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

In rereading my urban fantasy fairy tale, I came across a scene that I had pulled from the trunk novel I was using for donor parts.

The scene features the MC and another character, the MC’s friend who is also the Homicide Police Captain.

My MC is called in to look at what turns out to be a magic circle, used to summon demons, because he’s an expert on the esoteric. He is often called in by the Police to identify occultish symbols or objects. Not because anyone believes in the occult, but in the hopes that by giving the item a historical context they will have a better chance of assigning motives and tracking down suspects.

Now as I said, this is an old scene, one of the original scenes from my trunk novel that I had started 15 years ago.

In the scene, my MC meets the Police Captain in a corn field and together they head toward the murder scene.

On the way, they pass the Medical Examiner, who is leaving the scene, heading back to his car. He quips a few morbid jokes and is gone. Never to appear in the story again.

At the time, I thought nothing of that meeting with the ME, nor did any of my beta readers mention it. I knew nothing about writing crime scene fiction nor had I read many police procedurals.

But this week, I started thinking about it. Something nagged at me that the scene was inadequate. But what?

It occurred to me that the ME just leaving the scene, the bodies, without so much as a “How do you do?” was a little odd.

If you’ve ever watched the television show NCIS (or any of the hyper-graphic crime shows), you know that Ducky never just leaves the scene. He and his assistant are there investigating and providing Gibbs with a running inventory of findings. Then, after they’ve done all they can at the scene, Ducky tags and bags the bodies and ensures they get to his lab for the autopsy.

My ME, on the other hand, tells a few jokes and is gone.

Because I now have a better understanding of how (fictional) MEs work, I’m going to revise the scene.

The ME will still leave, still make some jokes, but now I’ll add some more dialog. The Captain will ask a few questions, including something like “Leaving already?” And the ME can respond, “I know how to deligate.”

At the crime scene I’ll add a few ME assistants and forensic techs, even giving some pertinent dialog about the bodies to one of them.

Why did I start thinking about this scene this week? My oldest son just started interning with the local Medical Examiner’s office and I guess that made me more conscious of what was going on in this story.

A writer’s job is never done. That’s because writers are always expanding their knowledge and always applying that knowledge to improve their writing.

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Slow and steady writes the book

Slowly but surely, my novel is coming along. I’m in the final lap of the first draft. 

I began it on January 17, and I’ve worked on it a little bit each day. Some days I wrote a lot, maybe a few thousand words, other days I only wrote a few hundred, or I reread and edited what was already written. 

I don’t have exact word counts because I hand write everything with a fountain pen before I transcribe it to computer and incorporate it into the story.
It’s April, almost May, and as I said, the end is nigh, or the climax and denouement are nigh, yay verily.

Sorry.

I’m currently at about 71000 words and will probably be around 80000 when all is said and done. Not bad. I tend to write short and then have to go back and add more detail whereas some authors write long and then have to trim and cut.

This is an accomplishment for me. Usually it takes me many, many months to complete a novel. Years, in fact, and here I might have this WIP done in less than five months. Or is January to May only four months? See? This is why I’m a writer and not a mathematician. 

I think this version of my MC is better fleshed out than his predecessor from my trunk novel. That other one, I tried to give him a few human weaknesses so he seemed more real, vut i moght have gone overboard. I gave him a ton of flaws: he was shy, out of shape, ate poorly, seemed somewhat unaware of the feelings of those around him,  was a drinker and got drunk at least once, smoked cigars, was a wisecracker and never took things seriously, yet he was full of anger and had rage issues against his father, and so on.

The new version simply has ADHD. Period. Although that can cover a range of faults, I have tried not to be excessive about it and when he’s on his meds, he’s fine.
It’s when he’s off his meds that the trouble and fun happens. Imagine being a sorcerer who can’t focus long enough to create a spell, for instance. I hope it makes for some interesting situations. 

I also think the romantic angle where he runs (literally) into a faerie and they have a growing relationship has more depth and emotion than the previous story where that MC fell for a werewolf.

I’ve also eliminated werewolves and vampires from this story, since they’re overdone at the moment. Although I won’t rule them out in a future sequel.

Instead I have kraken and a troll, and of course, the antagonist, which is an ages old dragon. He was red before but I made him orange this time, because aren’t all tyrants who want to enslave mankind orange?

Have a good writing Wednesday.

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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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Writing and the love of discovery

One of the things I like about writing is the discovery. I don’t mean the discovery of the story, or the world within the story, I mean the discovery of our world, our history.

As an example, I’m currently working on a weird western set in 1869. So far, I’ve been reading about the Transcontinental Railroad, when it finally met up (May 10, 1869), including the Pacific Railroad and how it cut through and over the Sierra Nevada mountains. I did research on cattle drives.

One thing in particular, my character is a newspaper man. I wanted him to be reading a novel. I thought maybe a Mark Twain novel would be nice. Everyone knows of Mark Twain and if he had a copy of Twain’s newest book, that might lead to some dialog about the book and about the characters.

Well, to my shame, I learned Twain didn’t publish his first novel, “The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today,” until 1873 and his great novel, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” wasn’t published until 1884. So that blew any chance for conversations like, “Is that Twain’s latest? I love Twain!” Granted, Twain had published four short stories before 1869, and in 1869 he did publish his most popular work, “An Innocent Abroad,” which was a non-fiction travel book and his best-selling work, but unfortunately in 1869, I don’t think he had the name recognition I was looking for.

So I did a search for novels published in 1869. I wanted my character to be reading a soon-to-be-published work in order to do a critical review of it and the conversation would go from there. I mean, there were some great novels published in 1869, such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot,” which I haven’t read yet. Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” which I have no intention of reading. Also Louisa May Alcott wrote “Good Wives,” Horatio Alger wrote “Luck and Pluck.” “Lorna Doone” by R.D. Blackmore came out that year, as well as Ivan Goncharov’s best known work, “The Precipice.” Victor Hugo published “L’Homme Qui Rit” (The Man Who Laughs) and Sheridan Le Fenu (who wrote “Camilla,” an early vampire tale that, coincidentally, I used in a story I wrote a few years back featuring the same protagonist as this current WIP) wrote “The Wyvern Mystery.” Not to mention the author of “Madam Bovery,” Gustave Flaubert wrote “Sentimental Education.”

Anyone of those would have suited my purpose. Those are all recognizable authors or recognizable works.

But then, I saw it. The novel. The one that would fit perfectly within my own story. You see, one of the other characters in the story is a young man, eighteen or so, traveling with his older sister and he has aspirations to be a bad ass, looking up to a wanted gunslinger. He’s illiterate, which isn’t a surprise for that time, and my MC has the book. The kid is looking at it, struggling to read the title, and my MC says, “It’s ‘The Story of a Bad Boy.'”

Which the kid takes to be an insult directed at him. And we go from there.

So, now, before I can write any further, I’m reading Thomas Bailey Aldridge’s “The Story of a Bad Boy,” which, coincidentally, some consider a foundational story that inspired other “bad boy” stories, like Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” For my story, it works on many different levels.

Now I have to finish “The Story of a Bad Boy” because, honestly? It’s a really good book and I can’t put it down. And if I hadn’t been writing, I’d never have discovered it.

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Influences and Inspirations

I was reading David Gerrold’s “Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy,” and did one of his exercises, which was “Take out a blank piece of paper (or open a new file on your computer), and make a list of your favorite science fiction and fantasy movies.”

I did. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that these movies, and the television shows I also added, most likely had the greatest influence upon my young mind and imagination. These were the images that were most indelibly imprinted upon my subconscious as a writer.

To be honest, I wasn’t much of a reader as a youngster. Sure, I read the usual stuff, “The Song of Roland,” “Alexander the Great,” “The Once and Future King,” and illustrated versions of “The Illiad and the Odyssey,” and the Norse legends. Along with assorted non-fiction books and Hardy Boy mysteries and school assignments. Not to mention a boatload of comic books from “Little Lulu,” to early DC superheroes, such as The Flash, The Atom, Superman, Aquaman, The Legion of Superheroes, Teen Titans, and Batman. Marvel’s merry mayhem joined into my reading when I was probably nine or 10.

It wasn’t until I was around 13, maybe 14, when my actual science fiction and fantasy literary education finally began, first with Robert E. Howard’s “Conan” and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Tarzan,” then later with nearly everything. But in the beginning, in the dim twinkling recesses of my memory, there were the movies that first held greatest sway over my curious beginning writer’s mind.

So now, without further ado, that list of science fiction and fantasy movies that greatly influenced me growing up.

“The Wizard of Oz.” Flying monkeys. Witches. A living strawman and tinman, and a lion that could speak. This movie was shown nearly every spring and in those days, before the invention of recording devices, and I’d watch it every time it aired. In addition, I also read many of the Oz books.

“Forbidden Planet.” Earthmen traveling to a distant planet in a flying saucer. Robby, the robot. An invisible monster that made footprints in the sand.

Invisible monster from “Forbidden Planet”

“Johnny Quest.” The Saturday Morning Cartoon. It had science fiction. Adventure. Lasers. Robots. Futuristic jets, subs, and hover discs. It also had an invisible monster, just like “Forbidden Planet.”

Invisible energy monster from Johnny Quest

“Lost in Space.” Sure, corny by today’s standards, but as a child, all I saw was the Jupiter 2 spaceship. B9 robot. The spacepod. The “chariot.” Laser guns. Force fields. And of course, lots and lots of weird aliens.

In the same vein, “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.” The Seaview, then, seemed like such a futuristic submarine to my young mind. Today, I know that such a sub, with those wings and fins would have created such turbulence that even the least technologically advanced nations could track it while underwater. Nor would glass windows in the front be practical if even possible. But still, it had the flying sub. And lots of giant monsters. (Additionally, all the other Irwin Allen shows, such as “Time Tunnel” and “Land of the Giants.”)

“Star Trek.” This had everything the previous shows had, stunning spaceships, rays guns now called “phasers,” along with transporters, food processors, and more alien worlds, but it was more serious and much of it written by some of the big names in science fiction, including David Gerrold.

“The Outer Limits.” It had elements of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and to be honest, probably scared the bejeesus out of me with episodes like “The Zanti Misfits” more than anything else on television or the theater.

The Zanti Misfit still creep me out

I think those had the most influence upon my childhood. But there are more. “King Kong.” “Godzilla.” The giant bug movies: “Them!” which is still one of my all-time favorites. “Tarantula.”

Other 1950s science fiction movies included, “The Thing from Another World.” “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” “The Blob.” “War of the Worlds.” “The Fly,” which our middle school showed over several lunch periods.

Of course the Universal monsters, especially “The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” had a big influence, as well as the Hammer horror films. Many of these movies aired on a late night horror show in my hometown on Channel 6. It was “Shock Theater” with Dr. Cadaverino, who was among the great horror hosts of all time.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the movies by special effects giant, Ray Harryhausen: “Mighty Joe Young,” “Jason and the Argonauts,” “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers,” “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms,” “20 Million Miles to Earth,” and “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad,” and more. Even today I marvel at his work and probably subconsciously try to recreate his wonderful story-telling ability.

There is one more movie, or show, that has influenced if not my imagination, then my nightmares. I don’t know its name. I was fairly young when I saw it, somewhere between eight and ten I’d guess. I was up late one night when it came on. As I said, I can’t recall its title, but I remember distinctly the beginning. This man was driving down a dark country road in the rain when suddenly something unidentifiable ran in front of his headlights. He struck it, but when he got out to see what it was, he couldn’t find it, however, in the light of a lightning flash, we see that this little clawed hand came up and punctured his tire. He got back into the car and made it to a diner, I believe. At that point, the horror was too much for me, so I went to bed, but not before it left an indelible footprint upon my subconscious. I had nightmares for weeks afterwards and to this day, I still have an urge to rewrite that story, “stealing” that beginning then creating my own horror story from it.

I just haven’t had the nerve to do so yet.

So there you have it. A small look into my mind’s inspirations.

So what sci-fi and fantasy movies do you think have had the most influence upon you?

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