Random Friday

Friday Haiku

Two dictators met

An unstable maniac

And Kim Jong-un too.

Research Woes

OK, I never have research woes, I love doing research. My woe is that when I wrote the first draft of my 1869 weird western, I didn’t research the history of train travel as I should have.

Therefore, in my current manuscript I have the man in charge of the train as the Engineer. Unfortunately, as I’m doing research, I’m finding that the Engineer is only responsible for operation of the locomotive engine itself. The actual man in charge, the captain of the entire train so to speak, is the Conductor.

Therefore, as I’m transcribing, I’ll have to change most of the references to the Engineer to the Conductor. No biggie.

On my lunch today, I’ll run to the library to see if they have anything on the history of coal-powered steam locomotives and how trains themselves operate.

Milwaukee tenth worst?

USA Today recently published a study that ranked the 50 worst cities to live in. Milwaukee came in at number ten.

My response? Fuck you.

Milwaukee has it’s problems, yes, but I take umbrage to impersonal number crunching. By their numbers, high crime rate, high poverty, depressed home values, Milwaukee came out tenth worst city to live in.

Again, fuck you.

Numbers don’t tell any of the story.

Does Milwaukee have a high crime rate? Yes. There are 15.53 violent crimes per 1,000 residents. But those crimes are restricted to a relatively small area.

There are many safe, and beautiful, neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Simply crossing into the city limits won’t make you a crime victim. I’ve lived here all my life and have never been a victim of crime (unless you count having my lunch money stolen in seventh grade).

Poverty? Yes, we have that, no denying it. Milwaukee was once a great industrial city and like all major cities in the Rust Belt it has struggled with poverty since the loss of those manufacturing industries.

And Milwaukee is slowly rising from the ashes, repurposing, refurbishing, and replacing old abandoned factories and warehouses. The Menomonee River Valley, once booming with industry, became a blighted eyesore for decades. Now, much of it has been returned to nature as part of the Henry Aaron State Trail that extends from Lake Michigan nearly uninterrupted out to Wisconsin State Fair Park.

Abandoned warehouses and factories along the Milwaukee River have been converted to high-end residential, commercial and recreational venues. All accessible by the over 3 mile long Riverwalk.

Starting this fall, the newly installed light rail (trolly) system will begin operation.

The city isn’t sitting still and this study’s numbers don’t show that.

Numbers also don’t tell you how urbane Milwaukee is. We’ve always had a world-class zoo, a top notch natural history museum, and an art museum now housed within the beautiful Quadracci Pavilion designed by Santiago Calatrava.

The Calatrava designed Milwaukee Art Museum at night

Milwaukee is home to the world-renowned Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (with the incomparable Megumi Kanda as the principal trombone), as well as the Milwaukee Ballet.

The MSO will be, in fact, spending $89 million dollars to renovate the abandoned Warner Grand Theater building (a once beautiful marble and bronze Art Deco style 12-story building built by Warner Brothers; it was one of the finest theaters in the nation in 1931) on 2nd and Wisconsin Avenue for their new home as part of an continuing effort to revitalize Milwaukee’s downtown.

The study’s numbers also don’t show that Milwaukee has a thriving festival season. The highlight is Summerfest, a monstrous ten day music festival featuring some of the top music acts in the country. We are also home to many ethnic festivals, some the largest such in the nation, for example, Polish Fest, Germanfest, Festa Italiana, Mexican Fiesta, Bastille Days, Greek Fest (which once was held at the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Greek Annunciation Church until it grew too large for those grounds), Pride Fest, Irishfest, African Cultural Fest, and Indian Summer, to name a few.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our two professional sports teams, the Milwaukee Brewers and Milwaukee Bucks (who will be moving into a newly built arena this fall as part of a major redevelopment of the downtown sporting district).

And the depressed housing market? We like to call it affordable, thank you very much.

So this study can take it’s number crunching and it’s bullshit “worst” rankings and shove them up their collective ass.

Milwaukee is a great place to call home.

Congnitive Dissonance

One of the most bizarre statements I’ve heard comes from Trumpanzees. Basically, the reason some of them love Trumpy the Clown so much is because he “gets under the skin of liberals.”

That’s it. They support him because he irritates progressives.

It doesn’t matter to them if he colluded with Russia to help influence an American election.

Doesn’t matter to them that he’s destroying the environment. That his policies with the EPA are poisoning the air, water, and the land we live on, and now he’s relaxing asbestos regulations so we can all enjoy lung cancer.

Doesn’t matter to them that he’s passed a tax plan that not only doesn’t help the lower and middle class, it literally benefits only the rich, while it balloons the deficit to obscene, never before seen levels.

Doesn’t matter to them that he has alienated all of our nation’s allies while snuggling up with every two-bit dictator and totalitarian government, thereby destroying decades worth of friendships.

Doesn’t matter to them that he has excused Kim Jung-un’s repressive totalitarian dictatorship where 120,000 political prisoners languish in North Korean prisons, has executed over 300 people including one of his uncles (not to mention personally killing his Defense Minister Hyon Yong Chol with an anti-aircraft gun at a military school in Pyongyang, in front of an audience), by saying “a lot of people have done bad things.”

Doesn’t matter to them that he is normalizing bigotry and hatred or that he’s has, and has had, white nationalists in his cabinet, or criminals, or that everything he does is designed to profit him ornhis family, personally.

Doesn’t matter to them that he’s an ignorant buffoon who has no clue how to behave as President and is embarrassing all of us on the world’s stage.

Doesn’t matter to them if Trumpy the Clown is trampling on the Constitution or that we’re losing our rights to free speech, freedom of the press, fair elections and the rule of law.

Doesn’t matter to them how much Trumpy the Clown destroys our democracy, or our standing in the world, or anything.

No. None of that matters to them. All that matters to these assholes is that he’s getting under our skin. As long as we’re annoyed or uncomfortable with everything he says or does, they’re happy. They are consumed by their hatred of us and it blinds them to every evil thing trump does.

If you think about it, it’s flattering, really, because it means we’re the ones getting under their skin.

Final Word

Well, I think I’ve ranted enough for today. I’m exhausted, how about you?

I guess it’s time to send you off to the weekend with some upbeat music.

Enjoy and keep resisting.

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Writing Wednesday

I finally, finally, finally for reals this time, put the final edit to my urban fantasy fairy tale and started to query it to literary agents.

I promise, cross my heart, that I won’t touch it again until I’m asked to by a prospective agent or future editor for a publishing company.

We’ll see how long that lasts considering I was still adding new things to it as late as this past weekend even though I said it was complete over a month ago.

And now I’m starting on a new novel. One I handwrote the first draft for starting back in December of 2014.

when-you-begin-editing-your-first-draft-dark-and-difficult-22808455

And as I’m transcribing, I’m realizing I have forgotten all the research I did four years ago for this story, so it’s off to the public library to get books on the first transcontinental railroad, specifically the mountain segment known as the Pacific railroad.

The story takes place in the winter of 1869, the first winter after the Intercontinental railroad was finished (although this might change depending on my research).

I have the story written and could just transcribe it as it, but that’s not how I roll. The transcription part pf my editong process where I add a lot of detail to the story, fleshing out the characters, establishing the setting, and all that fun stuff.

The setting in this case, is the train, of course, but the train is traveling to the summit (an area known as Lone Tree Pass when the tracks were being laid), where there is the town of Sherman. Facts are important to me and I’m looking up things like the angle of the track’s grade, distance, type of locomotives used by Union Pacific Rail Road, the towns and other important landmarks along the way.

I’m not sure what genre it is. Fantasy, for sure, but is it a weird western because of the time period? Some of the train passengers are cowboys, sent to maintain a herd of cattle that is being transported on the train to restock a ranch near Omaha. Additionally, there’s an outlaw and a Pinkerton detective.

Except for the people and the time period it isn’t really a western though. They aren’t out riding horses, heading people off at the pass (even though there is a pass), or even Native Americans on the warpath. Maybe it’s a historical fantasy?

Without revealing too much, the story centers around the train getting stuck because of a terrible snow storm. It’s a bad winter and a lot of animals in the mountains are dying off, animals which serve as a food source for … something. Something that hungers and smells the cattle.

Maybe that would be the novel’s cover blurb, “Something hungers in the mountains…” Or even the title, “The Mountains Hunger.”

This, by the by, is a prequel to another novel I wrote featuring the same MC, a newspaper correspondent who is sort of a problem solver, righting social inequities, and battling robber barons sometimes via pen, other times via gun.

There’s nothing wrong with that novel, it’s not trunked, except it’s a zombie tale and I think that market it a little saturated, even if my zombies are of the voodoo-type. It was fun writing it because it takes place in New Orleans (and the swamps around the area) around the time of the first officially sanctioned Mardi Gras and my MC meets a few historic people including Marie Laveau.

OK, I’m back from the library. I was so quick I bet you didn’t even notice.

I picked up four books. Three are on the railroad and one is “The Complete Book of Mustang.”

The novel I finished and said I wouldn’t edit, has the MC driving a 1969 Mustang Mach 1 and I have the book to verify I got the details correct (or to change it to a different year).

Or just for my own self-interest because I love classic Mustangs.

Anyway, it’s time to do that research. I’d say writing is 90% research and 30% actual writing.

I know that’s 120%, but if athletes can claim to give 110%, I think we writers can claim 10% more.

TTFN.

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Writing Wednesday

I’ve been busy writing lately. I guess you could call it “in the zone.” The problem is, I’m scattergunning, which means I’m working on several projects simultaneously.

I’m editing my novel and …

“Wait,” I heard someone say. “Didn’t you finish that and start querying agents?”

Yes. Yes, I did. I sent out a handful of queries several weeks ago. And like any intelligent writer, I should have started another project.

Should jave, but didn’t. On tje contrary, I thought I’d give my novel another read-through, you know, in case I found a plot hole or continuity error.

I didn’t find any errors, however, reading caused several sub-sub-sub plots to pop into my head, plots that will flesh out several of the characters even more. I’ve been adding those and my 98k novel is now a little over 100k.

On another project, I’ve started to transcribe a handwritten first draft from 2014. It’s a fun little adventure with the tentative title, “Cowboys vs. Yeti,” (with the same MC from my other nearly completed “Cowboys vs. Zombies” novel. Both are set in the 1800s, the Yeti one just after they finished the transcontinental express.

The third piece I worked on, and submitted yesterday, is an unusual zombie short story. Unusual in that it’s not a horror story. It’s sort of an odd, heartwarming genre-crossing piece.

And finally, I worked on a short story about the Grim Reaper that I wrote a couple years ago and subbed only twice. The ending was unsatisfying, so I rewrote it and instead of a Happy Ever After like ending, it has a more viscerally interesting ending. We’ll see how it goes as I subbed that one last night as well.

Well, thats all for now. I really should take advantage of this writing energy and go write a new story or rework an old one.

TTFN.

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Finished or am I?

Last week, I finally finished my manuscript. I believe I started it January of last year, so I went through writing the first draft, letting it sit in a drawer the prerequisite time, followed by several rounds of edits until now, fifteen months later, I have a completed novel ready for submission.

Now comes the fun part (said no writer ever): writing a synopsis and the query letter, and doing research to find the right agent to fall in love with it.

I’ve already started a list of Literary Agents using Query Track and Agent Tracker and the Manuscript Wish List, hoping to find the right one that will fall in love with my novel.

But before I get too far ahead of myself, I need to finish the synopsis. I’m hip deep into the process of writing a detailed synopsis. A long one that delves into the characters’ motivations and feelings.

To do that, I have to have my manuscript open to page through it to keep the chronology correct. Despite having written and edited it, I don’t remember everything that goes on in the story, or when.

As I scroll through the document however, I’ve run into a problem.

No, I’m not finding errors or plot holes or any other issues I should have found in the edits.

My problem is, I CAN’T STOP WRITING!

I scroll to a new scene, add it to my synopsis, and then I start to read it and reading it leads to ADDING THINGS.

The story is finished. Done. Completed.

Yet I can’t stop that part of my mind that comes up with new ideas. The part that says, “Hey! I just thought of this and it’ll fit perfectly here!”

I’ll reply, “But we’re finished.”

The idea creating synapse just ignores me like I’m not even here and says, “Look. See?” *type type type* “Now it’s better.”

And I go, “Fine. Can I scroll to the next scene?”

Then I move forward, peruse the next scene, add it to the synopsis, and Idea Synapse reads it.

“Hey! I just thought of this and it’ll fit perfectly here!”

And I reply again, “But we’re finished.”

And Idea Synapse replies in a chilling, raspy whisper, “I’m never finished.”

*face palm*

Help me.

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Random Randomness on a Friday

A Friday Haiku

Rain rain go away

And you had better not freeze,

No ice ice baby!

Weigh-In Friday

Good news. I lost two pounds.

*Does the happy weight loss dance*

Now if I could only figure out what I did different this week from last. Although, I did buy a medicine ball and I’ve been doing various exercises for my core with it.

Writing and OCD

I don’t know if I really have OCD, but I have ADHD-induced obsessiveness.

I’m refering to yesterday’s blog where I mentioned I was sinking into a research quagmire because I felt a scene needed a humorous anecdote to balance a tense moment where my MC is combating a demon, specifically the Egyptian demon Ammit, the devourer.

Have I completed the research and continued with my almost finished edits on my novel so I can start having it beta read?

No. To show just how obsessive I can be about being as factual and historically accurate in my fiction, even an urban fatasy faerie tale, I’m reading the entire text of “The Egyptian Book of the Dead.”

Just so I can write one short paragraph.

Tell me that’s normal behavior and all writers do the same thing.

Please?

Wisconsin is rejoicing

Yes, Wisconsin is rejoicing, or at least the intelligent part is.

Paul Ryan, who has represented Wisconsin’s first congressional district, is retiring.

What will the legacy be of Ryan’s 20 year career in Washington? One of complete and utter failure.

Looming largest for the people of Wisconsin was his total inability to prevent the closure of the Janesville GM plant, which had provided significant employment to the area for 90 years.

Ryan will also be remembered for not having the balls to stand up against Trumpy the Clown with his insane outbursts and unpredictable shifts on every position that have made the United States a laughing stock to the rest of the world and has put us on the brink of nuclear war against two countries, so far.

Ryan, who for 20 years was touted as the Republican’s budget wunderkind despite never being able to pass one of his budgets, will now be remembered as the architect of the most financially ruinous budget ever passed, one that screws the middle class, widens the gap between the rich and the poor, all while crearing a fiscal conservative’s worst nightmare of an out-of-control deficit reaching record heights never before imagined.

Good riddance to bad rubbish, as they say. May Kharma make Ryan’s retirement as financially uncertain and and terrifyingly insecure as those of the elderly he has screwed, and tried to screw, over the years.

Once more for those in the back, social security insurance and Medicare are not entitlements, they are benefits we pay into throughout our working life.

Paul Ryan will not be missed.

Smart missiles, stupid leader

On April 11th, Trumpy the Clown tweeted: Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!

The next day, he then tweeted: Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?”

Wow. Trumpy the Clown sure has Russia guessing now, doesn’t he? “Will he? Won’t he? Golly gosh! The suspense is unnerving.”

When Trumpy’s lawyer had his office raided and files detained, Trumpy went on a twitter rant: “Attorney-Client privilesge is dead!” and “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!”

He’s also ranted about his wall, about sending National Guard troops to the border, how our relations with Russia are the worst ever because of Meuller and the “Fake and Corrupt Russia Investigation.”

And today he’s ranting about Comey, calling him a “proven LEAKER & LIAR,” how everyone in Washington thought he should be fired (at least every one of the voices in Trumpy’s head, anyway), and so on and so forth.

Anyone else see the striking resemblance to Captain Queeg from “The Caine Mutiny?” Trumpy the Clown is sinking deeper and deeper into an arrogant, self-possessed, delusional paranoia. I predict he will soon tweet: Aah, but the strawberries that’s… that’s where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes but I proved beyond a shadow of a doubt and with… geometric logic… that Crooked Hillary, that leaker Comey, the conflicted Meuller, and the Fake News are all out to get me and ruin America! But the people know I’m great… the best President… better than the failed Obama!

Sad!

It’s sad that we allow him to destroy the dignity of the office of the President of the United States and our country’s standing among the world community.

Forget impeachment.

Guys! The 25th Amendment is there for a reason: to rid ourselves of unstable, dangerous people like Trumpy the Clown.

Last word

It’s the weekend. It should be Spring, but it isn’t. Not that I’ve ever really seen a Spring here in Wisconsin. Maybe once, back in the 1960s, I think we may have had a real Spring with warming weather, April showers, and May flowers.

Either that, or I have a false memory courtesy of Al Jolson.

I do know that for as long as my wife and I have lived where we can plant flowers around the house, which is about 20 years, we’ve experienced a May where the ground was thawned enough and there was no danger of a killing frost to allow us to plant only a handful of times.

Despite my haiku suggesting otherwise, I’m never surprised or disappointed when it’s still cold in April or May. This is Wisconsin. Wisconsin doesn’t care what season your calendar says it should be.

Therefore, this weekend’s forecast of freezing rain, snow, ice, and a winter weather advisory is just par for the course.

Enjoy your weekend no matter what the weather.

Keep resisting.

And, as always, a song.

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Writing Wednesday

I think I’m just procrastinating now.

I heard someone say, “What? You, procrastinate?”

I know, right? It may come as a shock to you, but if you look up “procrastinator” in the Dictionary, they have my picture. It’s a recent addition. Merriam-Webster sent me a concent form asking permission decades ago, but I kept putting off signing it.

Where was I?

Oh, regarding my current WIP, I think I’m at the procrastination stage.

For me, that’s the stage that comes after the editing stage has been more than satisfied. It’s where everything I look for on my editing list to correct has been fixed and I’m reading and rereading the story and just changing words to change words.

For example, take the sentence, “We appeared in the middle of the street to the sounds of horns honking and drivers swearing.”

In one pass I’ll change street to road. In the next pass I’ll change road to boulevard. And on and on, ad infinitum.

It means I’m done but I’m putting off the next step, which is either sending it to some beta readers or writing the cover letter and synopsis and sending it all to literary agents.

Wait. Maybe avenue works better.

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Writing Wednesday

I’m nearing the finish line for my current work-in-progress.

I’ve gone through most of my list of things to watch out for and words that need to be replaced, like too many buts, passive voice, overused adverbs, and things like that.

Now I’m reading and rereading each scene for voice, flow, and continuity errors.

I’m also adding little bits here and there to add foreshadowing or give more depth to the characters’ personalities.

When I’m done, which might take another few weeks, I can spell check it one last time, then start in on the fun stuff.

By fun stuff, I mean the query letter and synopsis.

And by fun stuff, I mean excruciatingly painful torture.

Then, when those two pieces are presentable, and if they haven’t driven me mad, then comes the truly fun part: sending out the agent queries!

Whoohoo! The good times just keep on rollin’.

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