Saturday, November 5, 2011

I'm Just a Rambling Man

The writing has been kind of slow for the last week.  There has been a 50% improvement in the chaotic conditions of my family obligations, but finding that still eye of the storm is still proving to be difficult.  As soon as I feel like I'm close to it I get caught in an updraft and find myself hurtling away at impossible speeds from what I would really like to be doing.

That said - I have mastered some plot threads that needed tying together.  My iPhone, unlike the previous clunky yet small Blackberry, is proving a bit of a helpmate.  I was able to download a pages app for it that allows me to edit the most recent chapter on the go.  I don't foresee any solid writing time on it unless I get the keyboard that I mentioned in the last post, and I am waiting for my finances to improve for that, but I can edit, add ideas, and not lose rolling trains of steamy thought.

One of my plotting solutions involves a famous historical character, Harry Houdini, who has now gained importance in the novel, and thusly I am forced (oh what terrible pain and joy!) to read the recent bio of him that I got.  Sadly it is not available on the Kindle... wait, it wasn't but maybe it is now... let me toddle off and check...

Back. Ah, wonderful.  I feel like a walking, talking, typing advert for the iPhone, but I am a convert.  So I have downloaded the Kindle app to my phone, and my copy of the Houdini book is now there, on the page I was last reading, and I'm ready to snatch minutes from my workday to learn all I need to know about the amazing magician, contortionist, and escape artist.  Amusing note on the side: on my wall, by my desk, is my Houdini Action Figure.  It was a gift from one of my relatives - the same year I gave them one.  We exchanged.

Ok, well I was away from this for about an hour because my cat pissed on the laundry again.  It's such a joy to be able to add the mental and emotional and maybe physical aberrations of an animal you swore to look after and love for all his days to your list of distractions from writing.  Mostly he's been urinating on the wife's things, seems he's pissed off at me now too.  I am also hearing about the chores and programming/design tweaks I need to make at Pan Historia... it never ends.  And just when I have the list all organized, and all the things I have to do on it, I'll head to work for nine hours, because that's how I pay the bills.
Tune in next week to find out more about how my iPhone helps me to conquer the madness of modern life, and enables me to write a novel in the middle of it.  Or not.  You choose how you distract yourself from your own writing.

Perhaps you might join a revolution?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Have Keyboard, Will Travel

I'm glad to say that after my last update I made some time in my life for writing my novel again. This is quite an achievement because the distractions and tornado keeps on building around me. The whole world seems to want to go up in flames, and perhaps it should, and I've got wandering random family members in transition in this funnel of frantic windy energy needing a couch to sleep on. Thusly I have no private space where the mind can be fertile and still enough that it suddenly freely sprouts words, one upon the last, building and building, until there is a tower of words, wobbly, but upright.

As a matter of fact I am writing this now instead of working on my book in the precious morning I have before work because I can manage this kind of personal writing with the distractions, but not the real hard work of writing a novel. I've set myself a quota of words each day: a measly 500. This can count towards that goal, as well as the collaborative posts I do at Pan Historia, but it doesn't feel as satisfying anymore, not as compelling as getting into the heads of my characters. I miss my book when I'm not at it.

I just took a break from writing this to browse computer tablets. I started to wonder, since I have lacked a private space of my own, a space with a door that shuts the world out, if I were to go fully mobile could I pick up stray pockets of time and privacy from my maelstrom days to dash out those few measly words, make those notes, build that tower...

Nope, they lack the essential tool that I crave: a keyboard. I could go retro and try the notebooks, and I have done that before, but unlike those folks that love freehand and the pen or pencil, I'm a sucker for the keyboard. I can type about 50pm if I factor in the mistakes, or maybe faster by now, and I need the speed because that's often how fast the words flow. When I write by hand I miss words, phrases, even passages, skipping over them as the next word crashes into me. I paint the same way. I can't do it slow. Which of course begs the question: why isn't my output greater? The answer is frustrating: I fritter away much of my free time (little and precious though it is) in frivolities. I resolve, every day and every minute, to do better, but when you're a speed freak, like the hare, you need a lot of breaks.

I have seventy more words to find... then I'll have fulfilled my quota for the day.

Oh my god... had another idea, took another break - could this be the solution:

Freedom Pro Bluetooth Portable Folding Keyboard

It's a bit pricy, but so far the reviews are good. I can whip this sucker out of my backpack, hook it up to my phone and be on my way. Hmmm... this could work. Have keyboard, can travel. It seems I'm on the eternal quest to be completely hooked up until my excuses have no where to run and hide anymore, and either I write, or I admit that I'm not a writer.

Haha. 556 words.

Friday, May 27, 2011

I Have Never Shot a Gun...

"Write what you know."

Boy, that's getting to be the old chestnut of writing advice. It's also hugely misleading. The kernel of truth in it is that whatever you writing should have authenticity. Don't let people catch you out in ignorance. It trips up the reader when they totally figure out that the author has no idea what they are talking about.

This advice is not about, however, only writing from personal experience. If we all did that the fictional landscape would be one helluva a boring place. The whole point of fiction is to take you someplace you don't know. At least it is for me and probably the majority of readers. Very few people pick up a book to escape into a reality so like theirs it is indistinguishable. What they want to do is be able to relate to the characters in the book, but not meet any old regular joe. They want to go to the far reaches of the galaxy, or to ride the Pacific Union Railroad with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid waiting for them around the bend to blow up the safe.

Even if you're reading something that is contemporary you want to peek into the mind and heart, or maybe the madness, of someone you don't know. You might be able to relate, but you aren't them, and they aren't exactly anyone you know either.

The real key to writing what you know is to research and make sure you get the details right, even if it is pure and utter fantasy, and then inject your personal experience into the story to render it authentic. You might not have been born in the 1900s but you can relate to something so tight fitting it makes it hard to breathe, you understand what riding a train is like, and you know the fear that the threat of violence brings.

Every character should be a little bit of an autobiography because you're reaching inside yourself to imagine something completely, but that doesn't mean you know what's like to be a serial killer, or vampire, or a space cowboy 400 light years from home. Every character is also a little bit of biography because you're grabbing stuff from people you know. Even the most ordinary friend has a bit of the extraordinary you can pilfer to bring your characters to life.

Always authenticity is key, so really the old chestnut should read: "write from the heart, and then even what you don't know will come to life for your readers".

Monday, March 21, 2011

Procrastination Bites!

You know the score. You're supposed to be writing. Instead you find your eyelids drooping and a powerful urge to sleep coming on. Or you start clicking those stupid little games in FaceBook or you open your version of Spider Solitaire. Just a few games... honest. Then you'll get back to writing. Or maybe you're the type that will start cleaning the house or doing the laundry... oh shit, hold on, I just have to put the wash in the dryer now, be right back...

Ok, now where was I? Oh yes, procrastination - the bugbear of the would-be writer. Or maybe even the nemesis of all writers? Possibly so. Wait? Do I hear the siren call of a completely different writing project all my name? You know, something like a blog, or maybe even a new collaborative writing project at your favorite online writing community? Whatever it is - something is always keeping you from finishing your novel, that is, if you are at all like me.

So what are your favorite distractions? What's your laundry list of things that suddenly need doing urgently every time you sit down to write and how the heck do you conquer those distractions and interruptions?

Games? Close the program. Delete the software. Social networking? Turn off the Twitter. Other writing projects? Perhaps time management is required. Too tired? What do you need to eliminate from your day that is a waste of your time so you'll be able to find the time, space, and energy to write?

I want to hear from YOU.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Jerk that Pistol: Firing into the New Year

I was talking with someone the other day about New Year's resolutions. The person I was talking to was negative in response - citing their unwillingness to succumb to peer pressure to state unattainable goals. I made some kind of blithe return that I didn't necessarily believe in 'resolutions' as such, but I did try and set myself some goals. Here is one right now: I resolve not to talk out of my ass so much. The concept of resolutions and making goals are so similar as to be totally interchangeable.

Having stated I would make no resolutions (but would have goals, insert eye roll here) I immediately started making resolutions. This got me curious. Where does this tradition of New Year's resolutions come from? A quick google around the internet revealed that it goes back to Roman times, and involves making promises of good deeds to the Roman god Janus. Janus is the one with two faces, one looking back and one looking forward. Ok, I can totally get behind a Roman tradition. Romans kick ass (please don't tell my Egyptian characters how much I love Romans). Of course for hundreds of years New Year's resolutions were quite attainable: I will a pile of gold to the poor, I will return the chariot I stole from my neighbor, I will marry the girl I knocked up, etc.

Somehow, over the years, the resolution came to be some personal goal of self-improvement. Which is, apparently, the reason that fewer and fewer New Year's resolutions actually get followed through on, with most people giving up after just a couple months. Giving a charitable donation is a very achievable goal; becoming a better person is not. Just think of all the people determining right this minute that they will lose weight, write every day, be nicer to the people they despise, or exercise more? Are you going to be one of them?

I resolve to write a novel this year. I already started it. I have the books I need for research. I'm not going to tell you how many hours a day I plan to write, or any other writerly self-improvement resolutions that I will probably break before I get a week or two into the New Year. I am simply going to set myself an achievable goal: I will finish my book.

There. Done.

What about you?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pan Historia Technical Status Report

Here is the latest news as best I know it: Pan is protected by a uninterrupted power supply (UPS) that can keep Pan's server running even when the power goes down because it has a battery backup. It is programmed to shut Pan down automatically when battery power goes low. It seems that this battery is getting old and needs replacing, or we need a new UPS, whichever comes first, and it is shutting Pan down even though there are no power outages.

Unfortunately the man, Pandaman, with the technical expertise to determine exactly what is needed and how to program a UPS, is currently on a much needed vacation in the wilds of New Zealand with no internet access, so it's just me doing the best that I can. Until the problem is resolved there will be frequent interruptions of service as I shut down Pan to try and work on a solution. Right now I'm running around looking for a new powerful UPS so we can get Pan back online. I was able to confirm that Pan's status is good. There are no problems with the server itself and the backup server looks healthy too.

Please be patient and understand that any interruptions of service are far better than Pan crashing. Automatic or manual shutdown is good, crashing is BAD.

Please subscribe to our Yahoo Group in order to be kept informed about Pan's status updates:

Subscribe to panpiper

Powered by

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas Present, Christmas Past, Christmas Virtual

Do I scream or do I cry? It's that time of year again. I love the holidays and I hate the holidays. Remember being a child? It was all so uncomplicated then. Santa came in the middle of the night, ate up all the cookies you left him and sucked down on the cream sherry (yes, we were that kind of household), and then left a humungous plethora of joy wrapped in silver, red, and gold paper.

Year after year it grew more complicated. The first Christmas away from home, spent in another family's home as an outside was like a dash of cold water that sent my youthful emotions spinning into darkness. Later on changing family dynamics changed the holidays from my uncomplicated joy to harrowing nightmares that might involve drunken binges (not mine). Expanding connections and networks produced an overload of spending, responsibility, anxiety, and stress as big business pushed ever harder for us all to succumb to an orgy of consumerism at the holidays. As a single parent there were those mornings when I knew I had failed my offspring because I couldn't afford those excessive gifts that were commonplace, it appeared, in every household but my own on Christmas morning.

Now I have a family that demands to be together, and yet collectively sighs and moans at the difficulties inherent at fulfilling the expectations of the season. I'll be doing a little of the same, but in the middle of all the chaos and tears, there will also be hugs, and moments of genuine gladness in each other.

Now if only the holidays could be like they are at Pan Historia: full of fun and games, where gift giving may be real or virtual, but it hardly counts which because everyone is just happy to be involved. No one worries about the stresses of real life too much because it is where they come to escape such concerns. The tree is big and gaudy with plenty of love decorating it, but no needles to sweep up at the end. The food is fun, but will not make you fat or give you indigestion. And it really doesn't matter what the holidays mean to you. We have something for everyone.

Oh, and I love our red cardinal and snow theme this year, simple and elegant.