Writing about relationships

Welcome to another edition of Writing Wednesday! Last week I discussed my trunk novel and how I was disassembling it and using bits and pieces of it, including the main plot, in my current work-in-progess (WIP).

The new story, a blossoming relationship between the main character and a faerie is coming along nicely. I’ve almost completed the first draft.

My biggest problem is I’ve never written about romances or relationships. Not as the main focus of the story anyway. 

Snoopy knows

Most of what I’ve written, thrillers, action adventures, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, the main focus in on the main character surviving whatever the story has thrown at him. If there is a romantic relationship, it’s usually a very minor subplot hidden away in the main story’s focus.
And to be honest, I’ve never read a romance (closest l came was to start but not finish “Bridges of Madison County”) and in most of the stories I read, the relationship is also secondary, more like fill for the downtime between the action sequences. Something to simply make the MC seem a little human and vulnerable.

Take the romantic development in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “A Princess of Mars,” for example. John Carter meets Dejah Thoris, the most beautiful woman on two worlds, falls in love without really getting to know her, and spends the rest of the novel trying to rescue her from one predicament after another.

And considering I’m the nerdy bashful type, I don’t have a lot of personal romantic experiences to draw upon in writing this either.

So, its probably natural that I’m finding it difficult creating a believable relationship, a budding romance between two characters. It’s especially tough when the novel takes place over the period of only one week. 

I’m tasked with making the romance believable to the reader without them being pulled out of the story, “No one falls in love that deeply that fast!”

Sure, there’s a bit of Burroughsian boy meets princess, boy loses princess, boy fights to win back princess in it, but I don’t want to depend upon that cliche.

I want it to develop naturally into a believable romance that tugs at the reader’s heart strings. 

As I said, it’s hard. But then, if it wasn’t hard everyone would be able to do it.

Right?

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Weekly wrap up 

It’s Friday, so that means I’ve got a whole lot of random shit to throw at you. So, buckle up, buckaroo.

Short story released into the wild

I’m really excited to announce I have a short story appearing today in Stupifying Stories Showcase titled, “Without a Leg to Stand On.”

Linkie: http://stupefyingstoriesshowcase.com/?p=1450

Enjoy.

Speaking of writing

My current work-in-progress (WIP), the novel I mention I was writing in Wednesday’s blogpost is coming along nicely. I’m “in the zone,” so to speak and the words are just falling all over the place. Good words. Meaningful words. Words that have me excited for the first time in a very long time.

It’s one of those instances where if I’m not writing the story, I’m thinking about writing the story. Characters and scenes are bombarding my head continuously, probably making me a menace to other human beings as I bump into them because I’m in a creative trance.

So if you see me walking down the street, make way!

Weigh-in Friday

I lost some more weight. Now I’m just ounces — OUNCES — away from breaking the 200 pound barrier! The scale reports in at 200.4!

Huzzah!

New writing instrument

No, I didn’t pick up another fountain pen. Instead, after much research and soul searching and penny pinching, I bought one of those 2-in-1s. Is it a laptop with a detachable keyboard or a tablet with an attachable keyboard? It’s like the old Certs commercials. “It’s a breath mint. It’s a candy mint. It’s two! Two mints in one!”

Anyway, it’s an RCA Cambio 10.1″ 2-in-1. It’s replacing the horrible Samsung Tab 2 tablet I received several years ago when Verizon was having a penny sale on Fathers Day. Hated it almost from the start. No wonder they were giving them away.

I had bought a cheap, half-assed Bluetooth keyboard for the Samsung and that just barely made it tolerable. Just barely. I could write, but not proficiently because the keyboard was a little too small for touch typing and had a few keys, the :/; and “/’ keys for instance, on a different row and I’d hit Enter every time I meant to put in one of those symbols, so I’d have all these random line breaks all over the place.

But this RCA is nice. For one thing, it has a Windows operating system, not an Android, so I can write straight into Word and not have to mess around with apps that just simulate Word.

I’ve done more writing with it in the last two weeks than I’ve done in the months prior on that tablet, which is why I got it in the first place.

I’ve read some reviews that complain the keyboard has a “plastic” feel. Well, duh. It is plastic. What should it feel like? Stone? Leather? To me, it feels solid, sturdy, unlike some others I’ve picked up that seem rather flimsy.

Maybe I’ll review it sometime, except since I only use it for writing in laptop mode, the review would only be useful to someone who also only planned to use it that way as well. I don’t use it for the surfing the web or for email or games or anything else that would distract me from writing.

RCA Cambio 10.1″ 2-on-1

Syria

What the Hell? Trump launched a cruise missile attack? This is why you never elect a bully with small hands and a small dick. In his mind, the use of military force compensates for his feelings of inadequacy.

Can we now invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment?

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Unpacking my trunk novel

I set aside a novel several years ago. Not because it was a bad story, on the contrary, I really liked it, specifically the Main Character (MC) and a few other secondary characters. Plus, the main plot, I thought, was interesting.

I still do. But I became disillusioned after receiving some 60+ rejections from literary agents.

During the revision process,  which happened after each rejection — “Maybe they didn’t like this.” or “I bet they wanted a different beginning.” despite not receiving any feedback indicating any of those changes were needed — I had the novel Beta-read by several writers and editors. 

They all liked it, except the last one who said it was a good story but it was so poorly constructed only a complete rewrite from scratch could possibly help it. Yes, instead of listening to the majority, I keyed in on that last critique. At the time, I couldn’t see how I could rewrite it without rewriting it exactly as it was already written.

So I trunked it. I gave up.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. This was a novel, in the urban fantasy genre, that had started germinating in my mind back in 1993 or so, before I even knew there was an urban fantasy genre. It was the 90th anniversary of Harley-Davidson and Milwaukee was filled with the sound of rolling thunder. The excitement influenced my creation of a character, a sheriff, who rode a white pearlescent Harley. He became involved in a situation where demons were released into our dimension. I also created a secondary character, based heavily upon an old time radio character Chandu the Magician as well as the Marvel comicbook character Doctor Strange, a sorcerer who becomes involved and together the two characters join forces to battle the demons. The problem was, I couldn’t think of enough personal story to flesh out the sheriff to make him a three-dimensional MC and I had yet to create any backstory for the sorcerer to make him one. So I set it aside.

Years later, the story idea morphed into something closer to the novel I ended up subbing. Now the MC was the magician, both stage and real, who is called in by his friend on the Police force (no Harley) simply to identify occult symbols at a crime scene and everything took off from that point. 

It took me two years to write the novel and a couple more to edit and polish it to where I thought it was submission-worthy. 

I liked the MC and other cast of characters so much, I even wrote a complete sequel to the first novel, and started writing a third.

Over the next five or so years, I subbed the novel to agents, rewriting and editing after each rejection whether I got feedback or not, until that fateful critique when I trunked it for several more years out of frustration.

Recently, I started writing a new idea completely unrelated to the trunk novel about an ordinary guy who runs into (literally) a fairy, injuring her, and takes her home to nurse her back to health. It is a romance, of sorts, and the story has slowly taken shape in my head and on paper. Then one day, I had an epiphany. 

I could combine the two stories using the main plot from the trunk novel and this fairy story as a subplot. I could resurrect the MC from the trunk, making a few changes in his backstory, keep him a widower with a daughter, keep his Police friend, and get rid of the rest. The demon plot would provide the action and suspense while the fairy story would provide character development. 

So I’m writing that story. I’m writing most of it from scratch, too, except on occasion, I’m snatching snippets of dialog or scenes from the trunk novel and with minor edits fitting them seamlessly into my new work-in-progress.

And I’m excited again. Even more excited than I was when I first wrote the trunk novel, because the subplot is providing the missing piece of the puzzle that I think the trunk novel was lacking — the human interest part.

I am writing and I’m actually enjoying it.

Write, Ferret, Write!

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Opening Day brings new foods, beers

Today is Opening Day. It should be a National Holiday.

If you just said, “Opening Day of what?” please exit now.

Today, Miller Park will be jammed with people, the majority of whom don’t care anything about baseball; they’re there for the shenanigans and heavy drinking that goes on. 

It’s sad because to real fans, Opening Day is a religious experience, a special day, like Christmas. A day to celebrate the annual return of the greatest sport in the history of forever. 

The boys of summer have returned like the swallows to Capastrano.

We went to the last preseason game on Saturday, April 1st at Miller Park. We were among the first to see the revamped food concession areas.

Before this remodel, there were just a few “name” vendors in the mix. I can’t recall the names because they were mostly for the snooty food snobs, in my opinion. Those of us with families went to the generic food concession counters where we could get slightly overpriced hamburgers, bratwurst, Italian sausage, hot dogs, popcorn, and selected Miller Brewing Company beer products, as well as sodas.

But those stands, and those prices, are gone now (unless they still have some generic concession stands hidden away).

Now the have food provided by AJ Bombers (hamburgers), Zaffiros pizza, the Smoke Shack Barbeque, J Agave’s Tacos, Holey Moley donuts, as well as a whole skew of Wisconsin craft brew offerings.

We tried J. Agave’s Tacos. My wife and I ordered two tacos and two drinks. The price was what you would expect if you were dining out, not at a ballpark!  To put in perspective, last year we could have ordered a cheeseburger, a bratwurst, a Polish sauage, a chirizo, fries and sodas for four for the same price!

And the service? Well, I hope they were still working out the kinks, because we had to wait 15 minutes after we ordered to get our food. One problem is, although it carries the restaurant’s name, they still use a volunteer food service staff. 

They were disorganized and confused to say the least. One issue was the window to the kitchen was also the counter where the servers had to access drawers to complete the orders and make nachos. In other words, they were all on top of each other, getting in each other’s way.

As I said, it was a preseason game, so I can’t imagine what kind of bedlam there will be for a full house, especially a standing-room-only Opening Day crowd. Seems like a disaster in the making. 

When we did finally get our order and made it back to our seats, the tacos were going cold. It was then I realized how messy a taco was to eat without a table, trying to balance everything in your lap.

And to be honest, I’m not a foodie, so all those contrasting flavors–spicy and sweet–probably work in a situation where I’m there to concentrate on the food and dining experience, not while I’m trying to satiate my hunger while yelling at the ump for a bad call.

So I was disappointed, to say the least.

Baseball was the last major league sporting experience that was still affordable to the average family. Now however, Miller Park, in revamping the food experience, has taken that away from us.

I don’t know why they felt it was necessary to do so. Most hometown fans were quite happy with the food selection and the prices. Milwaukee is a city known for searching for a bargain. We like tradition. The revamped food area is neither. 

Maybe they’re trying to lure a whole new crowd, one that isn’t there for baseball, a bunch of yuppies who want some sort of foodie “experience.”

That would also explain the game show host-like idiot they had on the Jumbotron during every lull asking trivia or playing some other sort of guessing game with a fan contestant for a chamce to win prizes.

I found it intrusive and annoying. 

If they want to do that silly shit at football or basketball games, have at it, but leave baseball alone.

Real baseball fans don’t need all that distracting shit to “enhance” our experience. Nor do we need any fancy foodie crap. Just give us some peanuts, popcorn, and cracker jacks and we won’t care if we ever get back.

Stop ruining baseball.

At least they haven’t replaced the Klement’s Racing Sausages

But baseball is back! And despite a long-winded rant, I’m happy.

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Nougat surprise

I just updated my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge to the latest Android Nougat OS.

So far, I hate it. The name is appropriate because it reminds me of those awful old-fashioned candies only old people eat.

Nougat = Yuck.

Let’s begin with the Contacts/Call app settings. It took away Favorites and stuffed it in with the Contacts list. Favorites went from being nice and orderly — each Favorite easily accessible in a grid pattern, launched with just a touch — and has been reduced to an ordinary listview and is now part of the Contact List, which means now you have to do a lot more scrolling to find a contact, favorite or otherwise. How is that an improvement?

The Photos Gallery has also changed. Albums were laid out in a nice easy to see grid pattern, each grid square represented an album with a thumbnail of the the latest picture. Now it’s changed to a list. More scrolling. Obviously some programmer likes list view versus grid view.

They changed how Folders open. They used to open as a well-defined box superimposed above the rest of the screen. Now when you open a folder, it becomes the main screen, which just causes visual confusion.  Am I on the main screen or what? And now if you have more than  9 apps in a folder, the others are gone. Well, it seems that way until you realize the others reside on a second page inside that folder. Again, confusing. Before, you could see you had more apps inside the folder because they’d peek out at the bottom of the open folder. I’m surprised they didn’t change the Folders  to list view as well.

Another change concerning Folders, you launch an app from the folder, then when you finish and close with the phone’s back arrow, you find yourself back on that same Folder. Before, the Folder would close when the app was launched. This is one feature I’m ambivalent about. Do I like it or not? Only time will tell. I guess if you have a lot of apps in a Folder that you launch then close then immediately open the next app in that same Folder, this feature could prove useful.

The look and feel of the Pull Down Notifications and Menus at the top have changed as well. Again, you have to relearn how to do something you already knew how to do or where to find it. The look and feel of Settings has changed as well.

Facebook has changed, too, but I don’t know if that’s part of the Nougat upgrade or if Facebook updated their app at the same time.

For example: Now there is this extra icon bar at the top between the original menu ribbon and the “What’s on your mind?” status input. It contains a button called, “Direct,” one called “Your Story,” and yesterday it had something else I can’t remember now, but today it has a button with the name of one of my FB friends. When I click on it, it shows me his face all distorted with lights shooting from his eyes. WTF is that for? No explanation. 

I don’t mind change if it has obvious improvements. So far, with Nougat all I see is they polished all the bells and whistles  and moved them around just enough to be annoying. I’m curious what functional changes took place. 

Will I get used to the changes? Sure. We always do, but the real question is why should we have to?  What was wrong with grid view that they had to change it, for instance?

At least give us the option to choose which view we prefer, like:

  • Grid View – View lists in a pleasing,  orderly, and quickly  understood grid with easily recognisable thumbnails, or
  • List View – View lists in a dull, old-fashioned, and hard-to-read list format that you have to scroll through to find anything.

I think you know which one of pick.

Essentially, Nougat  is just showboating by the programmers, nothing more.

I give the Nougat upgrade a C, with the option to change that grade as I learn more about it.

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Don’t wait to check the date

Tuesday I thought I’d try a new training technique for my run that I’d just read about.

Instead of starting off slow and increasing your speed throughout the run and finishing with a sprint, this technique has you start off fast and then progressively decreasing your speed.

I began at a 6.5 mph pace (which is faster by almost 5mph than my previous fastest pace for a sustained run) with the intention of decreasing it by 2mph after each mile until I completed 5k. My intent was to finish anywhere from 6.1 to 5.5 mph, depending how tired I felt toward the end of the run.

After the first mile, I thought, “OK, my lap times are approximately 2:18. I still feel strong. I can go for another two minutes, so I’ll keep at 6.5mph for just one more lap.”

That one lap became two. Then three. Then four. Now I’d run 2 miles at this clip. Just one more lap, then I’ll slow down, I told myself again.

Long story short, I ran the entire 5k at that 6.5 mph pace and set a personal best in time. 28:something (it’s written down in my log), which I think betters my previous PB by at least one minute, if not more. Again, it’s in my log. 

And I felt good. No. Great. Exhausted, yes, but it was a good exhaustion because I had accomplished something.

As part of my post-workout routine, I’ve recently added drinking a small bottle of Core Power protein shake. I had read chocolate milk is good post-run, so why not a protein shake? Especially a 240 calorie one with 3.5 grams of fat, 26 grams of carbs, and 26 grams of protein (made up of 19 grams of essential amino acids and 5 grams of branched chained amino acids)? 

Besides, they’re delicious.

The next morning I woke up with the urge to go to the bathroom. But not to urinate. No. This was a stomach cramping “You’d better run!” urge. 

And minutes later, there it was again. And again. And again.

If you have stock in Imodium, you’re welcome.

At first I thought it was my body’s reaction to the previous night’s extremely strenuous run. Except I’ve never had that sort of reaction before.

So then I thought food poisoning. Except I was the only one in the house sick. Did I have anything they didn’t have?

Oh, right. I had a bottle of Core Power, but I’ve had those several times over the last couple weeks. I’ve never had this reaction before.

Then for shits and grins, I checked the bottle. Hmm. All the ingredients are filtered and purified. Its even lactose free. They seem to pride themselves on offering a quality product. Nothing in there that should affect me adversely. 

Until I looked at the lid:

Yes. It expired November 22, 2016. Four months ago! Considering I had only started buying them two weeks ago, that means it was expired at the grocery store.

The problem is, which store? I picked them up from two different supermarkets. 

Guess I’ll go back to each, check the Expiration Dates and whichever store has expired product still on the shelf will get an ass-chewing.

That is unexceptable. I did not look at the date before I drank it because I expected something recently purchased would be fresh.

I will continue to buy Core Power protein shakes and use them as part of my post-run routine.

I’ll just be more diligent checking Expiration Dates in the future.

Run. Hydrate. But check that expiration date.

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Random Friday

Just a few random thoughts for a Friday, none of which deserve their own blog post.

Public Service Announcement

Before you put on your shoes, tie them tight, and head out for your run, a word of advice: ALWAYS CHECK THE INSIDE OF YOUR SHOES FOR DEBRIS!

Especially if you have cats who like to push things off the dresser where they land inside your shoe or you have dogs who are messy eaters and when they bite into a hard treat pieces go flying everywhere, including into your shoe.

Said foreign object becomes very painful after a mile or so and it starts to work it’s way underfoot.

Now maybe unlike me, you’ll stop running, take your shoe off, and shake it out. But if you are like me, you’ll keep running, wincing in pain each time the object that feels like a huge rock (but turned out to be just a small eighths inch piece of dog treat) slips under your big toe.

That Extra Shoelace Hole

I just found out what that extra lace hole in my running shoes is for. Yes, for lacing. Smartass. What I mean is, how to correcrly use that extra hole. Everyone else probably already knew what it’s for and I’m just late to the party, but in case you’re one of those who missed the memo as well, then read on.

My heels tend to slip in my shoes. I don’t know why, maybe because I buy one whole size larger shoe than my foot size so my toes don’t get mashed against the toe box like they do if I only get a half size larger.

Onward. Here is what that extra lace hole is for: to make your shoe fit around your ankle (and in the process, your heel) more snuggly and with minimal slippage. The technique is called the “Heel Lock” amd you start by threading the lace back through that last hole (so the lace is now inside the shoe) forming a loop between the last two hokes, then pass the right lace through the left loop and the left lace through the right loop, cinch it tight by pulling donward, and tie it like normal. Now you’re on your merry way with no heel slippage. (The only drawback is, now your shoes are harder to get off. A fair tradeoff if it prevents heel blisters or premature wearing out of your socks or the material inside the shoe’s heel itself.)

Here’s a video that demonstrates it better than I probably explained it.

That extra Shoelace Hole in action

The Fly

No, not the movie, although if I were to discuss it, I’d have to expound upon how superior the original with David Heddison was in every way: story, acting, dramatic suspense, compared  to the dreadful Jeff Goldbloom remake, which was just gross.

Warning: The following may be TMI for the more delicate flowers among you.

No, I’m talking flies in men’s underwear, or the lack of them in some men’s underwear. A month or so ago, needing new underwear, I stopped at TJ Max. I was looking for something thinner, lighter, and more breathable than cotton. Active wear, I guess it’s called, because I do a lot of mall walking during the day. Something along the lines of compression-like shorts, except as everyday underwear.

I found an inexpensive pair by RBX Active that seemed to fit the bill. Except when I took them out of the package, I realized they didn’t have a fly, which I found odd because I thought all men’s underwear had a fly.

Not having one makes them nearly useless for everyday wear. I mean, men urinate standing up. We don’t undo our belts, open our pants and pull them down. We’re not kids any more learning how to use the urinal. We only unzip our pants, reach in, and fish out our yahoo through the underwear hole. Without one, there’s all this extra yanking and tugging and painful maneuverings going on as you try to pull down these flyless wonders through the zipper opening. No one wants that, it just attracts unwanted attention. Men are all about going in, doing their bizness, and.getting out without any conversation or eye contact.

On the one hand, sure the RBX, made of lycra or other synthetics, are very comfortable, they dont bunch up, they breathe and I guess wick away sweat. They’re very good for exercising in. But not to pee in. Or through, rather. So I use them for running.

Still needing everyday underwear, I went back and picked up a pair of their flied underwear. Seemingly the same material, the same size, but when I got home and tried them on, they were too tight. They had a different cut and the wasitband didnt ride at the same height as the other pair by RBX did yet they were the same size. Yup, I double-checked the package. Same company. Same stated size. Totally different fit. For some reason these were like bikini briefs compared to the other ones.

Which begs the question: if there is such a size disparity even within a manufacturer’s own line, why can’t we try them on before we buy?

Belay that. The very thought that someone else’s nutsack was getting all jiggy with the underwear I just bought makes me squeemish.

So I’m still looking for new underwear. And I’m finding that a lot of them don’t have a fly. I don’t get it. In my experience, the only underwear that was flyless were those embarrassing jockstraps we had to wear in high school gym. Maybe it’s because I’m looking at the type more for athletic use instead of your traditional tighty-whiteys or your grandfather’s boxers? I don’t know.

But here’s the interesting thing. I was looking at Puma brand underwear and making sure they had a fly, when I noticed the flied ones were labeled “with keyhole.”

Keyhole? That’s great! I’m going to refer to the fly as a keyhole from now on.

/End TMI Warning

Friday Weigh-in

I weighed myself today. Friday has always been my normal weigh-in until I became enamoured with all the cool features of our new smart scale.

Well, if you remember Tuesday’s blog post, I was whining I had gained 2.6 pounds over the weekend.

Well, today? I’m back on track. I lost that 2.6 pounds I had gained.

And the.moral of that story is: Only weigh yourself once a week. Pick a day of the week, Friday in my case, and weigh yourself that day only!

You’ll save yourself a lot of grief and time spent writing angry blog posts.

Lace up. Go run.

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