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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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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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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Friday roundup

A Friday Haiku

You can stand or kneel

Doesn’t matter which you do

But take off your hat!

Weigh-In Friday

I thought I’d get this out of the way first because the rest of this blog is political ranting. You have been warned.

My weight is up 0.4 pounds to 203.2 pounds. Way up from the beginning of August when I was down to 19i.6 pounds.

It’s frustrating to lose traction like this. I don’t believe I’m eating more, althoigh I have been eating pb&j for lunch instead of salads.

But the main problem, I believe, was my tinkering with my blood pressure meds, which caused me to bloat up to 208.

I’ll really have to crack down on all extra snacking, get motivated to exercise harder, and see where I stand next week.

It’s always so disheartening to lose ground.

Writing progress

My manuscript is coming along nicely. As mentioned last week, I’m going through my list of search words (and even added a few more, “just” and “that”), and making my sentences more concise.

And my mind stays in writing/rewriting even when I’m not in front of the computer, revising scenes in my head. Then I have to hope I remember it by the time I get to the computer. So far, I have.

One thing happened that I thought was interesting. My mind had two scenes, completely unrelated, that it was mentally revising simultaneously. Don’t ask me how that’s even possible, but it happened and I can’t explain it.

And when I made those edits to the scenes, they flowed better, were much tighter, and, I hope, will have a more visceral impact upon the reader.

The take a knee controversy

Let me tell you right off, this is much ado about nothing. As a veteran, I’m more offended by the assholes who don’t remove their hats or talk during the playing of the National Anthem then I am about how people choose to be reverent.

Let me also say, that when joining the military we take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America (as well as the Prdsident, which makes me glad I don’t serve under the orange turd).

I did not take any oath to protect and defend the flag or the National Anthem or to care one way or the other if someone is allegedly, according to said orange turd, disrespecting said flag or anthem.

Additionally, nowhere in the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights, or the Amendments to the Constitution does it mention anything about the flag or anthem.

It does, however, mention a little thing called FREEDOM OF SPEECH. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s in the First Amendment. Go read it and shut the fuck up.

And take off your goddammed hat, asshole.

Respecting the flag

No one cared about the flag until the orange turd started his tweet shitstorm against the NFL.

If people actually cared about the flag, they wouldn’t allow it in advertising. They wouldn’t use it as “wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.”

If people cared about the flag, they wouldn’t use it as decoration or have it “embroidered, printed, or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use.

But the same people up in arms about someone kneeling before the flag ignore how they themselves disrespect the flag every day.

Go read the United States Flag Code and shut the fuck up.

Are you really concerned about disrespect for our flag? Complain to advertisers when they use it. When you see a tattered and worn flag flying outside a business, call them and let them know they should replace it. If a business leaves the flag out overnight but has no special lighting on it, complain about that, too.

Archie Bunker lives

All in the Family was a sitcom that ran for nine seasons from 1971 to 1979. Created by Norman Lear, it dealt with some heavyweight issues of the day, like race, homosexuality, and other taboo subjects, and centered around the character of Archie Bunker, an ignorant racist, bigot, misogynist, homophobe, who loudly expressed his beliefs in every stereotype imaginable. He was meant to be so utterly foolish and exaggerated in those beliefs that it would allow us to see just how absurd bigotry in our society was.

Archie Bunker was never meant to be a role model, and yet, he certainly became that to an entire segment of the population known today as the deplorables. They even elected an Archie Bunker clone as President!

A clone that spouts ignorance, hatred, and prejudicial views daily from his Twitter pulpit.

The more we go forward in this country, the more the deplorables try to drag us back. Sad!

Master of Deception

Archie Bunker is, excuse me, TheRump is a master of deception and misdirection. He’s like a stage magician who distracts us with one hand while he does the actual illusion with the other hand.

In the case of the orange turd, he distracts us with tweets about silly, unimportant things, like the NFL taking a knee, in order to keep us from seeing what’s in his other hand.

In this case, he’s trying to hide the Russian investigation into collusion and influencing the election, the use of private emails by his family and Administration, the vote in Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare (which luckily we saw and it failed…again), the fact that he was going to ignore the plight of Puerto Rico (and didn’t even know they were Americans!), and the current GOP proposal to “streamline” the tax code.

The GOP doesn’t want us to take a look at their tax proposal, because if we did we’d see it is just more of the same old GOP nonsense of lowering taxes on the rich and corporations and making the middle class foot the bill.

For example, the elimination of the estate tax is being touted as a great benefit to the middle class. Bullshit. It’s going to benefit the first family, their cronies, and many serving inside that regime. The rest of us? Unless you’re expecting to inherit an estate worth more than $5.45 million, this tax will never affect us. So don’t let them bullshit you that this helps the middle class.

Another example, the current economic advisor, Gary Cohn stated that the typical American family making $100,000.00 a year would save $1,000.00 with the GOP plan. The reality is, the typical American family only makes $74,000.00, while the median American family only makes $55,000.00, half of his estimate. In other words, although they say the middle class will benefit, they don’t even know what the middle class is!

In fact, the GOP tax plan is just more trickle down voodoo Reaganomics. This gives tax breaks to the wealthy, who then go on the piss on the rest of us.

Stop being distracted!

Tha-tha-tha-that’s all folks!

And that concludes another Friday roundup. I hate that current events and a certain orange turd force me to write political rants, I’d rather write about something fun, as I’m sure you’d rather read something fun, but it is cathartic, and it is necessary we continue to resist and obstruct this white nationist regime.

So, have a great weekend and keep on fighting the good fight.

I leave you with a protest song I’ve already posted on my Facebook and Twitter feed. It should be obvious it’s NSFW. Enjoy!

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