Thursday, August 31, 2006

System Shock!

Thanks to Nienke for this link . . .

You Should Be a Science Fiction Writer

Your ideas are very strange, and people often wonder what planet you're from.

And while you may have some problems being "normal," you'll have no problems writing sci-fi.

Whether it's epic films, important novels, or vivid comics...

Your own little universe could leave an important mark on the world!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006



Just a quick post today, as I'm buggin' outta work early to spend the afternoon with the family. I believe we're gonna do some bowling and other indoor type things since it's been raining non-stop for the past five days hereabouts . . .

So, I used Inspiration to outline the remaining threads from "First" yesterday. Wow! It flew! I got details lined up and connected for four different story lines, with details on each and their resolution. Even got in the day by day details for a running battle to stall an advancing army. All in under an hour. I can't tell you how much easier that lets me breath! A lot of the fear I had about finishing "First" is gone, simply because I can look a tthe screen and SEE where everything ties together. Nice!

I've been taking a formal vacation from actually writing for the last two weeks. I've actually wanted to do some work but I'm not letting myself. I realized, while doing my whole "Life Plan" that I needed a little breathing space from the inner demands to "accomplish" so I took a vacation. I will return to writing on a daily basis -at a set time, BTW- when my son returns to school next week. I may not get a summer vacation from the day job, but writing is my chosen profession, wherein I am my one and only boss (at the moment) so I can take time off if I need to. It was a good idea - I'm looking forward to starting up again. Guess I just needed a recharge.


Monday, August 28, 2006

Inspirational Monday?


Mondays are still a drag, no matter your zen outlook on life! Jsut a word to the wise . . .

The weekend was good. We did all our running about and shopping, etc. on Saturday so that we could chill at home on Sunday for my birthday. Yup, I am yet again one year older than before. My ancient old ass is now thirty-nine and I'm less than a full year away from the big four-oh. Can we all say: "Mid-Life Crisis"? (I knew that you could, boys and girls!) Nah, I'm just not the type. At least I think I'm not . . . but then, crazy folks never know they're nut-jobs do they? Hmmmm . . . something to ponder.

The Wife asked me yesterday if I was alright with turning 39. She sounded concerned about my emotional well-being (like she thought I was gonna go Postal or something!) I just don't have that type of regard for age. As I explained to her: I can't keep from growing old but I refuse to grow up. (Yes, I know it's a cheesy, old, phrase but I like it!) I don't feel old -yet- so I'm still good with my age. Come talk to me again when my bladder flow is sporadic, and my manhood is as useful as a hood ornament on a car, and I may have a different opinion but for now: I'm cool.

So, I had a remarkable writing breakthrough today at lunch. I took a recommendation from Holly Lisle and tried Inspiration. A neat little software package that allows you to put your ideas down on paper in a visual format. I decided to give it a shot and tried doing a plot layout of a novel I've been thinking about. As you all know by now: plotting is NOT my strength. Outlines frighten me. Organizing, structuring, and trying to move things about in some type of orderly fashion in an outline makes me sweat just thinking about it. Inspiration is completely visual in nature. It lets you structure things like a flow chart, using pictures and a few typed in phrases. you can draw arrows between things that tie together and there's absolutely no requirement for keeping things in order; it's completely free-form. I believe that you can have it generate a more formal outline when you're done but I haven't gotten that far yet. What I HAVE done is outlined an entiree novel in just over an hour. Lemme tell ya' folks: that's HUGE for me! Outlining (when I actually bother with it) takes me weeks! I loved using this software. The great thing is I can go back and modify it on the fly . . . move things to the when/where I want with no problems. I don't think I'll ever convert it to an outline form, I like the idea of printing out the flow chart arrangement and pinning it to the wall as I work. That way I can just sort of "X" off items as I complete them. I'm using the free trial version of Inspiration right now but I'm thinking I need to buy this soon. I'm going to try it out on a few other ideas I have first: another novel outline and as a way to clear my thoughts on finishing "First". I'm bottling up a little on that because I have so many strings still to pull together. I hope inspiration will let me work them all out without the stress of linear outlining. What can I tell ya? it's a phobia - probably from leftover from bad high school experiences or something . . .


Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Birthday Story

My boy just turned thirteen.

How did that happen? I remember every damn thing that happened the day he was born, just as if it were yesterday. Did I ever tell you folks that story? I don't remember, so I'll tell it again . . . hell, I've never been one to let a good story go by just cuz you may have heard it a time or ten!

The Wife and I bought our home and -despite the fact it was a dump- figured we could start thinking about having children. As I recall, we stopped using birth control on a Tuesday and she was pregnant by Wednesday! The speed with which it happened completely destroyed our well laid plans for renovating the house (and no, you can NOT laugh because I'm still working on it 13 years later!) We realized that the house was not a viable living space for a baby so I did the only thing I could do - I gutted the place. Now, when I say "gutted" I MEAN gutted. Windows, electric, A/C, walls -interior and exterior- ripped out . . . I basically rebuilt the thing from scratch. Now, this is a stressful thing at the best of times. Do it when your wife is expecting your first child, watching the bills pile high and knowing that your job is in jeopardy is a recipe for disaster. Now (just for chuckles!) let's throw in the hottest summer on record for our area and imagine The Wife -9 months along- sitting on a pile of sheetrock, watching TV on a little 13" tube (no cable!) with no A/C in 105 deg. temperature. Now imagine that the only working bathroom in the house is down in the dark, musty, insect filled basement and my VEEEERRRRY preggers wife has to run up and down those stairs to shower and pee (90 times a day!)

Well, needless to say: things were not happy. She finally broke down into a (well deserved) crying jag after a giant water bug jummped on her in the basement shower. I swore I'd get the new upstairs bath done for her imediately. I called her father over to help me and we started on Saturday morning at 5:00 a.m. We worked 18+ hour days and got it 100% done at about 11:00 p.m. on Sunday night. The Wife was thrilled: she went in and took a lovely shower, came out, got dressed for bed and lay down. I jumped in for my own -much needed- shower and came to bed at about 12:30 a.m. I was whooped - I hadn't slept at all for the entire weekend. Of course, no sooner had I put on a pair of shorts and lay down in the bed next to her and she says:


"What, another leg cramp?" I asked, preparing to rub it out for her . . .

"Uh, no. I think it's time."

"Uh-uh! It is not! I need some sleep!"

"I don't think the baby cares . . ."

"The hell with that! Can't you just cross your legs or something?"

Well, the boy was insistent, so we went to the hospital and spent the next ten hours doing silly-assed breathing exercises and such. In the end, I was useless and The Wife did all the hard work while I just sat there, staring, and muttering "Holy Shit!" a lot. My son was born just before 11:00 a.m the next morning and the very first thing he saw when he opened his eyes on this world was my face. (poor kid!)

So, my son is thirteen. He had a birthday . . . to him, it's just a cool day to get some presents on. I don't think he has any idea that my wife and I are actually celebrating the greatest day of our entire lives. That's alright - he doesn't get it but I have a feeling all you other parents out there do.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Scheduling a Life

How you doin'? (pausing for appropriate NY reply here)

Glad to hear it!

I had a busy -but very fun- weekend. My two nephews stayed at our house and we all just hung out and had a really great time. The older of the two is three months or so older than my boy and he's spent better than half his life at my place (which is a good thing - he's a great kid!) The younger is only four and this was his first time staying overnight anywhere other than home. The Wife and her sister (their mom) were concerned over how he'd react but he had a blast. He got to hang out all weekend with "the guys" and we have a huge couch with recliners on each end in the basement so all three of them slept there, which he thought was the coolest thing ever. We played lots of video and computer games, did some swimming, hit the boardwalk, etc. the usual stuff. Hmmm . . . does anyone outside Jersey know what a boardwalk is? Good question: let me know if you need a definition, 'kay?

The two older boys and I also got to spend most of the day Sunday playing D&D (Yes, I AM a geek!) We had a great time . . . we've played before, but not in a year or two and they've both grown up quite a bit in that time and learned a lot about logic, planning, and rational thinking. It made for a really fun day. I actually thought about it afterward and realized theat I was just aout their age when I first started playing . . . world moves fast, don't it? Seems like last week! Damn, I'm gettin' old!

No writing over the weekend (or last night - The boy wasn't home so The Wife and I hit a really nice Italian reataurant for a quiet meal) but I've been working on creating a revised . . . well, LIFE schedule I guess. I don't intend to implement it until school start back in -things are gonna be too crazy over the next two weeks at home- but I've set myself to a schedule that's pretty reasonable and should give me plenty of time to write, edit, submit, and get a little exercise in each day as well. I was even careful to make sure I had time in there to shop for and cook dinner every night! Yes, I -the male- do the bulk of the cooking at home. The Wife is a very good cook but she hates doing it. I actually enjoy cooking - it's the cleaning up stuff that kills me. She doesn't mind that, so we each stick to our own preferences. I need a set schedule . . . I am waaaaayyyy too easily distracted by meaningless crap if I don't have a steady routine. That' s true of everything, not just my writing. Makes The Wife nuts actually: I'm fair with remembering things if I do them on a regular schedule. Disrupt it even a little bit and I'm dead in the water. She's actually great about that - you can throw a hundred curve balls at her and she won't miss a single thing that needs to be done. Me? Not so much . . .

Anyway, the Life Schedule will be a huge benefit for me if I can get it instituted and keep life from disrupting it too badly. I actually wrote it all out and had to put in little disclaimers for myself like: "If you stray from the shcedule, just come back to it. It’s not a failure, it’s a side path and you can get back on the main road at any time." I need reminders like that. When things don't go according to my plans, I can get pretty down about it and give it up as a failure. gotta stop doin' that! :-)

I'll keep you posted on my progress from time to time.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Mad Skillz!!!

Friday again . . .YAY!!!!!

It occurs to me I haven't put up a bit of my work in a while, so I thought I'd treat you all to a sampling of my Mad-Writin'-Skillz in the form of a short story of mine. It's unpublished, but I don't think I'm ever gonna sell this one anyway . . . it just doesn't seem to fit any magazine's format, though I've had a number of very encouraging rejections on it! (sort of like getting a fun hangnail, ain't it?) Anyway, all rights reserved by me, etc. No copying or reprinting without paying me large sums of cash and all that good stuff . . . Enjoy the tale!




by J. A. Coppinger

Undaunted by the acrid stench of sulfur, the Knight strode into the dragon’s den, naked steel gleaming in his gauntleted fist. He drove the blade tip into the granite floor and gave challenge to the draken.

"Ho, dragon, thy time of justice is at hand! I, Sir Theodore of Phenric, call thee forth to battle. I say unto thee: thy fell shadow shall darken this land no more!"

The dragon, nearly a full furlong of crimson muscle and fang, swiveled its massive head in the Knight's direction. Slowly it opened its gargantuan maw, inhaling, its lungs working like a huge bellows… and spoke.

"Aww, cripes sake, Teddy! This's the fourth time in a month. Can't ya lay off a bit?" His accent, of Welsh and cockney Brit, had evolved from years of dealing with dragon-slayers from those respective provinces.

The Knight raised the visor on his helm, piggish little eyes squinting through the opening. "Sorry, old boy, but I've a job to do after all." He replaced the visor with a polite cough and continued in what he considered a proper Knightly tone. "How say ye, fiend? Wilt thou answer my challenge?"

The dragon turned his head away with a sigh, refusing to look at the Knight. "Bugger off, Teddy," he said.

The Knight's visor slammed up with a resounding clang. "Now see here, Trilby! I'll not have you speakin' to me that way! I’m a Knight, after all! Tain’t proper, it ain't."

Trilby snorted, his breath stirring up a small whirlwind in the cavern. "Not proper? I'll tell ya what ain't proper! A Knight what kills a dragon four times in the same month: 'ats what ain't proper! Why, you'd think a fella gots nothing better to do but sit 'round waiting for you to trundle along and slice 'im open!

“Tain't decent, Teddy, just ain't! Why, even the King's serfs get off one day in ten. But me? Oh no, poor ol' Trilby don't get no days off, does he? Every day, t’same blasted thing. Ho, Trilby! Have at thee, Trilby! Feel my wrath, Trilby! I'll have no more of it I tell ya! Go find some other dragon to pester, Teddy. I been killed enough this year."

It was Teddy's turn to sigh. He pulled his helmet off, revealing a pinched looking face surrounded by a crop of unruly brown hair that seemed determined to point off in every direction. Which, he silently admitted while trying to smooth it down with his free hand, was a good thing; else the drastic thinning of his mane would be quite noticeable. Teddy scratched absently at the scraggly whiskers above his upper lip. Blasted helmet always made him sweat! The Knight shrugged, embarrassed, and gave the dragon an apologetic grin.

"Look, old boy," he began. "I know it's something of a nuisance but I'm afraid I haven't any choice. His Majesty says: Teddy, go slay the dragon!, and I gots to go! Why, I says to him -just this mornin’- Your Majesty, tain't right! but does he listen? Course he don't! Believe me, Tril, I don't care for this any more‘n you do. You think I likes dressing up in this tin suit, marching up this bloody mountain every week, just to kill a dragon what ain't gonna stay dead more'n a few hours anyway? Damn nuisance, I say! But there it is, old boy. A job's a job, after all."He pushed sweat soaked hair from his eyes, placing the helmet back atop his head. Teddy wished the thing didn't weigh so much; it gave him an awful headache. Still, one had to keep up appearances.

Trilby sighed thunderously, setting his massive head down on the cavern floor, looking quite as dejected as it is possible for a dragon to look. Which is not very much really, considering he was designed as a terror inspiring eating machine. But Trilby gave it quite the prep school try anyway. He even managed to put a touch of pre-pubescent whine in his voice. "Whyn't you just go find some other Wyrm to aggravate? I just ain't in for it today."

"C’mon now, old bean, you knows there ain't been no other dragons sighted in over six centuries. Let's just get this finished with, eh? Sooner started, sooner finished, as me Mum's wont to say. Where were we then? Oh yes… Ahem. Foul Wyrm, I come seeking justice for the hapless peasants you have devoured..."

"I'm a vegetarian, Teddy."

"...the herds of cattle you've scattered across the country

"Haven't left the cave in years, old boy."

"…crops you've burned?"

"Couldn't work up enough fire to light a torch."

"Um, plundered treasures?"

"Flat broke."

"Late on your taxes?"

"Sorry, paid up just last week. Receipt's on the wall."

"Insulting the King? Disturbing the peace? Urinating in public? "

"Nope, nope, and nope."

Teddy threw his sword down on the cavern floor in a fit of excessive aggravation. This was getting ridiculous. "Blast it, Trilby, you're not helping!”

"Not helping? I'm not helping?" The dragon's tail slammed the floor like a thunderbolt; rattling the cavern and making Teddy take a nervous step back. "You ain’t even got the decency to come in 'ere with a valid charge for killing me, and I'm not helping? Phaahh! You're just getting lazy, is what!"

"I am not," huffed the Knight.

"Are too!"

"Am not!"

"Are too!"

Teddy let it drop. He knew Trilby: the dragon would happily keep it up all day. One thing about dragons; they were insufferably obstinate! Trilby would be perfectly content to sit there for a fortnight, trading denials back and forth, but the Knight had more important things to do. His oldest boy's team was in the cricket finals tonight and he'd promised the Missus he'd be home in time to take him. Not that he was afraid of what she’d say if he was late of course, he was the Master of his Estate! It was just that he couldn’t stand the grating hitch in her nasal voice when she started her infernal, incessant, nagging…!

He folded his arms across his breastplate and tried to think things through. It wasn't like Trilby to be this inconsiderate. He was usually the very soul of hospitality when Teddy came to disembowel him. "I say, Trilby, what seems to be the to-do? This behavior isn't like you at all."

Trilby the dragon turned his serpentine yellow eyes on the Knight and gave a shrug -or the closest draconic equivalent thereof- which is to say: he hunched his iron hewed wing muscles in a just slightly less than terrifying way. "Nothing," he said, pouting.

Teddy patted him on one huge forepaw, mollifying his old friend. Dragons can be so temperamental, he thought. Trilby was almost as bad as his youngest boy. That one was a holy terror to be sure, a bottled cork just waiting to pop at the tiniest shake! All the Missus fault, coddling him the way she does... still, he wasn't here to worry 'bout his own troubles. "Here now, no need to throw a hissy fit. I'm just trying to help is all."

The Wyrm looked at him and nodded. "Course you are. Sorry, Teddy, I’m just not quite up to snuff today I expect. Loads on my mind and all that."

Teddy seated himself on the floor with much creaking on the part of his armor. He'd have to oil it soon, he thought, then wished he hadn’t. Now that he’d thought of it, he’d have to do it. Such things were a point of honor for a Knight. What a bloody bother! He pulled his pipe from the pouch on his belt, and began stuffing it with some of the King's Best. Knighthood has its privileges! "Understand perfectly, old bean! Been there meself. What say we take a few moments and you tells me about it, hmmm? Anything in particular ‘as the old ruff up?"

Trilby tilted his head to one side, considering, as he settled his great bulk more comfortably on his bed of jewels. Colored glass actually. Teddy knew the bleeding tax collectors had taken the real stuff. Tril should really invest in a nice feather bed, he thought. Jewels –real or no- must be uncomfortable as the dickens!

"Aww, I dunno," the dragon replied, "Just been thinking 'bout me life lately s’all. I mean, what's the point? Every day's the same thing: wake up, read the sports page, wait for you to show up and slit me gizzard… I'm bored, old man!

“Not that it's your fault, mind! You're one of the finest dragon-slayers what I ever had the privilege of shaking claws with! It's just, well… I guess I'm just feeling me own immortality."

Teddy puffed thoughtfully on his pipe, doing his best impression of a wise old graybeard. Trilby was a good sort, and the Knight wanted the dragon to feel he was giving proper weight to his words. Truth to tell though, Teddy hadn't a clue what the old boy was on about. Couldn't very well let Trilby know that, he’d be hours explaining, and the Missus’d brain him if he were late again…

He waved importantly about himself with the pipe. "Knows exactly what you mean! Saying to the Missus just yesterday I was: Poor old Trilby, I says. Must be the devil on him, living forever, stuck up in that drafty old cave and all. That's exactly what I said; you just ask the Missus!" He nodded, satisfied with his own words. Hadn't any idea what he was saying of course, but it sounded sufficiently sympathetic, he was sure. Trilby seemed to think so.

"Exactly! You gots no idea what it’s like! I mean: how many times can a body be killed 'fore he goes completely balmy, I ask you? Why, do you realize I been killed over ten score times?

“Being immortal’s kinda fun for the first three-four hundred years, but after that it gets a bit dull. ‘Specially after they told me I weren't allowed to eats no more virgins! Being a vegetarian's done absolute wonders for me 'ealth -me cholesterol's down nearly four hundred points- but I tell you, some days I'd give me right wing for a screaming little tidbit of a girl!" He flapped the appendage in question and sighed.

Teddy nodded in understanding. Those were the good old days, he thought. Time was, a dragon could earn a decent living being a tyrannical agent of destruction, and Knights were well respected by all. Nowadays, best either of them could hope for was a civil service job and a pension. Not that Trilby'd ever see a quid of pension. Teddy had never considered it before, but retirement age for an immortal was nonexistent.

"Here now, we can't have you doing that sort of thing any more! Lord knows, virgins be rare enough in this day and age! Lets you loose on 'em and there won't be one left in the blooming country." He thought about his own fifteen-year old for a moment, then shook his head. If the little trollop's at all like her Mum at that age, the last thing he'd have to worry over was her becoming a meal for Trilby!

"Don't mind me," said the dragon. "I'm just blowing pun intended. Tells you the truth, I've just been feeling a bit lonely lately."

"Lonely? Is that all? Not a bit of a problem! What say you drop by for tea, Sunday? The Missus won't mind, and the kids simply luvs you! Why, my youngest still rambles ‘bout the dragon-back ride you give her last time. Yes, tea at my house: the very thing. I'll pick up a few barrels of greens at the market for you and we'll make a party of it. Say… fourish?"

Trilby bowed his head in polite acknowledgment. Teddy was pleased to see the dragon’s affability returning. He really is a polite fellow, thought the Knight. Especially when you consider his previous dietary habits.

"Luvs to, Teddy, thank you. Still, tain't quite the same is it? You human folk are nice and all but I'm afraid it's company of me own kind what I'm looking for. I'd dearly luvs to have someone I could talk to 'bout the olden days! You know… burnin' towns, eatin' tribes of elves, that sort of thing."

"That's a tough one, Tril: you being listed as the last of your kind and all."

The Wyrm sighed in resignation, dropping his chin onto his forepaws and looking for all the worlds like a lonely old basset hound. "That's the problem in a shell, isn't it? I don't wants to be the last of me kind no more. I'd just as soon stay dead the next time you decapitate me."

"'Fraid that's not a choice either. You're immortal. Can't stay dead for more than twelve hours, remember?"

The Dragon scowled, rustling his massive wings in irritation. “Damned nuisance, that! Dragon should have the right to stay decently deceased if he wants! Tain’t like I choosed to be immortal. Bleeding bureaucrats over at the E.P.A. up'n decides I'm a bloody endangered species! Next thing I knows, there's twelve Wizards up here, casting spells and what not at me. Anybody thinks to say: Gee Trilby old bean, would you like to live forever? Course not! It's just presto-chango, 'n the old boy's around for eternity. Damn inconsiderate, if you ask me. Body gots a right to decide if he wants to live forever. Don't he, Teddy?"

"Quite right, quite right! Barbaric thing; not asking first. But there you are, old boy. Just the sort of thing you'd expect from the paper-pushers. Why, last week one of them nits over to the King's Commission on Urban Violence tried to take me sword away! Said it was a negative influence on impressionable children. Can you imagine? Me, a negative influence on children? I was never so insulted in all me days! Had me so miffed, I cut the prig's head off, right on the spot."

They sat there for a time considering the complete unfairness of life, until Teddy's pipe went out and he noticed the shadows outside the cavern were getting a bit long. Have to hurry, he thought. Missus is probably taking practice swings with the frying pan already. He cleaned his pipe and put it back in his pouch before rising to his feet. With a decided nod of his head he reached a decision and moved to stand directly before the dragon's snout.

"See here, Trilby," he began, "I ain’t supposed to tells you this, it being a matter of State Security and all, but… well, if you promises not to breathe a word?"

The dragon sat up a bit, his curiosity aroused. Teddy had thought he might. Dragons loved secrets only a little less than virgins! "Of course, of course. Mum's the word!"

"Well, it seems the King'll be sending a few of us more experienced Knights down to Kensington in a fortnight or so. Hush-hush mission, and all that. Intelligence reports some odd goings on. Things of a rather mystical sort, if you takes me meaning.” He winked knowingly. “Word has it the Mayor gots himself turned to stone by what the townsfolk calls: a very ugly little lizard. Thing just wandered into a council meeting by accident, and poof! Nice new statue for the town square. Intelligence boys think it might be a basilisk. King wants us to go down there and dispatch the little bugger ‘fore the Magical Creature Rights activists hears of it and want to turn the town into a basilisk preserve!"

Trilby stood up so quickly he smacked his head, rather loudly, against the roof of the cavern. The dragon smiled -if you can call seven rows of dagger long teeth a smile- an apology at the Knight who had to dodge several boulders dislodged by the Wyrm's cranium.

"A basilisk? Are you sure?"

"Quite sure! Though you didn't hear that from me."

If dragons danced, Teddy was sure Trilby'd have done a jig. The Knight couldn't help but smile at his friend’s rather obvious joy. Always a pleasure to cheer up a dejected chum!

"A basilisk!" Trilby couldn't keep the wonder out of his voice. "They only hatches from rooster eggs laid in a pile of dragon dung under a harvest moon. If there's a basilisk in Kensington, there’s also gots to be..."

He couldn't get the word out, so Teddy finished the sentence for him. "A dragon!"

"A dragon," repeated Trilby in wonder.

The Knight scratched innocently at the sparse hair on his head, letting his eyes wander away from the dragon. "I understand Kensington’s gots lovely weather this time of year," he said. "Some lovely orchards to see thereabouts too. When's the last time you had a vacation, old boy?"

Trilby took his meaning right away. "Oh, been years, it has! Why, the King wasn't even born yet last time I tooks a day off! Maybe that's just what I need to get me outta the funk! A few days in some nice clime, say… around Kensington, and I'd be right as rain! Think His Majesty'd mind if I took some vacation time?"

Sir Theodore of Phenric set his helm back atop his head. "Not at all. I'll talks to him about it tomorrow." The dragon-slayer retrieved his blade from the floor and turned back to face the Great Wyrm. "Right now though, I'm in a bit of a squeeze. Me boy's in the tourney tonight, you know. Promised the Missus I'd be there, and all that. So, if you don't mind…?"

He gestured at the smiling dragon with his silver blade, andTrilby nodded hurried agreement. "Oh, of course, of course! Bloody rude of me to keeps you waiting! I ‘preciates all your help, Teddy. Really, I do! Well then, let's have at it shall we?"

The Knight charged and the dragon gave his most fierce battle roar. The fight was one of the most dramatic they'd ever had: blood, flame, broken rocks… the very stuff such battles are made of. In the end, when Teddy drove his blade into the Wyrm’s heart and passed out atop the dragon's dying form, he couldn’t help but notice Trilby’s smile.

The dragon hadn't died so happy in years


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Deadly Predators!

It seems harmless, sure . . . large, cute, round, with a little scruff of hair (No, I do NOT mean me!) I refer to that voracious denizen of the underground that stalks the unwary homeowner, waiting silently in the dark for its moment to pounce upon unwary housewives as they take out the trash. That’s right; I speak of the most dangerous beast known throughout the land . . .

The Groundhog. (Raaarrrrrr!)

What’s that? You weren’t aware of the deadly attributes of this vile creature? Oh, well then . . . allow me to elucidate, in the form of a (mostly true) tale from the home front.

Me: (casually preparing for beddy-bye) Dum-De-Dum-De-Dum . . .
The Wife: Hon? Will you please take out the garbage?
Me: Uh . . . I’m kinda naked here! (NOOOOO! Do NOT visualize!) Can you take it out?
The Wife: I can’t!
Me: Ummmm . . . why would that be again?
The Wife: (quietly) Because.
Me: Because why?
The Wife: (red-faced) Because I’m scared.
Me: Of what? Robbers? It’s three steps from the back door to the garbage can!
The Wife: (knowing this will not go well) I’m scared of the Groundhog, okay?
Me: (disbelieving WTF?? Look on my face & trying not to laugh) The Groundhog? The vegetarian, overgrown mouse, which lives under our shed?
The Wife: She’s reallllly big . . .
Me: Oh, Yes! Nearly 8 inches long, isn’t it? Ooooohhhhh!!! Careful, dear, the Groundhog may bite you! RAAAARRRRRR!!!!!! (Yes, that is me making very childish roaring sound while laughing my naked butt off!)
The Wife: (scowling and trying not to laugh as I used my hands to fake Groundhog bites at her . . . “RAAARR!”) Stop it, you jerk! It’s dark out and they’re nocturnal!
Me: Ooohh! They’re like: Vampire Groundhogs! RAAARRRR!
The Wife: (Insert sound of her slapping the back of my bald head while laughing) Asshole! Go take out the garbage!
Me: Hell, no! There’s Vampire Groundhogs out there and I’m NEKKID! They could bite some very important things!
The Wife: They’re not really THAT important, dear . . . now take out the garbage!
Me: (sulking and putting on some clothes) Okay, fine . . . but I’ll have you know that I got lotsa IMPORTANCE workin’ here! And if it’s a female Groundhog, she’s gonna love it!!!!!!

Well, maybe that’s not exactly how it all went down (except the whole “Raarrrr” thing . . .been buggin’ her with that non-stop!) but it was a pretty damn funny moment. Killer Groundhogs . . . yup, we lives dangerous here in Jersey, folks! The Wife ain’t exactly the outdoors type. I’d have paid good money to see her reaction to the bears if she’d come camping with us! (Which is, of course, exactly why she won’t!)

Yup, this is my life. Cool, huh?


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Sleep It Off!

Happy Tuesday!

Well, ya' know - sorta happy anyway. I was MIA yesterday because my ass was home sick. I called out from work and got some much needed rest. The Wife still claims I was playing hooky but the truth is, I knew I was coming down with something and I had to let my system beat it down. See, I learned long ago that the most efficient way to kill off an illness is to rest when it first hits. When I start feeling sick, I'm right into bed and sleeping for as long as I possibly can. The Wife (silly woman that she is!) feels the need to "be strong" about illness. She pushes through when she feels like crap, goes to work, doesn't let the home stuff slide, etc. and consequently: she's sick and miserable for weeks at a time. Yesterday morning, I woke up feeling miserable - headache, sore joints, itchy eyes, and a slight fever. Could I have gone to work? Sure, but I'd have been miserable, getting worse by the moment. Instead, I took a sick day and stayed in bed until it was gone. Today, I feel fine.

The boy was thrilled at my staying home yesterday; he didn't have to go to summer camp. After The Wife left for work, he crawled into her spot in the bed (we have a king) and went to sleep beside me. Neither of us budged until Noon! We got up, showered, grabbed some lunch, then spent the afternoon playing video games and napping. I didn't even have to cook last night: the boy made dinner on his own! It was cool to watch . . . didn't turn out half-bad either! I just sorta sat at the table, giving him sage advice on what he needed to do next and let him handle it all. He had fun and was pretty proud of himself.

The weekend was crazy busy - the boy and I worked a local festival as a fund raiser for the Boy Scouts all day. We do it every year and it's actually a lot of fun, but it's also a LOT of work. You don't get a minutes rest! It went well . . . over four days of the festival we raised almost $2000 for the Troop. On sunday, we did some small work about the house and a little running, then we went to neighbors for a BBQ. It was nice and we were home pretty early. I did have a hamburger while there (I didn't want to cause a fuss). The folks didn't know I'd become a vegetarian. It was the first meat I've really eaten in almost two months. Gotta say, I wasn't impressed with it. It was a good burger and two months ago I'd have loved it, but it just didn't appeal to me anymore. It was greasy, heavy, and just didn't taste good . . . they had corn on the cob and a great fresh salad, both of which I devoured and loved.

Those are words I NEVER would have thought I'd hear myself say!

Well, I'm back in the swing today so I'll keep you posted throughout the week.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Da F-Bomb Falleth!

Ah yes, a good writing day today! (Finally!) I knocked out just over 1,800 words on "First", which brings my word count to almost 150k . . . and I don't see it ending under 200k, unless I really start cheaping out on some of the story (which I won't do!) Well, who knows? Maybe I can clip a bunch of it in edits (Yea, right!) I really wish I knew how people keep their novels under 100k . . . it seems to elude me. Too much cool crap comes up as I'm working and I've never been able to just "leave it out". Speaking of edits, I really need to get back to work on editing my other stuff. It's been sitting there in the drawer, doing nothing, for waaaaaaaayyyyy too long now! Summer is NOT a good time for editing. The nights are just too nice and there's too much going on. Editing is really a winter type of thing. Still, it has to be done if I ever want to be published so I'll have to make time somehow.

We had a minor tussle at my house with the boy last night. Seems he was caught using "inappropriate" language at the summer camp he goes to. He and a few friends were playing a board game and he thought (incorrectly!) there were no adults in the room when he let the F-Bomb drop. (Yup, the nuclear warhead of invectives, folks!) The head of the entire camp had just walked in behind him and the boy hadn't noticed. He got a written reprimand (which I agree with, BTW!) and I had to sign it to show I was aware of what he'd done. Now, the boy is almost thirteen and I know he uses such language regularly when with his peers (I did at 13!) so I wasn't too shocked, I just explained to him why it wasn't appropriate in a formal setting like the camp. When he got home however, The Wife was not nearly as understanding. She had a minor meltdown over it (granted, she had a few more reasons than just the word, but it was still a bit over the top to my way of thinking.) and started throwing out threats and punishments galore. After she was done verbally lashing the boy and he'd split to his room, she wanted to know why I wasn't more upset about it. I (being the wonderful, honest, man that I am!) had to point out that it's hard to yell at him for using a word he hears thirty times a day . . . FROM HER! Alright, and from me too - occasionally!) I also pointed out that cursing at him, for cursing in public, was probably not the best approach.

She was not pleased with me.

To her credit though, she realized the silliness of the situation after about 15 minutes. She was really just worried about him being tossed from the program (not really a danger: the guy who runs it -and wrote him up- thinks he's a great kid and wants him to work there next summer as a CIT) The Wife is in no way comfortable with the idea of leaving the boy home alone and wants to make sure he has somewhere to be in the summer. I can understand that but I still say: "pick your battles". If you yell at him over little things, he'll stop listening when you're getting on him for major things. God knows, I could turn my folks off just like a radio tuner by the time I was a teenager . . . they sounded just like the adults from a Charlie Brown cartoon : "Wha-Wha-Whaa-Whaaaaaa . . ."

Of course, my chuckle-head of a son thought it would be really funny to make jokes of the situation once she'd calmed down, and almost got himself into real trouble for being a smart ass! The boy figgers all subjects can be turned to something humorous (Hmmmm . . . wonder where he picked that up?) and doesn't realize that it's not a good idea to poke fun at the angry Momma-Bear, even when she's trying to stay calm. Ah, the genius of a thirteen year old!

I gotta say though - some of what he said was pretty damn funny. The Wife (surprisingly) did not agree. ;-)


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Tao of Video Games

A lovely Wednesday to you all!

How goes it? I'm doing pretty well, with the exception of a pulled muscle or something in my back. Damndest thing - I was just turning around this morning to walk into my office and something in the middle of my back went "POP!!" Hurt like an SOB . . . thought somebody'd shoved a knife in me for a moment. Back injuries suck. You never know how much you use your back until it hurts . . . then the pain never stops! The only thing worse is getting the top of your bald head sunburned (trust me, I speak from experience here!) the top of your head moves when you talk, smile, chew, blink, etc. Not fun!

Got some work done on "First" today though not as much as I wanted. I actually did almost 1,000 words yesterday but I had to dump them all today (something I rarely do in first draft!) They were awful - well, not the words themselves, so much as the POV I was using. I know what has to happen but the way I was introducing it just wasn't working. It read terrbily, dragged, and -quite frankly- was almost impossible to write. I dumped the entire thing and started from an entirely different place and POV. It works much better now. Still, the time spent trying to fix it killed me so I only got about 500 or so new words but at least they're good words!

So, I've been playing an online video game with my boy the last week or so. It's very cool: we spend much time berating each other's characters and pointing out that our guy would have done TWICE as much damage as the other, fighting such a weak ass monster . . . you get the point. The Wife does not understand video games. I tell her it's a bonding thing but she doesn't buy it. She feels video games are a mindless waste of time (and some are, I admit!) but I think last night she finally got an inkling of why I enjoy playing them with the boy so much . . . See, the game itself is unimportant. What matters is the fun you have while playing it. I am an idiot (in case you didn't already know!) and I love to provide voices for the on-screen characters. My son (who is a junior idiot!) does the same. We have running jokes and ongoing conversations, all performed in character voices as we play these games. So last night, I'm in the middle of a running conversation with a tiny creature on the screen named "Chico" who's about to fall into a crevasse and I'm yelling at the top of my lungs (in a very cheesy mexican accent) "No, Chico, no! Don't go near de green slime! Jou gonna get all eaten up, man!" and my son is chiming in (as Chico, in an equally bad accent) "Oh, but is sooooo pretty! I want to swiiiim!" The two of us were laughing our butts off. What we didn't know was that The Wife was listening to us from the other room. She came in, shaking her head and laughing, to hug us both and say she loved us (even though we ARE idiots!) I think she finally understands what the video games are all about.

The games can be great ways to spend time with your kids and they are also great for letting your imagination run free. Sometimes, as a writer, I get entrenched in the rules and forms we need to work with and I forget about the joys of letting the imagination run wild. I love being able to fill in my own storyline to go along with someone's game. That's how the boy and I do every game. We create our own story line as we go, complete with dialog and background that we just spout out as we kill stuff. Hell, if nothing else, it's a great way to get comfortable with your dialogue skills! It's not mindless entertainment . . . it's an exceptional way of exercising the imagination (ya' know, while still being mindlessly entertaining!) I hereby order you to go play a video game with the nearest child under the age of fifteen you can find (Yes, mental age counts!)

Have some fun today, will ya? ;-)


Monday, August 07, 2006

Meandering Monday


Here's a strange thing for you all to consider: even Mondays don't seem quite as bad since I had my internal overhaul. Oh, I'm still no big fan of getting up early, leaving the family, and starting the weekly grind but this day seems to have lost its demonic conotations for me.

Great . . . now WTF am I supposed to blog about for the first day of the week???

Ah well, I'll figger something . . . lack of words has never been an issue for me (As The Wife will surely tell you!) It's one of the benefits of having a blog that isn't tightly focused on any one thing. Sure, I'm primarily dealing with my writing career (or lack of!) here but it's also about me, my life and my thoughts in general so I can just free form it. That keeps me from ever suffering "blog burnout". I try to chat with you folks who are brave (or foolish) enough to stop by here on a regular basis just as if we were sitting at a pub somewhere over a beer (ya' know - minus the slurred words, bad singing, and penis jokes!) I actually keep that mental image in my mind as I write this blog: me sitting and talking to a faceless someone (that would be you!) at a bar table. Oddly, there's always a nice fire burning in a large stone hearth just over your right shoulder and the place is done up in dark oak paneling. don't know why . . . just is! That image helps me feel comfortable throwing out personal observations. Like most males, I avoid discussing personal and emotional subjects unless I'm drinking with friends; hence the visualization. Sad, I know: but it works for me! :-)

The weekend was very busy. Did some running Saturday morning and put some new furniture together, then we were off to a family gathering that afternoon. It was my family this time around. I had fun: we don't get to see my family as much as we should so when we do get together I enjoy it. I had an oddly melancholy moment there though. I was talking to my oldest brother, John, and I noted how gray his hair was (what little bit he still has anyway!) and I realized that he's going to turn fifty this year. Christ! Fifty??? One of my chuckle-headed brothers is going to be fifty? Hardly seems possible. I remember Johnny being a skinny seventeen-year-old basketball god who used to take me to Dairy Queen in his Buick after my pop-warner football practices. I always sat in the back while his girlfiend-of-the-week sat next to him up front. A lot of the girls got annoyed at him having to pick me up and then stopping at the DQ with the little dink in the back. Johnny never minded though. He took me there and he bought me whatever I wanted. He was very cool that way. It's strange to think of him as being fifty. He's been married for twenty-five years, has five great kids, and hasn't been skinny in God-Only-Knows how long . . . but in my head he's always been that young kid who I looked up to. Strange, no?

I spent Sunday working on the yard (and it wasWAAAAAYYYY too hot here for that!) Between working inside the house and being on vacation, etc. , the yard was looking pretty bad. The Wife was afraid the neighbors might start calling us "The Clampetts" so I made a point of making us look presentable. The landscaping still needs to be trimmed and the sidewalks edged, but at least the rest of the place looks decent now. At the end of the day we were all whooped and ready for an early bed but then TCM put on "The Godfather" UNCUT last night. I made the mistake of putting it on and all of us were up late watching. The boy and I bailed after it was over but they were also showing Part II right after that and The Wife stayed up to watch ". . . just the beginning!" of it . . . I have no idea what time she went to sleep last night!

No writing over the weekend but I'm pretty sure I'll get some done today. I have that "writerly" feeling working inside me today! :-) Stop back in tomorrow and I'll let you know how it goes!


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Epiphanies and Such

1,400 words on "First" today. Good words too. It was a high point moment in the story, where the MC finally thinks he has found the resolution to all his problems and everything seems like its going to work out well. He's wrong of course; it's all about to hit the fan but he doesn't know that (so don't tell him, 'kay?)

In comments on yesterday's post, SRH said:

"I know when my self discovery epiphany hit me, what prompted this in you? I am just curious, and I understand if it is something you do not wish to answer. These things are sometimes intensely personal "

Hell, this blog is all about the personal so I figured I'd answer that as best I can. Bear with though, because I'm not sure there was a single "defining" moment.

I've been feeling like I was on the wrong path in my life for a while now, at least on a personal level. The family, job, etc., are all good but i wasn't feeling good about myself and my place on this here giant mudball of a planet. I was already looking for some type of answer I guess when my car accident happened. It took a split second and it was over before I'd barely realized it was happening. My car was completely totalled and I walked out of the ride without a bump or bruise. Now, you might think I had my epiphany then . . . that I realized the fragility of my life and how quickly things can be taken away . . . Nope. Oh, maybe something of that passed through me but I think the real change came a few moments later, when I called my wife on the cell phone to tell her what happened. See, while I was standing there inspecting the damage, phoning the cops, and calling the guy who hit me an A-hole (I didn't really, but I wanted to!) I was thinking about one thing: the huge fight I was going to have with The Wife when she heard I'd wrecked the brand new car we'd had for only a year. I was dreading it and I had half worked my way into an outraged snit over it by the time I called her. I was all ready for the ensuing argument but a strange thing happened . . .

She didn't give a crap about the car. Didn't ask about the damage, or how we'd fix it, or afford a new car, or even ask how the accident had happened. All she wanted to know was that I was alright. she kept asking again and again "Are you okay? You're sure you're not hurt?" She kept cutting me off whenever I tried to talk about the accident. That was all she cared about. Now, I know this sounds very stupid. Any normal person would expect that response from their spouse but in case you folks ain't figgered it out yet: I ain't exactly normal. See, for years I've thought of myself as an extra player in my family . . . kinda useful to have around but not really important, ya know? I'd been a little resentful about that, thinking that my wife would be just fine if I kicked it and she could collect my insurance money so she could go out and start dating Sven, the Swedish Ski Instructor ten minutes after they buried my ass.

I know . . . you're asking: "Where's the epiphany here?" Well, it was simple enough . . . I realized that it wasn't The Wife who had a problem with me, it was ME who had a problem with me. I finally understood that I am really important to her (and she's going to slap me when she reads this for not knowing that all along!) and not just someone she got stuck with. Can you all say: Low-Self-Esteem? Having her be concerned only about my welfare made me realize that I'd been looking at a whole lot of things back-asswards. After that, I was camping and I had a lot of time to sit quietly and look up at the stars, considering my own life and my place in the universe. Somewhere in all that thinking I hit some type of conclusion that gave me a much better view of who I am and who I want to be. I accepted that most of my problems in life come from my own fears and not from other folks as I've always thought.

I don't know if that answers SRH's question, or if the entire explanation makes any sense at all but it's the best I can do right now. I feel like I'm just starting out on a new found trail . . . it may lead somewhere wonderful, or it may be a small loop that dumps me right back where I started. I don't know which, but right now I'm excited about it and I like the way the trees are looking on either side.

Oh, and BTW: I want to read the story of your epiphany, SRH! It'll give you blog material for tomorrow! ;-)


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

On the Inside

First off, thanks to everyone for the "Welcome Back"!! I was afraid you'd all wandered off to find more entertaining pastures during my abscence. Oh, and Lynn, my first official fan, now has her own blog, called "Spilling Ink in Public" (cool name!) which I have linked to over on the side. Just wanted to bring that out from the comments and onto the front page.

So, I had a 2,800 word day on "First" today . . . and it was fun! Seriuosly, I just started writing without setting any limits, deadlines, or goals. All I wanted to do was just let it flow and have fun while I was doing it. That worked nicely. It felt really good to just let it all go at the speed it wanted and in the direction it wanted. I stayed within my outline but I still got some real unexpected results. That's what makes this gig so cool, ain't it?

So SRH says he's interested in seeing what the "interior" changes I've gone through recently are. Shit, dude, that makes two of us! I don't know what they are really, except that I feel calmer inside right now than I have in many, many, years . . . mayber calmer than ever in my life. Generally speaking, I have always been a pretty stressed guy on the inside. I've always been good about staying calm where folks can see but inside . . . volcano waiting to go all BOOM and stuff!!! I have never liked myself very much and I've always been disappointed in what I've accomplished in my life. somehow I keep feeling that I should have been more, should have done more . . . I always felt like a fraud; that I was playing a charade. I had to make everyone think I was a succesful, hard-working, guy with his head on straight and solid plans for any eventuality.

Guess what?

I'm not.

I'm a friggin' chuckle-head who is stumbling along trying to do the right thing as best I can. I screw up (a lot, just ask The Wife!) I fail, and I have no better idea of how to run my life than anyone else. Right now, I'm alright with that. For some reason, the competitiveness that I've always had with myself seems to have gone away and I am looking at things in a much more relaxed light. Even the rampant insanity at work doesn't seem to bother me all that much. I just take one thing at a time, do it , and let the other stuff wait for when I can get to it. I'm not killing myself anymore trying to get everything done at once. Same is true in my regular life. I'm just doing what I can and not sweating the rest of it. The problems will still be there tomorrow . . . I can stress over them then.

See, I have a great family, and a good life. I'm not in need of anything and I can afford to get most of the toys I want, when I want. That's not too shabby for a schmuck who was on his own at 14 and never graduated high school (story for another day!). Believe it or not I've just come to realize that over the last few weeks. The voices in my head were so loud and intent on screaming: "More, More! Faster and Farther!" that I never took a moment to stop and see where I actually was. Do I want to go further? Sure I do . . . that's part of life, I guess. Only the dead are satisfied, but I think I want to stop running and start strolling through life for a bit. I have this nagging feeling I've missed a lot of really cool stuff along my way because of how fast I was running.

Yea . . . walking for a bit will be nice.