Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A pigeon hat

I walked out of the warehouse toward my little office space and paused to "sniff the air" as we ex-bikers tend to do.
I spied a pigeon perched on one of the trucks; it'd been hanging about all day. When I stopped and looked at it, it turned its head, eyeing me as though I was either an old friend or I was food.
A quick 'coo' and a flutter of wings and the stupid thing landed on my head! I felt its little toes digging into my scalp, and as I turned back to see if anyone was watching, I felt its beak peck onto my head.
I admit I was surprised. I put out my arms, palms up, unconsciously mimicing the pose on my grandmother's statue of St. Francis.
When my boss stopped laughing, he scooped the silly thing off my head and returned it to the bed of the truck (where he had apparently been offering it bird seed all morning).
Was this a fitting end to a strange year, or an omen for the year to come?
Time will tell.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gaming again

At last, I've made time to do some wargaming.
I've put up a new blog, NovaAlbion, to record the games. I'm interested in a sort of SteamPunk version of California, a place where Professor Hollister McAllister can sell his snake oil, hire indians for his army, and arm Sasquatch with Radium rifles in his attempt to conquer the world!
Of course, the British control/own New Albion, sometimes referred to as the Crown Colony of California.
Imagine: California Lancers and Redcoats against Mexicans, against rebellious American immigrants, against indians and sasquatch and steam mechano-men!
What could be better?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Oh, the joy

Oh, the joy of having actually written a draft of a novel in such a short time! For me, it was 16 days (37 hours of keyboard time).
But the work is just beginning. I've decided that the story doesn't seem to contain enough threat to the main character (MC) and he doesn't seem to be under enough stress at the end.
So I've begun adding a second thread, a subplot, that I had always intended to put in but never found the easy links to include. Now's the time for that.
As I'd learned in High School English, I made an outline (but, as in HSE, after I'd written the first draft; sorry, Mrs. Bagnal).
Now I'm happily adding 3x5 cards of plot points and filling in the MC background to make the events the worst possible things for him. I get to devise his history, so why not?
The happy bit is that I'm still having fun with this, and now I actually feel I could make it into a salable book. I mean, it's done, right? Now I'm just editing the internal bits.
So if you've never joined NaNoWriMo, consider it for next year.
It's kind of too late for this year; tomorrow is the last day.
Man, writing is so much more fun than any other hobby!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Too much celebration

Well, to celebrate hitting the 50,000 words in the NaNoWriMo challenge, I bought a triple-chocolate cake and some chocolate ice cream. Sunday AND Monday, I had ice cream and cake for desert, with extra chocolate sauce.
Before you ask, I am not normally a chocolate person.
Tuesday morning, my toes felt like they had rug burns. I'm told this is a warning to diabetics that they have strayed too far from the proper diet.
Like I needed a reminder? Well, it seems I did. That's the trouble with things that don't hit you over the head with reminders: you forget, or decide you are OK now. 
I'm not.
So back to extremely little alcohol, no sugar snacks, slow-digesting starches, etc.
Maybe I'll remember this time.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I did it!

Day sixteen of NaNoWriMo and I finished my book, as well as making the 50,000 word target handily. With the epilog and hook for the next book, I got to 51,200 words, 200+ pages. 
According to the program I use, (CopyWrite) that was 36 hours of edit time. I am very pleased.
In fact, I am happier with the story, the arc of it, the characters and plot resolution than I am of anything I've ever written.
And it started out as a dare.
So don't be chicken, take a dare once in a while.
And props to the Everett, Washington writing group and to the co-MLs (Metropolitan Liaison) for spurring me on.
Go writers!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Nearing the finish line

This morning I start on the last 6,000 words of the 50,000 target. I'm pretty happy to be there on the 15th of the month.
I had vowed to "get out there" more than in the past; that's how I got suckered into this novel month. That's worked out extremely well for me, BTW. I've figured out what (one of) my problems has been all these years.
So I'm going to meet some other writers from the area in a couple of hours. My stomach is trying to rebel at the thought of voluntarily meeting new people, but I'll drown it in good Ghirardelli coffee and see what happens.
There's a thought forming in the back of my head that maybe 2009 is the year I also sign up for the Whidbey Island Writer's Conference in some capacity or other.
I'm not sure there's that much coffee, even in Washington!
I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Writing hard

I'm still crashing away at the challenge. It's day 13, I'm at almost 39,000 words, the most productive run in my entire life.
I once finished six chapters in 5 weeks, but that was a long time ago, maybe in 2002. That was about the last serious fiction writing I've done.

I've now done 165 pages in 13 days.
What could happen if I made even half of this productive rate a regular thing? Why, I might finish a story! I've only ever finished one book and three stories.
Maybe this sitting in the chair and just getting the words down without regard to "fixing things" is the way to go. I can edit next month, right?
Time will tell.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Writing Frenzy

I've signed up for NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing month. I made a commitment to write at least 50,000 words in thirty days.
I admit to thinking it was going to be difficult, but the part I thought would be hard was getting down that many words. 
It turns out that it is pretty easy. I write pretty fast, when called upon so to do.
The hard part?
I have realized in just 8 days that all the years I spent pretending to write were really just pretense. I finished my book, did a couple of short stories, but always got distracted by what ought to go into them, what a reader might like to read. What would sell.
All of these turn out to be kind of pointless concerns if you don't get enough words down on the page in the first place.
The point of NaNoWriMo is to produce word count. The secret message is that once you abandon any thought for _what_ those words are, you become freer as a writer than I would have believed.
Now I charging ahead and having more fun with writing than I have since that first story back in 1968, banged out on a rented typewriter on newsprint paper.
I know I'll have to spend December doing edits, but every writer knows the editor is louder in his brain than the creator and so is easy to call upon.
I'm at 27000 words this morning, and I'm just stalling now. So back to it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Beads made

I've been working on the new website and today managed to get some good pics of the beads I'm making. They're all experiments so far, but I've had a couple that are keepers.
I am about 3 hours into making beads now, self-taught. There's just enough serendipity to make it entertaining.
Should I put in bigger pictures? Write more about making beads? (what I've learned, my setup, etc.)
I guess that's up to me, eh?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Clearly not a blogger

Nearly seven months have passed since the last post. I am obviously not a blogger by nature.
Sure, I keep a journal in my sketchbook, but who doesn't do that? I just am not convinced that I have enough ego to post to the cold world every thought that goes through my head.
Not that other bloggers do that. I mean, I read other blogs, don't I?
So at what point does one become a blogger? You can't pretend to be posting private thoughts, right? You must assume that eventually someone somewhere will read what you've put up. So one must hope that eventually one gathers a following, eager to read your public/private thoughts.
Maybe I just lack that hope, eh?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Walking a circle

We explored a small "sanctuary" park near here, and though the entrance fee seemed very high to me, we decided it was time to see what was there.
What was there? Lots of prayer flags in the trees, and many many stone monoliths, some in circles, some as "henges", some just little piles. It was all very peaceful despite being only a few yards from the road.
But what I'm writing about today is the stone circle-maze. I'm not sure what the proper name for the circular path ought to be as it was neither a circle nor a maze. Do you know what I mean?
You enter, follow a serpentine path to the center, then retrace your path and exit. Simple.
I've been to one other (that I recall) and that was in the hills of Palo Alto, CA not too far from the Reuters site where I worked.
Anyway, this was the first time I'd followed a path with someone else there.
Understand that the path is 20" wide, and the course is separated by 4" high plantings. It's not like you're hidden from the world, and you should also not expect to be transported to another dimension ala Zelazny's Amber series. But something weird happened anyway.
I was pretty self-conscious and not entirely sure why I was "doing it" in public. So I thought about that while I followed the circular path. And I was surprised!
The first time I followed one of these, it was mostly as an homage to my distant, occult-soaked past. It was cool.
This time, it came to me that the whole point was to do something without having a good reason to do it. No immediate gain, no Chivalry Points, no hip or cool points. No money, no fame, etc.
You just spend a few quiet moments putting aside all consideration of worth or gain and just walk the path. Why? Because.
Most of what I do, I have a reason that I accept as the motive. Walking the circle was just to do. When I got back out, I realized I felt good about having done a thing just to be doing it.
In that spirit, I spent Easter Sunday sitting in front of the fire reading a book. No guests, no chores. No guilt. It was warm and sleepy and wonderful.
Should I need to find a stone path to gain this? No. Did I need it? Yes.
But once you've really felt what's to be gained, you can recreate it in your head as often as needed. Just remember. And remind yourself. 

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Real Life Interrupts

Hi;  It's hard to post to these things when you're fairly sure you're just talking to yourself.
How do radio people do it?
I'm told that it helps to pretend that there's only one person out there listening to you speak. Maybe. Maybe if I pretend that there's one person reading this, I'd post more often.

Well, maybe that's true, maybe not.
An update: adopting the diabetic diet ahead of a diagnosis has yielded some benefits: I'm down about 9 pounds, and according to the AMA and the Body Mass Index, I need to lose another nine.
I guess I can do that.
I sure miss bourbon, though.
Yes, I know I can still drink, but I know that I'd like to have 3 drinks, and each night, so I'll have to pass.
I'm lazy, you see. Or weak. Either way, it's always been easier for me to cut off something cold than to "taper off".

On the writing front, I'm making progress on a book on wargame campaigns, how to run them. If nothing else, it gives me a motive to actually run more games. Since I game solo, I can jump around all I want. 
I have a Starmada space campaign going, about to hit the first conflict between Delius Heavy Industries forces and the Consortium Fleet.
I'm doing a fantasy campaign between Romans and Orcs, and I've got a few ships at sea using "Kiss Me, Hardy" rules from TooFatLardies.
And I'm not even counting car racing and RPG.

I'm also experimenting with using Pando to send and receive large video/audio files with my pen pal, recorded with VoiceCandy shareware.

Keeping busy, if nothing else!


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Film is Dead to Me

Camera film.
We decided to go to the Bald Eagle Festival on the Upper Skagit River. For this, I felt I needed a decent telephoto and that meant dusting-off the Nikon 8008. My little digital (which is a great camera, doesn't have the range I felt I'd need.
I hit the stores on the Island, but no one had Fuji slide film, my film of choice. I found a camera store in Mt. Vernon, on the way, so we stopped in there Saturday morning.
"Gee, no. We don't have slide film. I _had_ a few rolls, but someone must have bought them."
"OK, I'll take some Fuji 100 print film."
"Sorry. I only have Kodak 400."
This is not a tragedy, of course, but I had spent the week convincing myself that I could merely stock up on slide film and wait out the process of shot-process-select-scan-edit for a lot less money than buying a decent digital body that would use my old lenses.
I was wrong.
And now I also feel obliged to "finish off" the roll before sending it in. I had forgotten that aspect of film photography.
So I guess an upgrade is in store. Believe me, I had other plans for the money.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dead Rats

Ah, you have to love working in the near-outside. A rat has died inside the wall near my terminal where I work.
Aromatic, to say the least. It's almost enough to make your eyes water. Helpfully, my office has been sprayed with a variety of odor-combatting aerosols. The first one left an over-powering aroma of coconut. As it faded, I was left with what I could only think of as a dead-rat-wearing-suntan-lotion smell.
Today, I was treated to some room-spray stuff that put a tang in the air. Sure, it covered the smell of rotting rat, but it gave me a headache.
At least it's below freezing outside, so the smell has abated a bit. 
I don't look forward to warm weather...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

SteamPunk: Colony of California

In my alternate history, a couple of things happened a bit differently than they did in our timeline.
Mainly, at the outset of the Mexican-American War, General Taylor was stopped at the Rio Grande by Santa Anna, preventing the American conquest of Mexico. The British Royal Navy, on the way to Esquimalt Bay (Victoria, B.C.) stopped in at Yerba Buena (San Francisco) while Commodore Stockton's fleet was down in Monterey, CA scaring the locals. While Stockton took control of Monterey and sailed for Los Angeles, the RN fleet raised the Union Jack over the collection of huts in Yerba Buena. Immediately sensing the value of the sheltered harbor of the great Bay, they renamed Yerba Buena, calling it New Victoria.
With Taylor stopped on the border of Mexico, Senator Abe Lincoln shouted down Senator Benton's Manifest Destiny and the treaty of Oregon was never signed.
This left the British claim to the Oregon Territory without contest; British Columbia extended along the Continental Divide south as far as the New Victoria Bay and the southern border with Mexico was set at Monterey.
Now the Crown Colony of California, for a short time declared a free Republic, is a useful British colony and with the discovery of gold in 1850, a very valuable one.
The influx of gold and the taxes upon it drew inventors as well as miners; the new steam fleet is being built in the NVBay, and there are even a few experimental steam-screw airships serving as scouts over the Sierra Nevadas, guarding the border with the United States.

More later!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A SteamPunk story begins

Despite work being work, I've hit upon a story line I am pretty jazzed about writing! It all began with looking at some web pages about Victorian Science Fiction (also known as SteamPunk). I'm a wargamer among other things, and I thought that might be fun to take a shot at.
Next thing you know, I'd gone to a web page that creates "Peculiar Aristocratic Title" for you. (Here it is: I already had a name I liked: Hollister McAllister, a seller of Patent Medicines in the Old West.
One thing lead to another and I'd managed to place Hollister McAllister into a story line. I wanted to wargame a SteamPunk battle, so here it is: Hollister McAllister has recruited an army of Sasquatch to help him take control of the California Gold fields in 1850. He is confronted by Franklin Benjamin Root, an Army Lieutenant on a secret mission to carry a message to John Fremont.
Let's say that Radium, an indian shaman, and the Sasquatch belief that they are the True People leads to many conflicts I can game.
Hollister's new Snake Oil has large doses of Radium and psychedelics mixed in. It turns out to be a disaster for most people, but an accidental overdose for FBRoot results in some special powers that he'll need if he's to prevent Hollister's bid to control the budding new Republic of California!

And I still got my work done today.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


Happy New Year to all.
My tradition is to spend New Year's Day setting the tone for the coming year. This means I try to spend it doing the things I'd like to do more of in the coming year, and avoiding the activities I don't really want to repeat.
I got plenty of sleep last night (the first act of the New Year) and had tea instead of coffee with a nice breakfast. We've gone for a walk, saw our shadows briefly (a thing to be treasured during a NorthWest Winter), and now I've got iTunes playing through some really old Pink Floyd while I work on the draft of a new book.
What could be better than that? What's left to do? I would enjoy having a good glass of wine; I'd like some physical affection; I'd love to win the lottery.
Maybe I'll count my blessings and remember that it is one's desires that lead to unhappiness. Without desires, one is automatically happier.