Your Focus is Your Reality

I’ve been writing since ’07. I probably could have started writing before that, especially if you considered the thousands of books in my household and the writers’ track panels I thought a hoot at SF conventions.  But I hadn’t.

I didn’t like writing even short fiction in high school. Family lore says there was an elementary mocking incident, but I don’t remember it. I do remember hating any kind of writing, and perpetually tardy at best for any assignment. I got reconciled a little by high school when I wrote a 30+ page paper on mass drivers as a potential replacement for rockets to orbit. They now are used as rail gun ans amusement rides. I wrote a couple short stories for a friend desperate for material for a college SF magazine… I really do not want to dig those copies out, even if  one was my first fanfic snippet. I enjoyed the griping and successes of writers, cover artists, and editors at SF cons. I highly recommend the ’98 Buccaneer Liar’s Panel audio if you can find it, I didn’t get at the time that a missed meal would have been better than missing the recording.

That snippet was the last non-academic, non business writing for over twenty years. I still had creative outlets in crafts and RPGs, along with a serious reading addiction. I’d sit at the breakfast and read the box. Sometimes I’d even read the fine print for OTC meds. I’d read during commercial breaks and while waiting in lines. Then came a weird skin infection or two, and new books dried up and gas to visit the library was tight too.

I missed new books by favorite authors and decided to boot a game that had been sitting on a shelf for a couple months. I reached the end, outraged that the writers cheated, for blatant meta reasons. Clearly they wanted to clear the deck to have a tabula rasa for a sequel.  There were no convincing reasons in-world for that obnoxious ending.

I could do better.

grains falling through hourglass

In Search of Lost Time by Alexander Boden on flickr, without changes, per Creative Commons.

So went my first fanfic plot, first chaptered story, first novel-length story, first NaNo attempt, and first time my characters grabbed control. (they rarely do anymore, and I’m not sure that’s good or bad)

But after a time creating new adventures with existing universes, I started wanting to do my own and maybe get a half cheese sandwich on occasion. So I’m coming at learning the craft very late and in a hit or miss manner. Some techniques for writing do not help, they strangle my muse. But I keep looking, as I have the most trouble with finishing the story, revisions to pull it all  together.

I backtracked into fanfic, due to RL reasons, but I’m not sure why I almost seem to have a block about writing original stuff again. I should work on two stuck novels, but I spent so much fiddling with them to the point of pain, that going back makes me nauseous. I still believe in the concepts, but… Flash stories dried up too. I do file new story ideas, but have no urge to type.

So I want to finish one of two active fanfics, and use that time for original works. Post more here too, to remind me of that goal. Fanfic is seductive, as you get rapid and sometimes spirited feedback, and this new writer gets very few cheese sandwiches and no feedback. It does affect your motivations. I really need to focus on original stories more.

Coming up with new topics for this blog is another challenge. Today I found an essay collection by R L Stevenson on writing. Whether inspirational or neolithic, it may be useful… Coming Soon.

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What are we forgetting?

In the hullabaloo about the issues we seem to be fighting about far too often, we should make a greater effort to remember what has been best about our culture in the US. Yes, we’ve made bad decisions and even horrible ones, but we’ve also done some great things.  We are obsessing about the wrongs, which never fixes anything. Too many cheer about the edgy non-heroes, cheer about the heroes who fall, and go on rampages because the older heroes have warts.

Broken Incandescent Bulb

Broken Lightbulb by Kevin Galens — Used under Creative Commons

Heroes are not cardboard or two dimensional. At their best they transcend the current situation and lead in a better direction. And some make deliberate actions that ruin any legacy.  It’s not just of fair to judge them too harshly from another era, as people in future eras will judge you as harshly for your inhumanity. No one likes Carrie Nation, even if she accomplished things.

We all need to list what works about the Great American Experiment, which is having a terrible self induced turbulence. Everyone’s list will differ, but I’d like to see other’s lists.  Mine are today: Enthusiastic, boisterous, not hide-bound, Trying new philosophies, new religions, new traditions even if they sometimes get rejected.  Land of opportunity that even a newly retired Kentucky Colonel can start a new business and finally find success. A land where every minority has equal rights with other groups, A place where empathy for a pig may run amuck and harshest criticism may fall on cowardice in a crisis. A place that looks to a cooperative future, but still gets far too caught up in mob hysteria and riots forgetting old lessons.

Remember. Most of these crises happened before. How did we forget?

Nano Scorecard

swirlsof neon light

NaNo whirlwind 2017, original neon whirlwind by Creativity103 without change, used under Creative Common 2.0

Well, NaNoWriMo 2017 is over, and I’ve caught up on a little sleep. Between Thanksgiving and an HMO issue, this year was unusually challenging. Oh, I put out 51k of writing, but focus was an issue. The words flew out at times, but too many of those were were ideas that belonged in side stories or a much darker and bleak story.

Health issues during Nano cannot be ignored and don’t care that I am on a deadline.

I wrote a very nice scene for my lead and a character they never met because they died five years ago. Writing was easy that day. I heard a song on the radio and wanted oh so badly to write a songfic, but that would break plausibility so badly, I might as well have written a chapter from Hogwarts. But once the muse grabbed me, the I could not go back to my sketchy outline or notes. So my 51k was fractured, and today I attempted to see how much of my intended story got written and where it ended up.

Identifiable chunks of the 51k:

  • Original story intended +20k. On the good side I got through a section I’d been having problems with for months and have snippets that will be easily expnded later.
  • side story +5k. This feeds my fondness for redemption arcs and gradual/non-miracle change.
  • coming of age story +4k
  • Just plain breaks something A +5k  Might be salvageable for main story but is perhaps six months later in story-line.
  • Just plain breaks something B +2k  Cannot use, as there’s no vampires or staffs of resurrection. I did write a nice insight of a major character so that bit will be recycled.
  • Just plain breaks something C 11k. An AU of the original story. This one has some plot conflict that only needs minor revisions to serve as part of the original story’s climax. It also made a nice character dev event that got similar request from an early reader. That bit will be nearly perfect for the original as well.

For the last three I need to link these snippets into the original’s notes so I don’t forget them. Let’s see, that’s about 47k of my Nano efforts. The rest is notes, ideas, babbling that could not be salvageed into actual prose.

Next year I am not letting other stories jump on my muse.

What Was that Quote?

I’m writing a fic (hoping to finish the last 50k draft during NaNo) about a period after a failed grab for political power and civil war, where frightened people are reforming the areas that were thought most dangerous. So I am looking for thoughts for various advocates in the story. They want to keep what works, what is humane and effective, but don’t really have a body of thought or examples to guide them in what to do or how to do it. They’ve gone too many years without thinking about these things and nearly lost all rights after frightened people gave too much away.

I remembered a quote about needing a little revolution in some movie. Digging for the quote in my memory, I thought it was Lenin or some other Russian.

Well google is my friend when it comes to trivia. I was surprised the learn it was a quote from a letter from Jefferson to Madison:

“I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccesful rebellions indeed generally establish the incroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions, as not to discourage them too much. It is a medecine necessary for the sound health of government.” ― Thomas Jefferson, Letters of Thomas Jefferson

That wasn’t exactly what I remembered some actor saying, but by this point I thought it was Sean Connery in The Hunt for Red October..

Capt. Marko Ramius:
A little revolution now and then is a healthy thing, don’t you think?

That is a slight restatement of the same insight of Jefferson. Healthy as a thunderstorm is not a common metaphor, but storm winds do clear out dangerous fogs, bringing in fresh rain and new ideas. So the change serves the concept, even if it is a little ambivalent with it spoken by a Soviet defector.

Looking back in my story’s world, it’s easier to spot problems in the story’s setting, just like real life. But how can a republic be structured to balance effectiveness and freedom? Those in my fic are quite serious about keeping the good parts of the system, and hammering out important change is so much harder than ripping it all down. But ripping it all down whole hog can make for a far worse system, just ask those under Emperor Palpatine.

Discovery?

Federation Symbol – Star Trek

I’ve been a fan of Gene Roddenberry’s universe for a long time. I’m especially fond of IDIC and finding other solutions instead of clinging to the no-win ones. It was occasionally preachy, but especially the original series knew when it was time to fight and when to have a laugh. One of the lead principals during the Great Bird of the Galaxy’s lifespan, was that violence should not be the first reaction* and understanding is better than bombs. The later and later the series, and the more they tend to get caught up in the biggest issue of the day in heavy-handed ways and bigger explosions and lens flares. One feature said a work-life balance is good, but you don’t have families on a flag ship that will encounter combat. Each show has had at least one flaw, though I think the later casts should have been a little smaller to allow time for development and still tell good plots.

But now CBS/CBS Access is doing a new series, only ten years before the original series. So we could run into the Enterprise under Captains April or Pike. Spock is a young science officer and Kirk a junior officer on the Farragut. *One of the interesting things in the story was whether the Federation can shoot first? Can Han Solo shoot first? Do to follow traditional Federation/western culture of your own culture or adapt the the alien culture? Of course, the teaser tonight didn’t give the old answer.

I don’t know the result, and may not until I might use christmas giftings. Paid subscriptions to get only a fraction of the field, just can’t fit my budget. No Defenders, no Westworld, no Star Trek. I can afford a little more than basic cable, but I already spend too much on video content. I have a senior mother and midway home repairs and I think I speak for many when I say enough to all these companies who want me to subscribe to their corner of the pool.

Tonight the first half of the pilot was on open TV. Seeing the second part depends on getting that subscription. I like some of the characters, and one in particular reminds me of Chamberlin. Some characters already look strong and the near season big bad looks good. I do have two things that seem minor, but were very distracting and annoying. 1)The opening sucked. Schematics against a so-so score were not engaging, did not engage the imagination, or sweep us away. The show is supposed to be about exploration and discovery, and we see blueprints for a phaser. Where’s the spacescapes? Where’s the captain’s voiceover that states the purpose and theme of the show, the goal for the crew of the USS Shenzhou or Discovery. The opening shows a lack of focus and so many SF shows wander off and lose what starts as good. The opening reminds the viewers and the makers of the purpose of the ship. This one looks as much like an opening for How It’s Made…

Another annoyance was that the subtitles for the klingons had many lines in a short time. The subtitles were white on an often bright/torches background and ran faster than we could read. Surely it isn’t that hard to put a shadow behind the text so there is a contrast. Or anytime an alien tongue takes more than 5 minutes if airtime and long dialogues, switch to english. Few people have learned conversational klingon. Those scenes went on way, way too long and the captioning was inadequate for people with visions issues. Even someone with okay vision could not read it fast enough for someone who could not. It takes much longer to piece it out when there is little contrast.

Now those were my only objections to the teaser and I give it a cautious thumb’s up.


I’ve seen two episodes of the Orville, and it also gets a cautious thumb’s up. I like the humor, SF is often too grim. The second episode actually reminded me of “the Menagerie.” The characters are being established at a good rate, with a better slope to the threat level. It goes a little too sophomoric but it’s not only on open channels, but also rerun on an FX cable channel. That gives it a bigger audience that Trek deserves too. There are a few serious moments too, and it avoids the too PC like the avoidant Lt. Saru in Trek. People make mistakes and they learn. Trek leans to epic, Orville is an homage to much of Trek like Galaxy Quest did so well. Both shows have heroes, but there is only Number one who is interesting on Trek.

The Orville did not make the mistake to spend more time on the season’s big bad in the pilot than introducing the main cast. “A Vulcan Hello” isn’t “Encounter at Farpoint” or “Where No Man Has Gone Before…” or “the Cage.” BTW, this show should hae an effort to resemble the footage of the Cage as they should be contemporanaous. The tech can be better, but there was no effort to make the costumes and material culture align. I just wanted an effort, like not dressing Gueen Victoria is spandex just because someone ants to make a mark. Some things should not be changed,