Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Story Board

The thing I mentioned with Arnold the other day is pretty much over, and the family (he in particular) are working on recovering from that, and I am drained mentally and physically, I'm clinging to consciousness here at work the last few days. For example, right now, if I leaned back in my desk chair, I could be asleep in 30 seconds. Which is making the whole writing thing pretty hard -- I'm trying to be good, I just know if I let off on the daily writing thing, it'll take months, if not a year, to reestablish that. So I got about 100 words yesterday, 300 or so today. No where near my minimum requirements, but...

Anyway, by gum, I'm trying to get something new posted by the end of this week.


Here's something that both entertained and inspired me, sorta the point of this post. Geek & Sundry, one of the new Youtube channel things (and the one I watch the most of, all due respect and fealty to The Nerdist notwithstanding) started a new thing yesterday, a monthly google+ hangout conversation hosted by Patrick Rothfuss about writing called The Story Board. Now, that's enough for me, I'm watching. But this first episode featured Jim Butcher as one of the guests talking about Urban Fantasy. Squee! Good stuff. You must check it out.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Designing the Baron's Summer Estate

whoops...this was supposed to go up yesterday, but I hit a wrong button somewhere. Oh well, worked out for the best, have been distracted the last couple of days by some issues with Arnold, so I won't have the next one ready 'til Monday or Tuesday.

Max scowled, clearing the screen he'd been sweating over for an hour, he needed a clean start. The pressure was getting to him. This assignment, if he pulled it off, could really make his career – a custom terraform for a client with an odd nostalgia for a bygone era. At least twice a day he almost returned the advance, the Baron could find another architect (read: sucker). Only ambition and ego (and mounting gambling debt) kept him at it.

Corsicon 7 had recently been cleared by the Council of Sirius B for development, and Baron Glau had staked a pretty substantial claim on it. If he didn't at least begin development within the year his stake could be challenged. So the Baron and his fixation on early 21st century Earth had come to Max to make his continent to reflect both the look and feel of that time.

He'd done projects like this before, on a smaller scale – an island, a fjord, an inhabitable meteor – nothing like a major continent, though. One complete with carried contractual penalties for historic, geologic, or bio-genetic errors. While holoscans and simulations were fine enough for a rough draft, Max couldn't depend on them. So he'd spent most of his remaining credits on booking a stay at a historical preserve on Earth to get hands-on. Who knew if the historians had got their details right when they did the retrofit/restoration, but the Baron had probably read the same texts they did, and would accept their conclusions. At least that's what Max was betting on.

The preserve couldn't match the majesty of the Towers of Markab Prime, or the Anin Forest on Sihnon, but it had a quaint charm. He found himself unwinding at the same spot near a river each day. The rhythms and whispers of the river trickling over the smoothed stones and occasional bit of flora soothed him – it reminded him of recordings of the lullabies of the Q'in, and he wondered if that feathered species had their roots on Earth, or if that was just another of those galactic coincidences that kept life interesting.

He wasn't unwinding this time, he was here to work. The trees had to set the mood, your eyes are drawn to them first. The geno-techs would be able to slice and dice the DNA to reproduce the various trees, weeds and wildflowers, but an artist's touch was needed to approximate their visual cacophony. It was the things the techs couldn't reproduce that were always the most difficult, like where the rough texture randomly becomes smooth and then grows coarser. Or the almost complete lack of straight lines anywhere – they may look straight, but there was a hint of curve to every thing. Or the skewed angles and intertwining branches –almost impossible to trace back to the tree they grew from. In short, the sorts of things that happened as trees grew naturally – rather than the things he had to impose to make them appear to be natural.

He couldn't even begin to guess how many variations of green he saw – thankfully his computer could. The river shared the predominant green – until you got close, or it grew shallow, and then it was clear. A stark contrast to the vivid yellow of the Essential Nutrient Liquid now standard throughout the galaxy – the yellow was said to fight depression and increase productivity – Max doubted that now, the clarity he had in front of him seemed much more refreshing and energizing.

Soundless (least within the audio range of most sentient species), but plainly visible and at times mesmerizing were insects like ants busily moving along – shiny black or dull red. Yet another thing to research – did he need both? Did they serve separate functions (what functions did they serve)? What about the airborne bugs? He'd hate to lose a million on something like this.

His chrono beeped. Bother, it was almost time for his morning VidConference. He took a deep breath as he started to walk back to his hotel. The olfactory scanner would be able to give a detailed analysis of the various scents he took in – and those he didn't realize he breathed in – but it couldn't capture the texture. He wondered if the atmo would be a good way to introduce the Vitamin D supplement every person on Corsicon 7 would need to make up for what that particular sun didn't provide, but worried that would affect the crispness, the freshness that seemed to grown stronger the nearer the river's edge.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

A Couple More Exercises

I've got just two more things to post from camp before I have to come up with original material I'm willing to let you all see. And sadly, the deal I've made with myself mandates regular posting of material.

These are not the most appealing things (for me, anyway). The first up is one of those stupid things where we go out to some spot look at trees and nature and whatnot and try to describe it.

Yuck. Here's the thing, I hate nature. Well, okay, I'm ambivalent towards nature in general, trees hold my interest for milliseconds at best. But when it comes to writing I really have a hard time not seeing nature and similar stuff as anything but violations of some of Elmore Leonard's rules, "Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip." and "My most important rule is. . . If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." I know some authors can pull it off, but most people write nature scenes that readers tend to skip, and I'm typically one of them (as a writer and reader).

The second was a little better, we wander around a big room in the Idaho Historical Museum that features black and white photographs from (apparently) random spots in history, we pick a photo and write a little narrative based on it. Better, but still not my cup of tea. Historical fiction? Even recent history? not me.

The thing that saved me? The instructor started off that session talking about how thankful he was that we didn't have SF/Fantasy types in our group (a clear sign that he a. didn't pay that much attention to my answer about influences/interests and/or 2. didn't know who I was referring to with names like Butcher, Rothfuss and Scalzi). How his classes at the university and whatnot have seen a big upsurge of Fantasy types following the Jackson Lord of the Rings series, and Twilight, etc. He didn't come out and say that SF/Fantasy was worthless and a waste of time for writers, but he sure communicated that.

Obviously, that got my dander up a bit, so I determined to give him a dose of that part of my brain and found ways (how interesting or successful those were is yet to be determined) to bring that out in my exercises.

Anyway, here they come, am interested in what you think (ditto for the 79 word stories and anything else I post here)

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Update on Writerly things

Okay, so it's been two weeks since that Writer's Camp, and I've produced something on all but 3 days since then (only 1 of those bugs me). A lot of what I've produced has been useful, sort of. One day was just to get something done, but whatever. The important thing is, I've been writing (and rewriting a bit).

During camp, in addition to daily exercises, we worked on a larger story that worked out of a couple of early exercises. At some point, I described it as "nothing really good--a character I'm ambivalent about and a story I don't particularly like/fear is trite." I've grown to like the character and the story, but it's not quite...there. I'm not sure what to do with it. My camp instructor gave me some really good feedback, which I've tried to implement, but the biggest suggestion has so far been totally useless.

Well, in my hands, anyway. Better people could've done something with it. Better people probably wouldn't have needed it. To be honest, it's driving me crazy. I've moved on to something else this week, but the other story has taken up residence in a corner of my mind and is trashing the place.

The thing I've moved on to is more in my wheelhouse, some sort of SF--this other thing is more of a slice of life, realistic-ish thing. Oddly enough, I've written more of that kind of story than SF. Hopefully, this thing doesn't get bogged down, too. I'd like to actually finish something. Still, this is progress compared to the last year.

Oh, and I'm having fun, too.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

79 Word Story: Naturally, We Were Asked Never to Return

When we would recount the experience, we made the joke we whispered much funnier than it had been. As you do.

That lion dog sculpture (looking like Dali's rendering of Garfield) had simply begged to be joked about. Call it honeymoon-induced asininity, but we obliged. And then we giggled. Then we couldn't stop giggling. Eventually falling onto an adjacent (and apparently fragile) 6th-century statue. Green and white chunks of terra cotta dragon ending up strewn throughout the display area.

Why 79 Words?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

79 Word Story: The Artist

"Is that actually a drinking fountain, or is it a sculpture?" I ask the cute chick with the black-rimmed glasses.

"Your schtick is tired," she glares.


"The whole go to a gallery opening just to pick up women with your ironic commentary."

I stare.

"This guy could be important. Shut up, just look at these honestly, try to learn."

"Hate to break it to you, but, I actually just make these as a way to pick up women."

Why 79 Words?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

79 Word Story: Bungee Jumping

Check harness. Double check. Triple check. Dramamine, gently sedating, guarding against nausea. What knucklehead executive decided this was a worthwhile team building exercise? Still, it's better than a day in the office.

Gung-ho Hilda from HR volunteers first. Leading by example is the surest way to that corner office, she reminds herself, knees shaking on the edge.

It's only when she's in mid-dive we remember to check the other end of the cord.

We'll eventually miss her Nutella-flavored brownies.

Why 79 Words?

79 Word Stories

One of the things they like to do for these camps, is to take advantage of the various public/cultural amenities -- the zoo, museums, parks, graffiti-covered alleyways (no, really--sadly, we ran out of time in my camp before we got to that one), etc.

Early on, we "got" to go the Boise Art Museum, which is nice enough, I guess -- just not my kind of place. The last time I liked an exhibit there, was back in '88 for a Superman 50th Anniversary commemoration. We were to wander around and get inspiration for three short pieces.

How short, you ask? 79 words long. Why 79? Our instructor was drawing inspiration from Esquire's 2012 Short Fiction Contest, the samples are worth your time to check out (esp. Winslow's, I thought).

I had a hard time not making them all into jokes (my instructor noted the same thing) and eventually I think I succeeded.

Summer Camp

Last year, Frodo attended a week-long writing camp at The Cabin Literary Center. It seemed like he had a rewarding and enjoyable time -- at least as much as a nascent teenager would admit to. It seemed rewarding enough that this year, I decided to go along and try the adult version, hoping that it might jump start my creative engines.

You've probably noticed over the last few months, words haven't exactly been dripping from my fingertips, so I've been needing a kick in the pants.

I think it worked. At least for the last 8 days it has. The proof will be in the pudding that may or may not be forthcoming.

Speaking of forthcoming, unlike my normal modus operandi, I'm going to start posting what I'm working on -- once it gets to a certain point. Can't say for certain how often that'll be, but hopefully at least once a week. We'll see.

Monday, February 13, 2012

. . .I turned out to be the man she loved…To this day I don't know exactly what she loved about me and that's because I don't have to know. She just does. It was the entire menu of myself. She ordered all of it.

- Charles Baxter

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Interesting (Icky?) Career Choice

Just watched Moneyball, and I didn't recognize the director's name, so I did a quick IMDb check on him. I had seen his other non-documentary film, Capote, and was underwhelmed. But I liked this one a lot more, so I was curious about the film he had in pre-production, Foxcatcher, which is described as:

The story of John du Pont, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and killed Olympic wrestler David Schultz.
Doesn't that sound like fun? Already crossing it off my "to watch" list, I scrolled down to see what poor suckers have been cast in this thing. Channing Tatum gets to play the victim, and Steve Carell gets to play the paranoid schizophrenic. Carell, really? I get where someone like him wants to stretch, to take on new kinds of rolls, but a whackadoodle murderer? Why, Steve, why?

Just don't get that at all.

While I'm at it, a few thoughts on Moneyball:
  • It was just odd seeing Jonah Hill play someone competent (actually, more than
  • Speaking of odd, lean Chris Pratt, really?
  • Would've been fun to see Hill, Pratt, Pitt and the rest working with more Sorkin-esque dialogue (of course, that's true for 90% of what's in the theaters/TV screens).
  • Especially considering the source material, that was one entertaining flick.

2 posts out of the 11 days...sigh, this is why I don't do resolutions.

Monday, January 02, 2012

New Year's Wishes and whatnot

To start off the New Year, I tried to come up with something to say about resolutions or goals or Happy New Year, and honestly couldn't come up with anything.

And then I made the mistake of reading Neil Gaiman's blog post yesterday*, everything he said there is good, but this resonated with me the most:

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.
So, let's just go with that...what he said. And I hope your 2012 is at least as good as, if not better than, 2011 was.

* just kidding, reading Gaiman is almost never a mistake