Friday roundup

Another Friday Haiku

Another week gone

Time speeds past, where does it go?

Left with memories

Independence Day

Another 4th of July has passed, Happy Birthday, America, but can we please grow up and stop blowing shit up all night long, keeping people who have to work the next day awake, terrorizing pets, and traumatizing military veterans suffering from PTSD?

Not to mention maiming and killing ourselves and starting fires. For what? Because we think playing with explosives while drunk is fun and somehow our right as Americans?

In most communities, fireworks are illegal, (even sparklers!) and yet somehow people still get them and then blow them off right in the middle of residential areas without regard to anyone or anything around them.

I love fireworks. I admit it. The bigger the boom the more exciting it is. But I like watching from an established safe distance while professionals shoot them off.

Standing outside my house armed with a garden hose in case something lands on my house is not my idea of fun.

Grow up, America. 

Sparklers are fun and relatively safe unless you touch the burning part. I mean, it’s burning at a temperature of 1200°F and up. Show some restraint and they’re very beautiful.

10,000 Sparklers Lit Off At Once

Does anyone remember punks? It was a stick made of a slow burning material that gave off an odd smelling smoke. As kids we thought they were to keep away mosquitoes. They were a mild, safer alternative to sparklers. Turns out they were originally used to set off fireworks because they provided a longer reach than matches.

June Challenge and beyond!

June, I challenged myself to run a mile every day. I had been unhappy with my dedication, if you will, to the sport. I had lost my motivation to run and sometimes went a week or longer without running.

Thus the challenge. And I was very pleased with myself that I had stuck with it and faithfully ran every day for a mile.

And though I am not a morning person, I found running first thing gets it out of the way. It’s over and done with and I don’t have to worry if I’ll fit it into my schedule. Also, as I’ve said previously, I don’t have restless nights as I did running in the evening.

So now, I’ve made a new challenge, a Life Challenge, to continue to run every morning, slowly increasing my distance (because increasing speed, well, that takes far more effort to achieve and let’s face it, it’s still the fucking morning and it’s enough that I’m running). So far for July, I’ve increased my distance to 1-1/2 miles (3k?) and I only took the 4th off because I was very tired. Thanks, people who kept shooting off explosives nonstop throughout the night.

Weigh-In Friday

OK. OK. I gained 1.3 pounds. 

We took a six day vacation, four days of which we spent in the Wisconsin Dells celebrating my son’s birthday. So a lot of good food was eaten. (If you ever are in the Dells, have a meal at the House of Embers. You won’t be disappointed.)

One thing I’ve noticed, which has me puzzled. Last week I lost 2.1 pounds, yet my body fat average increased 2.3% and my muscle average decreased 1.5%. This week, again, my body fat average increased 1.3% while the muscle average decreased by 0.9%. Why is that? You’d think with a daily run my muscle average would increase, right? Right? Anyone? Bueller?

Speaking of the Wisconsin Dells

Dragon’s Tail at Mt. Olympus

See that? That waterslide? The orange one (no relation to TheRump)? That’s called the Dragon’s Tail and it’s at the waterpark we stayed at this year (and last year, and also several year’s ago). It is seven stories tall. I hate heights. But I finally screwed up my courage and took the plunge, so to speak. It was thrilling, exciting, and scary as Hell, especially when it felt like I became airborne for an instant on the second bump.

Next year, I’ll try the purple slide on the left of it. You can’t see it because it’s behind the Dragon’s Tail. They call it the Demon’s Drop and it has an 85-foot sheer drop that they claim is virtually straight down, putting you in “free fall” until the water and slide curve out to catch you.

Yeah. Ok. Maybe not.

Running outside

Since I returned to running last year, I have only run outside two, maybe three times. I ran on our treadmill the rest of the time for several reasons.

First, I felt a treadmill would be better for my joints. Our house is essentially concrete-locked. Meaning, there are only sidewalks and streets upon which to run. Nothing soft or giving like a high school track or a nature area with running paths cut into the dirt by the feet of thousands of previous runners. So I’ve treadmilled.

Second, although you don’t go anywhere on a treadmill (and many runners find that boring), it gives me the chance to either watch something on TV or to listen to music. (I’m aware you can listen to headphones running outside, but I don’t have a bluetooth set and when I did run outside with earbuds, the cords nearly strangled me and were painfully ripped from my ears several times.)

Well, last Friday morning, because we were in the Dells and our hotel did not have any indoor exercise area or equipment, I took the show on the road. And you know what? I enjoyed it. The pounding on my feet and joints wasn’t as bad as I feared and I was able to enjoy the scenery.

I ran outside three days while there, and when we returned home, I have continued running outside. No music or TV, sure (unless I get a decent bluetooth set of earphones), but the outside offers changing scenery. Especially since the weather is nice. Once the winter gloom, cold, and ice make an appearance, I’ll return to the treadmill, but for now outside running is working for me.

Currently Reading

I have a paperback copy from the 1960s of “The Time Machine and other stories” by H. G. Wells. I have never read the story before only having seen the 1960 movie adaptation with Rod Taylor (who I just now realized was portraying H. G. Wells himself! In the story, the main character was only ever refered to as “The Time Traveler”), and also starring my childhood crush, Yvette Mimieux as Weena. A classic, by the way. The movie, I mean, not neccessarily Ms. Mimieux.

The short story/novella is similar to the movie except where the movie decides to make the focus about the romance between Wells and Weena where he returns to her future time to rescue her from the Moorlocks. That doesn’t happen in the short story. Instead, the Time Traveler just goes off in time and leaves the narrator (portrayed by Wilbuuuur of Mr. Ed fame in the movie) to speculate where and when he went and if he died or not.

This book also contains “Empire of the Ants” (not to be confused with his other story “Food of the Gods”), “The Country of the Blind,” and “The Man Who Could Work Miracles.”

If you like Wells, you’ll enjoy these short stories. His writing is fluid and poetic, even if a few of the concepts and social mores are dated (“The Time Machine” was first published in 1894, for instance). If, on the other hand, you don’t enjoy Wells, what the Hell is wrong with you?

Go read Wells!

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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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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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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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What was once lost is found again

​It’s been a year since I’ve written anything, and longer than that since I wrote anything I actually liked. Call it writers block or what have you. I had given up and thought I’d finally come to terms that I just wasn’t a writer. I was a reader. No shame in that. Readers are an important part of the literary circle of life.

Recently I rediscovered Ray Bradbury. Last time I read him, “The Martian Chronicles,” I was far too young to appreciate the writing itself but those stories had an impact on my young psyche.

I reread “The Martian Chronicles,” Then read “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” followed by “Fahrenheit 451.” 

You don’t just read Bradbury, you become immersed in the language. There is poetry there. His sentences are like music for the eyes. His phrasing touches the soul and awakens the psyche.

It was while starting “Dandelion Wine” that I noticed it. A long dormant feeling. I tried to focus on his words, but I found myself growing more and more distracted. 

I’d read a sentence, a paragraph, but I couldn’t remember what I’d read. Instead, each word sparked a resonating echo in my mind. A reflection. 

And soon, with reluctance, I put the book down. I knew this feeling. It was like an old friend.

I wanted to write.

So I did.

The first day I write over 7,000 words. The next day I wrote some more.

I ran on my treadmill and don’t recall anything about the TV show I had on. Instead, my imagination freely flowed over the story idea I was working on, giving me more insights into the world and it’s characters. 

I was immersed in the music of my own writing and I was glad for it.

But more than that, not only does writing once again give me joy, a joy I thought I’d lost, even when I step away from writing to do everyday mundane tasks, I feel imbued with an elation, a euphoria if you will. 

It’s as though I had been stranded in the dark for years and a light has come to illuminate my path.

In other words, a part of me that I thought was lost has been found again. The childhood joy of writing has returned.

I feel whole again.

And I give thanks to Ray Bradbury.

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A Cautionary Tale

I wrote the first 400 words of this six years ago, but never could figure out what to do with it. Until now. Its a short story of a dysfunctional future. Enjoy.

The rains came, sizzling as it passed through the still burning radioactive atmosphere, creating more steam and more fog to cover the planet.

Ort stood in the mouth of the cave listening to the rains. It reminded him of the sound meat makes it’s cooked over an open fire. He made a gesture and his young son appeared next to him. Ort pointed out into the distance.

“Look, Hokins, how the falling rocks carved a new world last night. That cliff on the edge of Blu Mountain is gone, battered into a ragged pile of rock.”

“Why do the falling rocks come, father?”

“They come from Troompah, the Bringer of Fire, son.”

“Is he mad at us?”

“Mad? No. Troompah is mad at the Prahgs. That’s why he throws rocks at them.”

Ort’s son nodded. He knew that Prahgs were evil creatures that lived in the earth, were one with the earth; they protected the trees, rivers, and animals. Prahgs often attacked his people, the Ahltryts, especially preying upon unwary children. At least those are the tales his mother always told him. “Stay out of the crater fields or the Prahgs will get you.” “Don’t stay out past dark or the Prahgs will get you.”

“Think he’d learn better aim.”

“You watch your mouth, boy, or the Prahgs will get you!”

The boy stood slightly behind his father and mouthed the expression along with his father. He was sick of the Prahgs, sick and tired that they prevented him from having any fun.

“What are my two boys doing?” It was Hokins’ mother, calling from the back of the cave.

“We’re just watching the rains, hon,” Ort answered.

“Well, don’t stray from the mouth of the cave. You know the rain brings out the Prahgs. If you aren’t careful they’ll get you.”

The boy mouthed the words then found himself on the ground, his ear stinging.

“Don’t you ever mock your mother, boy!” Ort was furious and stood shaking in anger above the prone child.

Hokins picked himself up, holding back the tears, and ran to the back of the cave. “I hate the Prahgs. And I hate you, too!”

He passed his mother, who turned to give Ort a stern look. “You didn’t have to hit him, you know.”

“I’m sorry, Jyn,” Ort said.

“Don’t apologize to me.”

Ort stared into the darkness that was the back of the cave. He could hear Hokins sobbing. He should apologize; the boy was just being a boy.

“He’ll get over it,” he said, finally.

“Ort, you know he’s reaching that age where he needs ‘The Talk.’”

“I don’t want to give him ‘The Talk.’” Ort sighed. “It makes me uncomfortable.”

“Ort, if you don’t tell him, he’ll learn it from his friends. Is that what you want?”

“That’s fine. That’s where I learned it.”

Jyn made a wry smile and shook her head. “Exactly my point on why he needs ‘The Talk.’”

“Why don’t you give it to him then?”

“Now, Ort. You know it’s always been like this. Fathers give ‘The Talk’ to their sons; mothers give it to their daughters. Now just go and get it over with.”

“Fine.” Ort looked like he had eaten a glow frog from down by the killing waters.

Slowly he strode to the back of the cave.

“Hokins? Can I talk to you?”

“It’s a free country.”

“That’s what I want to talk to you about.”

“What?”

“Our past, as it’s been handed down father to son for generations beyond knowing.”

“Is it about how we got the sacred words?”

“Yes. It’s about how the sacred words came to be.”

Father and son both glanced at the cave wall where a faded blue sign rested in a carved-out depression to hold it. The sign showed signs of age, and an attempt to destroy it at one time; it’s edges were blackened and ragged.

They both came to attention, arms raised in a palm down salute, and recited, “Troompah Maikee Aimrisa Grehaht Agaheen.”

Then Ort began his story.

“There was a time, ages agone, when there was but one people, united in thought and deed. Those people achieved great things, created a glorious, shining kingdom. And the people were happy.

“But gradually there came the grumblings. Some of the people weren’t happy. They wanted more. They felt not everything was fair for all. And they felt many of the old ways were wrong, even hurtful to many people, and this started the divide. The Prahgs wanted change, wanted new ways of doing things, of thinking about things, while the Ahltryts believed the old ways worked best, that the changes proposed by the Prahgs would destroy the very way of life that had made the kingdom great.

“As the Prahgs grew in strength and number, they began to instill their ideas and the Ahltryts watched as the kingdom changed, becoming unrecognizable to them.

“And soon there grew intolerance. And hatred. And the Kingdom grew divided. The Ahltryts believed the Prahgs were weak when it came to outsiders, allowing these others to enter the kingdom at will.

“Soon, hostilities between the two came to a head. The violence between the two grew and soon the uprising began as many gods of the Ahltryts fought for dominance, for the chance to lead their people back to greatness. But one stood above the others. He embodied all the primal energy of the people. Within him raged all the suppressed hatred and anger his followers had been forced to suppress for so long. His name was…”

“Troompah?” his son interrupted excitedly.

Ort nodded. “Yes. When the dust cleared, our great God Troompah was triumphant, ready to lead the way, but first he had to defeat the champion of the Prahgs.

“While the Ahltryts gods fought, so too did the Prahgs champions. Kings and a Queen fought for dominance, but whereas the Ahltryts stood united and powerful, no longer hiding, joined as one behind Troompah, the Prahgs were very much divided and unhappy with their choice. Many chose not to fight, and because of their inaction, Troompah and his followers were triumphant. For how can a mere queen stand before the angry wrath of a god?

“And the Ahltryts celebrated and now it was their turn to send the Prahgs into hiding.

“But Troompah wasn’t satisfied with just sending his enemies into exile. He wanted to also destroy the outsides. He taught us that the outsiders were to be fears and they wanted to destroy our way of life.  And he launched an attack against them. But our outsiders had power as well, and launched a counterattack. The skies and waters were on fire. And the Kingdom burned.

“And that is why we and the Prahgs live as enemies. They could have joined us, but Troompah taught us their ways are evil, they are sinful while we live in his glory.

“And that is why Troompah still punishes them with his blazing rocks that he hurls from the sky.

“One day, we’ll again live in the glory of the kingdom. Maybe you or your children will see the dawning of that bright new day.”

Ort wiped a tear from his eye. “The Talk” always left parents emotionally drained.

“OK, you two, dinner time.”

The pair rushed from the back of the cave. Mother was carving the great bald fire bird.

“Uh, uh, uh,” Jyn said, wagging a finger. “You know what day it is. Put on the dye.”

Father and son exchanged glances and shrugged.

“Oh, for the love of . . . You just gave him ‘The Talk!’ It’s the Day of the Ascendency when Troompah won the kingdom.”

“Oh.”

Gyn shook her head, but wore a smile. She watched the two dip their fingers into the dye and apply it to their faces in preparation of the feast.

When they finished, all three turned their now orange faces toward the cubbyhole. All three saluted and spoke the sacred words.

“Troompah Maikee Aimrisa Grehaht Agaheen.”

Before sitting down to the feast, they took a moment to silently reflect upon the sign in the cubbyhole.

The fading blue sign with white words, written in a language they could no longer read or understand, stared mutely back:

Trump: Make America Great Again.

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Adventures in ADHD: Self-publishing

As you recall, in my last blog post I talked about learning more about self-publishing. I tried to Google it and unfortunately, that didn’t go so well.

Do it. You end up with 139,000,000 and if you suffer from attention deficit, that comes to about 138,999,995 too many.

I mean, where to start? It’s too overwhelming. I need a limited number of choices or my eyes start spinning like rocket-powered pinwheels.

So feeling as though I were cast adrift at sea, I did what any drowning man does: got a book on the subject.

Luckily, Half Price only had two to choose from and I picked the latest of the two, published in 2014.

It’s “Self-Publishing Your Novel Made Easy” by Richard N. Williams.

I took it home and dove right in. Williams has an easy style and the information was readily understood so that by the time I finished it, my head no longer felt like it had been stuffed with cold oatmeal and the anxiety attacks stopped every time someone said, “eBook.”

I understood the terminology used in self-publishing, I had a good grasp of the eBook publishing platforms available, and knew the difference between a direct vendor (Amazon’s KDP, Apple iBooks, Kobo) and an aggregator (Smashwords, Lulu), who will distribute your eBook to many vendors. I learned about copyrights, ISBN numbers, and a lot of the jargon the Annointed throw about.

Now when I Google self-publishing and get 139,000,000 hits, I’m not so overwhelmed because I can separate blogs offering information from vendors, and so on. The stress headache is gone.

Leaving me free to decide what route I want to take to start the process of publishing my novel.

It’s a novel that I wrote years ago, and has been edited and reedited, beta-read, and submitted to numerous agents.

It was publish-ready, or so I thought.
I have nearly two dozen versions on my hard drive. Each an improved version of the last as I got feedback. But as I looked at it, it hit me.

I had started the story at the wrong point!

In my first draft, I had the main character and his daughter driving to school. I figured some character development would be nice, an introduction, and then later, he gets a phone call about a murder.

But that turned out to be …. well, dull because nothing really happened until the second chapter.

So I added another chapter where my character hears a psychic scream and goes to investigate. This introduces him as a sorcerer and there’s finally a little action. Fine, except now the arrival at the murder scene is two chapters away.

Also, someone said, “I’d like to know how he got his powers, how he came to be.”

OK. OK. So I added some back story that answered his origin and added a little humor to it, but now the murder was three chapters away.

And now, just minutes ago, it hit me. The story is about the whys and wherefores of the murder so, start with the murder!

It seems so obvious in retrospect.

Start with the murder.

So I’m off to revise the story once again.

And then, I can start the self-publishing journey.

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