Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Sister's Cats Had A Trip to the Vet

After some surgery, the cats are doing fine. Nothing too serious. But, one thing was Massimo had to get his butt shaved to clear out all the matted tangles in his fur. He looks like a poodle.

Diva is not a fan of having her picture taken. "Me iz not redy fr closeup!"

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


There will be pictures of a shaved cat, soon.

At the moment, however, I have to go attend to cats and cat-like affairs.

But, tomorrow, there will be shaved cat pictures, and everybody loves a shaved cat.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A thought...

Two consenting adults decide they want to be the ones to define their lives, in a manner that causes absolutely no harm to any other living being on the planet, and to make their families in their own way and on their own terms.

However, because some folks' religions do not believe that what those consenting adults are trying to do is in accord with some holy books, some folks vote overwhelmingly to stop it. The people they just stopped are *not* members of the church. Thus the community has imposed a religious viewpoint upon another community with no unifying religion to speak of.

Thus, something that causes no harm to others is illegal. People are not permitted to create the defining terms of their own lives.

I'm not talking about gay marriage. I'm talking about children with silly haircuts.

In Mesquite, TX, it is illegal for children to have silly haircuts.

Adults should be allowed to define silliness for themselves.

Also silly, gay marriage's illegality.

The New Year is coming soon. Will this be the year where gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered couples are permitted to give their children silly haircuts in Mesquite, TX?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

On Writing: "Araby" Problems...

I've been plugging and chugging hard on a very difficult short story for me to write, and I think I got it and I think it will get sent out soon. However, the problem I had with writing it, and a difficult thing to write, is the moment when a character realizes something without any predicated stuff. The realization rises out of the subconscious, and changes the course of the plot.

Obviously, this sort of plot point is quite point is quite difficult.

I refer to them as "Araby" problems. In James Joyce's short story, "Araby" the main character has his climactic epiphany in the shop, holding the object that he intends to give to his young crush. He realizes, in a flash, that buying the object, and giving it to the girl will do nothing for his chances with the girl. He puts the object back and goes home.

It works in Joyce.

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror is not a place where internal monologue is welcome. Inner looks upon the gears of the character's mind are not nearly as much fun as, for instance, betrayals in a multi-versal battle at the end of time.

Generally, it is better to write an action that is unexpected followed by a character reveling (or hating) the results.

Sometimes, stories come along that do not have that possibility, and you face an "araby" problem. Then, you have to find some way to sell the audience on a sudden and unexpected revelation.

One "Araby" problem is quite enough to make for a difficult story. This particular story I have been wrestling, alas, has more than one of those difficult moments.

We'll see how successful I am.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Whatever happened to gold stars?

Remember when you were a kid, and you did good, and you got a big gold star on the bulletin board? That was awesome.

You know what the internet needs? A gigantic bulletin board, with everyone's name on it. Then, when you do something good, someone gives you a gold star. Shiny, and golden and happy and fun.

A big, giant bulletin board, with everyone's name on it. And gold stars.

Friday, December 26, 2008

My Mom Got a Wii...

I've wanted a Wii for a while. However, since I've also been wanting to be a writer of fictions, I avoided temptation to pick one up. For Christmas, my Mom picked up a Wii for herself.

Here's the genius behind Wii. My Mom can pick up the console because she wants to play Wii Bowling, and shoot at stuff with Link's Crossbow Training ( her, she just wanted something to squeal when it dies. It didn't matter if it is a Skeleton-faced Monster, or a Deer, or Anything, as long as she gets to shoot something and hear it die. I totally agree with Mom on that one. Shooting targets is not as rewarding as shooting the hobgoblin thingums that keel over squealing.)

Wii is brilliant because it acquired the attention of a casual gamer, like my Mom, who never really wants to spend more than a few minutes at any one game.

Because of this, my Mom also picked up Force Unleashed, not a casual game, because she wants me to have something fun to play, too, when I'm over there. I am a dedicated gamer, who would blow all of his life playing video games if I had less self-control.

In short, Wii console designers are brilliant. By embracing more than just the hardcore gamers (I'm looking at you PS3), the company will expand it's marketshare and expand the number of hardcore games that sell, as well, since more households will have Wiis.


Also, let me just say that Wiis are extremely fun. Bowling is fun. Boxing is fun. Link's Crossbow Training is fun.

The Force Unleashed is fun, too. It isn't the perfect lightsabre game, however, being able to actually, physically swing the Wii control increases my pleasure when slaughtering my enemies with my lightsaber.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas! Have some alien conspiracy theory while I'm busy hitting the egg-nog!

I know you woke up early, jumping on your family members' beds to rush downstairs and shout "It's Christmas! Let's check J M McDermott's blog to unwrap what he has given us!"

I have, for your perusal, an interesting alien conspiracy I encountered somewhere on the web.

Merry Christmas! Peace on Earth! Goodwill towards all Living things, and ghosts.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

बेस्ट मोविएस २००८!

I watched a lot of movies this year. Almost none of them were in theaters. Most of them were courtesy of the library. At the library, new and recent releases are often watched within an inch of their existance. And, to be perfectly honest, the words "Criterion Collection" really are synonymous with "You are about to see a brilliant movie that will blow you away!"

My favorites this year, watched this year though certainly not made recently, are as follows:

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Thinking more about kitschy chess sets...

Right, so you know how when you see nifty, kitschy chess sets, like a Star Trek chess set where Kirk stares down the evil Klingon Empire, or Gandalf faces off against Mordor, or Autobots take on the Deceptacons?


Notice how all the "good" teams are white chess pieces, and the "bad" teams are all black chess pieces?

In chess, white is evil. White moves first. White is the aggressor.

Black is the defender. Black is the besieged. Black is the good.

What I want for Christmas.

This is what I want for Christmas more than I have ever wanted anything for Christmas.

I want this more than little girls want ponies.

Two things I love, put together BRILLIANTLY!

(I'll probably be staring at this chess set, drooling, for, like, hours.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Because Christmas Carols Mostly Suck.

I vote that we add David Bowie songs - specifically, all of them - to the official list of Christmas Carols.

Come on, folks, tell me this tune doesn't kick Silent Night in the gonads.

Because it does.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tell me the story I'm telling...

Right. Here's a series of pictures, courtesy of my webcam, wherein I am making facial expressions to commingle with the story I am telling.

Please, illuminate the blog-o-sphere with your version of this story. Demarcate each new part of the story with the appropriate number.






Thursday, December 18, 2008


"With the boss gone, do you think we might call of this whole foolish, endless war, Mr. Dwarf?"
"Frankly," said Mr. Dwarf, "The only reason I never mulched you was because the boss was around, bailing you out at the last second. Prepare to die, orc scum!"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Abandoned Prose...

(Author's Note: I'm pre-dating a bunch of blog entries, because I'll be busy for a while, so don't expect me in the comments for at least a few days...)
Whenever I don’t know the answers to something important, I create a mad lib, and visit my brother in his halfway house. My brother is extremely autistic. He didn’t learn to speak until he was eight. By the time he was nine, he played the viola better than I could do anything, ever.
In his special, autistic kid, school, they liked to encourage kids to think creatively, because autistic kids don’t think creatively very well. They used mad libs. My brother demonstrated an uncanny knack for choosing words that were perfectly suited for the missing place in the essay. What I mean is, if the blank space indicated the place where Abraham Lincoln was born, my brother would volunteer the correct city without any other prompting besides, “Give me a city.”
If anyone tried to give the “wrong” answers, my brother got angry and violent. He insisted on every blank space in the mad lib containing the “correct” word. No one could ever explain to him why choosing the correct word in the space was the wrong answer. No one could ever understand how he did it. They did a special feature about him on 60 Minutes, once. He wasn’t photogenic, I’m afraid. His skin is deadly pale. We keep his head and eyebrows shaved because he liked to pluck the hairs out one by one if we let anything grow in. He’s pudgy, and soft all over, and as pale as he is, he looks like a peeled potato. His trick didn’t come across as miraculous. It was kind of creepy, like listening to a Ouija board predict an afterlife of pain and despair. My brother’s eyes, always squinting in his pudgy face, and always looking away. He was only moderately capable of human speech, on a good day. He had to be reminded to speak up. He didn’t like repeating himself, and was quick to become violent. The correspondent tried to do a mad lib with him, but he cowered in the camera, and didn’t want to speak up after half the mad lib was completed.
He’s all grown up now, but he’s too much for my mother, and too much for me. He lives in a halfway house. My mother visits him, weekly. I don’t think he cares if I visit him or not. I don’t feel guilty for only visiting him when I want answers. [/quote]

Never could figure out a way to get the idea to turn into a story, alas. Mayhap I'll come back to it, later. Mayhap, not.

*cough* And, as of today, I am officially 29. I only get to be twenty-something for 364 more days. I can't help but shake the feeling I've mostly squandered my twenties. I wrote some stuff, true, and I traveled a lot. But, I wonder at all the nights I spent goal-less, channel surfing, working in dead-end jobs for people that would be perfectly indifferent if I didn't show up, or women that were only dating me out of curiosity, or hanging out with friends that cannot take the heat of my excessively passionate life.

Hm... You know, I wish I had spent more time reading this last year. Also, I wish I spent more time in Austin, Houston, or New York.

Anyway, Happy Birthday me. Wherever I am.

(I write this at my mother's house, at her kitchen table.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

cool things in the mail yesterday!

In the mail, yesterday, I recieved two super-cool items. One was my free starter kit of Magic:The Gathering cards that Wizards of the Coast gave away via their website recently. Man, I used to *love* that game. I don't know what happened to all my old cards, and I don't have anyone to play the game with. But, now I have two ready-to-play decks if anyone wants to learn the game.

Also, I got the latest issue of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I expect all of you to buy a copy of my book and give it to a friend as your present to me. Also, cake. And, whiskey.

Here's photographic evidence of what I speak.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I know what you were wondering...

Who would win in a fight between Chuck Norris and David Carradine?

Answer: *Everyone*

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I'm busy. Watch this neat video about making one of my favorite movies, ever. Quality is so-so, but the whole video (parts 1 through 6) is posted up on YouTube, and it is fascinating and neat to watch the deeply well-thought-out, heavily stylized fantasy puppet realm in a half-formed state, swarming with human life and energy.

Friday, December 12, 2008

वोके up... स्टार्टेड working... वेंट back to बेद...

I woke up this morning, I started working. About an hour later, I was cold, and I thought I'd lie down for just a second to warm up.

Next thing I know the cats are assaulting me because I hadn't fed them yet, and it was noon.

Gots to get caught up. I leave you with this video, that is dream-like in many strange and beautiful ways.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cursed by the Wall

Still determined to write about the Berlin Wall, Titisee, and whatnot. Still not quite getting it right...


We were artists, back then. We smoked menthols and tobacco pipes and weed and American cigarettes by the handful. We drank too much vodka and absinthe, laughingly called our beverage the Berlin blast. We – all of us – looked at the Wall as if it were one big canvas to paint on. Tomas kept spray paints in his trunk so he could always stop and doodle on the wall in bright colors whenever he parked near the wall. I kept spray paint in my nightstand. If I couldn’t sleep, I snatched up what colors I found, and hurried to the wall. Carlos painted sesame street characters in scenes from German history in thick layers of housepaint he bought in bulk from a hardware store. Renata liked to make posters and glue them to the Wall. The thing was, this Wall was the line in theworld’s sand. We were the artists that lived in its shadow. It was our canvas, even when we were painting on a canvas in a studio in Paris. It marked our city. It marked our fears. It marked our imaginations.
We hated it, but we loved that it was there to be hated. We threw paint and art at the Stasi like hippies throwing vegetables at guns.
Zouhlika would never understand that about the artists. She was a waitress in a Greek restaurant where every course was an excuse to kill as many different animals as possible...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Words of the Day

Challenge for all you commenters and readers:

Write a sentence using the following words in a fun, exciting, and interesting way.




Aurora Borealis

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The most thoughtful post about publishing's Black Wednesday, for my monetized eyeballs...

If you don't know what "Black Wednesday" is already, and no, I don't mean "Black Friday", I mean "Wednesday" - then don't worry about this post. Go over to YouTube and watch a video about puppies being puppies.

Everyone else, though, here's the link to SFWA's Writer Beware blog on the recent events and what they mean, or could mean, as publishing moves forward:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Book recommendation...

I think this is the new book to pick up this month, by the way, amongst all you regular commenters and lurkers around these parts.

If you haven't seen this one, go check it out. I bet you'll like it. I sure did. New Weird is lurking across the epic fantasy landscape in such a compelling way. Soon there will be no separation between "New Weird" and "Fantasy" because all fantasy will be compelled to include New Weird elements. (You know, a person who has an ant colony inside her head, or a golem/zombie entity. Stuff like that.)

(Patrice, I swear your book is like right on top of my to-read pile, and I'll get it down before the end of the week, I promise!)

Determined to write about Berlin...

[quote] I staggered into a sleek express train at Zoo Station, like a clean eagle among the dirty pigeons of the Berlin subways. I was drunk as sin already, and I drank more on the train. I slept through the night, having nightmares. In the early morning hours, I heard the bells and the conductor announcing our arrival in Munich. I stumbled off the train, and on to another. I went from the mountains of Bavaria, to the mountains of the Black Forest, and to the old city, Freiburg.
I took a cab at the Freiburg train station, dirty and hungover like death walking, to Tomas’ little hideaway flat in a building his father owned for years, in the old part of the city where the cobblestone and the cathedral and the late-medieval buildings had attracted tourists looking to walk through history.
Tomas was fabulously wealthier than us, his friends, and he always seemed guilty about it. We never held it against him. It’s not his fault he was born into obscene luxury and not into blue collar squalor like the rest of us. We would have loved him poor because he was an amazing painter and a good friend. His art was fantastic, and his heart was generous. He converted three of his family’s old buildings into gallery space, and he’d let us use them to show our stuff. He let us borrow his little hideaways – like this one in Freiburg – when we had to slough off a filmy skin collected over the soul: bad relationships, too many drugs, or a rut of too many late nights with no work done.
I had accumulated a veil of all three. I had shown up at Tomas’ house to get a ride to his latest exhibition of his brilliant canvases. I reeked of absinthe. My hands trembled from the heartbreak all over my face. He let me in. He fed me Tandoori chicken. He poured espresso into me until I seemed human enough to take a shower. When I came out, he told me I should go to Freiburg for a while. He’d meet me there when his exhibition was over and check up on me. He never asked me what happened to the woman that was supposed to come with me that night. He didn’t need to.
I borrowed some of his clothes - mine were filthy – and together we went to his gallery opening. Tomas was a fabulous painter. He was better than me, I’ll admit it. He sold four canvases in an hour at a price my work would never match. All of the canvases were bright and vibrant celebrations of life, just like the graffiti you could find all over the Berlin wall at the time. I basked in his bright shadow while everyone congratulated him for his work. Afterward, he couldn’t help but smile all the time, even while I was miserable, and I couldn’t help but smile for him, too. We went to a bar near Zoo Station where you could see the Wall spreading off left and right from the windows of the bar, and the other nation beyond it. Tomas matched me beer for beer. He dragged me to the station. He placed an envelope in my pocket with the address and keys of his place in Freiburg. He helped me stumble onto the train, and placed my ticket visible in my lapel pocket so the conductor wouldn’t have to wake me up to punch my card.
I fell into the trains, to Freiburg.
I slept for a day as best I could with the cathedral bells thundering the hours a hundred yards from the window. I had drunk too much alcohol to enjoy the bells tearing through my skull.
After the second day, I had drank all the sodas and eaten all the canned and dried goods. I had to either leave the flat to find food, or starve.
I called Tomas from a payphone first, to tell him I was starving to death. Tomas said he was watching the news. A shopkeeper had died trying to cross over the wall. A sniper had shot the an from the sky out of a homemade hang-glider. The dead body in the glider crashed into West Berlin, and the brave man bled to death, smiling because he had made it across and he would die a free man with four bullet holes in his chest and neck, but free. Tomas said that I should have been there, to paint all that blood splattered over the Wall’s graffiti.
“Tomas, I’m not going to lie to you,” I said. “Things are getting dire over here, too. I think I’m about to starve to death. I’ve eaten all the food, and nothing is left. Soon, I will have to eat my own arm.”
“My old canvases are all in the closet. Strip them if you need them. Nothing I ever painted there was any good. Use anything you find. There isn’t a decent museum for miles, but the cathedral has some lovely, hideous stuff to steal in a pinch, and the Black Forest is straight up the mountain and goes for miles. Hike around. It’s good for your health. I’ll see you next month. I’ll bring Carlos and Theodora with me, and anyone else that can come. We’ll investigate your latest canvases. We’ll have a big party. You’d better paint something good, my friend. We’re all coming for you and we’ll kick your ass if your paintings are shit.”
“Do you think I could eat your old canvases if I boiled them long enough? You didn’t use any lead paint or metals, did you?”
“Be good, Johann. Don’t anger the neighbours with the sound of screaming.”
“Tomas, I love you like a brother. I want you to come visit me as soon as you can. Bring Tandoori chicken because I’m going to starve to death. Abandon art. Open a Tandoori chicken restaurant. You’ll make another fortune. Then, the rest of us can sell some paintings for a change and we’ll never starve.”
“Call me anytime, Johann. I hope you feel better soon.”
“Tomas, your gallery show was fucking incredible. I fucking love your paintings. I mean it. I can’t believe how many you sold in only one night.”
“Good-bye, Tomas. I’m going to paint a nice picture of the hang gliding man, for his family in East Berlin, in a Romantic style. He was so brave, but he should have picked a windier day. He should have waited for winter when the snipers get drunk to keep warm and can’t shoot for shit.”
“Good-bye, Tomas. I don’t know if I will paint anything. I have been cursed, you know, and everything I paint will be destroyed by the time I finish the canvas. That’s what she did to me, you know. She placed a curse on me.”
But Tomas didn’t hear that. He had already hung up the phone.
I gathered food and drink. I returned to the apartment. I sat in the darkness, listening to the bells of the night. I felt numb.
I considered painting Zoe. I wondered if it is what she wanted me to do when she cursed me. She wanted me to destroy her completely.
Cathedral bells tolled late morning like an invasion of angels. I woke up on the couch. Sunlight blurred against the gauzy white curtains that veiled the room. I covered my ears with my hands and two pillows. It wasn’t enough.

An untold number of drafts later - more than usual even for me - and I am determined to write about the Berlin Wall and the beautiful lake at Titisee.

So much abandoned prose, and all of it not quite right...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Continuing my pondering about bookstore design...

Since Indie Bookstores give you a chance to walk through the imagination of the community they serve, do the big chain bookstores give you a chance to walk through the imagination of the mainstream?

I don't necessarily think so. However, endcaps and those shelves in the middle of the aisle are probably as close to that as you're going to get.

Once you dive off the aisles, regional buyers likely adjust to their communities with the way that the ordering system works (i.e. books that don't sell are pulled in favor of new titles, and books that do sell are re-ordered when they sell, in the same quantities).

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Reason Indie Bookstores are Extremely Nifty #425

Independent bookstores reflect the inner life of the community that they serve. Imagine a BookPeople in Austin without that "lived-in" feeling of rough woods, rugged shelves, and the faint smell of sawdust, and it just isn't the same. BookPeople reflects the sense of style of the urban cownoy city it serves. Imagine Dark Delicacies without all the awe-inspiring horror movie memorabilia, and offering beers during booksignings. Dark Delicacies - a very awesome store, indeed, with some of the best litmag selection I've ever seen - reflects the horror readers of Burbank.

I'm at a new indie bookstore in Plano - don't ask what I'm doing in Plano, at this point, I'm not really sure myself - but I had some time and I was nearby, so I popped in to check it out.

The place screams Plano. It's over-styled. Everything is clean and glistening in stylish off-white and dark brown and metal. The shelves are arranged in odd ninety-degree angles here and there, as if placed by a Feng Shui interior decorator. The clean off-white walls and metalic touches contrast the deep browns of the store's furniture and shelves. I'm sitting in the cafe, and the tables and the benches don't work right. You see, some designer chose a bench that is low and squishy, paired with high, hard tables. I'm trying very hard to lift and extend my arms while maintaining my balance and posture comfortably in this seat. Really, this isn't the kind of place you'd want to sit and type chapters of a book.

Whilst at BookPeople, in their cafe, I typed an entire chapter, and it needed very, very little editing. Here, I'm concentrating on keeping my balance with my computer at such an odd, high angle between bench and table.

This place is over-styled. It doesn't feel like a bookstore as much as it feels like a place that turns into an exclusive four-star restaurant after dark, that humble scribblers like myself would be unable to get a table at, much less pronounce the menu.

I don't seem to belong here, alas.

Related note: my book was not on the shelf. BookPeople had three copies of my book in two different places.

Being in Legacy Books, I'm happy there's an indie book store in Dallas/Fort Worth. I dropped some Christmas-shopping cash here, because I believe that Indie Bookstores are going to save us when the blockbuster model of publishing implodes. We need about three more in town. One on Greenville Avenue, and one between TCU and Downtown Fort Worth. Also, I think the HEB-Airport corridor could easily support one.

I don't think I'll be coming back again to this store for a while, though. This is the kind of place where you could imagine ad execs shopping for business books to give to their secretaries, without any thoughtfulness whatsoever. Also, cookbooks. You could picture lots of cookbooks happening here. All of them written by people with TV Shows, and restaurants in places where people show up for lunch in very expensive business suits.

In short: it's so Plano. It's just so Plano. This store, like nearly every indie bookstore, reflects its community in design.

I feel like I'm standing in the imagination of your average Plano-ite.

Friday, December 5, 2008

busy busy... इन थे मेंतिमे, हियर's some writing process stuff for all you novelists out there!

I originally posted this to a message board I oft' frequent.

World-building, and outlining with Microsoft Excel:

I use Excel spreadsheets for outlining and for brainstorming.

For brainstorming, one merely fills out a series of cells with one's ideas. Since each individual cell can contain a very large amount of information, I can squeeze lots of ideas into a very small spot. I also - in cases of scientific trickery - already have an excellent calculation tool looking back at me. I can check the numbers even as I am reviewing my brainstorming notes.

After a good brainstorming session, one can usually find the ideas boiled down to what one is going to use by crossing off the things one is not going to use.

Now, you're ready to start outlining and filling in details.

Go to the bottom left, and notice that you have three pages open, and the ability to immediately make lots more pages of spreadsheet with mere clicks of your mouse. Go to the next spreadsheet, and choose the detail data that you need to think about next.,

The way an Excel spreadheet works, you get a long list of cells that extend down and across. Also, you get to write as much as you would like in each individual cell.

So, in cell A1, on page 1, I'll write something outline-y-data-ey like "Magic System". Then, on B2, I'll write out a spell that would be really cool, like "Spleen Explosion". In B3, the explanation of the spell "The magician uses a nifty poking object to deliver a magical insect into the enemy spleen, causing an explosion."

Notice, how the cells stay way close together, so I can pack a lot of information into a very small visual space.

I can fill this spreadsheet out as far as I would like to the right, and to the down.

Now, say I want to brainstorm a bit about different cosmologies that could interact with this cool magical system I wrote out. I go to the bottom left-hand corner, and open a new spreadsheet page. I can reference directly to the first spreadsheet cells as I fill things out. I can cut and paste cells, and manipulate things all over the place. I can fill up whole books of data, referencing - always - specific spots and corners.

I can put together a book of data that I can use as a "book of the novel" that is flexible and easy to click around and manipulate and play with.

In this method, I can also always extend new notes and discoveries off to the right indefinitely in any particular spot in my brainstorming/outliney/spreadsheet.

This kind of thing can also be used to set up my reference materials for certain sections. For example, in my second novel, I have a magical system based on Zen Koans and Taoism. I can put a direct link to the particular corner of the Gateless Gate, or the Book of Changes (Tao Te Ching...), where I am ganking spell materials. Then, as I'm working, and need to double-check something, I am one click of my mouse away from any website I need.

With this simple, and effective system, I am able to corral lots and lots of world-building and magic and plot and character into a small zone.

Also, I tend not to write linear narratives, and do not write linear scene-by-scene as I write a book. With my chapter outlines, I will often use the spreadsheet to mark off the plot points (each one in a single cell, extending off to the right on the page) by finding the cell next to the plot point and placing an asterisk. Thus, I have not lost any of my outline, but I am not visually distracted by information from a spot I've already written.

I have many more tricks and tips up my sleeve, but this is a tool I've put to much use and recommend highly to others.

And, most importantly, you will never, ever get to see my spreadsheets. They are only for my eyes. My editor doesn't get them. My agent doesn't get them. My mother doesn't even know they exist. If I have a specific problem I need to work out, I might take that here. However, I will not be expelling the contents of my spreadsheet to the wires. I will merely take one small spot and seek out advice/experts.

For instance, if I was having difficulty creating the best possible werewolf I could create - after much research on the subject, mind you - I might pop on here and say, "Hey, I am having difficulty choosing between an upright werewolf or a four-footed werewolf. What do you think the advantages or disadvantages of either wolf might be?" I will not reveal story information, nor will I weigh all opinions equally.

I hope this data is useful to anyone who has both Microsoft Office and a penchant for speculative fiction.

Excel is a very powerful tool, with many features that you will discover that can make your brainstorming and outlining a seamless, interesting process.

(Posted originally to this spot:

Right. Back to being an adult. Boo.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Is Black Wednesday Dan Brown's Fault?

Of course it isn't, says the economists who talk about a myriad of different things.

Still, here's this quote about struggling Doubleday:

"Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code,” failed to deliver his next novel, originally set for release in 2005. Jon Krakauer, author of the adventure hits “Into the Wild” and “Into Thin Air,” withdrew his book about Pat Tillman, the former football star killed in Afghanistan, originally scheduled for an October release."


Imagine how things would have been different if he had delivered that book and brought people into bookstores to buy it, and browse around a little, and maybe bring their kids who want a book, too, and maybe things turn around a little for the rest of us, just enough...

Our industry does seem to be built upon the backs of blockbusters, from what I can tell. When Blockbuster authors don't deliver and new Blockbuster authors can't be found quickly enough for that particular demographic of folk who don't buy but one or two books a year, and can't be bothered to browse a bookstore otherwise - can't be bothered to take that extra trip to the store with their kids.

If you want to do something nice for publisher's today, and help all those people who lost their jobs find new ones, the best thing you can do is to visit your local bookstore and pick up something you've been meaning to get but haven't gotten around to, yet. Go buy a book.

Buy one with every paycheck, and read it before you get your next paycheck.

Don't buy a used book, either. I mean buy a brand, spanking new book.

Feel free to drop into the comments and tell everyone what you bought, and where you bought it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I'm busy!

Sorry, folks, I'm a tad crunched right now.

However, I have an excellent solution for your reading needs.

Geoff Ryman (a notoriously excellent scribbler of all sorts of fascinating things) has a new story up at, so go read that instead.

I want to see that movie about Santa Claus rasslin' reindeer like a Lapland cowpoke, for sure. And that's just the beginning of the awesome things therein.

Monday, December 1, 2008

ओह नो!

Alas, Horatio failed to bring suitable pickles to the dumpster behind the Benbrook library, and he did not include any poetry magazines.

Only the left half of my body will be released at this time, by the bad poetry bats. I am being held half on a roof, bound and chained, and half off the roof, dangling in the air.

Supposedly this is what the bats refer to as "poetic justice". I do not find it poetic, just, or even remotely pleasant.

I hope this temporary pickle poem problem will be resolved by Horatio, before I am forced to endure more bad poetry justice.