Friday, August 23, 2013

7 Quick Takes Vol. 16

1.       Today is the day! I’ve finally started posting The Chronicles of Hendricks!  Kind of nervous, but also excited to see what the initial reaction is going to be.

2.       My sickness continues to linger, but it’s getting better slowly. I might be ready to start running again soon.

3.       Meanwhile, I’m still working on buckling down, even as I take a brief break from writing (except some notes for future stories, of course). Violin everyday (right now I’m focusing on the Jurassic Park theme, which is good because it really works out my pinky finger), drawing most days (right now I’m trying to copy drawings from DeviantArt that interest me. My copies largely suck so far), and working on reading at least a chapter of the Bible every night (less successful, but maybe posting this will help me be more consistent).

4.       Last weekend, while helping my brother move down to Philadelphia, the two of us started listening to an audiobook. There were warning signs that it wasn’t going to be very good, including the fact that the mystery series it was a part of is named for the main character’s cat, and the fact that the author’s cat has a co-authorship credit (though some of the turns of phrase in the book led us to believe it). I tried to be optimistic, but about the time the description included a ‘large, polished, mahogany desk’ (because the composition and shine of the desk is so vital to the scene) I gave up and we riffed on it for the rest of the CD. The fact that the leads were all incredibly self-righteous abortion-supporters (as a plot point) certainly played a factor in my enjoyment of ripping the book apart, but even apart from that it was poorly-written, with lots of unnecessary descriptions (“they climbed into the squat golf-cart” as opposed to the roomy stretch golf-cart, I guess), bad turns of phrase, and, again, self-righteous leads (I’m not just saying that because they all support abortion; they’re the kind of people who are constantly talking about other people and usually about how ‘awful’ they are, very rarely with any kind of context. Seriously, that seemed to make up roughly half the dialogue, and from what I gather we were supposed to agree with them). The ‘large, polished, mahogany desk’ became a running gag, and we identified it as the chief suspect, along with the titular cat. It was a lot of fun.

5.       It also helped me note down some of the things not to do in writing, including “don’t give your pet co-authorship” and “make sure the descriptions are A). necessary for the scene and B). don’t involve adjectives already included in the very concept of the object described.” Calling a golf-cart ‘squat’ is basically the same as saying that’s it’s a golf-cart. A necessary description for a golf-cart would be “their tricked-out golf-car with the streamers and tie-dye color scheme.” That is, it’s something that doesn’t immediately spring to mind when you say ‘golf-cart;’ something that separates this golf-cart from every other golf-cart in existence.

6.        I’m making plans for a long-weekend getaway at the end of September; to rent a cabin in the UP and just spend a few days alone; reading, writing, hiking, and what have you (probably bring the violin as well). I’ve felt the need to go off and be alone for a while now, and after spending a day or so in Philadelphia it’s become even more urgent. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I don’t really like cities, except perhaps to visit, and I felt stifled and constrained every minute we were there. I’m really looking forward to it! And during that time I plan to get a good start on my next book.

7.       The more I think about it, the more I want to put off pursuing my teaching degree. Not that I don’t intend to teach: I still do, but I find that I want to chase something else first, and I seem to be in the best position I’ll ever be to do so; I have no wife, children, or other dependents, I’ve got a job, money in the bank, and some free time. What I would really like to do is to save up some more, then leave my job and set out to write/study/practice full time for a few months or year. I’m going to keep thinking and praying about this and let you know what I decide.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

On Being Alone

I like to be alone. I love isolation, space, and freedom. I feel chaffed and constrained even in my present apartment, not because it's small (the size doesn't really matter), but because there are a lot of other apartments around it. Even my sister's yurt in Maine woods seems too constrained for my tastes, as there are neighbors fairly nearby on both sides.

Last weekend we moved my brother down to Philadelphia, and I found that I hated being in the city. It felt suffocating to have so many cars and people around. I don't suppose I mind visiting, but I couldn't stand living there. I need space and quiet and isolation; the sense that no one's going to notice, let alone complain about, what I do on my own property. The way I like to put it is that I want to live somewhere where I can go shooting in my backyard and not have anyone call the police (or, you know, get shot).

Right now I'm looking into renting a cabin in the Upper Peninsula to get away for a long weekend. The very thought of being alone, out in the woods fills me with excitement. Of course, it all depends on whether I can find a suitably isolated cabin available for a reasonable price, but I'm hopeful (especially since I'll be going in late September/October, passed the summer season).

My ultimate goal is to be able to work from anywhere, so that I can live in a nice, quiet spot surrounded by nature and nothing but nature. Wide open spaces and my own land and water as far as I can see; that's the life for me.

So now you know what I'll do if I ever get a big advance on a book.

Friday, August 16, 2013

7 Quick Takes Vol.15

1.       So, blogging has fallen off, as you’ve noticed. Partly that’s because I’ve been focusing on other writing, partly because of laziness, and partly because the network at work has a problem where I can’t post anything on blogger from my work computer (I know, I shouldn’t be blogging at work anyway, but it’s just so much easier, and my boss doesn’t care what I do as long as I get my work done).

2.       Regarding writing, I’m a little behind in what I was hoping to accomplish. I still expect Chronicles to be ready for its big reveal next week (yikes!), but I’ll have to buckle down a little more to make sure of it. The last big set-piece I had is done, but I still need to put in some important connecting tissue and do some re-writes on the first chapter. Oh, and I need to find more epigraphs, though fortunately that can wait, since the first few chapters are set in that regard. Long car-rides + laptop = work!

3.       With Chronicles nearing completion, I’ve been considering my next writing project. And I’ve decided. In addition to doing work in the Gods and Monsters universe where Chronicles is set (informally known as the Tomiverse), I’m also working on a very exciting epic fantasy idea. I won’t say too much here, except that the basic plot is structured around the two Books of Samuel, only with…well, you’ll see.

4.       One of the reasons I’m behind on Chronicles is that I came down with one of my seasonal colds this week. They work by hitting me hard for a couple days (Thursday was an absolute nightmare), then lingering until they’re satisfied that any fitness routines or milestones I’ve built up over the past few months have been eliminated. Well, this time I don’t intend to let that happen; come next week, I’m going right back into my exercise routine, whether I cough myself to death or not. Suck it, cold virus!

5.       Managed to get out to Mass for Mary’s Assumption, which served to confirm that my decision not to go to work on Thursday was very much the correct choice, as Mass was spent in a dreamy, stuffed-up, head-ached haze. I’m sure the Blessed Mother will forgive my lack of attentiveness and guzzling cough-drops (not to mention other things that day: it’s hard to stay faithful to pious resolutions when you feel like your sinuses are about to pop out of your skull).

6.       Wallowing in self-pity and so on has also led me to decide to make another attempt at organizing my life and building good habits/routines. Working out some ideas/goals right now, so stay tuned for updates on that score. This blog is supposed to be about that sort of thing, after all.

7.       Ummm…yeah, not much else. The last week has just been a haze of work, Nyquil, Lewis, Minecraft, Chesterton, cough-drops, Order of the Stick, and God-knows what else. SICK! 

See Conversion Diary for more and better posts.

Friday, August 2, 2013

7 Quick Takes Vol. 14

1.       Well, for those of you who follow my other blog (the one I actually write on), you might have noticed that I’ve been growing more casual and sarcastic (or do I repeat myself?). That’s a feature, not a bug. I’ve decided to embrace my some-what abrasive, introverted personality and just kinda run with it. There are a number of reasons why, most revolving around the fact that trying to hide or subsume it doesn’t actually seem to have helped much in the ol’ socialization department, so why bother?

2.       One of the nice things I’ve been noticing about Online Dating is that it’s kinda forcing me to put myself forward, whether because it’s really hard to get in touch with anyone (I confess; I tried with one girl three times without getting a peep in response. Might have been rude, but I had to consider: possibility of someone I’ll never meet having a low opinion of me that she’ll quickly forget all about versus…well, let’s just say it wasn’t even close), or just because I’ve been hanging out on the forums and having people laugh at my wry comments. A little positive reinforcement goes a long way.

3.       By the way, sometimes I wonder whether I’m being too picky with the dating thing. Then I think; ‘well, what the heck should I be picky about if not this?’ So, yeah, I’m going in with high standards; not so much anything specific (beyond religious/political agreement) as that I’m looking for someone who stands out to me somehow as being particularly unique or smart or quirky. And if she happens to also be a petite brunette with glasses, well so much the better.

4.       So, I’m getting down to the wire with Chronicles of Hendricks. Let me explain how I’m working: I pretty much just write whatever scene I feel like, but there’s a ‘main thrust’ of the story, which means a more-or-less complete block of text starting from the beginning. At the moment, the whole book largely consists of three big chunks; the main thrust, another from slightly later on, and the ending. In other words, it’s actually coalescing into a single, solid whole. Do you remember when the T-1000 got shattered at the end of T2, and then the droplets all came together until it reformed itself? That’s kind of what my writing technique looks like. Right now, it is finally assuming a more or less human form.

5.       Okay, the heck with analogies. The point is that I have set myself a final deadline to have the whole thing done (or at least, in a presentable form) by the 23rd of August, at which point I will begin posting it in serial form at a private blog that I will set up for the purpose. More information on that as we get closer.

6.       After having deleted Minecraft for the third time (the thing soaks up time like a vacuum cleaner), I decided last weekend to reinstall it, though with strict limitations (honestly, writing and Online Dating are usually more fun anyway, but sometimes you just need to turn off the brain). Mostly it’s because I’ve found that it’s a great way to listen to audio books when you’re not driving; you just turn off the background music and it gives you something to do during the long, long hours of Nicholas Nickelby. It’s surprisingly easy to pay attention to both at the same time, and it makes you feel like you’ve actually done something worthwhile while you were lost underground hunting for diamonds.

7.       On Tuesday of this week I walked to and from work (roughly three miles one way), something I’ve been meaning to do all summer. On the way there I worked out a number of troublesome plotting problems and came up with a lot of great ideas. On the way back I was mostly saying Army cadences to myself (they really do work, by the way). I don’t know whether that was because I was tired after a long day at work or because the route I took back (I took different routes to and from to see which works better) was a lot longer, less direct, and hence tiring. Incidentally, my legs were incredibly stiff and sore all evening after that. Can’t wait to try it again next week!