh please god) going to move the story forward! As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve got an outline of what I want to have happen next, which is hopefully going to give me a roadmap I can follow to get actual writing done.  Now, I just have to sit down and put words to paper.

You know, the tricky part. For that definition of ‘tricky’ that includes “the really, really painfully hard and difficult part that takes forever! It’s like beating my head against a wall! *whine* *gnash teeth* *cries*”

*ahem* *collects self* It’ll get done, I know it will, it’s just taking longer than I want it to. I’ll get there eventually, this is just a dry spot. (I’ll talk more about my plans in my Goals Post for Round Four — out soon!).

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In other news, I created a Facebook page for myself as a writer. You can find it at Doomsday Writer, Kathy Pulver — I created it mainly because Facebook changed their policies about allowing WordPress sites to reblog posts to Facebook profile pages. If you want to reblog, you need a Facebook page instead. And I want to be able to share my stuff over at Facebook because of reasons. (Mainly because I want to be able to share to most/all of the social media platforms I’m on, part of that whole ‘build your online presence’ thing writers are supposed to be doing these days).

For now, it’s still a fairly small potato, but eventually, I hope to make it something more. So, for those who remember the early internet, just imagine a bunch of “Under Construction” .gifs and .jpegs here).

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Beyond this, there’s not a whole heck of a lot to report. I’m continuing to plug away at the scene I’m working on, while listening to Linkara review comics and eventually, I’m getting pizza! Because I’ve earned it, damnit! Pizza and fried apple pies — because I never did get pie the other day.

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Not the Onion: the NRA (spokesperson) vs. Thomas the Tank Engine

So, this is a thing I saw on Facebook tonight…

N.R.A. Show Puts Thomas the Tank Engine in K.K.K. Hood to Criticize Diversity Move — link goes to a New York Times article, which does indeed reprint the image of Thomas the Tank Engine in a KKK hood that appeared on a recent episode of the NRATV program Relentless. Because the show’s host, Diana Loesch, was trying to make the point that adding diversity to the cast of Thomas the Tank Engine is like racism because acknowledging that your show could be more diverse means you’re admitting to being racist? Or…or something? I…uhh…yeah…we’re going to unpack this for a bit…

Quick Take: Oh for crying in church…thank god I had something to eat before I saw this. This kinda stupid you don’t want to try taking on when your blood sugar’s low. As it is, I think I’m going to need ice cream after this.

So what’s going on?: Apparently, the Thomas the Tank Engine show is  going to be introducing several new characters in some upcoming episodes. The show’s going to have Thomas leave his home island and go visit other countries, like China, India and Australia and so Thomas is going to meet trains who aren’t generically British and/or white like he and his friends are. There are also going to be some new female trains added to the cast.

It’s been a while since I last watched Thomas the Tank Engine and I was never the target audience for it, so I don’t remember if they had any female train characters. What I mostly remember from the show are a bunch of male British characters who, if I had to put a race to them I’d peg as white — and Ringo Starr and George Carlen playing Mr. Conductor during the live action bits.  And I’m not Googling anything about the show because that way lies madness. Feel free to offer corrections/links to more accurate Thomas the Tank Engine info in the comments.

I’m more interested in looking at this quote from the article above, about Diana Loesch, who aired the Thomas the Tank Engine in the Klan hoods because:

In the segment, Ms. Loesch, an outspoken conservative commentator, questioned the decision to add the new characters, including Nia, a train from Kenya. How, she asked, could the children’s show introduce “ethnic diversity” when its anthropomorphized characters are mostly trains?

(Note: Links in quote were there in the original article; also, Nia’s adorable!)

If you’ve watched kids shows from, well, ever, you’ve seen characters that aren’t human or even humanoid who’ve been assigned genders and ethnicities before. It’s an accepted part of animated storytelling, right?  If the character has eyelashes, she’s a girl.  Accents = ethnicity (which can get confusing when the characters are supposed to be aliens — unless Ironhide is supposed to be from Cybertron’s Deep South).

But, even beyond that, it’s really not that hard to figure out how you go about introducing ethnic diversity with non-humanoid characters — Nia is a train who was, presumably, built in Kenya. Not much of a stretch for her to think of herself as Kenyan, is it? I mean, we talk about cars being Japanese and vodka being Russian and pastries being French so why can’t a train be Kenyan? Pretty sure Thomas and his friends think of themselves as British, so it’s not like there isn’t a precedent going on.

Funny how Leosch doesn’t seem to have a problem with that, though. It’s almost like ethnicity only becomes a touchy subject when it’s not Anglo-American. Kind of like how gender only becomes a problem when it’s not male (Transformers fandom, looking at you).

How much of this is actual confusion on Loesch’s part and how much is faux-confusion meant to serve as a rhetorical gambit, I don’t know. The generous part of me wants to think that maybe, just maybe, she’s honestly so unimaginative that the idea of non-humanoid characters having identities beyond “I’m a train” is throwing her for a genuine loop.

The cold and cynical part of me is less inclined toward such generosity.  That part thinks this ‘confusion’ is willful ignorance on Loesch’s part — it’s not that she can’t understand how a train could be Kenyan or female, it’s that she doesn’t want to understand.  Understanding someone else’s point of view is difficult; it’s much easier to sneer at something and dismiss it out of hand.  That way, you don’t have to face the fear of the unknown.

Which is what I think is at the root of most if not all of this kind of anti-diversity pushback that we’ve seen since, well, since always but especially in the last decade or so. Too many people think that other people gaining recognition and representation means that someone else (i.e. them) has to lose recognition and representation. But that’s not true.  As the meme says, it’s not pie.

Source: https://imgflip.com/i/1ijiwh (and now I want pie…)

 

Seriously, I think I’m going to go get some pie…

AROW80 Check-In for September 12, 2018

Ok, so, I haven’t been blogging as regularly as I wanted to when I started this back up — but on the other hand? I’m blogging a heck of a lot more than I was before I started back up so, counting that as a win.

Which, oddly enough, seems to be a bit of a theme for me lately. I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday and found out that my A1C hasn’t changed since my last visit — which is good, since it didn’t get worse but which isn’t great, because it means I haven’t done much of anything to lower it. Still, counting it as a win because stalemate means I still have the chance to improve.

And speaking of stalemates! Omegas: Cake Walk has been stalled for a while now because I’m trying to figure out the ending. Or, more accurately, trying to figure out the next steps that will lead to the final confrontation that will lead, ultimately, to the ending.

In the spirit of not burying the lede, I’ve finally gotten a line on what I want/what needs to happen next and I’m pretty happy with it. It ties together things that I’ve already established and ties into my main POV character’s backstory in ways that please me (vague post is vague, I know….) — I’ll come back to this in a bit, here’s my super-secret writer technique for figuring out what should happen next:  I stopped writing.

I could try to make that more complicated than it is but it honestly boils down to the fact that I stopped writing, took a break and worked on other things for a while.  Mainly, I started typing up the notes I’d taken from The Evolution of the Costumed Avenger: The 4,000-Year History of the Superhero by Jess Nevins c. 2017, which led to me deciding to do a bit more digging into the history of superheroes and some more note taking. In fact, I’m still working on that; I’ve recently finished reading through On the Origin of Superheroes: From the Big Bang to Action Comics #1 by Chris Gavaler and I’m currently working my way through Super-History: Comic Book Superheroes and American Society, 1938 to the Present by Jeffery K. Johnson (in this case “the Present” is about 2010).

If you’re looking for books that entertainingly think (and occasionally over think) about comic books and superheroes and how they relate to world and/or American history, I recommend all three of these (plus Gavaler’s Superhero Comics, which I have but haven’t read yet but which touches on some areas of interest to me — including a discussion of the American eugenics movement and superheroes). Oh! And Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero by Larry Tye — which I listened to as an audiobook rather than took notes on but I got some good crunchy brain food from it, oh yes indeedy!  I still want to read or listen to Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman too.  And The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy and the History of Comic Book Heroines by Mike Madrid.  Not to mention the books that look at superhero comics’ Jewish roots (seriously, with the possible exception of the creators of Wonder Woman, nearly every other superhero was created by a Jewish writer and/or artist), like:

Plus there’s also The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How It Changed America by David Hadju — if you want to understand the moral panics against D&D, various flavors of popular music, video games, social media and every other moral panic that’s happened since the early 1950s, read this book. The arguments against all those things got their roots here.

Oh! And the last one I’m going to link to (I swear, otherwise this is all I’m going to be doing for the rest of the day): Superman versus the Ku Klux Klan: The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero Battled the Men of Hate by Richard Bowers — it talks about the 1940s radio shows where Superman did indeed battle a thinly-veiled version of the Klan and about the real-life guy who went undercover within the Klan to funnel information about them out.  It’s a fun piece of history right up there with my two favorite stories about Jack Kirby:

  • Favorite Jack Kirby Story #1: Kirby helped create Captain America — he was the artist, Joe Simon was the writer.  Captain America debuted in December 1940 — a full year before the US would enter World War II.  Like Action Comics #1, this comic is likely better known for its cover than for its contents.  This is the book that has Captain America decking Hitler. It came out at a time when there were Americans who fully supported Hitler and the Nazi movement (shocking, right?) and, as is the way of such folks, they voiced their objections to the cover in an erudite and mature fashion.Nahhhhhh, they threatened Simon and Kirby’s lives. To the point that the mayor of New York, Fiorello LaGuardia offered protection to both of them.  (Apparently, Fiorello was a Captain America fan; he also once read the Sunday funnies to kids over the radio during a newspaper delivery strike, so nobody would miss out on their favorite strips).  But, that’s just background to my favorite bit of the story (Note: Timely is what Marvel Comics was originally called):  Once, while Jack was in the Timely office, a call came from someone in the lobby. When Kirby answered, the caller threatened Jack with bodily harm if he showed his face. Kirby told the caller he would be right down, but by the time Jack reached street level, there was no one to be found. (source: The Kirby Effect: Making it Personal
  • Favorite Kirby Story #2:  Is sadly not true and I’m disappointed that it’s not but I’m glad I found out the truth.  The story I’d heard was that Kirby, who helped create Black Panther, was told to put more white people in the comic — so the next issue he had Black Panther fighting the Klan.  It’s not true. It feels like it could be true, based on the fact Kirby clearly had no problem bringing real-world evil into his comics and the fact there was a storyline where Black Panther went up against the Klan — but Kirby didn’t write it. You can read more about the myth and about the actual comics here: Black Panther and the Myth of Kirby vs. the KKK.
  • Substitute Favorite Kirby Story #2: Kirby served as a scout in Europe during World War II.  He served with a unit that liberated at least one concentration camp (it should probably go without saying, but Kirby was Jewish; it’s theorized that one of the reasons he was drafted as a scout was because he spoke Yiddish).  This and his other wartime experiences helped to shape his future work which included a lot of anti-fascist elements. Source: 8 Ways Comic Book Legend Jack Kirby Fought Fascism. 

Ok, stepping away from the subject for now because, again, I could go on about the history of comics and how we owe so much of our popular culture to creators who existed on the outside of the mainstream — which would naturally segue into the influence that Baroness Orczy and the Scarlet Pimpernel had on the creation of characters like Batman and Superman (via Zorro) and that would, of course, link back to the fact that modern science fiction essentially began with Mary Shelley and how ironic it is that a bunch of gatekeeping wetsocks want to whine about how women have no place in science fiction and comics when those genres were essentially created by women (you’re welcome!) — and THAT leads to me wanting to do a riff on the Maui “You’re Welcome” song from Moana with Mary Shelley as Maui and that way lies madness! And a complete derailing of what I was trying to talk about.

So, wrenching the controls back from, errr, myself and getting back to it:

Part of the reason for dipping back into this research — other than finding a way to feel like I’m working on writing when I’m actually not — is that I’m wanting to create a superhero universe that has some depth and heft to it, like the Marvel or DC universes do. To do that, I decided a while back that I needed to create the heroes that started things off. Toward that end, I wanted a better idea of how these heroes came about in our world — with the difference being that in the universe of Omegas: Cake Walk, the heroes are real, not legends or four-color images of fantasy.

I’ve got a few ideas and eventually, I’ll share them but they need to percolate a bit longer before I do.

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I said earlier that I’d finally gotten a line on what I want/what needs to happen next  in Omegas: Cake Walk and that I’m happy with it, especially since it ties things together in my POV character’s backstory with what’s going on in the book, as well as a few other bits and bops in ways that make me happy.

How’d I do it? I went back and thought about my POV character’s identity and how it shaped their experiences prior to the events of the book.  Since the character’s identity is different from my own (*insert finger-waving of vagueness here!*), I went online to a writing group and asked for help from folks who might share that identity.

I was nervous about doing so, not so much because I was afraid of that the question would offend a person of the identity I was researching but more because I was dreading getting writing ‘advice’ along the lines of ‘don’t worry about that PC crap! Just write what you want! It doesn’t matter!’

I don’t like that kind of thinking. It brings out my inner Credible Hulk and it’s hard to write a long, well-though out rebuttal on a tiny phone keyboard.

Citing Credible Statistics - the Credible Hulk - Feature Image

Source: Are You Sure You’re Citing Credible Statistics in Your Blog Posts? (which has nothing to do with what I’m talking about but is where I found the above image). 

Luckily, it went well — I got a lot of good advice from people and didn’t have to deal with any bigots or anti-PC apologists. And that advice led to me taking a minute to stop and think about the character’s life prior to the book and how their identity might have been shaped by their life experiences, which in turn led to thinking about how that identity might shape their decisions and experiences during the book itself. Doing so gave me the added push I needed to sit down and write a brief outline of how I’m planning on going forward. It’s honestly the most and the best work I’ve done on the book itself in a month, maybe longer.

I also found out that I’m going to need to do a bit of work when I go back over this draft to make sure that this information is included because otherwise, the book’s not going to make a lick of sense. Not even two licks.

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I’m almost at my self-imposed time limit for this library (I could stay longer, but I want to go home and get something to eat — I’m thinking chicken wings). Another time, I will talk more about my thoughts on Writing the Other and the importance of diversity and representation in writing. Until then, hope you guys have a good week and stay safe.

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AROW80 Check-In for August 15, 2018

In terms of actual progress, I haven’t written or typed up much of anything on Omegas: Cake Walk in the last couple of weeks but I do have an idea of where I want to go from where I am so that is helpful beyond measure. Now, it’s just a question of sitting down and making myself do the actual work of writing.  So, in other words, I’m still stalled, but I’ve got some traction now so it’s just a question of rocking out of the rut I’m in!

In an effort to distract myself but still feel productive, I’ve been typing up some notes I took from The Evolution of the Costumed Avenger: The 4,000-Year History of the Superhero by Jess Nevins (2017) — and by some notes, I mean an entire single subject notebook’s worth of notes.  The book is very interesting, especially if you’re like me and enjoy over-thinking about things. Nevins looks at the history of superheroes as a genre starting back in 2100 BCE with the Epic of Gilgamesh. He breaks history down into smaller and smaller chunks of time, narrowing his focus on the genre of superheroes.

I read the book because I wanted to create a realistic history for superheroes/powered adventurers in this universe. And it helped and is currently helping because I’m coming up with ideas as I’m typing up my notes.

There’s one small problem with worldbuilding — it’s like eating pistachios or potato chips or whatever your can’t-stop-at-one snack of choice is. Once you get started, you keep finding yourself creating other bits and bobs, some of which are just not useful for the story at hand but that might eventually come in handy. Toward that end, I’m trying to come up with a junk drawer of sorts to keep these ideas close by.  I’m thinking I might end up with yet another Excel spreadsheet (I seriously love using Excel for writing related stuff; it’s super-adaptable and convenient).

And now, back to note taking!

AROW80 Check-In for August 1, 2018

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned it here before — and I’m too lazy to go back and check to see if I have — so, this theory may be new to everybody or I may be rehashing old news. Either way, here goes:

Omegas: Cake Walk is the longest thing I have ever written and it’s not yet finished. Writing it out by hand took the better part of a year, working steadily in places and going through dry spells here and there, which I kind of expected (though working on the rough draft, I did learn that I am absolutely terrible at estimating how many notebooks a project is going to take).

When I started typing O:CW up, I thought it wouldn’t take overly long to do so since, hey, I did the heavy lifting already! All I need to do is type up the words that are already there, maybe editing here and there but eventually *bam* first draft! Done and dusted, no worries, on to editing!

And at first, yeah, it was easy and the words flew across the screen. Sure, it took longer than I thought it would but I was still getting things done and the Process was Ongoing! W00t!

But as I was going on, I discovered that some/much of what I’d written out by hand didn’t quite work anymore. There were things that needed to be fixed because as written they were just, well, crap. Nonsensical, illogical, didn’t fit with the story idea as it had morphed in my head. Even still, I kept my head down and made the changes and barreled on through. Eastbound and down, loaded up and trucking!

And I noticed, as time went on, that the closer and closer I got to the end of the story, the harder and harder it was to keep going forward. I went from being able to type thousands of words in a session or writing out pages of new stuff to adjust the story, to writing maybe a few hundred words or scribbling out a fraction of a page.  Part of this was due to the fact that my duties at work changed, altering my writing time and part of it was due to the fact that approaching the end of the story was like approaching light speed.

When approaching light speed, your spaceship (or speedster or Nyan-Cat or whatever) will have to expend more to go faster, because as you draw closer to light speed, your spaceship/speedster/Nyan-Cat gets heavier.

Approaching the end of a story, especially a novel-length story, everything you write has to make sense, otherwise your ending won’t make sense. And if your ending doesn’t make sense, you’re in trouble. Because an unsatisfying ending is kind of a deal-breaker for most readers. I mean, I hate sucky, stupid, unsatisfying endings and I’m pretty sure most people do too.

So, I am currently in the process of trying to coax more speed out of my story-telling engines, which is harrrrrd (feel free to read that in the whiniest voice you can imagine, because that’s the way I’m saying it). But, I’m not giving up and I think I get some points for that.

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Other news: I’ve started listening to J.D. Robb’s In Death books.  I’ve started somewhere in the high 30s or something like that because that’s what the library had available when I was looking for audio books.  The first one was (I think) Calculated In Death and it was included in a two-pack of MP3 CDs (which are freaking awesome since you don’t have to change the @#$@ CD!) with Thankless in Death.  And I’m currently listening to Brotherhood in Death, which is a regular CD format so I have to change the CDs every so often but I’m enjoying it.

Note: I looked it up to get the titles right and apparently I started in the mid-40s and have jumped to the early 50s. So…wow.

The books are…okay, by and large. I know I’m missing out on a lot of back story but Robb does a great job of making it so that you don’t really *need* to have read the previous books to be able to get what’s going on.  I mean, all you really need to know is that Eve Dallas is a BAMF cop, her husband Rourke can buy everything and that somebody’s gonna die and it won’t be a pretty death. The books are pretty much what you’d expect from formula fiction.  Are these going to be being discussed by scholars 500 years from now? Probably not — but then, they might because what gets studied in literature is often a case of what survives. The idea that J.D. Robb will eventually be seen in the same kind of literary lights as Shakespeare or Dickens tickles me no end.

I was worried when I started listening to these books that Dallas’s hatred of All Things Girly would get on my nerves but Robb does a good job with it. It helps that Dallas can and will dress up when she has to and that her partner Peabody is shown as being just as BAMF as Dallas, while also enjoying doing “girly-things” like handcrafts (she makes Dallas a scarf in one book), and baking and wearing bright pink cowboy boots and makeup.  Dallas might scoff at her friend’s hobbies but she respects them, none the less.

One of the complaints I have about the book is that Dallas has things a little too easy sometimes. Ok, it’s understandable in any series book that you’re going to have characters developing connections to each other. And I’ve read enough mysteries to know that sometimes logic takes a picnic and we handwave away concerns like conflicts of interest for the convenience of the plot. But I’d think Dallas would get more pushback for using her personal connections as much as she does in her investigations. Especially her connections to Rourke, who is apparently the richest man in the history of ever.

But, that said? None of that is any different or any worse than I’ve seen in other thriller type books. In some cases, it’s handled way better than I’ve seen in other books. Hell, Lee Child’s first Jack Reacher novel hinges on the wild coincidence that Reacher just happens to randomly show up in the small, insignificant town where his brother was recently murdered (Child makes it work).

Long ramble shorter: I like the In Death books. I’m going to listen to a few more. Maybe even read a couple, eventually. If you like fast-paced, hard-driving action thrillers with a decent amount of police procedure and some goofy high-technness, give them a try.  Jump on in!

Happy week, folks, catch you on the flip-flop!

Also: if someone could bring me a Yorkshire Pudding Wrap — preferably with roast beef but I’ll take roast turkey — I would consider you a friend for life.

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A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time. Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers. Click Here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list… Or, join us on Facebook at ROW80

 

 

 

 

AROW80 Check-In for July 11, 2018

Howdy! There’s not a whole lot to report, except that I’m getting some writing done, which is a nice change from how things have been going. I have actually managed to get three pages written today and I’ve got plans to get a bit more done.  Chapter Twenty-One is moving along apace and I am happy with what I’m doing.

One of the things that has been tricky for this chapter is the fact that I had to stop and do a bit of on the fly worldbuilding.  Luckily, I was able to fall back on some older science fiction ideas and rework them into something that felt right (and which can be tweaked further in order to make better sense later on).   And today, I kinda/sorta outsourced some of my worldbuilding. See, I’ve got aliens from Alpha Centauri/Proxima Centauri and I needed local names for their worlds. So, I looked up a couple generators — one for Nonsense Words at Soybomb.com and one for Lovecraftian Names at Seventh Sanctum (which has scads of other generators for all sorts of things).  I picked out a few words that gave me the right mind-feel and moved on.

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A Round of Words in 80 Days: Round 3, 2018 — Goals Post

I’m going to keep this relatively short and sweet. For a change. My goals for this time around are:

  1. Finish Omegas: Cake Walk: As in, finish the first fully typed up draft of the story from beginning to end and then take a break before going in for a round of editing. I’m fairly close to the end of the story now, so hopefully between July 2nd and September 20th, 2018, I can manage to get it done.
  2. Write more blog posts: For no other reason than that it’s fun to ramble about stuff. Specifically about writing. Maybe about reading, especially about post-apocalyptic mens adventure novels.  And about world-building.
  3. Start researching Omegas: Long Shot: I have some of the research already done, I just need to finish up a bit more and then start trying to craft a plot that can combine time travel, Pleistocene Americans, and cheesy syndicated TV shows.
  4. Noodle around with some of my other WIPs that are currently on the back burner and that could be brought round to the front for a bit. 

Boilerplate Links:

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time. Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers. Click Here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list… Or, join us on Facebook at ROW80

Harlan Ellison, 1934-2018

Harlan Ellison, Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer, Dead at 84 – Link leads to NPR obituary.

Harlan Ellison was one of the first writers I read nearly as much of his work as I could get my hands on. His short story/novella “A Boy and His Dog” was partly responsible for my lifelong interest in post-apocalyptic fiction and the movie that was made is more than partly responsible for 13 year old me pestering my mom about getting a VCR.

Ellison wrote a lot of interesting and edgy stories. He also is one of the first authors whose non-fiction writing drew my interest. I remember telling my mom about an essay Ellison wrote about a civil rights march and how the National Guard had their guns pointed at the marchers, not at the people threatening them and how outraged I was by that.

A description of an episode of the Outer Limits that he wrote, called “Soldier” had a lifelong impact on me as a writer, mainly in the shape of my enjoyment of creating certain types of characters.

His “A to Z in the Chocolate Alphabet” is still one of my favorite fantasy stories – for all that it’s really just a collection of snippets each themed around a letter of the alphabet. I have a comic book adaptation of it and it is a prized possession.

As I grew older, reading some of Ellison’s writings, especially about his problems with the TV industry, led to me becoming less than gruntled with him. On the one hand, by that point I was old enough to understand that yeah, the TV industry was producing a lot of crap but on the other hand, for all the righteous criticism he gave, Ellison didn’t seem to have a problem with taking their money. Also, he seemed more than ready to throw fans of his TV work under the bus.

Some of the stories I’ve heard about Harlan Ellison tie into the idea that he was “America’s weird uncle,” the guy who would say anything, no matter how outrageous and charm you with the story afterwards — especially if he can control the entire narrative.  Things like him sending 213 bricks, postage due, to an editor who refused to pay him.  Others, like his groping of Connie Willis at the 2006 Hugo Awards, serve as a reminder that weird uncles can and often are, assholes who can talk a good game.

I haven’t read much of Ellison’s work in the last twenty or so years except rereading “A Boy and His Dog” a while back. I’m sad that he’s gone, but mainly in the sense that this serves as a reminder that bits and pieces of my childhood are slowly vanishing from the world. And considering how problematic some of the bits and pieces of my childhood were/are, that’s not necessarily a bad thing but, as problematic as he is/was/will continue to be, Harlan Ellison had a fairly big influence on me as a reader, a writer and a person. My condolences to those who will be most affected by his passing.

AROW80 Update for 6/27/18

Editing to add: consider this my last post for AROW80 Round 2 of 2018. I’ll be posting my Round 3 goals post soon.

Hi! It’s been a while since I updated, mainly due to circumstances that are almost entirely under my control and which amount to “I wanted to do something else” instead of posting an update. So, here we are.

First things first: Omegas: Cake Walk proceeds slowly. I’m working on Chapter Twenty-One and I’ve hit a wall.  The reason for the wall is that I’m about to unveil some information that is going to be crucial to figuring out What’s Really Going On — so, the information has to make sense and be consistent with what I’ve previously written. Or at least not so wildly divergent from what I’ve already done that editing will be even tougher than it’s going to be.

On the plus side, I’ve got an idea of what the Crucial Information is going to be and how to go about explaining it, so it’s just a question of getting the words to cooperate and get out of my head and onto the page.  The easy part, right?

*laughs hysterically, weeps a bit, laughs a bit more* Yeahhh, so, on to other things..

The month of June is proceeding apace. There’s not a whole lot to report. Work is work. Amazon Prime has season 20 of Midsomer Murders, which is happy-making.

On the Netflix side of things, I started watching Colony and really enjoyed the first season. Very nicely done story about alien invasion that reminds me of a more grown-up version of the miniseries “V” from back in the 1980s.

Also watched some of the later seasons of Death in Paradise which is a fun little British mystery series set in the Caribbean and features Danny John-Jules as one of the local constabulary (he played Cat in Red Dwarf). They did something really interesting when the show switched detectives in the third season that I won’t discuss as it’s a massive spoiler. There’s a cute lizard in the show too.

Reading-wise, I read a really, really great book recently: Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland (link goes to the author’s page and her summary of the book).  It’s a book that I bought after reading the first couple pages of the sample I got from Amazon and I read it in about two days during downtimes at work. It’s one of those books that I kept switching out of because I didn’t want to finish it too soon.

The premise behind the book is this: the dead began to rise during the Civil War, leading to the Blue and the Grey ganging up against the Green, so to speak. As part of the effort to prevent the zombie apocalypse, African American and Native American children were placed in combat schools and taught to fight the dead.

The main character, Jane McKeene, was born two days before the dead began to walk and, when we meet her, she’s in her senior year at a prestigious academy that trains African-American girls to be “Attendants” to wealthy white families — think of them as a combination ladies’ maid and anti-zombie bodyguard. What Jane really wants is to go home to the Kentucky plantation where she was born and help protect her mother and the people she grew up with from the threat of “shamblers.”  (Yeah, it’s another case of a zombie story avoiding the Z-word but considering the time period, it works better than ‘zombie’.)

Quick backtrack: the opening line of the book is what sold me on this story. Because Jane talks about how she *almost* didn’t live long enough to see the dead walk because when she was born, the midwife nearly killed her because a dark brown baby wasn’t supposed to come out of the plantation owner’s wife.  With an opening like that, you have to read on to find out more.  And you do and it is worth it.

Dread Nation was right up my street for a few reasons: first, I’m a sucker for well-done historical stories (Lindsey Davis’s Marcus Didius Falco mysteries and the follow-up series featuring his adopted daughter Flavia Albia come to mind as first among equals.). And, from there it’s a hop, skip and a jump to enjoying a good alternate history story (In the Presence of Mine Enemies is a nice example of Harry Turtledove’s alternate history stories and is a standalone).

Dread Nation is also a good example of a post-apocalyptic society, in the literal sense that the apocalypse is over (more or less) by the time the story starts. Society has moved on and adjusted to the new status quo: namely that the dead will rise and someone must put them down when they do. The zombies of Dread Nation are the usual sort: people turn when they are bitten, the ‘fresher’ the corpse, the faster and more agile they are, but by and large the shamblers are rightly named, and the only way to be sure is to decapitate the zombie.  The likely cause of the apocalypse is a virus of some sort — though nobody in the book calls it that, since we’re still pre-germ theory of medicine. Mentions are made of Lister and Pasteur, which made my nerdy self go squee!

There’s even mention of the fact that society is changing even from the events of the apocalypse: Jane and her classmates are concerned about the fact that since the worst of the zombie problem appears to be over, there’s less of a demand for Attendants, except as status objects for wealthy white families. So, if they can’t get hired as Attendants, chances are they’ll end up on an ordinary zombie killing work gang.

As someone who has read a lot of apocalyptic fiction — zombies, nuclear holocaust, etc. — seeing a writer take into account the fact that societies don’t remain static is a huge plus. Especially when I’ve read other post-apocalyptic books where society doesn’t change over a period of several hundred years.  To the point that people six hundred plus years in the future continue to reference 20th century films as if there’s been no other culture in between. But that’s a rant for another day.

As a writer, there was one aspect of Dread Nation that made me sit back and go “Wow!” — namely the way Justina Ireland adapted real history to create her fictional world and also incorporated the real history in as well.

In the afterword, Ireland talks about how she learned about the U.S. government forcibly removed Native American children from their families/tribal groups and sent them to boarding schools (also called industrial schools) to educate them.  If you’ve been reading the news/following current events on social media, you might have heard something about this since it’s being compared to the forced removal of migrant children from their families.  To make a long, disgraceful story of American history short, Native American kids were taken from their families in an effort to forcibly assimilate them into Euro-American culture. This was done by refusing to allow the children to be “Indian” in any way — their clothes were taken from them, their hair cut, they were forced to speak English in an effort to make them forget their native languages, etc.  In addition, all the other sorts of abuses you can expect in a situation where minor children are at the mercy of adults who see them as something less than human happened too.  There’s more information available in the above link or  you can hit up Wikipedia’s article on Indian Boarding Schools.

Ireland isn’t, far as I can tell, Native American herself. Instead of trying to tell her story from a Native American perspective, she adapted the history in order to create a plausible world for Jane to live in. Her reasoning was pretty simple too: if Americans would attempt to “kill the Indian to save the man” (paraphrasing a real quote) during a time of relative peace and prosperity, what lengths would they go to during a disaster of apocalyptic proportions? Particularly to people they already didn’t think of as really people anyway?

Ireland spins out from the idea of boarding schools and uses this to tell a story that layers in questions of race and class as well as who matters in a society. And she does this while also balancing the spinning plates of “crafting a plausible alternate history,” “doing something fresh with the idea of zombies” and “giving you characters you care about.”  She succeeds on all counts and on a few more I didn’t mention.

The other book I read recently (ok, listened to) that touched on current issues was Stephen King’s Firestarter.  Since the library’s going to close in about 15 minutes, I’m not going to get to ramble about this one as much as I’d like so here’s the high points:

  • For an adult man, Stephen King does a halfway decent job of crafting a little girl (ok, it helped he had a daughter who was about Charlie’s age at the time but even still).
  • If you want an example of the use of psychic powers in a prose book, pick up Firestarter. You’ll also want to grab Carrie and Dead Zone, also by King.
  • Dead Zone also does a pretty decent job of portraying someone in a coma and the effects it has on the people around them.
  • If you want an example of the banality of Evil, read Firestarter. The government agents after the McGees are, almost to a one, punch-clock villains who don’t think they’re doing anything wrong.
  • This is a book that couldn’t be written today. Well, it could, but certain plot aspects would have to change. Charlie scavenging change from pay phones for one, and the fact that the government couldn’t issue an Amber Alert for Charlie, among others.
  • King’s older stuff is among his best stuff.

Ok, on that note, I have to pee and I want to go home and eat so I’m out for now. Hopefully you all are having a great week and will continue to do so.

Boilerplate Links:

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time. Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers. Click Here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list… Or, join us on Facebook at ROW80

 

AROW80 Update for June 3 & 6, 2018

Last update, I posted that I’d managed to write a few pages of Omegas: Cake Walk. This update, I am reporting that a goodly chunk of those pages are in the process of being rewritten because what I’d written Just Didn’t Work.  While this is disappointing, it’s not exactly the end of the world, since what I’m writing now works better and I think will give a better flow to the story.  And it gets me closer to the end of the story — which is still the ultimate goal.

Because then I can start editing this sucker!

Right now, I’m at just a bit over 130,000 words and I’m guessing the final draft will be closer to 150,000.  From what I’ve read about the typical word lengths of novels in various genres, science fiction novels usually clock in at anywhere between 90,000-120,00 words since descriptions and/or world-building tend to add to the word count. So, eventually, I’m going to need to start pruning words back but of course, before I can do that, I need to layer on a bunch more words.

It’s kind of like making a big pile of sand before you go about making a sandcastle. You need a big wonking amount of sand all in one spot before you can start removing sand to get to the castle or the mermaid or the life-size Chewbacca that’s your ultimate goal.

And with that clumsy segue, I saw Soio: A Star Wars Story on Monday! And I liked it bunches! No spoiler review is as follows: it was good, it told an origin story without getting too bogged down in layering on bits of lore and gave us a believable version of a young Han Solo that enhances the earlier movies which are set later in his personal timeline. It’s the kind of thing that the Prequel trilogy was going for with Darth Vader but didn’t quite reach.

Also, I loved L3. She speaks to the big, bold, brassy lady robot SJW in my soul.

Boilerplate Links:

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time. Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers. Click Here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list… Or, join us on Facebook at ROW80

WIPpet Wednesday was begun by  K. L. Schwengel.  and is currently hosted by Emily Wrayburn of Letting the Voices Out and A Keyboard and an Open Mind.  If you want to participate, post a snippet from your WIP, related in some way to the date and link back to here — where you can also read and comment on others’ excerpts. You can also request to join The WIPpeteers on Facebook.