Category Archives: Writing and Ideas

NaNo Day 20 – And Reflections So Far

Still playing catch up from a rough weekend. Posted 2568 today for a total of 32,436 words so far this month. And that leaves 17,564 to go.

The tracker on the NaNo says that I will finish on December 3rd at my current rate which is an improvement from yesterday that had it for December 5th. I need to reach at least the same number of words tomorrow, the minimum on Wednesday (a workday) and then max out on Thursday (Thanksgiving, challenge day!).Too bad before last Thursday I was at finishing on November 28th.

I am treating this not only as a teaching exercise in actual writing (as opposed to my professional procrastination (which I think I’ve achieved the rank of MASTER – bonus to me for double parenthetic comments, btw)) but also as an exercise in reaching deadline. I will reach that deadline, so help me God!

I have learned a bucketful so far in just twenty days. Number one, every single writer you have ever heard say that the way to learn how to write is to write is one-hundred and fifty thousand percent absolutely freaking correct. And I’m not saying that because I have acquired the skill in twenty days to write. Far from it. What I have learned is how much there is to it.

There is so much that goes into a story you can barely keep it in mind. Every single thing that is potentially a variable out there comes at you every single second, and there are always twenty or more of them. Now I think some of those can be eliminated with a little forethought and practice. Surely I could have reduced mine if I had thought of doing NaNo even a couple of days before November 1st and not the night of Halloween!

Even then your story may not go the way you anticipated. I had no idea what I was doing at all except for this idea that a Dark Lord of sorts who lives outside of time in a (outside of, that is) cyclical universe. It was an idea I toyed with briefly five or so years ago and then forgot about. He keeps killing a recurring iteration of this person who lives multiple lives (so think Shirley McClain meets The Matrix).

That’s it. And… write! And I have wrote some stupendous piles of crap in the last twenty days (and perhaps a few decent passages that would be alright with a little tweaking). It is scramble writing, I’m scrambling to a finish line. So yesterday I wrote this one scene where this Dark Lord (he’s actually now referred to as the Dark Surfer but that is just a placeholder as that name is already taken) kills this man yet again but this time as a newborn – he breaks the newborn’s neck.

I was very displeased with myself for having written such a thing as I do not like writing something that is evil merely to be evil. But then I thought, “well, I’ve been looking for a way to extricate the main character from this cycle of being murdered, and as long as the main character never remembers his prior life and demise there is no way out. How about make the Dark Surfer’s heinous act of murdering a child be the way out? That, somehow (and right now I don’t know even though I’m right in the middle of writing the scene) it causes his next self to recollect his past deaths and lives. I got this from listening to Father Mitch Pacwa on his call in show on EWTN answer a question about the souls of aborted children and whether or not they get to see the Beatific Vision. Pacwa answered in the affirmative.

Problem – Answer – Muse – QED.

That started a snowball where I wrote in three separate parts of the story tonight. I finished a meta-fictional piece (the novel is littered with such things that hint at the overall cosmology by the use of questionable sages and the esoteric writings of biographers without having to be explicit and dry – R.A. Lafferty uses this technique all the time and I’ve always wanted to do it myself)

– I also started what I thought was the final segment and the penultimate segment, then switched them, and then wrote a little back and forth in each section as one would make the other clearer the farther I went until I petered out (and my back as well!).

The switch occured when I was writing what I thought was the final segment when the character, (named in this iteration Dobromir Danneskjold – I like it!) who has gained the memory of his past lives in a dream, asks his priest what is eternal. The priest answers – Love. Ah, and what is love? And how has this man died up to now? Fearfully and cowardly and selfishly. There is only one way to end the cycle and that is to die by love, die in an act of love, and love is self-sacrifice.

And in Scrivener switching scenes around is easier than flipping a pancake.


And the important lesson here, for me, is that even though I could have planned some of this, I do not think I could have got all the way there (at least not at first – maybe not at all?) without first actually writing. I don’t think I would have got to the riddle to even come up with the answers. But that last, to die in an act of love, is a bonafide story solution, a thematic solution even. I was just hoping to have a coherent series of decently written events with some sort of physical resolution for my first try.

Well, I won’t have a coherent series of decently written events on November 30th. If I were the Demiurge (and I certainly was for this story) you would all have asses where your heads are supposed to be and you’d all have wings for feet and genitals for ears. But I solved a story problem through writing it. And in a much bigger fashion than I gave myself credit for being able to come with. Also I think there might be a few short stories in germ form sitting in that muck of chaos.

On December 1st I will have the material necessary for writing an actual novel.

I’d like to also write down the observation that in all the time I was an Objectivist I was never able to solve one story problem. It was always like trying to jam a fist down a dime-sized hole. But now that I am of Catholic mind, the story solution literally fell into my lap. Actually a priest on the radio dropped the first part right into my ear on the very day I was considering one of the problems. Plink!


NaNo – National Novel Writing Month

For the last several years I have flirted with participating in NaNo and every year (especially last year as I was finishing school) I forget until the middle of November (or the third week of February) when it is a little too late to start.

I am sure Stephen King could wait until November 23rd and then start but…

While I have notes and stuff all over the place of ideas and such, I have been sort of in limbo since finishing school so I have nothing mixed to put in the pot. I literally just remembered two hours ago. This is going to be fresh off the flesh of my forebrain.

It could also be terrible! But, hey, let’s play!

I have read a number of “articles” (i.e., blog posts about people I do not know and a few who are admittedly not writers) that try to dissuade people from participating in this event. They say that it is artificial, social media oriented. First it is artificial in that you don’t, in the real world, bust out a 50,000 page novel in a month that is ready for market. Nobody says that either. What the contest is (and it is with yourself, not others) is for you to put down 50,000 words of a novel. It is a writing goal within a month’s timeframe.

That part is not artificial and there is a real world parallel called the deadline. Most writing programs nowadays have little widgets or windows where you can enter daily and project target goals. NaNo merely makes the same thing into a public spectacle. In reality, you are still stuck there, alone, in front of your computer with a goal to achieve. There is nothing artificial about that. It is better to look at NaNo as a public event where you can make a very good headway on your writing project. That’s all. You may have December thru next October (or beyond) to continue writing your project, rewrite it, edit and reedit it, etc.

The social media complaint is just dumb. It is 2017, authors have to promote and their personal means is largely social media.

Another complaint is the high failure rate of participants getting to the goal of 50,000 words in a month. So what? The failure rate for restaurants in the first year is 90-95%. Does that mean you should not open up a restaurant? Maybe a lot of people find out they actually don’t like the process. Maybe a lot of people learn they can’t produce that fast. You know, some authors (and you can look this up, there are a number of them) only write a novel once every several years, some go a lot longer. Maybe November isn’t a good month for them to have started such a project (it is the beginning of the holiday season after all).

The failure rate can be broken down by the expectation of the goal. 50,000 words in 30 days breaks down to 1666 words a day. Let’s say you devote four hours a day during November that works out to a little over 400 words for each of the four hours. Given that there are 60 minutes to an hour, that breaks down to about roughly seven words a minute.

That isn’t too bad and is probably in the ballpark of what the average paid writer does.

The lamest complaint I heard was that it produces a lot of crap (even the NaNo site itself says you’ll likely produce a lot of crap). Most of what I write is crap. But far be it for me to volunteer to be the standard, most writers I’ve read who have discussed their craft say most of what they produce is crap. You just don’t see that in the published work. Or, to be fair, they try not to let that be in their published work.

The familiar scene of the writer sitting at his typewriter in a battlefield of crumpled paper at his feet testifies to that. You know who wrote those scenes? Writers.

Some people talked of it as if it spelled the death of literature (as if we weren’t postmortem already). Does it? Let’s say of the supposed half million people that participate (number from 2015) 99.999% of it is crap written by people who should not write. Let’s remember, Random House has no obligation to publish any of this stuff. Is it perhaps worth it so that some 16 year old kid somewhere finds that, having participated, he has found his calling and produces great work later?

Can’t paint? Don’t go to art class then. Writing is for writers and if you are not already a writer, then don’t bother. I say stuff it elitist snob. It is completely harmless. Even if, and I would suspect there are some, you were only to participate once every year with no expectations of ever publishing something (you just enjoy the activity, the sharing, whatever) what of it?

Some people poo poo anything.

And I should actually start thinking about a project!

Sisson’s Synonyms, Setting it Right, Sad Face 2015


One of my long time customers at my bar suggested this book to me a few weeks ago (I hate waiting for regular delivery!). Looking it over it seems the byline for the book is the real indicator for it and reads as follows (you can see above the author’s name): An Unabridged Synonym and Related Term Locator.

The related term locator is the real useful part; general entries start with common synonyms of the common usage of the entry term, but switch to other related uses as you go through the entry. It is not a general use synonym finder or thesaurus (especially since it was published in 1969 and we have only gone downhill since roughly that time), you have to have a decent command of English usage to navigate through a lot of entries. Thesauruses, usually the online types, give a lot of their synonyms through use in expressions – Sisson’s only gives related words.

For instance, if you are investigating alternative ways to express the concept of ‘focus’, you may come across the concept ‘cynosure’. Is cynosure another way to say ‘focus’? Or is it a related word? There is nothing wrong not knowing (there is in not being curious enough to look it up) so look up the term! There are probably hundreds if not thousands of words here I don’t know.

Some words just die out. I am of the opinion that if there is a thing as endangered species, the first on our list should be the richness of our language. Example: one of the entries under Fog is Brumous. I’ve never come across the word before. Maybe if I didn’t read so much lightweight space operas my vocabulary would be larger!

But we are all required to save the Space Princess!

Anyway, it now proudly takes a spot with my linguistic collection: Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern Usage, Dorland’s Medical dictionary, Foyle’s Philavery, two picture dictionaries (sometimes you need a visual cue – what the hell is that knobby thing at the top and bottom of a stair rail called? or if you need the names of the parts of a sail ship), C.S. Lewis’ A Study in Words, and (because I still love the thing) The Chicago Manual of Style.

Setting it Right

I have decided, although it causes me some trepidation, to disengage myself from this pursuit of medical coding. Even if I did land the job, I don’t know what else I would have time for – especially writing.

And even though I said I was getting back to the writing (or else abandon, out of honesty, the subtitle of my blog) I would not be able to do it with the medical coding. It was a bigger line of work than I had anticipated. So I am going to ditch it –

It drives me a little insane… scared even that I wasted more than two whole years on something like that only to walk away. I’ve never felt like that over the decades of (two of them anyway) drinking and getting ZERO done. I achieved a certification and blew through roughly five thousand dollars, but I am can’t think of myself also sacrificing even more time (because getting into this line of work is a nightmare) and perhaps never getting back to writing.

I’m sorry, I’d rather be a fry cook at McDonald’s (or a greeter at Walmart). Don’t laugh, those bastards will be making $15 an hour in Seattle soon. YOU BETTER NOT FUCK UP MY BURGER IN THE DRIVE-THRU!!!!!! OTOH, I don’t know where they are going to live because rent is going to do nothing but go up, up, up!

“Yeah, I’m a fry cook at McDonald’s. I’m make $15 an hour. I commute 2 hours into work and back home every day. The liberals that run the city may say they love the little man and minorities, but only if they are of a certain class. You can feed us and clean up our poop, but you can’t live with us!”

No matter. I’ll be moving to North Carolina next year anyway.

Sad Face 2015


In January of 2015 I wrote my last piece of writing before school. It was a vignette of a much larger idea being tossed around. Basically it was an end of time/universe story but based on a cyclical universe cosmology. No one knows they live in a cyclical universe while the world is ending.

I later introduced the idea of the last remnants of mankind being mercilessly hunted down by hordes of supernatural clowns while the heavens are descending in apocalypse. Then I came up with idea of  humans not knowing they live in a cyclical universe, but the clowns do. And basically the last man standing at the very end of the old universe and the beginning of the new one is the winner.

The whole project started to get away from me a little then so I decided to take the various ideas and do shorter pieces of them. I call it slap-dash writing. It goes a little like this: “Alright I have this idea for these evil clowns at the end of time – what are their motives, who are they? Go!”

This resulted in the piece below. Some have seen it before, but I repost it because it is my re-entry point and – just how much acid and glue-sniffing did I do growing up? No, soberly, anyone know?

While I work on slapping this piece into cohesion, I am wondering how I would execute my other vignette idea for the clowns. I had this wicked little alt-ending for the story called “Clown and Eve” where the clowns win. And the world is remade. There is a beautiful woman, alone in a garden of paradise. She is picking a fruit from a tree and –

over her shoulder rises a clown holding a knife high over his head (cue Psycho track ee! ee! ee!). Thought our current iteration started in tragedy? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

Anyway, I post the first draft of this again below. I’m going to work on it starting tomorrow.

Sad Face stood in the middle of the small room surrounded by his peers. The pasty white of his face was smeared with red and his frown was twice turned down. Sad Face stroked a large orange cat that he held to his protruding stomach. His inquisitors made a circle around him at tables too low and chairs too small. It was a classroom, a colorful classroom of rainbows and alphabets and numbers and construction paper cut-outs of various smiling animals.

Grimrole the Peeker, Curly the Cue, Puss in Boots, Laughing Lady, and Ralph formed the opposition to Sad Face on his right. They too were of pasty reflection and sour prism. But theirs was an arrow, an angry bow, and their frowns were for Sad Face.

Rascal, Galoshes, Hubris, and Candor the Gondor, formed Sad Face’s opposition to the left. They too were of pasty reflection and sour prism, but also of envious spectrum and malice aforethought. They were the strongest of any of the multitudinous factions that made up the group of 9. At last count there were no less than 36 factions among the group of nine, each in a war with the other. And many more factions with you let a faction consist of a single member.

The cat that sat aplomb on Sad Face’s belly was Nelly. She had lives for the each of them.

And she may need them this night.

“What have you to say for yourself, Face?” sneered Puss in Boots.

“Nothing,” said Sad Face. He petted Nelly absentmindedly and Nelly let him absentmindedly.

Hubris stood up and pointed a preposterously white and large finger in Face’s direction, “This clown is too old to be one of us! Look at the silly things he plays at! I say we dispose of him!”

There was a swell of snarling, conjecture, objection, bellowing and posing from both sides of the table. Sad Face stared at the floor. It was hard to tell if there was fear in the pancake or whether there was syrup to hit the floor. He just stood there stroking Nelly’s fur. And while Nelly may have enjoyed that absentmindedly, she did not enjoy the sudden gash of scarlet cacophony that splintered across the room and she raised her cackles and hissed at the rioters.

“Quiet!” roared Candor the Gondor. He rose as he said this and the bellow of his voice masked the breaking of both chair and table and the spilling onto the floor of his allies, Galoshes and Hubris. These two, their feet being of absurd size, struggled to get up; and their giant heads of frizzy, discolored hair bobbed up and down in their fight.

“Do we forget?” said Curly the Cue as he twirled one length of his long, green mustache, “Do we forget who Sad Face is?”

“What does that matter?” hissed Grimole the Peeker peering coyly from behind his woman’s scepter, a cream colored fan, and batted his exquisite lashes at Puss in Boots who turned away in mortal disgust (as did anyone). Peeker giggled. “We eat our young. Why not throw away the old?”

“Or eat them too!” Cried Laughing Lady and she broke into mad shrieks of laughter causing the others to cover their ears in anguish.

Ralph sprang up atop his desk and sang basso, “And just who is this Sad Face we speak of?” It was a serious question because Ralph could not remember anything that was not sung from day to day.

Ignoring Ralph except to answer his question, spoke Hubris. “He is the first of us. The first to put out a light because it lit. To dirty a puddle because it was clear.”

“But I, I was the first to stick a knife in a baby’s eye because it enjoyed its sight!” This was Rascal whose full name was Rascal Animus.

“That is all well and fine, Rascal. And surely we would not have come as far as we have unless you had brought us to such ghastly refinement. But Hubris is saying you did it because of Sad Face. He was our father.”

“Bah!” Lashed out Rascal and pulled a long knife out of his drooping drawers and plunged it into Sad Face’s belly – and through Nelly in the process.

“My Nelly!” cried Puss in Boots.

Sad Face looked up at Rascal through shaggy red eye brows, “That was uncalled for, don’t you think?” Nelly’s body sagged against the long shaft of the blade. Sad Face grabbed the handle of the knife, pulled it out of himself and tossed it ringing onto the floor. Nelly fell to the floor and Puss in Boots rushed to her side sobbing.

“Are you not going to die?” asked Rascal.

“No, I think not. I haven’t dirtied my last puddle, nor shed my last mocked tear.”

“I’ll hold a seance, a rite, a ritual, or find some patch of earth for you to spring from, my sweet.” Puss carried her off to her seat, sat down, stroked her bloodied fur and glared at Rascal with enough venom to make a coven run for cover.

“It is so odd she cares for something. Goes against our most basic objectives, does it not?” asked Rascal abstractly to no one in particular.

Having fun with The Storymatic

As I explained in this post last month I bought a fun little package at the store called The Storymatic. Basically it is a giant deck of cards in a box with gold cards for characters and copper cards for situations or story droplets as it were. What I have been doing is drawing 2 gold cards and 2 copper cards and just going with it.

The first set I drew was:

Carnival worker, phone call at 3am, six months to live, discovery of a new species.

I got nowhere with that, not even a sentence. If anyone wants to have a go at it… start now! I’ve got the four items in the back of my mind, and maybe someday… Outside of making it an X-Files story (literally) it just produces nothing.

I did a few others that resulted in meh.

Then Sunday I drew the following cards:

  1. Secret meeting
  2. If only what was said could be taken back
  3. Aging Clown
  4. Person who steals cats

At first this seemed to me as incongruous as the first set. I give myself a few minutes before jumping in but not too many minutes. But clowns and secret meetings have been two elements of a novel I have been VERY SLOWLY working on for – shit- five years now? Basically think of the end of days, end of time and the universe, Future Man’s last stand, and armies of life hating clowns. I even have a side piece called Clown and Eve (think Rebirth of the World, but this time it gets off to an even worse start!), it exists (for now) only in my head, but it’s pretty messed up stuff.

Anyway, this had enough familiarity for my natural output. I didn’t hit all the points on the list, but I hardly think that is the point. Unless, of course, you were doing it as a group game style.

I still have to find some people who even think that would be fun. Am I completely off the grid? I’m thinking, hey! we gotta do this right now! Who knows where we’ll end up! Maybe I’m a freak, I can put myself in a dank cellar right now. There’s a leaking water pipe above me. It is too dark to see but I can hear it drip… slowly. The pain in my wrists is excruciating. I think I’m tied to a furnace or something. I move. Just a little. And I brush against something, and I think it moaned. Something made a sound. Was that a person? A corpse? A door above me swings open and a small shaft of light falls upon a flight of stairs. Into the frame steps a man. Who is that? Hey! It’s Cousin Eddie from the Lampoon Vacation movies! Is that a good thing or bad? Just kidding, but put a different location at the other end, say, yourself (or you as your character) feeding ducks at the park at sunset. How did you get from point A to point B? Go!

Anyway I got something that I think was pretty interesting if, perhaps, inept, and, certainly, incomplete. Scrivener tells me it is 895 words (which is a good single stretch for me) and 3 paperback pages. I wrote until I could go no further at that point, but I think there is material and even theme worthy material present.

So I offer it for, I hope, amusement. Note: I’ve been reading a lot of Lafferty lately and I think that peaked in a tiny bit in a sentence or two. Or I flatter myself, which would be odd of me.

Sad Face stood in the middle of the small room surrounded by Continue reading

I am a Tech-Savy Doofus


That is my new iPad Air in it’s Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio.

It is a pretty damned cool set-up and will probably be the way I go in the future.

My photo doesn’t do it justice. The iPad’s bottom end is sitting in a magnetized tray that keeps it grounded to the keyboard and the top is clipped in to the Folio’s other side. When it is time to retire the keyboard for simple touch screen use you simply lift the iPad off the magnetized strip and drop it over the keyboard. Closing it for storage or travel is merely doing the same thing but facing the iPad face down. The entire size of the thing is way smaller than any notebook style laptop.

The keyboard takes a little getting used to. Tab and Caps Lock are shared with the letters Q and A. Your punctuation keys are a little on the small side as well. But anyone skilled at slamming out touch-typing would pick it up in less than a day.

The operation is pretty much the same as it would be for any computer except your finger becomes the mouse for scrolling, swiping, etc.

The only thing I haven’t tested it out on is an actual text editor. I would seem that that would be the most important test of all and one I should have conducted before I bought the damned thing. Well the problem with that is it doesn’t come with a text editor to try that on. And even if it did it would TextEdit and no one writes with that more than they have to.

I imagine when Scrivener releases their iPad version later this year, it will have all the editing functionality of any other editor.

But for now I will have to experiment. For instance, how do you select a block of text? I don’t know. I know I can’t do it from within the wordpress editor as it doesn’t seem to recognize the technology. For instance, if I select this word right here it won’t select that word but whatever is at the topmost of the screen when the pop-up menu pops us. In this case on my screen it is the letter t. Or just now I tried to place the cursor in front of the word screen on the line above, instead it goes up the beginning three paragraphs up. Accurate navigation is possible with the keyboard and there are shortcuts to text selection built into the keyboard.

I think the touch problem is wordpress thing.

I also just signed onto DropBox so all my stuff will be backed up. I don’t really care about most of it, just the writing. Can’t replace that.

Ps. I will fix all the errors in this post when I figure out how to navigate with greater ease!

Dredging Through Time Travel

So I’m soaking my mind in things time travel. I call it sponging, I’m just out there grazing all things time travel and then spitting my thoughts out in my journal – seeing what sticks (bad metaphors, apparently). Anyway I happened on this forum where there is discussion of good time travel stories, and someone comes up with this thought:

Time Travel must be impossible. Just think of how messed up things could get if it could happen.”

My immediate, and somewhat cynical, thought was:

So, you’re saying that there is time travel, then?

It could be a book of idiocy. IDIOTS THROUGH TIME! MORONS OF THE TIME-SCAPE!

A group of people are convinced that the mess the world is in is due to the influence of time travelers wrecking havoc with our timeline. They invent time travel to undo the damage. Turns out there never was any time travel before they invented it, and now they have really F’d up what was, now that they have made their mess, a not so bad world.

It could be a series. I  could even go through my classic (a la Heinlein, Robert Silverberg et all) horny middle-aged man theme in the middle of the series TITTIES THROUGH TIME! Then wrap it up in my old age with really splotchy plots WHAT TIME IS IT?

Sometimes these ideas don’t sound so bad when I write them down. For satire the above premise (even the self-mocking entries I like) is pretty damned fertile.

Hey, don’t anybody be taking these… (I write really slow…)