Monday, June 30, 2014

Day 83 - Taking Stock

DWS had a post today about The Time of Great Forgetting - the time between New Years and the Dog Days of Summer when writers have slowly forgotten their goals and ambitions of the beginning of the year.  A good post for anybody doing goals.

One of the suggestions he gives is for people to treat July 1 as a secondary New Year and make your resolutions all over again.  I'm not doing goals this year, but I thought this would be a good time to stop and think about things.

Last year I looked back and realized that goal setting hadn't helped my productivity any.  I realized that over the years, I had done more by chasing enthusiasm than by putting my nose to the grind stone.  So I've spent the past year working on making "chasing enthusiasm" a strategy.

It has been less than the year I was going to play with this strategy, but I think I can say that "Chasing Enthusiasm" isn't something you can just do.

I did predict that.  I said that, when I was chasing enthusiasm, I would do great bursts of work on many things and not finish things so much. (Or I would finish them all in a different burst of enthusiasm many years later.)

So as predicted, I didn't finish much in this past nine months or so.

But the thing that bothers me is that I also didn't do as much raw writing as I had hoped.

I did do more than I have done in recent years, but not what the theory said I should.  Part of the problem is that I when I am on a roll, I come up with a dozen new ideas in every writing session.  I come up with new ideas faster than I can play with them and abandon them.  I don't even have time to note down the basic idea.

On the other hand, my personal satisfaction level has never been so high as it is right now.

I think I'm ready to try to find a balance.  Satisfaction is one thing, but I still have these stories that won't exist if I don't write them down.

So I think it's time to play around with some goals again.

Rejoining ROW 80

I've decided to rejoin A Round of Words in 80 Days for the third quarter, which will approximately coincide with the rest of this 175 Day not-really-blogging effort.  I will post the specific goals sometime this week when they do the "goals" Linky for ROW80.  (It begins July 7, and as usual I will start on July 6 to make the ending match up with the last check in day.)

I expect my goals will be pretty simple: 1000 new words a day, to get In Flight finished, and The Man Who Ran Away mostly blocked in.  Beyond that is all chasing enthusiasm -- I will undoubtedly be doing some higher productivity days, but also doing art and game making etc.

In the meantime... the blog.

I've had some interesting thoughts on what direction I'll take my blogging.  I've been thinking about what I want to do, what I like to do, what I just happen to do whether I want to or not.... and also what is useful to the world.

My current thoughts are.... I think I might keep this blog as a personal writing progress blog.  Maybe even cut it back more.  But I will also start a new blog (and maybe ramp up one of my others).  The blogs I tend to follow most closely are the "aggregator" sites -- blogs that act like newspapers or magazines, posting many times a day.  Sites like Passive Voice, or Daily Cheap Reads, or for politics, Daily Kos. Or for that matter, like Elizabeth's "Twitterific."

I really think that the subject of mystery fiction could use an aggregator. And I"m not sure it would be that much work.  (I'm also not sure it won't be a lot of work.)

More on that tomorrow probably.

See you in the funny papers.

Day 82 - Back From My Meanderings

Friends were traveling up to near where my father's family is from -- the area which kinda sorta inspired the imaginary Potewa County where the Starling and Marquette books are located.   So I went along to soak up a little atmosphere and geography for The Man Who Ran Away.  And though we never did get to my home stamping grounds, the area we did visit -- Traverse City, the Mission Peninsula, Leelenau and Sleeping Bear -- are what you might call "upscale" locations, and that particular book will take place in and around a country club.

This picture is from  Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.  I didn't happen to get any good pictures of the woods, but this is sort of representative of what feels like home to me: sand and trees.  And high high dunes (one of which has been labeled a "mountain" and is a well-established ski resort), and of course, vineyards, cherry trees and snow.  In the picture here we are standing on top of a massive dune - many miles long, and tens of thousands of acres in volume, but not a ski resort -- which is said to be the sleeping mother bear of the two drowned baby bears who are the islands you can see in the distance. Maybe more pictures later....

It was a very short visit, just a couple of days, but on the way home we also swung around the east side of the state and had lunch in Frankemuth... a kitschy tourist town in which I really really really want to set a screenplay of a edgy modern version of The Prisoner of Zenda. (Called The Prisoner of Zehnders.  This title is much funnier to people from Michigan. But if I ever write it, I can't use that title because I don't want to get sued.)

Hmmmmmm.  I wonder if that idea could turn into something for George and Karla?  I'd have to drop the whole "hero looks like the king" but it could have a cast of characters or motives that remind Karla of P of Z.

In the meantime, I was going to tell you about a new idea I had for when I go back to blogging... but I've messed around here enough.

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Day 76 - A Posting Vacation

A whole lot of stuff is going to be happening this week. Friends, family, trips.  I don't even know what all is planned.

I'm going to try to keep working, but I figure the least I can do is put the blog updates on hold.  So, no posting until Sunday (and that post appears Monday).

I'll have a similar posting vacation in mid-July, for similar reasons, although with that one I know for sure I won't get the chance to post that week.

In the meantime...

Today I made small progress on many fronts, none of which I can remember now to mention.  (I only know I was exhausted and satisfied this evening.)  There was one interesting note of odd satisfaction that came up today:

The Mechanical Aussie

We were talking about scanning and OCR of old backlist books, and someone mentioned using a particular service for his backlist -- a service that also provides sound files.  ???  They do audiobooks?

Turns out it was just text-to-speech -- they had that as a part of their standard work flow.  But their samples sounded pretty good, so I started thinking about using my Mac's text-to-speech to listen to some text (hey, if you have a close call with glaucoma, you think about these things).

I discovered that -- although the standard "Junior" voice is still really really bad -- text-to-speech has come a long way.  And the non-American accents actually seem to get inflections a little bit better.  And given that George (title character of The Man Who Did Too Much and the upcoming The Man Who Ran Away) has an odd accent that no one can place, described as "Australian-ish" by Karla, I downloaded the male Australian voice that Apple makes available.

It sounds surprisingly like George.

It also can't pronounce Sheriff Rosewalt's name to save it's electronic life.  It comes out "Sheriff Fozzywig" or something like that.  Even when I use the Voice Utility to give it hints.  (This is not something George has a problem with. )

It is fun to listen to the text in a voice that sounds a little more like the character in my head. (Now if I could only find a proper upper midwest accent for Karla and most of the other characters...)  It also is useful in reminding me of the vowels when George starts sounding a little too "RP."  (Which he is wont to do.  His accent is actually an "acquired" accent.)


See you in the funny papers.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Day 75 - Chores and Cupcakes

I'm back to enjoying the story.  (However, that means I'm not counting words.  I'm just ... makin' stuff up.  I get very immersed in the story, but that sometimes means I'm so immersed I forget to write things down.)

I credit this partly with my taking on some freelance typography work this week.  I really enjoy typography.  I probably enjoy it more than drawing or other kinds of design (although it kinda goes hand in hand).  It's the kind of thing I can dive into, and then come up for breath four hours later, totally unaware that any time has passed.

At the same time, it's a very pragmatic, intellectual activity.  Very technical.  Everything is measured in numbers, even the colors.  And as such, it also has the feel of a day job.  Not in the "dreary chore" kinda way, but more in that the "My gosh, look at all I did today! I deserve a cupcake!" kind of way.

It's always good when writing becomes the cupcake.

So I've been reading and writing as if they were the same thing.  (But not baking cupcakes because it's too hot.  I did make yogurt today...)

See you in the funny papers.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Day 74 - Getting There

I got a good night's sleep.

I did some writing -- a session I very much liked, but I'm afraid I'll be doing that bit completely over. (More below.)

Shopping.  Cooking.  Watching Leverage.

Then typography.  I spent way too much time on a $10 typography job, playing with some cool designs the client didn't ask for -- but it was a learning experience, and we'll see if the client goes for the simple or the "hot" designs.

Writing Session

Today I wrote a large lump of exposition for In Flight. It was in a spot that it would work, and even be expected, and it suits the voice of the story.  I think it would work well.  I enjoyed writing it.

However, I expect at least half of it is information I will save for another scene.  And I might even move more than that.  The scene is the first bit in Reef's point of view, and it tells who he is really, and also how he came to be this useless middle-manager of a catering company.  And also how he met Chef.

Later on there is a scene with he and Angela, trying to make conversation, and since he has promised not to ask her questions, he will have to talk about himself.... so I'm thinking that some of this story will be left to that conversation. Certainly the part about Chef, and possibly some colorful details of the incident that changed his life and brought him to La Finesse Catering.

Which means I'll probably only keep 100-200 words of about 700 words.  But that's all right, I got the details nailed down, and it also gave me a stronger sense of the voice when I'm in Reef's point of view.

See you in the funny papers.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Day 73 - Worn Out

I am SOOOooooooo tired of wrangling kerfuffle.  I actually had a few moments today to sit down and work on something of my choice.

I sat down to write... and nothing was there.  Nothing at all.  It was like I was re-enacting my favorite scene from Clerks.  "I'm going to write that... you know, that thing with the words and it's got characters in it. And it's about something."

I guess I'll give treats to the cats and go to bed.

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Day 72 - Yet More Medical Kerfuffle

Is the universe trying to tell me I need to get on the stick and finish up those hospital scenes in In Flight? Seriously?

Started and ended the day dealing with medical establishments. In the middle I went to see How to Train Your Dragon 2 -- lots of fun, and in some ways, better than the first.  (And by the end, they answered a question I was wondering about Toothless.) And did more typography.

I am exhausted.  And I have my own appointments to deal with tomorrow -- which will have to be juggled with the appointments of others.  I also owe a last draft on one cover job, and the first concepts on another.

Then next week there is travel.....


Still holding out hope for getting more writing done.

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Day 71 - Setting Type

Yesterday I decided to test the waters on setting up a book covers business by posting on KBoards a test offer (ultra cheap, limited time, limited to KBoards) to set type on provided images.  The idea is to figure out what to charge for which services, what parameters to set out, what questions to ask, etc.

I have made enough money to make me not regret doing this.  (And I always have fun playing with fonts.)

Unfortunately, I don't have anything to show you right now.  I've been thinking, though, that maybe when I come back to full blogging, I might put the emphasis on illustration and book art.

Anyway, most of the past couple of days has been taken up by family and medical kerfuffle.  (Let this be a warning to you young whippersnappers, when you reach a certain age, you may expect to have more free time, but you won't.  Not only you, but everyone you know will be busy with significantly increased health kerfuffle.  Plan accordingly.)

So, no writing today.  What little writing I got done yesterday, I didn't count. 

Tomorrow we've really got to see How to Train Your Dragon 2.  And I have some covers.  But I do expect to get back to writing as well.

See you in the funny papers.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Day 70 - Story Notes from Yesterday's Excerpt

Yesterday I posted a scene from one of my WIPs -- The Man Who Ran Away.  It was a snippet I had prepared to enter in a 500 word writing contest, but the email went awry and it never made it in.  (pause to make frowny face)

But just preparing it was good for the story.  It's one of the reasons I often enter such informal little contests -- even though I am not interested in the prize (usually attention from an agent or editor who judges the finalists).

The thing about these snippet and excerpt contests is that you really have to punch your prose up unless it was written specifically for the contest.  Small bits of a novel never work as hard as the same number of words in something that stands alone -- especially in a competition.  There is no context to help things along. Every word matters more.

So if you want to get attention in a competition, you crank it up.  You heighten and simplify the meanings. You make things more clear.  You cut out things that need explanation and don't add to the scene.  Subtlty only survives if it does no harm.  (And if you have a tight word count, just taking up space can be harm.  Although if it adds to the sense of voice, it may carry more than its weight.)

It may put the scene over the top, but I have had good luck in these competitions by taking it up as far as it will go sometimes.

And often, after the contest is over, you have to crank the scene back down again for it to fit with the novel.  Maybe not a lot -- you put back in things you removed because they were confusing.  You remove unnecessary explanations. Sometimes you just toss the contest entry and go back to the original text.

I have not decided yet about the scene I posted yesterday.  I'll have to work on more of the book to be sure.  I think, though, that cranking it up really works for this scene. 

In some ways, it's a less important scene: it's just a transition.  It's a capper for the previous scene: George's reaction to what happened before.  Yeah, sure, it also sets up the next chapter, the introduction of Karla.  It's a "segue" that creates some anticipation or tells us the direction of the next chapter -- every chapter has one.

But it was only when I started punching it up for the contest that I realized that this is actually a critical moment.  If this were a TV show, this is the end of the "cold open" where the credits and the exciting theme music begins.  It's an unconsious signal (as well as a conscious one) that this is what the series is about.

In the context of a single book, it is maybe not as critical -- a little anticipation works just fine, you don't need a heart-pounding theme by Lalo Schifrin.  However, if someone has read the first book, they know where George is headed at the same moment George does.  And for the loyal audience, this kind of anticipation almost requires a certain amount of exaggeration.

Think, for instance, of The Moving Finger -- a Miss Marple story in which Miss Marple hardly appears.  Halfway through the book, the vicar's wife makes a dramatic announcement: "What we need is an expert!"  And the protagonist says, "But Scotland Yard already sent us an expert."  At which the vicar's wife scoffs.  "No, no," she says. "What we need is an expert in Evil!"

In terms of a standalone story, this dramatic teaser doesn't make much sense -- so this little old lady with a negative view of humanity shows up and unmasks the killer, so what? -- but in a series, this is an acknowledgement of what the reader is waiting for.  It's what the experienced reader already knows.  And even though most new readers may not fully "get" it, they will usually recognize a series flag when they see it.  "Ah ha," they think. "Whoever this person the vicar's wife will bring along deserves more attention than your average bear."

I don't know just how I will fine tune this scene -- will I crank it up more?  Crank it back down?  I do think that this may be a part of a pattern for the series, though.  The first chapter will set up the plot, and the first character (either George or Karla) and will intentionally hold back on the other character.  (There may be reference to him or her but it will only be at the end of the chapter that we will get a dramatic shift which reveals Karla in her clown shoes or George and his way out-of-proportion reactions.)

I don't plan to make it too ritualized. I expect it will evolve as I look for new and interesting ways to introduce them.

But now it's late and I'm tired.  I'll do a regular update tomorrow.

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Day 69 - a Bit from The Man Who Ran Away

Sigh.  My entry into the WriteClub2014 contest was never received.  So I'm not only not one of the 32 contestants, I'm not even one of the 145 rejects.

And I'm sure my excerpt would have won (won it ALL, I tell you!) if it had only had a chance.

On the other hand....

The thing about Write Club is that you're not supposed to talk about Write Club -- or at least not talk about your entry.  It's supposed to be anonymous, which means that you shouldn't even post related excerpts and such for fear someone will recognize, etc.

So... since I'm not IN Write Club, I can now talk about my non-entry.  And post it. Because I'm pleased with it.  (I did restore some details and such that I had cut to make it suit the contest.)

I may give you some story notes tomorrow from this, but for tonight, I'm just giving you the excerpt itself.  It's from one of my WIPs (the sequel to The Man Who Did Too Much):

The Man Who Ran Away

This is the ending of the first chapter.  It began with a bunch of police showing up at George's door (point of view of the Sheriff, who is a regular character in the series).  George is plenty cool about being suspected of an undefined crime, but he's clearly stressed about the fact that his alibi is his ex-girlfriend.  Sheriff Rosewalt stays behind to advise him not to meddle in the case, or to call the ex-girlfriend (Gwen), for fear it will look like he's coaching her.  George remains stiff and correct through out the scene.

(The title for this Chapter is likely to be "The Curious Incident of the Cops In The Daytime.")


GEORGE SHUT THE door behind Sheriff Rosewalt and locked it, checked the lock and turned out the light.  He then turned and went straight for the back door, moving with the focused intensity of a man in need of a lavatory.

He went out the glass patio door, closed it, and with studied deliberation, paused to check its lock as well.

And then George began to run; blindly, without any thought to where he was going.  Across the patio, down the sloping back yard to the path along the lake.  He pounded down the path, kicking up gravel like popcorn.

The police didn't want him to call Gwen -- didn't want him to influence her testimony -- and he wouldn't, but not because he gave a damn about their suspicions.  He'd been accused of crimes before, been guilty of them even.  That didn't matter.  George would not call Gwen because he was working hard not to be obsessive, especially about her.

And every bit of him wanted to call.  So he couldn't.

Every bit of him wanted to.  That was a line from a movie, wasn't it?  Which one?  He didn't know.  He'd have to ask....

And that's when he new exactly where he was going.  To the Guru on the Hill.  The Voice of Sanity.  The one who held the secret of movie quotes and how to skip over the awful details of life.

He ran along the trail, around the north end of the lake, then down the less beaten path through the woods to a stretch of highway, and then finally to an old gravel access road that ran along behind the row of houses along Decker Road.  It was a run about two and a half miles.

When he reached the overgrown garden behind the old yellow farm house, he didn't slow.  He simply jumped, up from the path, over the sprawling tomatoes, peppers, squash and kale, past the kitchen door to the side door, which was next to the drive, and where she expected her guests to arrive.

He stopped, out of breath and looked up at the door.  It had been replaced recently, and was still a very bright blue which clashed with the house.  He should get one of his workmen out to paint it for her, but just now the brightness seemed magical: The glowing entrance to the lair of peace and wisdom and sanity.

The woman who opened the door was about forty.  She was wearing a Big Lebowski t-shirt and ... bunny ears.  Fuzzy, blue bunny ears of a color that very nearly matched the door.  She was also carrying a very large knife -- practically a machete -- which glistened with a sticky, faintly pinkish substance.

The definition of sanity was, of course, relative.

She waited for him to catch his breath and then he finally spoke:

"I can't call Gwen, because all of me wants to."

"Maltese Falcon," said Karla Marquette, Holder of Wisdom, and Movie Maven Extraordinaire.   She opened the door wider so he could come in.


Tomorrow I'll tell you about why I am happy with this, even though it may not be in its final form.

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Day 68 - Tricky Stuff

Didn't get that much written in the way of word count, but I was working on a very satisfying and tricky scene.  It should have been a throwaway transition, quick to write, but I realized that it was the perfect opportunity for Reef's entrance.

It's tricky because none of the characters see this moment as significant, and, well, it's tricky.

But it's also very satisfying.

I also did some drawing today at last.  I've been playing with Illustrator, which is really the right app for the kind of art I do.  But I really learned all that vector stuff with Freehand, and also used older versions of Illustrator, so it's often hard to locate the tool or command I need.

I also like to do my drawing in a raster program (i.e. Photoshop or Painter).  I like the natural "accidents" that happen, and I like to sculpt my edges.  But I finally found the live trace tool that lets me create a vector image out of that little sculpture.

And I have a couple of images right now that could really use the advantages of vector -- the smooth edges after resizing and transforming, etc.

And that should make a lot of my artwork go much faster.

Which is good because I could use some cash.

In the meantime, it is hot again, so I am cocooning in the basement. Tomorrow should be hot but fruitful.

See you in the funny papers.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Day 67 - Let the Good Words Roll

I did over 3200 words today, but it was mostly nonfiction.

Still I was pleased with what I did with In Flight today.  I'm a little concerned that it might ramp up some tension and knowledge too early.  Did I burn my steps? Did Reef learn too much for later twists and revelations?

I'm thinking that, though Reef is a bit of a doofus, it may be good to have him a little wiser and wilier than he seems.  Chef is his mentor, after all.  So playing his cards close to the chest could come naturally.

Also, one of the things that I always liked about the Lockridges -- the Golden Age authors I'm reading right now -- is that they had a tendency to go ahead and burn their steps on certain things, and then let that push them into more interesting territory. 

Also, Reef has an excuse: he's falling in love, so even if he knows things, his judgement might be a little impaired.

Tomorrow, I might pause to knit together what I've got, but I'm going to try for getting a lot further.  I only have about ten days before I have to set this aside and start working seriously on The Man Who Ran Away. (I'll be visiting some places that will be evocative for that.)

See you in the funny papers.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Day 66 - Oh, Hospitals

Today a friend had a medical procedure.  Therefore, I knew that a portion of the day would be eaten up by being the designated "not addled by anesthesia" person.  (I probably should not have qualified, because sleep disruption and other things left me pretty addled, too.)

However, though the procedure went well, the recovery had issues and we ended up spending pretty much the whole of the day with it, including pharmacy and juice runs and welfare checks.

I didn't even bring my iPad -- just notecards and a notebook -- because I didn't want to lug it and a keyboard around, and I knew I wouldn't get much done at the hospital anyway. ("This won't take long at ALL, so be sure to stay right here and be alert to our call!  And after that, you should stay alert to our next call, which also won't take any time at all. And the next and the next.")

I did however, work on replotting the sequence changed by the scenes I wrote yesterday.  Also figured out how to time one of the scenes that happens in a hospital!  And I got some work done on one of the writing games.

 Tonight I decided to write this post first and then see if I felt like getting a little writing done. Or just going to bed. (It's a cool night, and so I can sleep upstairs and away from the spiders and hyperactive orange cat.  Although I expect he will probably bring me a spider.  Because, you know, I might miss them....)

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Day 65 - New Words

It was a good day. I really didn't spend that much time writing, but I got quite a bit done.

Today's Progress: 1700+ new words on In Flight.

I wrote a new scene -- or actually the second half of an existing scene.  Reef decides to take pictures of the damage done by the break in, and discovers something interesting about what is missing.  This lead to a couple of other bits of scene I had to do to account for the new information, which led to another scene of dealing with old tech in the archive library.

(For the young, a horror story: once upon a time, if you wanted to do a search on a term, you had to scan all the text with your own eyes.  No computer to look for it or highlight it for you.)

Reading and Watching.

In the meantime, I'm still mostly reading right now. It really does help make my mind more verbal, and scenes really do flow out more smoothly.  

Right now I'm reading the very first Nathan Shapiro story by Frances and Richard Lockridge: The Faceless Adversary.   This one is available at the Open Library (The Faceless Adversary) to borrow as an ebook or to read on line, and it's a pretty good one to start with. The voice of the story is less arch, more accessible to modern audiences. The protagonist in jeopardy is a banker whose life is going perfectly, until someone frames him for murder.  The frame is elaborate and deep and so convincing that the protagonist himself starts to have doubts.  But his fiance has no doubts, and together they try to figure this thing out.

It starts a little slow as the hero is stunned and helpless, watching the cops pile up evidence before him, but that's like so many really gripping suspense stories: the tension builds.

Interestingly -- while the Lockridges are considered pretty cozy today, and even in their day they were never considered hard boiled -- this book and others followed the pattern of many classic noir movie -- before Noir became nihilist crime drama.

I also spent some time watching Mannix, and thinking about twists on tropes.  Happened to notice a particular trope common to not only episodes of that show, but of lots of crime shows: start the show with a person running, while baddies chase.  Runner is killed, queue the theme music....

It happened that I have seen two shows in a row where the runner was a panting old fat guy, who was far outclassed in the chase department.  You were prepared for him to drop dead of a heart attack.  And I though, okay, what about an opening scene where the panting old fat guy catches up with the over-confident young runner, and kills him?  Kind of a crime show Tortoise and the Hare?

Gotta get up early tomorrow, so I guess I better hit the hay. (Although I really do want to finish the Faceless Adversary.  Who needs sleep?)

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Day 64 - Sleepy

Man, I was so sleepy, I had to stop and listen to some very loud music to stimulate my brain before I could type this. (It does work. Same as with a migraine, oddly -- at least the kind I get, which aren't painful, but do make me groggy.  Have to pick something with a "wall of sound" to it.  Bob Seger works pretty well.  Although ballads with sufficient orchestral support do pretty well too.  Jazz doesn't -- needs too much active brain to respond right.)

I am sleepy partly because I was up late reading good books.  And partly because the cat -- though he tried very hard NOT to disrupt my sleep every fifteen minutes this morning, DID get me up a couple of times out of sheer enthusiasm for life.  (I swear that boy is part Siamese.  And part Golden Retriever.)

I suppose I'm mostly sleepy, though, because I was freaking busy today.  I did a bunch of recycling.  Dealt with phone calls, dealt with family stuff.  Finished up the baking.  Ran errands, and then went to a friend's house for game night. 

Did I do any writing or editing?

Well, um, no.

I have a theory, though, that if I get a whole lot of stuff done, I will feel virtuous and the satisfaction will rub off on the writing tasks.  (I have in the past found this to be true.)  Whereas overall sloth makes me feel slothful about writing.

And if I'm wrong, well, at least I got a whole lot of stuff done.

I did find, before I began drooling on the keyboard, that the voice of In Flight started speaking to me in words again.

See you in the funny papers.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Day 63 - A Mixed Energy Day

First of all, let me say that I did get some focus back on In Flight.  Otherwise, not a lot done in terms of writing today.

The day began at 6:30am (and I should note here that I usually go to bed about 2:30 am) with the cat deciding to practice his nursing skills by waking me up to see that I didn't have a concussion... every... freaking... 15... minutes... all... morning... long.

Then, when he finally succeeded in getting me fully awake, he then proceeded to curl up under my knees and wanted us both to stay in bed.

All the same, I did manage to expend great energy today. I needed to make yogurt, and prep two batches of bread dough to make bread tomorrow.  All my blood test numbers came in fine -- improved in some areas.  (Unfortunately, I don't like the trend in some other numbers even if they are all still fine.)  I did some reading and editing.

Then... we went to see BOOK OF MORMON at the Wharton Center (the big theater at MSU).  Very high energy show.  I enjoyed it thoroughly, even if the theater's sound system isn't what it should be.  There were a number of people there, though, who did not seem to know anything about the show.  ("I think it's some kind of comedy" said a person behind us.)  It's by the guys who do South Park, and it has a very strong South Park feel.

My advice is, if you get a chance to see Book of Mormon...grab those tickets!  But look it up first, so you know what you're getting yourself into.

In the meantime, the bread is chillin' in the fridge so it doesn't rise too fast.  The energy from the play has got scenes rolling in my head again.  (It is a very enthusiastic kind of story.)  But now I think I should attempt to get some sleep. 

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Day 62 - Dancing With Tropes

Still doing more reading and plotting than anything else.

I found myself mulling tropes. In particular, I noticed today, as I read a book about a man framed for murder, that the "Elaborate Frame Up" trope is actually pretty similar to the "Gaslight" trope. (The "Gaslight" being a term from the movie of that same name, in which the villain sneakily destroys the victim's credibility -- even with herself -- usually making the victim think she's crazy.) 

Looking closer at tropes and patterns not only gives me ideas (and also something more to play with in story games), but it's also a great way to review what the audience might be thinking -- or more specifically, what they might be expecting.

This is something for mystery writers to keep in mind: very often, experienced readers can spot the killer or the twist not from your clues, but from the way you handle the patterns they've seen before.  No matter how elaborately you set up the clues and the crime, the audience still might skip past it all and think: "Hmmm, charming likeable character who has an unbreakable alibi... yep, he dun it!"

This is one of the things I like about the Lockridges, btw (the classic mystery writers I'm reading right now, mostly out of print): they had a way of recognizing what the clever reader would be thinking and then bringing it right out in the open a page later.  So many writers try to bury such suspicions -- by giving the character an unbreakable alibi, for instance -- and it backfires.  But when the writer acknowledges my thoughts by letting his detective think the same thing a moment later, he can more easily lead me astray by letting the detective then use that insight to start a new avenue of investigation.

In the meantime, since the subject of Gaslight came up, AND it's Robert Cummings' birthday, I'll send you to the post I wrote about him and one of my favorite movies in the Gaslight tradition: Bob Cummings and Sleep My Love.

It also happens to be my Dad's birthday, and so today in his honor, we made real, homemade milkshakes -- the kind with the milk crystals and imperfectly blended chocolate that he loved. 

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Day 61 - More Plotting Than Writing

I still seem to be stuck in non-verbal mode.  But I'm also really slow on technical stuff right now.  That is, I am easily stymied when I sit down to do something like layout a paper book.  I think that is due to sleep deprivation, though.  (Also the fact that Apple changed some really ridiculous things when it moved up to Mountain Lion operating system.  Like.... they removed "Save As" from their apps, and put in autosave --without warning!  I lost some good work because of that!  But I found a hack that puts it back the way it's supposed to be.  Most of the morning lost.)

I also think I'm a little burned out on In Flight just now.

On the other hand, I seem to be able to do plotting tasks that I was stymied on earlier (when I could write just fine), so maybe this is working out.  I worked mainly on the next two Starling and Marquette books, both of which excite me quite a bit.  And I started early prep work on a story I'm calling "Death of a Plain Girl" as a working title.

And I'm also reading.  This is what usually gets me back into verbal mode.  I'm beginning to warm up to Louise Penny, as I hoped.  And I'm still working my way through more old Frances and Richard Lockridge books.

I discovered something cool: has started something it calls the "Open Library" where you can virtually borrow lost books that are not in the public domain from libraries which legally own them.  (They also have some sort of interlibrary loan process for a lot of books that aren't available as ebooks, but I haven't looked into that.)

There are quite a few Lockridge books there - many of which are available as ebooks. I also found some early (lesser known and out of print) books by Charlotte MacLeod, and a good many of the Trixie Belden books. 

I would like to be able to review out of print books and then send you to where you could read them yourself, but so far a lot of those books are only available there as paper copies.

All the same, it's kinda fun to go there and borrow a book, and read a couple of chapters, and return it so others can read while you're doing something else.  (You can keep the books for two weeks, I think, but I figure, why?  Why not check it out only when you're reading it? (Unless it's a popular book with a waiting list.)

See you in the funny papers.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Day 60 - Progress

I had good progress today on In Flight, though nothing I could count.  Spent part of the day hauling and shoving at two pieces of Chapter 1 that didn't want to join up.  I had a couple of scribbled variations, and I finally just started building it from sentence fragments until it started to flow.

Which is something odd that happens sometimes.  Sometimes you write with a beautiful mystical flow, only to find that that your prose is actually lumbering along like Frankenstein's monster -- feeling all kluged and uneven.  Other times, you'll hammer and pound and force a bunch of odd bits together.... and it dances like Fred Astaire.

The rest of the day -- aside from the usual shopping and the less usual dodging of manic junior cheerleaders who have descended on campus for some sort of camp or competition -- I had some rather pleasant insights in to the next TWO Starling and Marquette stories.  On Book 3 (The Man Who Stepped Up) I finally figured out that there is an identity switcheroo.  This opens up some possibilities that I had been longing for.

On the current book (Book 2 or The Man Who Ran Away) I had an inspiration that came from Book 1.  I'm doing the paper edition this summer, and thinking about doing some little dingbat illustrations for the chapter headers, or endings.  Not story illustrations, but just symbol type stuff.  A row of stylized guns or flamingos or a roll of film. 

And I realized that such illustrations would work best if they were either completely decorative (which might be what I ultimately do, to make them go with the "Saul Bass" sort of look I have for the covers) OR I would make them a commentary on the title of the chapter, not the chapter itself.

So, for instance, Chapter 1 in The Man Who Did Too Much is titled "Saint George."  Instead of trying to depict a guy lurking in a trenchcoat, or the dossier, or various conversations or characters or anything that actually happens in the chapter, I would create something on a "knight in shining armor" motif.  Something to enhance the impression the title is supposed to give.

And that made me think about chapter titles for the current book. I usually don't create those all that early, but now, suddenly, I'm creating possible chapter titles, and they are working as inspiration.

The first chapter of The Man Who Ran Away, btw, will likely be "The Curious Incident of the Cops in the Daytime."

And the dingbat will be a little line of cop cars -- which is also how the story will start.

But I've gotta go.  We want to see Maleficent tomorrow, and I need my beauty sleep.

See you in the funny papers.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Day 59 - Eyeballs of Steel

(NOTE: I seem to have counted a day twice again, and so I had to skip a Day 58 to get back on the right number...)

I am no longer a "glaucoma suspect."  Apparently I have heavy-duty corneas and so the pressure readings in my eyes appear high when they're actually normal.  (Whoo hoo!)

Which means I don't have to worry so much about the sinus meds.

However, I didn't get much sleep last night, had to get up way early this morning to sit around for an hour while my eyes were numbed, poked (literally, dead center of my pupils -- poke poke poke), and then dilated, and then had mega-watt klieg lights shone into them for long periods of time.

Spent much of the day recovering my sleep and eyesight.

Since it was hard to look at screens, I spent the day instead creating an new writing game. Just a simple one.  I think it may be a variation of the "Relationship Game."  And it's definitely a fun way to generate characters for a whodunnit.  But right now, it's a casting game.

And it's a card game.

Which is kind of the point, because I came across a new product in office supplies: Half-size index cards.  And though they are expensive most places, at our local Meijers, they are cheap.  And they are the right size that you can shuffle them well.

Cast of Suspects Game

1. Start Collecting Names of Actors and Actresses

You may also add famous real people or characters, although you are going to pretend they are actors who happen to play themselves very well.  Try to come up with a list full of variety. (Note, you can choose any actor at any age.)

Try to get an equal number of both sexes, and if you have two wonderful actor/actresses who play similar types (i.e. always glamorous movie star) you may want to narrow that down unless you want to write lots of stories about that type of character.  You may have to dig into cast lists as IMDb to find the names of character actors.  Like if you watched an old TV show and always loved the maid, but don't remember who played her, look it up.

(NOTE TO SELF: don't forget to add Nancy Walker to my list.  Maid in McMillan and Wife.)

2. Create the Cards (Or Card List)

If you don't want to create your own cards, you can use a regular deck of playing cards. Just winnow down your list to have 26 male and 26 female, and assign an ace-through-king value and suit to each one.

Otherwise you can get card blanks (Amazon has actual laminated cards you can write on with markers - search on Blank Cards), or use half-size index cards like I do (or full-sized ones, or print them out on card-stock and cut them up.  Or you can go all virtual and simply number your list and use to choose them.

These cards are you "cast" -- they are actors, and you need to come up with a story for them to play parts.  You can cast them against type, or go with something similar to what you've seen them do before.

3.) Play the Game

There are a bunch of ways you can play this.  As a mystery game you could draw a victim and then draw five suspects and make up the story from there.  Or you could draw five characters and build up a scenario around them, and THEN choose a victim and killer.

This could, however, be a great way to play with short stories and non-genre stories -- draw a protagonist and antagonist, and brainstorm what their conflict is.  Then, as you make up the story, draw additional characters as you need them.  (Draw for minor parts as well as major parts.  And if Barbara Walters pops up as the waitress at the greasy spoon, go ahead and let her be a force that changes the story.)

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Day 57 - A Healthy Day

It was a mixed day on the work front.  I did small amounts of lots of things -- including brainstorming, drawing, writing, editing -- and an awful lot of physical activity, and I ate a healthy dinner.

I have to get up way early tomorrow to get more eye tests.  I am a little worried, not because the tests have turned out bad so far (fingers crossed) but because I just learned that not only are cortico-steroid sprays bad for glaucoma, but pretty much every single solitary thing you can do to deal with bad sinuses is also bad for glaucoma.  Antihistimines, any kind of decongestant.  It appears the thing you want relieved for sinus problems is exactly the thing you need to encourage to prevent glaucoma.  Which would then mean that even natural cures are bad.  (Could hot and sour soup be a problem? This would be disastrous.)

So far, however, I have not found that nasal strips are a problem. (Go California Chrome!  Win one for sinus sufferers everywhere.)

Anyway, that's probably TMI -- but I thought others who take a lot of sinus meds should know that it can worsen or even cause eye pressure problems.

Anyway, I would like to get this draft of In Flight done in the next couple of weeks, because I found out I'll be visiting some places that will be good for jumping into The Man Who Ran Away.

See you in the funny papers.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Day 56 - The Shortest Update Post Yet

Exhausted because kerfuffle. Did some writing, drawing. Going to bed early.

(Okay, that didn't come out shorter than the title, which would have been funny.)

See you in the funny papers.

Day 55 - Back On Line

I'm kinda sorta back on line.  The computer is functioning.  I have a lot of really old software, and so upgrades are always full of negative surprised.  (What do you mean I can't use Thoth any more?!? Or my scanner?)  Love the new monitor, but I haven't worked out everything to get to use it for art.

I also had the problem that backing up and updating the computers and all that kept me up half the night.  Apple now, instead of shipping computers with system install disks, simply has a key combination for a complete fresh install via the internet.  I did go to bed while it worked... but then a friendly Apple voice woke me up to tell me my install was done.

I'm sleepy now.

So I decided to take a day off from writing.  Tomorrow I think I only have to cash a check and maybe send in paperwork for another one.  So I'm holding out hope for tomorrow to get back in the swing.

Watching and Eating - The Lunchbox

Reading has gone by the wayside while I deal with my computer upgrade, but watching and eating....

Went to see The Lunchbox, an Indian movie recommended by my sister.  It's a wonderful take on the pen-pal relationship story.  A young wife with a neglectful husband is trying to get his attention by making him wonderful lunches and sending them by the "dabbawalla" system -- a kind of post office for food. It is known to be highly accurate and efficient, but it's also huge.  Dabbawallas ("box carriers") on bikes pick up the hot home lunches, and then deliver them to commuter trains, which delivers them to more guys on bikes who then deliver the lunch to the worker.

It's supposed to be the most accurate distribution system on earth.  It is unheard of that a lunchbox would ever go astray -- except in this case the unheard of happens.  Instead of going to an ungrateful husband, it goes to a curmudgeonly widower on the verge of retirement.  Because he seems to appreciate the food more than her husband, she sends him another lunch with a note the next day.  He answers, and soon there is a correspondence via lunchbox.

It's a sweet and melancholy movie about life, family and relationships.  It's also a reminder of why sometimes the censors do us a favor by forcing filmmakers to go deeper into character, be more subtle, and of course, be creative.  It's a very grown up movie, but it also has to meet the standards of the Indian censors, but rather than skirting the rules with double-entendres,  it is instead just very human.  By stripping out the more overtly romantic aspects of the story, we get a more plain and honest story.  A story of a friendship.

The movie flows from English to Hindi and back again quickly but there are subtitles.  Here is the trailer at IMDB; The Lunchbox.

And, of course, after seeing this movie, we had to go to our favorite South Indian restaurant.  (While The Lunchbox is not really about the food, it is a movie where you really want Emeril's "Smell-o-vision.")

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Day 54 - Eaten by Computers

I got work done today. I don't remember what work it was (on In Flight, and whatever it was I was pleased with it).

My mother's computer died, so she bought mine, and I went and bought a new one.  And a monitor so that I have a larger screen for art.  (The computer's aways a laptop.)  Oh, and also a larger internal hard drive, because the ones Apple sends them out with are small.

But after much unpacking and scrambling and changing and reinstalling and finding of tool kits and rearranging desks and ... and ... and.... I'm exhausted.  New hard drive is currently downloading new system (Macs no longer come with system disks.)

Oh, I remember part of what I did earlier today: I went through the story from the point of view of several characters on the "other side" including the villain, and I came across an opportunity for a lurking tension scene that I had previously missed.  I also wrote some scenes, but I have no idea how many words.

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Day 53 - Touchy Feely Plotting

I mentioned being in a stall yesterday.  I think it's because I'm going into a nonverbal phase.  A different part of the brain wants to work.  Probably the math/engineer part.  This is the part of my brain that wants to DO things.

You'd think this would be a time to do art, but that doesn't help, or at least it doesn't help with doing art on a screen.  I want to physically interact with things.

This is the time when I A) create games, B) play games, and C) trot out the old 3 x 5 cards and toys to do plotting.

No matter how much easier it is to create these on a computer and have them all in place, no matter how useless they are once created, I need to scribble by hand on cards and move them around.  I don't need to do this for the story's sake, really.  (I can cut and paste in outlines I've already got.)

It's just that my brain needs to do this.  I need to stop looking at a screen with its constant distance and light, and limited scope, and stop dealing with file organization.  I need to touch things.  I need to push them around and tuck them out of sight without thinking.

If I have a tricky action scene to work out, I need to get out my Disney (and other) figurines and start pushing them around.  (This story, so far, hasn't needed that, though I did realize that Mr. Peabody would be the perfect one for Chef.)

And yeah, aside from expressing a tactile need, it does also spur some out-of-the-box thinking.  I worked out some mushy plot areas.  I still have the denouement to fuss with. Maybe that's where I'll get out the figures.....

See you in the funny papers.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Day 53 - Stalling

I seem to be stalling too easily right now.  (Both senses of the word -- stalling out and stalling for time).

That means I'm burning out my momentum on In Flight.  Still have a lot of enthusiasm, though, so I'm back to knitting it together, re-outlining to match the new material.  And.. I'm also doing some prep work for other books, and playing with The Man Who Ran Away.

I've realized that the "Man Who" series (Starling and Marquette) is my perfectionist series.  That's why it takes so long to write one of those books.  Yes, the plotting and subplotting and cluing and all is complicated.  But it's also a story where the language and timing are important.  Like joke writing, only here it matters as much in the drama as not.

See you in the funny papers.