AROW80 Update for 4/17/19: Taco Wednesday

Longhairday!

My hair is getting so long (this is what it looks like when I brush it all forward). Not bad for a picture I took at five in the morning without wearing my glasses because that’s when I decided I needed to brush all my hair forward for…reasons.

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This is going to be another quick update, since I don’t have much to report since the last update.

We tried a new restaurant tonight, Rusty Taco. It’s a taco place, hence the name and it’s a pretty good place. I tried their beef brisket and beef fajita tacos and Amy had their fried chicken taco as well as a beef fajita taco. They’re yummy, as are their churros and sopapillas which satisfy the craving for crunchy sweet cinnamon-sugar covered stuff.

Writing-wise, I haven’t gotten much done this week because life got in the way but not in a bad way, just a few things came up that needed my attention, like paying taxes on Monday, sleeping in on Tuesday and running errands with the Amy (and trying the new taco place) today. It was actually kind of nice to take a break from my usual routine.

The good news, I did get an idea for Storm Warnings that will help me explain a few things and I had a separate idea for the larger universe that Storm Warnings and Omegas: Cake Walk are set in and I (hopefully)  will be using later on in other stories.

Catch you on the flip-flop!

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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 4/10/19

I was today years old when I found out that Die Hard was adapted from a book. I’m in the habit of listening to YouTube videos while I’m writing, especially when I’m at the library. This means that at least part of every writing session includes trying to find videos to watch. I like a lot of the video review shows on YouTube including one I’ve recently stumbled on called Lost in Adaptation.

Lost in Adaptation features Dominic “The Dom” Smith who reviews adaptations — he talks about the book and the movie as separate entities then discusses how well the movies adapt the books. He’s done all of the Harry Potter books/movies (enlisting the help of an alter ego/side character called Terrance the D-Bag Ravenclaw), and has done side projects that focus just on reviewing books as well as a series that reviewed the 60’s British TV series, The Prisoner.  Be warned: he does use NC-17 language, so these videos aren’t necessarily safe for work or for younger viewers, but he is very entertaining.

I’ll do a recommendation list of some other reviewers/commentators that I like as well as how I think these sorts of commentary can help one’s writing on another occasion. Trying to keep this short.

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I have not been working as hard as I would like on Storm Warnings, but I am trying to make up for that today. On the good side, I haven’t restarted it again! So, counting that as a win!

Continuing with the dream journal — it’s now about 25 pages long, so…yeah, I’ve dreamed a lot of dreams over the last couple months!

Still been doing the freewriting thing too. That’s up to a little over twenty pages as well, which goes to show that I can ramble like an [obscenity] when I want to. Now to harness that energy toward writing fiction! *Rar!*

I’ve checked in with my accountability partner and we’ve set up a plan for this round. *fingers crossed!*

While I have not come close to finishing Omegas: Cake Walk, I have figured out a side plot that I think will actually help make the next draft of the book a whole lot better and will tie things together nicely. *fingers again crossed*

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I’ve been listening to a J.D. Robb novel in the car. This’ll be the fifth or sixth of Robb’s In Death books that I’ve listened to and I’ve already selected another one to listen to once this one’s done (which’ll be in a day or so).  I shied away from Robb for a while because of some really kind of stupid and petty reasons, most of which center around the fact that Nora Roberts is a romance writer and I don’t read romance.

Side Note:  Yeah, much as I hate to admit it, I used to be one of those folks who sneered at romance novels as being trash (and no, the irony of being a science fiction fan who did this is not lost on me). It was in the early 1990s when my attitude started to change. The internet started becoming a thing and I started looking for information on writing and that led me to a site called All About Romance, which reviewed romance books. For the first time, I got the chance to see romance readers discussing romance books in critical ways and I learned that yes, Virginia, it’s entirely possible to enjoy romance novels and still have a brain in your head.

I actually have read a few romance novels in my time and enjoyed most of the ones I’ve read. It’s almost like any genre can be entertaining if you find the right thing, weird huh?

All of this is a long way of saying that I avoided the In Death series for a long time and finally picked up an audiobook because I was like, “I need something to listen to in the car, we can try this out and see if we like it, if we don’t, eh I’ll bring it back and find something else.”

Long story shorter: I like J.D. Robb. I like the In Death series. I like Eve Dallas and Rourke and Peabody and a lot of the rest of the series. I like the world building Robb did for her version of the future and I can also see it as a cautionary tale for folks wanting to write near-future science fiction series.  More on that in a later post.

I also really like the voice actor who performs the In Death books, Susan Ericksen. A good voice actor can really make or break an audiobook for me. They can also encourage me to read other books just because I want to keep listening to their voice. Ericksen is one who I will look for on other books in the future, as is Ray Porter, Johnny Heller, Bernadette Dunne and Kate Reading (is that not the perfect name for an audiobook reader?!) among others. Oh! Bronson Pinchot is another one — Cousin Balki has some serious range.

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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 Round 2 2019 Check-In and Updates

Howdy, howdy, howdy!  

The newest round of A Round of Words in 80 Days started yesterday (Monday, April 1st) so I’m posting my goals for this round and giving a bit of an after-action report on Round 1.

Round One 2019 Summary/Review:

Back in January, I set myself the following goals for the first round of AROW80 – here they are with updates:

Goal: 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.

Status: Storm Warnings is still unfinished. And as of today, I’ll be restarting it for the sixth and hopefully last time (more on that under the Goals post for this round). I’ve revised a few decisions I had made about the story’s length and focus and this time, fingers crossed, God willing and the creek don’t rise, I think I’ve finally struck upon an outline that will work.

Goal: Finish Omegas: Cake Walk — which is still in the same limbo it’s been in for the last few months.

Status: Omegas: Cake Walk is still in limbo but that’s ok.

Goal: Post in my blog at least weekly as part of my checking in with AROW80.

Status:  Didn’t quite make it to weekly posts, but I have posted more frequently than I did in the past.

Goal: Post and track my progress in the 365 Day Challenge on the group’s spreadsheet.

Also, Friday is my birthday! I’m going to be 49 years old (I’m a prime number squared!) – which means next year, I’ll be 50. And while I don’t have 2020 vision, what I want to do for myself for my 50th is to finish at least one story and get it ready to be submitted for publication. I’ll keep you posted how that goes!

Status:  I’ve been tracking my progress with my own spreadsheet and I’ve been posting my updates pretty regularly in the official 365 Day Challenge spreadsheet.

Goal: Write at least 4 times a week and produce a total of at least 2,500 words.

Status:  This is the goal I have been knocking out of the park. I’ve been consistently meeting or exceeding my weekly goals. Since January 25th, I haven’t missed a single day of writing and each month, my word production has been going steadily up. So, color me very happy about that.

That said, there are some things that I want to improve upon going forward, especially in regards to what I’m writing. As it is right now, I’m including just about any writing than I’m doing as part of my word goals. Some of that has been my work on Storm Warnings – both the actual writing of the story and the plotting/general noodling around with ideas that I’ve been doing. I’ve also started a couple of other things that I’m using to flex my creative muscles.

The first is my own take on a dream journal. I take notes on what happened in my dreams and write it up, along with whatever book I happened to be listening to when I went to sleep (I usually listen to audiobooks to help me drift off). The idea is that this is a way for me to potentially mine my subconscious for ideas. And I’ve had a couple dreams that are ripe for being turned into stories, so I’m calling that a win. I’ve also gotten some ideas for characters and potential scenarios as well.

What’s really interesting to me is how often things from the audiobooks I’m listening to don’t appear in my dreams. In the month or so that I’ve been doing this, there’ve been maybe two or three times where I can make a direct link between something in a book and something in my dreams. Don’t know as this proves anything about subconscious learning, but it’s kinda neat to me.

The other is also a kind of journal, which I’m using to do freewriting as a way to get ideas and thoughts out of my head and onto the page (and to make a word count on days when maybe the fictional creativity isn’t wanting to flow like I’d like it to). That’s a little less structured than the dream journal and is more just me rambling about stuff as it comes to me.

And, as of this week, I’ve started an idea bank – I’m using an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of ideas for my various fictional universes. The reason for using Excel is so that I can sort the ideas by various criteria. This is especially helpful for story ideas like the universe that Omegas: Cake Walk  and Storm Warnings are set in where stories can be set in entirely different time periods.

What I’m hoping to do going forward is to start focusing on counting work that actually goes somewhere – the journals are good but I want to start actually producing work that I can show to other people. Specifically, work that I can start trying to send out to sell. Because ultimately, I want to get published. Preferably traditionally published, but I’m not about to turn my nose up at self-publishing. So toward that end, here’s my goals for Round 2.

Round 2 Goals:

  • Finish Storm Warnings – I’m working on this for the April 2019 iteration of Camp Nanowrimo. The good news is, I have finally struck on a formulation for the story that does what I want it to do and I actually managed to outline the whole thing from beginning to end so that inspires confidence in me!
  • Touch base regularly with my accountability partner – I didn’t do this as well as I should have last round and I am sincerely sorry about that. I’ve gotten out of the habit of talking to folks online and I need to get better about that.
  • Stay the course on my dream journal and freewriting – Because I enjoy doing both and I think they have the potential to be very useful for future endeavors, whether that’s story ideas or blog posts.
  • Finish Omegas: Cake Walk This is something that’ll probably be on the back burner until May or so, since I’m putting my main energy into Storm Warnings, but I do still keep nudging at the story in the back of my head.

For now, going to wrap this up with the boiler plate links and talk to you folks soon!

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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.

Oh, where is my Facebook? Oh, where is my Facebook? — No, seriously, where is my Facebook!?

Sing my pain, Larry the Cucumber!

So, if you’ve been on the internet today, you probably know that Facebook is experiencing an outage. I went and made a meme about it because that’s the level of creativity that my brain’s at right now. Which is annoying as hell since…

Because shut up that’s why, Junior Asparagus, you goody-goody little….

*cough* I mean, I *have* been writing. I’ve been working pretty diligently on Storm Warnings and it’s been a bit of a slog. I’m still pretty much at the beginning of the story, much to my annoyance. When I originally came up with this idea, it seemed so damned simple. Like, I knew exactly what I wanted to write and where I wanted to go with it — well, except for the ending. I had no idea how the story was going to end. I’m good at ideas, I’m good at beginnings and I’m decent at middles but endings are my Waterloo.

I might be willing to trade my bellybutton for an ending. Actually, several endings.

Though, in all honesty, my original plan for the story was good but it wasn’t complete. For one thing, I didn’t have any idea why my heroes were getting involved in the story’s main conflict. Or, more accurately, no idea beyond “I, the author, have assembled you in this scene because this is where I want you to be so you can do the things that will get the story running so ok, you’re here, start doing the things!”

And, the characters did do the things. Except that the things they did were just not good. I went through probably half a dozen rewrites of the opening scenes to try and get Storm Warnings to a point where it was something I liked and that felt right. And every time I thought I had it, it would slip away and I’d be back at square one.

I didn’t alter this one because this is pretty much how the plot of Storm Warnings has been treating me. Minus the cute little French accents.

This past week, the whole “Hey, why are the characters actually doing any of this?” thing occurred to me in a big way. So, I set down to try and figure it out.

And I’m kinda happy with what I’ve come up with. It’s a good idea, I think. Or at least a good first-draft fourth-draft idea. It doesn’t just give the characters a reason to be in the scene, it also gives them some actual stakes in the story — which is a good thing, since I want these characters to come across as real people, fighting against the evils of their day, not plaster saints who are above everything and judging others from on high.

So, this is a long, rambling, roundabout way of saying this: writing is hard. Having a plan before you start can serve as a map through unfamiliar territory, but sometimes the map doesn’t mention that the bridge you were expecting to be there was wiped out by a flood.

I knew Storm Warnings was going to be tricky to write for a few reasons:

  1. It’s set in an alternate universe with superpowers and magic and aliens and all the other comic book superhero tropes that show up in Omegas: Cake Walk and the other stories that I’m setting in Universe-46534. — so there’s the need to balance those elements and keep them plausible and believable
  2. I’m introducing not one, not two, but four main heroes as well as an equal number of secondary heroes/characters who will Be Significant In the Future. — Yeahhh, really not sure how I thought I could fit all that in 6,000 words. That was like, wow…yeah.
  3. While this is actually the third story I’ve started in this universe, it’s chronologically the first story to take place in Universe-46534. The characters being introduced will be historical figures in other stories. They’re the original heroes of this world — well, among the original heroes. So…yeah, that’s tricky!
  4. It’s set in the past — specifically, in 1937, so I’m having to check things to make sure that I’m getting details right. On the other hand, the fact that this is an alternate universe, I’ve got some wiggle room for certain things.
  5. The bad guys are literally Nazis. — They’re based on a couple different pro-fascist/pro-Nazi groups that were active in America in the 1930s and 1940s. The trickiest part about them is not turning them into cartoonish mustache-twirling bad guys.
  6. The good guys are from backgrounds that are different from my own — two characters are gay, there’s a few Jewish characters (including some Jewish mobsters who are very happy to get the chance to kick Nazi ass — which is also historically accurate). This, along with the historical setting, adds a couple levels of difficulty.

But, see, I’ve accepted this challenge and I’m going to keep working on it. Because I think this’ll be a good story once it’s finally done. I like the characters, I like the plot I have set up and I like this universe. It’s just sometimes, it’s hard to see the path because it hasn’t been cleared yet. And you’re the one who has to clear it. With an ax. Not a big ax either. A little rinky-dinky ax up against a redwood tree the size of an aircraft carrier or something.


Note: Instagram is also down but I don’t use Instagram so I’m not making VeggieTales themed memes about it.

Other Writing Blather — I am meeting and/or exceeding my goals for the 365 Day Challenge. For the year to date, I’m at 50,000 words! Yay me!


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. You can also learn more about the 365 Day Challenge — which is closed for 2019, but you can prepare for 2020!

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.

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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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.

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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. 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!

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.

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 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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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 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

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. 

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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 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.

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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.

 

AROW80 Check-In for 5/20 and 5/23 plus WIPpet Snippet

Today’s going to be a brief check-in, unless I really start rambling. Which could happen. Right now, this is Schrodinger’s Post. So, let’s get stuck in!

Monday, I took the day off from work and the Amy and I went to see Deadpool 2. There will be no spoilers, so you’re safe to keep reading.

Deadpool 2 Review: I liked it! It was good! I don’t know if I agree that it was better than the first movie but it was very good and I enjoyed it and I would gladly pay theatre prices to see it again. I love Domino and how her powers are portrayed. The underlying message/story of the movie was also very compelling. Once again, for a  movie that runs on low-brow humor, it manages to be a surprisingly mature super hero movie.

Goes without saying but DO NOT TAKE YOUR KIDS. For crying out loud, it’s R-rated. I didn’t get to go to R-rated movies back in the day, neither should your kids. Unless you think they can handle it, I dunno your kids. You do. But if they’re really little? Don’t take them. They’ll be bored.

Also, goes without saying but stay for the credits. C’mon, it’s a Marvel movie…

After the movie, we went home and watched The Shape of Water on On Demand. It was good! Very artistic, very pretty movie. Very different than Deadpool 2 but had some oddly similar story elements (mainly about how society treats those it considers alien/different).  Was one particular plot point I didn’t like but I get why it was in there. And I can see where it did serve a greater story purpose. No spoilers, but it’s nothing to do with the “Grinding Nemo” parts.

In other news, I started reading the new Domino comic that launched recently. It’s being written by Gail Simone and it’s just lovely. I wish that comic!Domino looked more like movie!Domino but c’est la vie.

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A quick note on Marvel vs. DC — because I am writing in a comic book type universe and because this just occurred to me to have a ramble on.

Comics: I like them both, more or less equally. Sometimes I lean more toward one than the other or veer off toward independent titles but at the end of the day, what I really like is just well-told stories. Kurt Busieck’s Astro City comics are a particular favorite.

TV:  I really, really super love the CW’s Arrowverse shows based on DC properties (namely, Green Arrow, Flash, Supergirl and the mixed bag of DC characters who who show up in Legends of Tomorrow) and Black Lightning (which is independent from the Arrowverse).

Marvel’s shows haven’t really gripped me, though I’ve recently started binging on Agents of SHIELD and I’m enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. I like how they tie things in to the movie universe while still remaining independent from them. It’s a lot like reading a comic book series.

I’ve started a few of the Marvel shows that are Netflix-exclusive and I like them but they’re kind of on the back burner until I run out of Agents of SHIELD.  One thing I really enjoy is the fact that Daredevil not only has subtitles for the Deaf/deaf and Hard of Hearing but ALSO has audio description for the blind/visually impaired. Since I usually watch (or, “watch”) shows in a browser window in the background, it makes it easier to follow along.

Movies: That breaks down like this — Marvel does better live action movies and DC does better animated movies. There are exceptions to this but by and large, if it’s a live action movie, make mine Marvel. Even a bad Marvel movie is better than nothing.

Cartoons:  The cartoons of my childhood have not held up well. Neither Superfriends nor Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends have stood the test of time. I did like Wolverine and the X-Men and X-Men Evolution, plus the 1990s animated Superman and Batman shows are both awesome.  I also like Teen Titans Go.  I know it’s silly but that’s what I like about it. Waffles waffles waffles!

Prose Novels: I haven’t read many Marvel or DC based tie-in novels. When I read superhero novels, they tend to be set in independent universes.  Some favorites include George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards series of stories/mosaic novels, plus April Daniels‘ Dreadnought books and Jim Bernheimer‘s D-List Supervillain series.  Plus many, many others., but that’s a post for another day.

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WIPpet Math: today’s dates are 5/20 and 5/23 – cancel out the two fives. 2 + 0 = 2. 3 to the 2nd power = 9. 2+9=11.  So, here’s eleven paragraphs from Chapter Six of Omegas: Cake Walk.

What you need to know: Torque and Frankie (one of the Omegas) are on their way to rescue Dr. Lawrence’s daughter. All Torque has to do now is survive the experience.

They were heading to Jubilee Park when Frankie’s phone rang. Without taking his eyes off the road, Frankie reached into his pants pocket and pulled the phone out – all while changing lanes at sixty-plus miles per hour. Torque considered reminding Frankie about Winslow’s desire to return him, Torque, in one piece.

“Yeah Boss?” Frankie asked.

Winslow’s voice was faint, but Torque could make out what he said. “Blynken, this is Wynken, is Nod in position, over?” Winslow’s wording was professional but his tone was amused.

Frankie grunted and rolled his eyes as he flipped on the turn signal and merged right. “Yeah, Boss,” he said. “Marco’s at the safe house finishing his set up. We’re on I-94, heading for the park. How about you?”

“Roger that, Blynken, we are en route to our destination via surface streets. God willing and the creek don’t rise, we’ll be there in fifteen minutes. What’s your ETA?”

“Ten minutes, tops,” Frankie said. “Traffic’s kinda nuts here but I’m proceeding at speed. Y’know, traffic wouldn’t have been a problem if you’d let me snag us a couple Volveris Daedalus hovercars. Or at least one for me. We could have skipped this song and dance and done a buzz-run from the fly-way along Lake Shore. Drop in, snatch the girl and zwoosh out before anyone’s the wiser.”

“Yeah, no,” Winslow said, dropping the pretense of radio chatter. “No flying cars for you until five years after I’m dead, Frankie. Not after last time.”

 “Never had an accident I didn’t intend to have, Boss,” Frankie said, his smirk pulling his lips back to bear his teeth. “Hey, if I mean to have them, are they really accidents? Or are they purposes?”

“I am not caffeinated enough to answer that,” Winslow said. “Check in when you get to the park; Wynken out.”

Frankie snickered like a rattlesnake as the line disconnected.  “There’s our exit. Hang on, Stretch, this is gonna get hairy” he said, merging hard to the right.  

The shriek of car horns behind them made Torque drop his hand down to double check that the latch on his seatbelt was solid. It wasn’t until he heard the roaring hiss of a semi-truck’s airbrakes that he surrendered to the better part of valor and closed his eyes tightly,

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.

 

AROW80 Check-In for 5/13 and 5/16/2018, plus WIPpet Snippet

Happy belated Mother’s Day to all the moms out there, whoever and however they came to be moms. It’s not a road I chose to go down (maternally speaking, I’m a great crazy uncle), but I admire those who have taken on the task. You are seriously awesome.

I know there are writers who refer to their books/stories/etc as their babies but to me, that analogy doesn’t quite hold up. To me, writing is more like owning a cat — it can be trained, but you need to work at it, it’ll do what it wants, when it wants (including waking you up at 4 am because “ooh! Shiny!”) and if you leave it alone with food, water and a litter box for three days, you won’t get arrested.

This is pretty much what I’ve been doing with Chapter Nineteen until today — partly because non-writing life (i.e. the Day Job — which is technically the Night Job but you get the idea) has taken precedence and partly because I’m trying to work out what comes next. I think I have a line on that so, *happy dance*.

One thing I did manage to accomplish was creating a spreadsheet-based timeline for Omegas: Cake Walk — not so much about the events in the story (though that’s next) but about the lives of the characters/historical events that have impacted them. Now, I can sort by character or by year.

I  also set up a spreadsheet for the next Omegas book — tentatively titled Omegas: Long Shot, which is going to involve time travel to North America in the Pleistocene. The sheet tells me what the year would be by the BC/BCE calendar  and in terms of Years Ago.  It’s also allowed me to get a handle on when certain chronologically-indigenous people were born. This pleases me no end.

Spreadsheets are seriously super-helpful. And fun to play with.

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WIPpet Math: Going with a stupid-easy choice today: It’s May 16, plus Sunday was a holiday so 16 +1 = 17 and therefore here are seventeen paragraphs from Chapter Five of Omegas: Cake Walk.

What You Need to Know: The Omegas have met with Dr. Lawrence and agreed to take on the task of helping her daughter Mackenzie escape from the cult she’s been a part of for the last few years. They’ve made arrangements to meet Mackenzie the next day at a park where she and some other cult members are going to be doing some recruiting/evangelizing.  For today, Winslow (leader of the Omegas) along with Laney and Torque are scoping out the park. And Laney is trying to teach Torque how to look inconspicuous.

Since Omegas: Cake Walk takes place in an alternate-universe Chicago, I figured it’d be nice to have them visit a local landmark.  Jubilee Park is Millennium Park with a name change. The Kapoor Sculpture is Sir Anish Kapoor’s sculpture, Cloud Gate — aka the infamous silver bean.

Note: Like all other snippets, this is from a rough draft and therefore will contain spelling errors and other mistakes. I will be correcting these during the next edit.  Though, Lake Michi-gami isn’t a typo. I’ve changed names around for a lot of places in O:CW, usually defaulting toward indigenous names

“Will you relax?” Laney hissed at Toque as she paused to snap pictures, ostensibly of the view of Lake Michi-gami from the northeastern most corner of the park. “We’re not on a forced march; we’re not under fire. We’re supposed to be just a couple of tourists. Yank the stick out of your ass, already and act like a tourist.”

“I’d be happy to,” Torque said, speaking through a clenched jaw. “But first I’ll need to know how do tourists act?”

“Oh for the love of—” Laney sighed, long-sufferingly. “Here’s a hint: not like you’re marking in review across a parade ground. Just walk like you don’t have any place that you have to be or any time you have to be there. Try looking at the sights. This is one of the prettiest places in the city, after all. Breathe it in.”

Despite his irritation, Torque tried to take Laney’s advice. He forced himself to slow his pace and looked around, taking in his surroundings as something other than territory to scout. The park was pretty, he had to admit. They were strolling past a stage, framed by curved metal plates that shone in the sun. In front of the stage, stretched a wide oval of green lawn that, Torque estimated, stretched for at least half the length of the park. Above the lawn, a web of pipes stretched over the field, supporting a network of lights. Here and there, people walked or ran or simply sat on the lawn. Torque saw two adults playing some kind of a chasing game with a trio of young children, all of them laughing and shrieking. It reminded him of his playschool days, giving him a sudden pang of nostalgia.

“Hold up,” Laney said, stopping roughly halfway along the length of the enormous lawn. “That’s the Big Bean down there, I want to get a shot from this vantage point.”

“All right.” Torque stopped and stood, falling easily and by long habit into parade rest.

Laney glanced at him and rolled her eyes. “Can you be any more conspicuous? Slouch or something; keep standing like that and pigeons are going to roost on you. Or worse.”

“You told me to wait,” Torque said. “I’m waiting.”

“Just – come here, walk out on to the lawn about four steps, turn and face me,” Laney said. “If you’re going to stand out, you can at least be useful while you’re doing it.”

Torque did as he was told, mostly from habit but also to simply have something to do. Laney watched him through the camera’s viewfinder. “Ok, hold it!” she called. “Stop right there and smile. Say ‘Tourist!’”

Torque smiled and waited as Laney took several pictures. She called for him to change position several times, then told him to stand still while she moved further up and down the path, taking pictures of him from several angles.

“Ok, take one step to your right, hold up your right hand like this.” Laney mimed holding her hand in a claw shape. Puzzled, Torque did as she asked. After several more yelled instructions, mostly involving him raising or lowering his hand, Laney finally snapped her picture.

“Got it!” she crowed, happily. “C’mon, let’s go!”

Torque jogged over to her, his long legs eating the distance between them in a few quick bites. As he drew closer, he could see the grin on Laney’s face; it was a mix of happiness and pride. “Here,” she said, handing the camera to Torque so he could see the image on the camera’s screen. The image made it seem like Torque was in the process of plucking the bean-shaped statue in the distance from where it sat.

“I don’t understand?” Torque said, though Laney’s grin was contagious enough that he found himself starting to grin as well. “Why’d you take this picture? It’s not useful for planning our mission, is it?”

Laney shrugged, her grin fading a little. “Well, no,” she said, taking the camera back. “It’s just for fun. You said you wanted to know how tourists act, well, they take cheesy pictures like this. C’mon, we’ve got more park to cover.”

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.

AROW80 Check-In for 5/9/2018 and WIPpet Snippet

Due to circumstances that were entirely within my control (i.e. I done did this to myself), I didn’t get up as early today as I usually do on Wednesdays so I’m getting in a shorter period of writing. Still working on Chapter Nineteen and fighting to get upstream on this story.  I can do this, I know I can do this, it’s just a question of doing it.

So, I am. Doing it, that is. *insert immature snickering here*.

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WIPpet Math: 5 + 9 = 14, so here’s fourteen paragraphs from Chapter Four of Omegas: Cake Walk, wherein the Omegas sit down with Dr. Lawrence and discuss her estrangement from her daughter:

“For starters, how did your daughter come to join up with the Church of the Sacred Foundation?” Winslow asked. “She’s fairly young, or so I was told, but it sounds like she’s in pretty deep. I’m curious as to how that happened.”

Dr. Lawrence took a deep breath and held it for several seconds before letting it out in a long, shuddering gust. “Mackenzie was about nine when her father and I divorced. Mackenzie decided she wanted to live with her father and I didn’t contest it because, well, to be honest? Because of where I was in my career, I didn’t contest the issue. Creighton was in a better position to give Mackenzie the kind of care she needed.”

“That’s around the time you began working for Dr. Zilsch’s division at Pulsar Labs, right?” Winslow asked.

“Yes, it was. It was a very important time for me and I wouldn’t have been able to give either Mackenzie or my duties the time they deserved. Mackenzie wanted to stay with her father, so I agreed.” Dr. Lawrence’s face became pinched and wary. She paused, looking carefully from face to face. “I know that probably sounds terrible.”

“It sounds perfectly reasonable to me,” Tara said. “If the situation was reversed, nobody would have thought twice about your ex choosing his career over parenthood.”

“You certainly don’t need to justify yourself to us, Dr. Lawrence,” Winslow said. “We’re just after the facts.”

Some of the tension went out of Dr. Lawrence’s shoulders as she smiled, a small, grateful smile. “Thank you,” she said. “After the divorce, I kept in contact with Mackenzie as best I could because of my work schedule. We were prepping for the Deep Mu Expedition at that time so things were hectic but I did my best.  Of course, once we left for the expedition back in 1999, I didn’t see her for almost two and a half years.”

“That expedition was supposed to last, what? A year, right?” Winslow asked. “There were some kind of political shenanigans that delayed your return, unless I misremember?”

“There were,” Dr. Lawrence said. “It was complicated, but suffice to say that Lucrezia Borgia had nothing on the Grand Princess of the South Pacific Gyre. The resulting chaos from her machinations delayed our return to the surface until late in 2001, then recovering from having spent that much time at depth kept us all out of commission until almost hallway through 2002. Which, among other things, put a severe strain on my relationship with Mackenzie.”

There was a chorus of sympathetic noises from Tara, Winslow and Marco. Laney and Frankie were remaining quiet, though Torque noticed that Laney had scooted forward so that she was perched at the edge of the couch, sitting with her hands on her knees as she watched Dr. Lawrence closely. Frankie, on the other hand, sat leaning back and staring blankly toward the ceiling. Torque wished he could follow the shorter man’s example but he’d been tasked with listening for details and he wasn’t about to disappoint.

For his own part, Torque knew the conversation was important though not exactly why. There were layers of significance in Dr. Lawrence’s words that he couldn’t quite grasp.  Clearly, her daughter had been important to her – but then, most baseline humans felt a deep bond with their offspring. He could hear guilt in Dr. Lawrence’s voice but why she should feel bad for doing her job was beyond Torque. Furrowing his brows, he leaned forward, mimicking Laney’s position as Dr. Lawrence continued speaking:

“By the time we returned to Shikagou, Creighton had gotten a new job teaching at a private school in Tippecanoe; the An Solas Preparatory Academy.  It’s not far from here, only about an hour and a half, but once I was back on my feet, I was buried with work from the expedition. There was just so much information to process and artifacts to catalog. Maybe if I’d made more time then, maybe I would have noticed something was off but both of them seemed happy enough and, well, it was easier to just believe that there’d be time enough later on to reconnect.”

“We always do,” Winslow said, softly. “It was during this time she got involved with the Womackians?”

“Yes,” Dr. Lawrence said. “Not on her own, but…oh, God, this is going to sound like I’m blaming my ex but it was all because of Creighton. He started attending a singles mixer in Marquette – it’s the nearest city to An Solas – and while he was there, he met this woman. Marcie something or other. She’s the one who brought him into the cult and he brought Mackenzie with him.”

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.

Because today’s Election Day here in the U.S., have a snippet!

When I first started plotting Omegas: Cake Walk, I settled on April 2007 for reasons that escape me now (honestly, while there is a specific reason for 2007, the reason for April is more “Ehh, this’ll do” than anything else). Specifically, I set the story during the week of April 23-30, 2007 (again, for no better reason than “The events in the story take place over a week, this is a week that’s as good as any other week in which to set my tale”).

Come to find out, once I committed to the time frame, the Democratic Presidential debates occurred during this time frame. While Omegas: Cake Walk doesn’t take place in our reality, it takes place in one that’s similar so I decided to run with the idea. Which led to this exchange about voting and how living in a comic book universe could screw things up:

“I’m just saying: voting’s a waste of time,” Frankie said as he plucked half a dozen oversized strawberries from the tray and stacked them onto a paper plate. “Whoever wins, somebody’s just gonna go back in time and step on the wrong bug and screw everything up. It’s inevitable.”

“That only happened once, back in ’52,” Laney said, smacking the table and causing a small avalanche of plump, green grapes to cascade down from the tray. Frankie scooped them up as well, as she continued. “And once the Sequential Safeguards were able to straighten things out and push through the Eckels-Simpson Act to outlaw political tampering with the time stream.”

Note: Yeah, this a multiple-part reference to “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury, in which a character, essentially, steps on the wrong bug and screws everything up. The story was published in 1952 and the character who screws things up is named Eckles.

The law also references the Simpsons episode “Treehouse of Horror V” — specifically the short “Time and Punishment” in which Homer tries to fix his toaster and ends up destroying multiple timelines.  “Stupid bug, you go squish now!”

Note the second: I agree with Laney, voting isn’t a waste of time. In fact, voting today took a lot less time than I was afraid it would and I was able to get in and out of my polling place in less than fifteen minutes (wasting time between 5 am and 6:30 am on the other hand….that took some doing).

Note the third:  Currently, the plan is for the next Omegas story, Omegas: Long Shot, to involve time travel, Pleistocene Era America, and cheesy syndicated TV shows.

 

 

AROW80 Check-In for 5/6/2018

A question from this session’s update reminder post which was talking about various ways of reaching your audience:

Do you find your audience through blogging or other social media? What works best in your experience?

Right now? I don’t know as I have an audience in the broader sense of the word.  I’m still limping my way back into blogging with any kind of regularity and I don’t have any of my non-fanfiction writing posted anywhere that people can see it. This will eventually change, but for the time being, let’s chalk that lack up to a combination of “I’m shy!” and “I don’t really have much of anything worth posting beyond random character sketches and unfinished snippets.”

With Omegas: Cake Walk my audience is primarily off-line: a couple trusted beta readers and my girlfriend (who is also a trusted beta reader) have read some or all of my progress.  Since I’m wanting to go the traditional publishing route, I’m reluctant to post large sections of the work online since I don’t want to risk my work being considered to have been previously published — that and what I’m working on right now is really more of a first draft and therefore still rough around the edges.

I do want to start blogging more because I think that’s a way toward building an audience and it’s something that allows me to ramble on longer than, say, Twitter does. Though, I do have my updates go out to Twitter, Tumblr and now Facebook, in hopes of spreading my net wide and maybe snaring more fish readers (though, honestly, if any fish are reading this, you’re welcome here).

In other news, I went to the endocrinologist today (I’m a Type II diabetic) and got some disappointing news followed by some truly heartening news: my weight is up to 254 pounds from 231, though it looks like that’s due to water weight gain caused by a side effect of a medication I was on (Actos). The doctor took me off of that and increased my dose of a second medication (Trulicity) to compensate and a third medication (Farxiga) has a diuretic effect so that should help with losing the water weight.   My blood pressure was high (146 over…something) but when I went to Urgent Care about stiffness in my shoulders, it was 116 over…something and due to other lower readings, the doctor wasn’t overly concerned. I’m supposed to start checking my blood pressure at home (which I can do, I just need to take the meter I got for myself *mumblemonthsagomumble* out of the box and start using it)

The heartening news is that my A1C, which for those not in the know, is a measure of what your average blood sugar has been at for the previous three months, is at 7.7 — which is very close to the target of 7.0 or under.  Diabetes is a lot like golf, you want those numbers low.  The closer the number is to 7.0, the better control you have over your blood sugars and the less likely you are to end up with complications from diabetes.  And since the complications from diabetes can hit just about every system of the body with disastrous effects, good control is seriously important.

So, that’s a non-writing based goal for this quarter and beyond: keep my sugars down low and get some exercise to help get the weight down.

Beyond that, I came home from the doctor’s appointment, took a nap and had weird Cthulu-adjacent dreams. For which, I blame Ruthanna Emrys’s Winter Tide (link goes to an excerpt from the first chapter over at Tor.com), which is a historical dark fantasy set shortly after the end of World War Two and, well, here’s the summary:

After attacking Devil’s Reef in 1928, the U.S. government rounded up the people of Innsmouth and took them to the desert, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god Cthulhu. Only Aphra and Caleb Marsh survived the camps, and they emerged without a past or a future.

The government that stole Aphra’s life now needs her help. FBI agent Ron Spector believes that Communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that could turn the Cold War hot in an instant, and hasten the end of the human race.

Aphra must return to the ruins of her home, gather scraps of her stolen history, and assemble a new family to face the darkness of human nature.

The book is a wonderful story, very richly told and full of good period detail. Lovecraft is an author, like Jane Austen and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who I’ve never really read directly but whose works I am exceedingly familiar with due to my enjoyment of works based upon their creations.  I highly recommend Winter’s Tide to anyone who enjoys Charles Stross’s Laundry books or Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country.

Circling back around to writing based goals: Chapter Nineteen of Omegas: Cake Walk continues apace. I’m past the scene that was giving me trouble and am now on to a completely new scene that needs to be coaxed into cooperating. Since I’m going to be staying up late tomorrow morning to go vote when the polls open, I’m planning on maybe doing some noodling over breakfast in the hopes that being sleepy will make my brain more apt to fire in interesting ways.

Beyond that, all is doing well and I hope you are having a good week. Please feel free to comment below and let me know how things are going.

Later, Gators.

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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

Omegas: Cake Walk in one sentence

My attempt at a one sentence description of Omegas: Cake Walk —

When a desperate phone call from a top scientist’s estranged daughter threatens to derail the highest-level superscience conference, the call goes out to the one team that can rescue the girl and keep her safe from the clutches of the cult she’s trying to flee — after all, when the job’s a cake walk, who can handle it better than the Omegas?

 

AROW80 Check-In for 5/2/2018 and WIPpet Wednesday

I’m writing at another library today, this time I’m using my own laptop instead of a library computer and I’m tucked back into a corner with a window to my left and bookshelves to my right. It’s a nice, cozy setup that I’ve used before and I’m enjoying the solitude.

I’m also watching more Agents of SHIELD; I’m about done with the first season and I’m liking it so far. Not sure why I never got into watching it when it was originally airing because it’s a good show.  Definitely a nice alternative to the CW’s Arrowverse shows (which I’ve run out of on Netflix).

Work continues on Chapter Nineteen of Omegas: Cake Walk. Slowly, slowly, slowly we progress, a sentence, a word, a letter at a time.

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WIPpet Math for May 2nd, 2018:  5 x 2 = 10 (going for the easy route today):

What’s going on:  Torque and the Omegas have gotten settled in their hotel room and had a feast of Shikagou-style deep dish pizza and now, they’re having a little chat:

Winslow looked Torque over carefully. “Well, for now? Get some rest and be ready for tomorrow. Still not quite sure how to fit you into our merry band of maniacs, but I’ll have a better idea as to how to do that once we meet with Dr. Lawrence tomorrow.”

“Yessir,” Torque said. “I’ll be happy to help however you need me to. I’m here to offer whatever assistance you need.”

Colonel Winslow nodded, head tilting as he looked at Torque. “I’ll keep that in mind, son,” he said. “And we appreciate it. But for right now, you’re a bit surplus to our requirements. Go, relax, get a shower. Read a book, even.  You read much, Torque?”

“I can,  yes,” Torque said, frowning.  “Is there something you need me to read before tomorrow sir?”

Winslow’s smile was amused, but not mocking. “No, son, no, just wondering if you like to read. Me, I love it. Been reading since I was, oh, four? I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t know how to read, to be honest. Bit of a prodigy in that regard, at least that’s what my mother used to say, but you know how mothers are.”

Torque didn’t, but that was yet another thing that baselines enjoyed nattering on about and he’d learned long before to fake an interest in other peoples’ progenitors.  “Yes sir,” he said, offering what he hoped was a knowing and sympathetic smile.

“You have a favorite book, Torque?” Winslow asked. “Me, I’m partial to Edgar Rice Burroughs – I read Princess of Mars when I was about twelve and oh, I used to stare at Mars and try and wish myself there. Didn’t matter that we knew by then that it was nothing like Burroughs’ Barsoom, but that didn’t stop me wanting to fight my way across the Red Planet, win the hand of a Martian Princess and save the world.”

Laney snorted. “Dreamer,” she said, rolling her eyes as she reached for another slice of pizza.

Winslow’s grin got even wider. “’You can say that I’m a dreamer, Laney-girl, but I’m not the only one.’”

“Sorry, correction, old dreamer,” Laney said, dropping back into her seat.

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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

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.