You are the Author

Writing on a regular basis is a chaotic challenge. Just when chores and daily responsibilities can be cleared for an hour or two, up pops new problems like issues with both land-line and mobile phones that suck up your time. Ordering a replacement after some research and a quick pick-up clogged like an old artery. Shoving relatives out the door so you can write is frowned upon too. Whether and healthcare snafus add to the interruption package.

None of these help when your muse is being coy and revisions are a slow and aggravating, without even the reward of a shiny new sword skin for the grind in a game. So you trawl the nets for ideas and prompt generators to get your writing moving again.

The bonus digital broadcast channels are homes of some of the best old programming. Many of the old shows that I hadn’t seen in a long time, hold their humor better than I’d expect. I watch the episodes of the Carson Tonight show most days now. See stars in their prime, stars that are gone now can be bittersweet. Last weekend they swapped a show with Mohammad Ali after his death. A younger Betty White played Jane in a Tarzan sketch. You can see a very young Ellen, long before Finding Dory. A very few celebs that got zinged by the King of Late Night about their mistresses are still in the news… but now they are running for president. In some ways it’s sad how little has really changed since these 25-year old shows.

The funny thing is some of these are clever one liners that would make funny stories. The writing reference book shown in the clip is only the start of that business. There are many, many reference and how-to books. (some are very bad or counter-productive) When I was into that genre, I wanted to have a reference book on manners, culture, current events, and arts/fashion/music/books/dance/theater of a particular period. Even then, period romances already began to feel too much of the 20th century, now in the 21st the characters in 1820 almost act like they need their Mini to get to an event. The crowdsourced humor here in the Carson clip is better than some actual stories I’ve sampled.

Telephonic Spam

[ring]
“Hello?”
“We’re a green company that…”

Oh, is that your ace card to get me to stay on the line for your spam call? You don’t want to rely on the reputation of your product or company to make this worth my time? You think the magic word ‘green‘ will turn off my brain and open my wallet? Does ‘green’ really mean anything significant, or do you just recycle your office cans? How does this magic word make your middleman charity be more effective or make the knee brace help my mother walk better? Are you really generating electricity from wind turbines, or buying from coal facilities and still charging the higher clean rate? What makes you think my insurance that you’re sure you can charge, hasn’t already offered the same service? Just tell me what you’re selling up front and stop wasting everybody’s time. [click]

It’s not like these telemarketing solicitations give the name of their product or a specific company. I mean if it was a call from my favorite book store telling me that the new Bujold cook came in, I would be glad to hear that spiel. (That would be an impressive trick as my favorite bookstore went belly-up a few years ago) Marketers don’t want to identify the seller or product or leave their script even when asked. They will say anything to keep you, and they’ve burnt us several times.

Really, the arrogance of these to think I want to hang around listening to them babble a script or recording when I have important nails to file, puppies to entertain, and books to read.

Pool’s Open?

Some traditions and folk lore were originally grounded in common sense. ‘Red sky at morning…’ said bad weather was coming.  If a crop was ‘knee high by the fourth of July,’ it would be a good harvest. Others seem cause an outdated and pointless self-induced jet-lag, like daylight saving time, when we use electricity morning and night. Another tradition that might be good to retire is the opening of pools on Memorial day.  Some pools are year-round, so this Memorial day pool opening tradition isn’t relevant)

Modern Thermal Bath, from Explore Italian Culture

If we’re going to get upset about warming climate since the last ice age ten thousand years ago, we must admit that we need to adapt if we want to survive. More active storms aren’t the only way weather will change modern life: summer will be longer.  And hotter.  Even a predicted twenty degree change won’t remove winter and snow where I live, as we have stretches of winter where it stays near 0F for weeks.  Twenty degrees warmer is still below freezing, so winter isn’t going away anytime soon.

So it’s warmer all the time, and we won’t have to be as concerned about the water pipes freezing. (that would have helped me with those frozen pipe last year) Oh, we have air conditioning and major storm warnings here in the 21st century to help with the physical changes. What we also should start to consider is how we will adapt socially. How will we change the way we live?

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Reflections on Editing

Wit

“Since brevity is the soul of wit / And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief…” Polonius, Shakespeare

I read a number of blogs, some professional, some philosophical, and some web strips. For some, the regular commentators have very good things to say. Others get muddled and run on and on circling but never getting to the point. (We’ll leave the nutty out. And wise-ass usually keep it brief) But I find that few opinion essays longer than maybe three paragraphs need to have compelling writing and direction to keep my attention.

That means I try to write the kinds of things I would want to read.

I started out reading and admiring Robert Heinlein, who said he wrote his first draft and recommended cutting away 20%. It took me months of my fanfic time to realize that wasn’t a good rule of thumb for me. My tendency under that rule was to be so concise that I only hinted at things. I didn’t want to over explain things as that insults the reader. I didn’t explain enough. Oh, my sentences and grammar were okay, but I left out too many descriptions too often. I don’t want my mystery or problem’s solution to be obvious, but the clues must be present. I want to play fair. So, to prevent saying too much, I said too little.

I still struggle with that in my fiction, but instead of cutting 20%, I usually add about 30% for descriptions, feelings, and showing things explicitly. In essays or comments, I try not to ramble. The old showbiz adage to always leave them wanting more applies outside showbiz too. You can’t convince anyone if you bore them.

Year of gems

Last year is over, and we just finished the local tradition dish out of the crockpot. We’ve got flu in the house and a problematic puppy, but it’s quiet enough to review 2015.

For the second year, RealLife has been more challenging than usual due to family upheavals, stubborn puppy, and required home repairs (like a screen door latch/handle that came apart in the middle of the night after the ball fell)

old metal gears

Crane Gears by Kevin Utting, attributed under Creative Commons 2.0

However, I’ve finally gotten myself in gear and put together five flash collections and I submitted a few pieces to other venues.  The sales I’ve had for these mostly flash collections have been very sparse, but I know that’s because I’m an unknown. I finished another NaNo by the skin of my teeth and started taking a long-term revision class. The class was necessary because I was getting this terrible block and frightened by the mass of work to take my two finished NaNo drafts and try to make them publishable.

On the other hand, the NaNo and foolowing revision us threatening to swallow up all my creative energy. Even with the systemic method I’m trying out, it doesn’t satisfy my muse at all. Because of the RL issues, over which I have no control, I have to snatch writing or class time in fifteen minute periods. I can do that daily, but I miss last winter and earlier when I could easily fir in three hours a day, and more when I was on a push. My muse is getting antsy as I clowly analyze the NaNo draft. I want to write some shorts and do more collections even if it slows the revision work even more.

I need to do some short stuff.

So I think my goals for 2016 are shifting a little away from short fiction. I’m going to try to do a collection every other month. I’m planning to collect an omnibus with an extra story or two. And my third goal for the year is to finish the revision class by the end of summer. (I’d also like to finish a fanfic that kind of stopped when I started doing the collections… I owe my readers a conclusion)

What tweaks have you made for your life-plans?

We Need Other Kinds of Heroes

A Harder Heroism

Somewhere in the last half-century, hero became a dirty word in popular culture. People enjoy hearing about the failings of those marked as heroes, whether dirty secrets or opinions that don’t abide by the current standard or memes Maybe even worse, heroes are looked at in some kind of contempt. And the word is further cheapened by being used for anyone famous or sucessful as if wealth is a measure of value or worth. We say that riches aren’t the most important thing, but act like getting rich is a virtue.

What you do with it is the virtue. And I’m not talking about the vanity charities started by actors, politicians, or athletes. Those are PR, something the make them look better or get a tax benefit. Does the famous sponsor stay involved in a real way? Do they put any time in the trenches for that cause? And does this vanity charity actually accomplish anything useful? I have seem many foundations and charities falter when the sponsor moves on to other things. Charity watchdog organizations, like Charity Navigator are both useful and disheartening, as the money and resources that people give in good faith get wasted.

Heroes do the right things, the hard things, without the cameras. Encouraging others to support a cause or charity, makes you a good example and someone to be admired. But a hero does something when it can and does cost them. Playing a helicopter pilot hero in a movie doesn’t make you a hero, flying an injured hiker out of the wilderness and unstable conditions does. Firewomen, policemen, and soldiers routinely risk injury and death to help others. And they will go back the next day to do it over again. It is the risk and cost of their actions than changes that helicopter flight from stuntwork to heroism.

Now heroism isn’t all about the burning building or knocking back an assassin, the more subtle kinds of heroism require a moral fortitude to face down people who don’t want to do the right thing, or who use their position or majority to force their beliefs on others. The hero may lose the battle to make a camp for kids or land a faltering plane safely but they don’t roll over. (The hard thing sometimes is in choosing the right thing. Bullying and abuse is easy to oppose, but free speech and anti-censorship is not as easy to support when a speaker is a mean jackass.)

People have been saying that freedom isn’t free, but costs cuts both ways. If you want freedom from offense by people who have different beliefs, you must grant the same to others for your beliefs. ‘Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander’ Disagreement on political and social issues is rarely evil and it’s petty childishness to demonize your opponents over opinions.  Too many have no empathy or the ability to walk in another’s shoes. Are people that self-centered or getting off on leading the howling mobs? Great leaders and heroes do more than destroy by feeding the riot’s flames, they make the compromises where everyone feels it’s an improvement. Grinding those who disagree with you into paste by riots or social media pile-ons, isn’t peace, it’s abusive.

I think that may be why we are foundering lately, we don’t have enough heroes who compromise and defuse the situations, we get leaders who want it to burn.