Blog Archives

The new new problems

The biggest problem I have with writing these days is that the time I feel most able to really sit down and work on something is about the same time I need to be putting on my shoes and going to work. Seriously, that flurry of activity over the weekend started when I woke up early Saturday morning and took a notebook out for coffee. 

Apparently in my brain the best conditions for writing are an early start and hot beverages. 

It carries over, though. Every morning this week I’ve wanted to write something. Like I’ve got it moving again now and want to keep at it before I lose momentum. I’m posting this from my phone while I’m on the bus just to try to keep that going. 

Unfortunately that’s really all I have just now, something to try to keep the momentum going. I have things I want to write about, but they’ll have to wait at least a little longer. 

Honestly, I might have managed something quick during breakfast, but I saw a headline that read something like 8 students burned to death for blasphemy and had to go find something soothing to look at. 

Thinking Influences Thinking

Looking over Pharyngula this morning I found that Professor Myers was answering another list of proclaimed questions atheists cannot answer. I was halfway thru when I decided that I wanted to blog my own answers, since I haven’t been writing much lately and apparently miss it. I decided this gradually as I read the list, there was no clear instant where I made up my mind, but I found myself comparing the first answer to pop into my head with the good professor’s, and finding substantial overlap. Enough that I started thinking I would have trouble keeping them from mixing in my head before I got them written down.

I stopped reading around question #4 and starting writing this instead. As so often happens, my mind wandered someplace interesting that I didn’t expect while considering the fairly mundane problem of eliminating bias from my writing.

My opinions may well have been colored by reading some of PZ’s responses before I wrote my own out, but while I was thinking about that it occurred to me that my responses have definitely been colored by his influence over the last five years or so, since I’ve started reading his blog.

PZ has been accused by several people of having a cult-like control over his regular readers, which may make him an unfortunate impetus for this line of thought. On the other hand, clearly his alleged mind-control isn’t too binding, since this is exactly the kind of thinking a proper cult leader would want to discourage! Read the rest of this entry

Writing exercises

So yesterday I picked up an app called “iDeas for writing”, (that’s how they capitalize it) and I’ve been playing with it from time to time all weekend. The concept is simple, it has several random generators for characters and story prompts, and then some exercises to stretch yourself with these tools.

I spent some time with it and a tablet of paper, and wrote a page inspired by a “first sentence” the app provided. Because I’m me, this short bit of creative writing required a nap to recover from.

So, here’s what I wrote.

The pirate thought about her again. She had been on his mind more than usual lately, singing in his dreams the way she used to sing in the kitchen.

He couldn’t really remember any of the songs she used to sing, but he could still hear her voice as clearly as his own.

He knew she would not be proud of the decisions he had made. But neither would she condemn him for them. He was sure about that.

The pirate shivered and tried to clear his head. She always came to mind right before a raid, since the very first one, but her memory haunted him more lately. He thought he knew why, too.

In the beginning there was little choice for him, trapped as he was between crime and starvation. He had done what was needed to survive. But things had changed since then.

His ill-gotten gains had built up to a tidy sum. It wasn’t the vast fortunes hoarded by pirates of legend, but it was enough. It was time.

Time for one last heist.

Time to retire.

That’s it. More a teaser than a story, but it was fun to make. I like the ambiguity of it, we know so little yet it still tells a story.

So there’s my ultra-short fiction for today. Maybe I’ll have more next weekend, who knows.
Next up, book reviews!

Hello blog, I’ve missed you.

Let me just blow the dust off, here.

If you’re wondering where I’ve been the past three months, I’ve been working 55 to 60 hour weeks. When you have as much trouble writing as I do, that doesn’t leave much time for blogging. But things have calmed down a bit now, so I should hopefully be able to post again from time to time.

If nothing else, there’s a lot of books I want to write about.

Speaking of books, here’s a cool thing! StoryBundle offers collections of books in epub format that you pay what you like for. The current offering is the “Epic Fantasy Bundle”, and it lasts for another ten days.

It really is epic, too! If you pay over $12 you get three bonus books. I paid $20, because I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my hard-earned overtime pay and frankly I often undertip.

The one I’m reading now is The Camelot Papers, which should win a prize for misleading cover art. I thought I’d be reading a farcical comedy, and while there are moments of dark humor, this really isn’t one. It is compelling, though, and so far I’ve enjoyed it. I’ll try to write up a proper review once I’m done with it.

Speaking of cool things, Evolution Expo is happening in Oakland this summer! It’s billed as “putting the science back into science fiction”, which is something I can get behind! I fully intend to attend, and you should too!

So, I’m back to writing again. No where near as often as 2012, but hopefully more than 2013. Coming soon, book reports and ultra-short fiction!

Writing from the Daily Prompt: Bookworms. Or, Recursive Writing About Writing.

One thing I would like to do more of is write about things other than what I’m doing or whatever news story or blog post has made me too angry to function. In theory the Daily Post’s writing prompts would be an excellent way to work on that, but in practice I tend to see them when I’m falling asleep or on a train or otherwise not eager to write. Last night I saw one that interested me & had the presence of mind to tweet about it, which means I had reminders this morning.

Something actually worked! I’m more excited about that than about the writing, to be honest. Anyway, here it is:

Grab the nearest book. Open it and go to the tenth word. Do a Google Image Search of the word. Write about what the image brings to mind.

I like the idea of using an image search, that was what made me want to do it so much. I’m also blogging this in real-time, so even if the result sucks I’ve already gotten a blog post out of it!  Read the rest of this entry

Remember that Post-A-Day thing?

Incidentally, I did the math and if I can write two posts per day I can still make my goal of 366 by the end of the year with a dozen to spare.

So that’s something. I’m way behind on my NaNoWriMo project, and I have far too many other things to do right now, but it’s good to know that this one is still within reach.

Now I just need to drop my standards enough to pull this stuff off while still getting everything done…

Novels of November

November is coming up, and that means National Novel Writing Month. Well, I’m thinking about it.

The thing is, pounding thoughts and ideas into words is such a long, difficult process for me that I’m pretty sure writing 2,000 words per day would amount to a full time job at least. Some of you may recall that in the first few months of this blog I was unable to make a quota of 1,000 words per week,

But then what would I really have to lose? I mean, at worst I just don’t make it. So far every little goal I’ve set in this blog has failed, even though the primary goal of improving my ability to write seems to be succeeding. What’s one more tiny failure?

Well, nothing, really. But I’m getting sick of tiny failures. I’ve had an awful lot of them this year, and they add up to more than their sum.

On the other hand, it’s not like I have a lot of self-respect to lose in this department. And I have too much time on my hands, I haven’t been busy enough to get anything done.

So I’m thinking about it. I’ll have to make up my mind tomorrow, or it’ll be made for me. But I want to sleep on it.

Falling off the wagon.

It’s been a while. Funny thing about people, they (or at least I) seem to get into a sort of inertia. Write every day, and it’s not too hard to keep writing every day. Missing a day is a stumble, but it doesn’t really change all that much. Once you’ve missed several days, or a week, you’ve lost your momentum and it’s much, much harder to get started again. 

This is my first post in sixteen days. It’s been surprisingly difficult to get started on it. But I’m moving again now, that’s something. 

The funny thing is, I haven’t been without stuff to write about the last two weeks. I’ve had plenty of ideas, they even seemed to work against me, colliding in my head so that I couldn’t sort them out enough to start writing one. 

Anyway, for the next few days I’m going to try for short posts, more than one per day. I’m also going to aim for lighter subjects, but I don’t really know how well that will work. We’ll see.

Although I won’t really feel confident about it until I’ve got a solid week of posts, I’m going to tentatively say that I’m back. We’ll see how long it takes me to get into the swing of things again, and how long until I write 1,200 words of rage finding a new and interesting way to insult congress.

Just punching the clock

It’s never easy to confront your weaknesses. In the movies it’s always played up as a big dramatic turning point to stand up and do that, and then everything’s okay. Facing them once makes them go away, and everything’s just fine in the epilogue and the music plays and the credits roll.

In the real world, that kind of personal change doesn’t happen quickly or all at once. It’s not one dramatic moment that shifts how you deal with the world instantly, it’s doing that over and over again. Sometimes it gets easier with repetition, and sometimes it doesn’t, it’s just as hard every time.

This blog is coming up on one year now, and I really don’t know if, on average, it’s any easier than when I started.

Each time I sit down to write here is unique. Sometimes I just bang out 500 words like they were already there just waiting to be typed, others I’m practically screaming with frustration by the second paragraph. I haven’t quite worked out what makes the difference.

Fiction is much, much harder than what I’m doing now, just sitting and typing whatever wanders into my head. It seems like the more structured something is, the harder it is for me to write.

I really should work on that space opera serial some more. The plan there is to have a very solidly developed setting and characters, and then totally improvise the story. I figure I could write one installment a week, or two weeks, or once a month, whatever, and just keep going until I write myself into a corner. Maybe if I just spend, say, 45 minutes every day going through my notes for it and adding a little to them I can be ready to start soon. I’ll give that a try.

Well, that’s all for tonight. Just some random thoughts. Maybe something more interesting tomorrow. Take care everyone.


It’s been a pretty intense week for me, and I ran into a problem today when I was trying to write. Everything I wanted to write about was so personal that I don’t feel comfortable posting it here. I scanned the greater blogosphere, but nothing jumped out at me as good writing fodder.

So I’ll just take a moment to ponder the boundaries of blogging in general and this blog in particular.

Read the rest of this entry

When your world surprises you

I’ve been world-building for my space opera setting today, and I had one of those strange moments where an unexpected consequence of the society I was making up caught me by surprise.

I’d decided that most interstellar travel is done by hyperspace lanes that work sort of like freeways. There are big space-gates that work like on/off ramps. You can’t get off one lane and go to another, you have to pass through the gate back to normal space and enter another one. So you have crossroads with maybe three of these hyperspace gates and a big space station where you can get fuel, supplies, repairs, etc. I imagine them being truck stops crossed with little port cities, with all the necessities and lots of ways to painlessly separate travelers from their money. Many of these crossroads would be extremely remote, the only permanent habitat in the system.

It occurred to me that I was building this as a world where spaceships aren’t terribly expensive, and you might have someone traveling in a secondhand capsule with a shoestring budget. What would happen to them if their vehicle had a mechanical problem? If they’re on the lanes, they can probably get help getting as far as the nearest station, but what if they can’t afford to repair it?

As the fees for storing their broken ship build up, their situation gets increasingly desperate. Perhaps the best move would be to recognize it and sell the vehicle straightaway. Otherwise you’re going to have to find an income very fast, in a place that probably doesn’t have a lot of job openings. If the mechanic puts a lien on your ship for non-payment, and successfully seizes it, you’re really in a bad spot.

It reminds me of Downbelow from Babylon 5. I could imagine many of those crossroad stations having populations like that. Since my setting includes an aggressive military power with imperialistic plans, there will probably be a lot of displaced refugees traveling in desperate situations. There could easily be really big populations of homeless people trying not to starve on the larger space stations.

It’s a chilling thought for a setting that I’d originally planned to be about as serious as your average Doctor Who episode.

Daily posting.

At the beginning of October I joined the Post A Day challenge. At the time I was wondering how long I could keep going. Apparently, the answer was “About two months”.

It’s a strange thing. Often I feel like my life, my hobbies, and even my personality is somehow subject to the laws of inertia. I find it very difficult to start doing things, but once I’ve started I don’t want to stop. Annoying, really, so many things would be much easier if I could just pick them up and work on them for, say, 45 minutes and then move on to something else. Such is life, I suppose; I doubt I’m the only one who feels that way.

Yesterday the Daily Post had a survey, and it asked an interesting question. “What is your personal system for blogging?” I didn’t really feel like I qualified to take that anymore, but I’m going to discuss it a bit here anyways. If nothing else, at least I’m writing. Read the rest of this entry

World building

I’ve been thinking of doing a weekly serial story. I want to do more fiction, which pretty much means I want to do any fiction at all, but I’m really bad at coming up with plots and stories and often it feels like the more I try to prepare before writing something the worse it comes out.

So I thought maybe I’d come up with some characters and settings, and then just make stuff up as I went. Add a chapter a week until I wrote myself into a corner. So I’ve been dreaming up stuff for a space opera setting and generally messing around all day.

I still don’t know if I’m actually going to try that, to be honest I think I have more fun dreaming up spaceships and cultures and strange new worlds than actually doing anything with them. But I can certainly think of worse ways to spend a Saturday.

Written Anonymously by Leo Tarvi

This seems to be one of those topics that cycles into the public consciousness every so often.

Topic #290:

Do you think Shakespeare existed? Or are there just to many plays and sonnets credited to him to be the work of one person?

The new film Anonymous questions his prolificity and his existence.

If you think these claims against history are a waste of time, why do you think they are periodically raised by so many people?

I remember this subject being discussed quite a bit fifteen or twenty years ago. I haven’t seen Anonymous but unless it presents something not known during the ’90s, some genuinely new discovery, it’s just another conspiracy theory.

As I recall back then, the argument consisted mainly of claims that we didn’t know as much about his personal life as we should (How much should we know?) and an alleged message coded into the inscription on his grave. A quick look at Wikipedia informs me that the first such claims were made in the 19th century based on the idea that only a nobleman could have written so much about court politics. Not very compelling stuff.

So why do stories like this continue to circulate?

I think mostly because it’s fun. Seriously, hidden messages on the grave, mysterious people writing enduring plays for the masses under a pen name, a centuries-old conspiracy revolving around one of the most influential writers in the history of the English language. It’s good stuff, really talks to the imagination. If you’re a writer of fiction you could use this as a base for great plots of intrigue and mystery. If you’re an imaginative person you could easily convince yourself that there’s something deeper to this sort of idle speculation.

A more cynical reason is that people can make a living promoting conspiracy theories. Take a look at the number of books published that are about some wild, unsupported claim. Aliens taught the ancient Egyptians to build pyramids, the World Trade Center was destroyed in a controlled demolition, NASA faked the Moon landings and/or is covering up evidence of alien life on Mars, just to name a few. Shakespeare is a tempting target because he’s long dead with no known descendents to defend him, and he’s a name that everyone knows.

It’s important for us to keep re-examining and re-evaluating history. (Also, it’s a very useful way of keeping historians busy, you really don’t want to let people with minds like that go around with time on their hands.) I don’t want anyone to read this and think that I’m opposed to the idea that we may be wrong about things we think we know about the past. New ideas about history should be carefully examined with a clear and open mind. But the burden of proof is on the new idea, and unless there’s something new that I don’t know about yet, the Shakespeare authorship question fails to carry that burden.

I really wish I’d had more time, I’d have tried to write this in iambic pentameter. Maybe next time. Have a great day everyone.

If only I could blog in my sleep

It often seems to me that the best times for me to write, the times when I’m most productive and have the least trouble getting stuff down, is either right after I wake up, or before I go to bed, both times when I’d rather be asleep. This seems to imply to me that the truly best time for me to write would be while I’m actually sleeping. Given the strange dream of half-buildings I had last night, I look forward to technology making this possible.

Yeah, I know. Look I agreed to write a post every day, I never made any promises about those posts being worth reading. It was either this or five pages of incoherent rant about protests and politics, and frankly I’m too tired for that tonight.

Walk Without Rhythm

So, here‘s what I got from the Daily Post today. It’s a fairly interesting post about rhythm in words, sentences and paragraphs. But I was intrigued by the very end, which I will repeat here:

Pay attention to which sentence configurations you find most appealing. What makes a given arrangement more appealing to you than another? Can you think of ways in which you might use different sentence lengths to accomplish different rhetorical goals?

If you’ve read, well, any of my writing, you’ll know that I like to use long, complicated sentences with lots of commas, purple prose, and sometimes digressions in the middle. Sentences that often could be acceptably split into two or more. Meanwhile, my paragraphs often have very few sentences, and sometimes could be reasonably connected to an adjacent paragraph. Read the rest of this entry

Everything’s a pain. It’s still hot, too.

Hopefully that title got all the whining out of my system for a while.

So in naive anticipation of cold weather, I’ve returned to the manly art of crochet. I’ve decided to start off this year’s projects with another scarf, partly because of my limited skill, but mostly because I like scarves. A big part of that is probably because I can only wear them comfortably when it’s genuinely cold, and I suspect I only really like the cold weather because where I live Summer lasts for eight solid months. Read the rest of this entry

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