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’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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A belated Writing Wednesday

Yes, I know it’s actually Thursday, but calling this Tachygraphy Thursday or even Teleautography Thursday don’t have the same ring as Writing Wednesday.

Anyway, I just wanted to share something that will demonstrate what a dope I can be while writing.

I’m closing in on the final edits. I’m down to the last 50 pages. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m finally nearing the finish line.

And then this happens:

If you recall, this is my urban fantasy fairy tale novel, so it has magic, gods, demons, faeries …

Oh! Speaking of faeries, the characters in the know — the ones familiar with the supernatural and cryotozoology — always call them faeries, spelled with the E. On the other hand, when mere mortals talk about them, with a smirk because they know they don’t exist, they say, fairies, with an I.

Will changing the spelling back and forth like that confuse the reader? Should I go with one common spelling?

OK, tangent over. The novel is filled with mythological beings and references to ancient historical sorcerers and philosophers, blah blah blah.

I’m at a point where my MC is being attacked by an Egyptian mythological creature and he has to remember a passage from the Egyptian Book of the Dead to save himself. As I’m editing, it suddenly occurs to me that the scene could use a humorous reference to why the MC would remember said passage in the first place. Therefore, I’m creating a short anecdote about how and why a certain ancient Egyptian magician/philosopher taught it to him.

But I don’t know the names of any ancient Egyptian magicians!

Now, instead of completing my edits so I can send it out to beta readers, I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of research.

(A gasp can be heard in the audience.)

Yes. Research!

And it looks like finishing edits today isn’t going to happen.

Tomorrow doesn’t look so promising either.

Anyone have any names of ancient Egyptian philosophers/sorcerers/priests they could throw my way?

Otherwise, I’ll be making a run to the library on my lunch hour.

Thanks.

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The simple truths found in fiction

I’m currently reading, Have Space Suit-Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein for the first time.

So far, it’s very entertaining and it makes me wonder why I haven’t read more Heinlein since I enjoyed Stranger in a Strange Land some decades ago.

The protagonist is a young man, Clifford “Kip” Russell, fresh out of high school, who wants to go to the moon. He works for the moment as a soda jerk in a pharmacy (the story was published in 1958 when pharmacies still had counters where customers could order fountain drinks and sometimes burgers and hot dogs, like a tiny diner).

He has a run-in with the town bully, Ace Quiggle, who verbally abuses Kip. Kip’s boss comes over and Ace leaves.

Heinlein writes:

The boss and I were alone shortly after. He said quietly, “Kip, a reverence for life does not require a man to respect Nature’s obvious mistakes.”

“Sir?”

“You need not serve Quiggle again. I don’t want his trade.”

“Oh, I don’t mind. He’s harmless.”

“I wonder how harmless such people are? To what extent civilization is retarded by the laughing jackasses, the empty-minded belittlers? [Emphasis mine.] Go home, you’ll want to make an early start tomorrow.”

As I read that, I was struck by how relevant that thought is today, some 60 years after it was first written.

I believe today we are seeing to what extent civilization has been retarded by those laughing jackasses and the empty-minded belittlers.

Those laughing jackasses and empty-minded belittlers have managed to elect one of their own, the biggest laughing jackass, the most empty-minded of all belittlers: trump.

Heinlein predicted the rise of the deplorables!

This is why I love fiction. Hidden within the action, the adventure, the exotic situations, while the characters are weaving their way seductively through the plot, the author sometimes inserts some very provocative philosophical points of view.

Ofttimes the message is covert and you need to do some analysis to find it, but sometimes it is overt and waves it’s little hand at you saying, “Here I am. Underline me and spend a little time thinking about what I have to say.”

Or am I the only one who reads with a pencil at hand, ready to underline any line that strikes my fancy?

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Writing Wednesday

This weekend that just passed, Decades TV had their weekend binge, where they show an old television show all weekend long. This time around they showed whatever it is — 40 hours? — of Lost in Space, one of the great sci-fi television programs of all time.

OF ALL TIME!

There is no argument about that.

151120-lost-in-space

But seriously, if you grew up in the 60s, the first sci-fi space adventure television program that aired was Lost in Space. I was at the perfect age where I was mesmerized by lasers, force fields, the Jupiter 2, and of course, the greatest robot ever created, the Robot, or B9 as some of us call him.

Jupiter-2 168 10-9-11

And because I had fallen in love with the concept — a family of space pioneers setting off to colonize Alpha Centauri, who were unfortunately sent astray by a saboteur, who they then welcomed into their family with open arms — I was able to simply accept the fanciful silliness .

It’s been many years since I’ve watched it. I caught an episode now and then when MeTV was airing it several years ago, but not since they changed their lineup. When Decades aired it this past weekend, we had our television tuned to it for the duration.

And you know what? I still love that show. Even with all the pseudoscience and over-the-top fantasy elements of pirates, knights in shining armor, hillbillies, and a talking carrot, I still found the show very enjoyable to watch.

In fact, something strange happened while watching it.

I started to get the itch to write about it. I mean, if you’re a fan of Star Trek, Doctor Who, Star Wars, for example, there are tons of authorized novels out there to satisfy even the most voracious reader.

But Lost in Space? Nothing.

Well, OK, there was one book, published back in 1967 or so, which I read when I was 10.

Novel

But that’s it.

And without even consciously thinking about it, a story, a novel of Lost in Space has begun to formulate in my imagination.

Personally? I’d rather it just go away because what could I do with it? Who would buy a novel about a television show that only aired 83 episodes and went off the air in 1968?

I’d rather write something marketable.

I’d rather start the final polish on my own urban fantasy fairie tale.

Or start working on the sequel to my urban fantasy fairie tale.

Or even finish up my two weird westerns.

Anything!

But so far, all I can think about is Lost in Space, and the story keeps growing and growing and at this rate, it won’t be denied.

Maybe I should write it just to make it go away.

Lost in Space is suited to my writing style, however, because it is as much fantasy as science fiction and it’s science is often somewhat fudged. In that way, Lost in Space is more akin to Star Wars than Star Trek.

Lost in Space can best be described as pulp fiction style space opera. More ray guns and monsters than quarks and string theory.

So in that regard, Lost in Space is almost a perfect venture for me.

Let me mull it over some more.

Stay tuned. Same time! Same channel!

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Writing Wednesday

Today is the beginning of National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo where people will attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in the next 30 days. (Forget for a moment that 50k is generally thought of as a novella.)

I won’t be one of them. I’ve tried, just so I could be considered one of the in-people, but I couldn’t do it. My best NaNoWriMo produced only 15,000 words. So, instead of feeling a part of it, I came away feeling like a loser.

I don’t know how anyone can do it. November is the worst month to hold a novel writing competition.

For many of us, there are only 10 or 15 free days in which to write. The rest of the time is taken up with adulting responsibilities.

Things like raking leaves, cleaning gutters, prepping the lawn for winter, storing patio chairs, putting away Halloween decorations, shopping for and putting up a Christmas tree, decorating for Christmas, and the biggest time-consumer, cleaning the house for the holidays, planning Thanksgiving dinner, shopping for Thanksgiving dinner, cooking Thanksgiving dinner, and entertaining family on Thanksgiving. Not to mention many of us have a full-time job, as well. (Sorry. I guess I did mention it.)

Writing? Bah. Ain’t no one got time for that. If you somehow do, more power to you.

Me, I’ve never understood why they chose November. Worst.month.ever.

Good luck to you.

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