Greetings and Salutations!

Welcome to the longest-running* yet least-read** blog on the internet! Here you'll find me writing about all the things that I write about, which strikes me, just now, as somewhat recursive. In any case, enjoy :)

* not true
** probably true

Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday

...is, unfortunately, for marking papers.

In other news, have I mentioned that I like sitting on grass? Yesterday during a break, I sat down in a little grassy patch by the MRT station (garnering a few odd looks, but meh) and thought a bit about The Blade That Whispers Hate and the plotting problems I've been having with that one.

And I think I have a least part of a solution.

In other news, I'm supposed to be writing faster. I see the point, but I'm stuck with my pace, and my pace is what it is. I'm also supposed to learn from failure. Oh, believe me, I've an Ivy League education in that. :)

Enjoy your Friday, peeps.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

WIP Wednesday

Taking a page from Aaron Polson, I thought I'd try something new on Wednesdays. Wednesdays- very long days for me. I leave the house at 8 am, and get back at 10 pm. Maybe WIP Thursdays would be a better idea, but then I don't get the alliteration.

So, I'll introduce one of my works in progress every Wednesday, give you an excerpt, a brief idea of what the story is (supposedly) about, and some indication as to why it is not yet a completed work. Then you, Dear Readers, can kibbutz in the comments if you are so inclined :)

The inaugural Wednesday WIP is entitled Kissing the Blade. It is a fantasy short story that is already over 14,000 words long:


The thing shrieked as it flew at him in a savage burst of motion. Caida caught a blurred impression of leathery wings, gray, side-slitted eyes, and then it was on him. He had no time to bring his weapon to bear; the thing had trapped his sword and his right arm, still gripping the hilt, between bodies as it grabbed him up in a bear hug. Talons ripped into his back. Chilling dead eyes bored into his from dark, leathery, humanoid face devoid of any emotion Caida could read.

It hissed something at him, two words. Again it hissed them. Again. And then Caida slammed his forehead against the creature's nose with enough force to splinter cartilage and send it reeling away from him, talons gouging furrows in the flesh of his back. Ignoring the agony, he brought his sword around in a whistling arc that terminated at the crook of the thing's neck and parted its head from its body in a spray of rotting blood.

The head tumbled down the ravine while the body, wings spastically twitching, toppled slowly backward.


This one is still a WIP because I've no real idea how it's going to end, the bad guys are made of cardboard, and it's bloated. On the plus side, I like the main character (a sword-monk) and the setting well enough. but out of 14,000 words, I think about 5,000 are salvageable.

Nevertheless, Caida is still my man, and I'm hanging in there with this one, waiting for inspiration to strike.

Ok, tired now. Night-night.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Some nice things said

Over at Horrortalk, Steve Pattee had some nice things to say about the Pill Hill Press anthology Flesh & Bone: Rise of the Necromancers -- including my short story therein.

Thanks, Steve!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Another excerpt

So Anthony asked me some time ago about when I was going to write a sequel to Thagoth. As I mentioned previously, there are several bits and pieces floating around, sequel and prequel and short story. I thought I might share a bit of the prequel, The Blade That Whispers Hate. In this scene, Holgren the mage gets to act like a bit of the bad-ass he is:


In a place like the Cock’s Spur, they don’t even bother putting out chairs or benches that don’t face the door. Nobody wants their back to any trouble that enters. As I came through the door, a couple dozen pairs of eyes skewered me. Well, except for the one hairy brute that had lost a beady, pig-like peeper somewhere, and in the not-too distant past, judging from the puss weeping out of the socket. He really should have considered an eye patch; if not for himself, then at least for anyone forced to look at him.


After a heartbeat, all the eyes slid right off me onto Holgren, which gave me faith in the fetish he’d given me. Or maybe it was the quality of his clothes. I heard Holgren sniff behind me.

“What’s that smell?” he murmured.

“I think they’re brewing ale.”

“Oh. I thought it was cat urine. Is it supposed to smell that way?”

“Maybe the house recipe calls for cat piss.” I’d heard of stranger ingredients, if not less disgusting. Bludgeoned roosters and the like. There was a reason I generally stuck to wine.

“I find myself appallingly unthirsty,” said Holgren.

“Come on, let’s brace the bartender.”

“About the ingredients?”

“About the owner.”

“Good idea. Take your complaint to the top, I always say.” Holgren was nervous. He joked when he was nervous, I’d finally figured out. That Holgren was nervous made me nervous. Which made me pissy. I strode over to the bar along the left-hand wall where the tap man was pushing a filthy rag along the filthy bar top.

“When you’re done rearranging the dirt, I want to speak to Gavon.”

“Ee innt ear,” the spindly man said, or something like it.

“Sorry, could you speak a human language?”

He hawked and spat. “Gavon’s not ‘ere.”

I lifted the heavy satchel to the bar top and lifted the flap so he could see. “Get him here, and soon, or I’ll let everybody in the place have a look at this. If I do that, they’ll try to take it away from me, and then me and my friend will have to kill them all. That won’t be good for business.”

He stared at me for a second. “You couldn’t take um all.”

“If they take Gavon’s gold, it won’t matter if we could or couldn’t. Not to you, anyway, because he’ll kill you for pissing around instead of minding his business.”

He thought about that. “That’s a point. Stay ‘ere.”

He drifted up a set of decrepit stairs into the gloom above. Three of the bigger patrons seemed to take that as a signal for opportunity. They got up and walked toward Holgren and me, bad intent written all over their faces. I slipped a knife into the palm of my hand, but Holgren stepped between me and them.

“Gentlemen,” he said, purple light suddenly arcing from hand to hand, “the tap man will be back shortly. I’m sure he’ll see to refills then. Until such time, I suggest you remain seated.”

Two of them saw the sense in that. One, a lean man with enormous hands, fingered something under his shirt. Some sort of talisman. I could see him deciding to place his faith in it.

“Why, I just wanted to have a word, all private-like,” he said. “You being newcomers to this fine establishment and all, I thought—” and the knife came from his waist and towards Holgren’s throat in a blur of reflected lantern light.

Holgren was quick, quicker than I would have given him credit for. He twisted away, and the knife blade kissed his earlobe on its way to being buried in the wall behind the bar.

The man wasn’t waiting to see if his blade would do the job; he was already rushing in with those big hands clenched into fists. Holgren put his own hand out, palm forward, and that purple arcing light leaped from his hand to the would-be killer’s face. Where it began to gnaw at the flesh like a hungry animal. In an instant I could see the man’s teeth through a hole in his cheek. He screamed and stumbled, and clawed at his own face. He fell to the hard packed dirt floor and screamed some more. Holgren fingered his cut earlobe. His hand came away red. He pulled a handkerchief out of his sleeve.

“That’s enough, mage.” A voice from the stairs, mild, a little high pitched. I glanced up and saw a supremely nondescript man drumming his fingers against the railing, the tap man behind him.

“He started it, Gavon.”

“So finish it, Angrado.”

“Fine.” Holgren did nothing that I could see, but the weird light playing on what was left of the man’s face winked out. The man stopped screaming. I glanced at him, then took a double take. The only wounds on his face were the claw marks he’d made himself.

Holgren leaned down, elbows on knees, and said conversationally, “That trinket around your neck has never been within a mile of a mage. Until tonight.” Then he stood and walked toward the stairs. After a second, I followed.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Disturbing trends

I've had this blog since 2005, and much of the early focus was on Singapore and things Singaporean. Some of the posts were funny (and some nearly as funny as I thought they were as I wrote them), and some were serious.

Now it's 2011. Looking at the stats that blogger has (finally) helpfully added to blogs, I notice that on a daily basis, people stumble onto this blog using variations on two search terms:

  • what to do last day at work
  • singapore racism
Now both of the posts relevant to these searches were written in 2005, so if people were looking for timely rather than timeless advice, they were sure to be disappointed. But honestly, thats not what disturbs me. It's the thought that (a) lots of people have found they're out of a job and (b) lots of people are experiencing racism in Singapore.

It makes me worried, and a little sad.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

They say 'zombie lover' like it's a bad thing

So I spent like five hours at Singapore General Hospital yesterday, where they did lots of tests and scratched their heads and made me lie down on a gurney and stuff. Lungs ok. Blood sugar ok. 14 different blood tests, all that came back was 'slightly elevated white blood cell count'. Heart seems ok, but have an appointment with a cardiologist. Guess we'll see. My guess is I'll soon be turning into a zombie. You guys will still love me even if all my  posts are like "MMMRGH OUUUFTH BRAAIYNZZZ" right?

Right?


Anyway, I'm glad I brought along something kick-ass to read while waiting yesterday:

 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Zen-like detachment, part one

I used to fuss over every word I wrote, but especially the first paragraph. I'd agonize over word choice and word order. I would spend as much time polishing as writing, which meant, I'm afraid, that I spent a lot of time polishing turds. I wouldn't say it was an obsession, but it was a preoccupation.

Why? Because I couldn't get this image out of my head of an editor, pipe in hand, opening the manila envelope containing my story, reading the first paragraph, shaking his head sadly and saying 'So close. If only he'd said it a slightly different way."

Things have changed. I've changed.

It's not that I have no interest in writing a great opening paragraph. I have written and perversely enjoy writing beginnings far more than I enjoy writing 'the end.' What has changed is that I no longer write to be published, on a psychological level, but to explore stories and themes and to follow an odd idea to its conclusion.

Once you stop caring about rejection, once you detach yourself from what happens to the story after you finish it, you are free to do, literally, anything in and with the story. And then you're free to re-do it until you have something that says exactly what you want it to say.

And that, my friends, engenders a far more powerful feeling than any acceptance letter I have ever received.

Writing news & plans & suchlike

  • One of the stories that I mentioned would be published in an anthology will now not be. It was a last minute replacement for another tale. Didn't work out. I had a feeling about it (scrunches up face).
  • I am so gonna finish and polish up The Crimson Witch to submit to Sword & Sorceress XXVI.
  • Tomorrow I go see the doctor to find out why I have been dizzy/short of breath for more than a week. Well, another doctor. The first one basically said I had gas. Then he asked for payment in chickens. 
  • Put your hand down, Alligator. I didn't even ask a question this time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sex sells

No, really. Erotica sales on kindle are through the roof, apparently.

I can find no concrete data on Amazon's sales figures (and yes, I've looked, though not exhaustively), but one of the things I've turned up in my research is anecdote after andecdote of authors comparing their erotica sales (or the sales of their 'friends') to their non-erotica sales, and apparently it's like 100-1.

Maybe I should change genres? And think up a groovy pen name?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Some good news

I'll be having a couple of short stories coming out in anthologies this year.  As I have more info, I'll update here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

China's Ghost Cities & Malls

The madness of the modern economy displays many morbidly fascinating symptoms:


I wonder what it says about me that I was thinking about all this in terms of a story as I watched. Nothing good, I'm sure.

If Amanda Hocking and Joe Konrath had a baby

...I bet Joe's wife would be really pissed.

But seriously, here's the thing: For the past two weeks I've been researching the new world of publishing, trying to find the common denominator between the success that Joe Konrath has enjoyed in selling his works in electronic format, and the success that Amanda Hocking has had.

A few conclusions:

  • Konrath and Hocking write in different, almost mutually exclusive genres  
  • Konrath came from the world of traditional publishing, while Hocking was a complete unknown
  • Konrath has spent a decade promoting his work, while Hocking has far less experience (though as Belinda points out, she didn't just sit on her tookus)
So what do these epubbing titans have in common? A large number of works available for purchase at a reasonable price.

At the end of the day, if you want to make money publishing your work electronically, you need to have a body of work for readers to discover, and cross-buy. Each offering will boot-strap the other works (if your work is any good).

Conclusion: I need to stop worrying about research and marketing, at least right now, and start finishing some dang writing.

Fiction alert!

Do you like short-short fiction with lush imagery and startling O. Henry-esque twists? Then you should really be over at New Beginnings, encouraging Dream Pedlar to write more.

That is all.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Great Googlie Mooglie update

Went to bed before 11 pm.
Woke up at 4:45 am (approximately).

This is getting ridiculous.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

And the Super-Secret Guest Blogger is.... Expat At large!

At last the mystery is de-mystified. Also at the end you'll see he says I pressured him. Absolutely untrue. I threatened bodily harm. -MM  


Observations on Blogging in 2011


Yep, I'd say the rise of Facebook has pretty much put the kybosh on blogging being a smoothly functioning social networking tool. 2008 is to blame (or to be thanked, depending).

The social blogging that once had schools-kids frenetically clacking away on their MacBooks in Starbucks to update their blogs has disappeared (at least from Singapore). Instead these kids are clacking away on their MacBooks in Starbucks, not on blogs, but on Facebook or Twitter, updating status and location, uploading pictures of lunch, group gossiping in quasi-real-time. People are on their phones tapping away for the same thrill of communication and response. They are not writing their next blog post (or novel) on the train. Neither are they reading any blogs there. They are networking, txt-ing, watching movies, they are playing games, things that blogs can't do.

The feedback was never that fast on blogs , the gratification was delayed, and that won't work anymore in this nano-second late is too late age.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The sex-bloggers have all signed book-deals or got married (or are playing D&D type games all day like former SPG, Izzy).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Fortunately I had met many (OK most) of my first batch of Singapore friends through blogging well before that cut-off date. The ones who I see most are Platypus/IndianaJones, Mercer Machine (not as much as I'd like, barring D&D games) and Izzy (well, she was my - platonic! - flatmate for over a year - was it two years?). There are some other local bloggers I have met at things like the first Singapore Blogger Piss-up at Brewerkz (God when was that?), then mr miyagi and mr brown helped organize the BloggerCon in 2005 (got my photo in the paper for that - was considered the oldest there, at 48, and "could have been the father of most of the bloggers here". Yes it was a young person's game.)

After I met Mercer Machine (not quite a potential son) there, he called for the occasional SExBB nights (Singapore Expat Bloggers' Beers). Initially it was just he and I or maybe Indy who turned up - the Expat blogging community in Singapore was not so big, nor very social at that time as I commented when handed a microphone at the Blogger-con.

One or two pretty local girls were game enough to show up at the SeXBB and risk their life, limb, sobriety and/or virginity with such a rowdy bunch... I do see Valkyrie, (from one of the SExB nights), she of the dragon tattoos, at the above mentioned D&D nights. With Izzy living in Holland now, and me being less than enthralled by the whole schtick, my D&D days have fallen away...

Since 2008 I don't think there have been any people in Singapore I have met through my, or their, blog.

I do maintain a modicum of extra-blogspot contact with a few pre-2008 overseas bloggers. I had beers in Bangkok with Dick Headley about 6 month ago. Skippy-San is always up for beers when he's in Singapore. I catch up with Spike in HK most times I am there. Beers. Though we have not met, I do have Savannah's hotel recommendation for a few currently un-visitable North Africa countries - she is more of a red wine person I gather (Sav, you would have loved the 2004 Burton of Coonawarra Cab Sav the other night!) . And I have a beer or four with Scott (frequent commenter) when I am in Melbourne.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Are people still trawling for new blogs? Do they want another semi-anonymous pen-pals? Do people have enough time to read the entire internet even though, as the Fraternity of Infinite Monkeys which I have battling since 2004 moves to a lower Aleph of infinity, the universe of blogs is shrinking. According to Technorati's 2010 report, the line is blurring between blogging and social networking. I think that is false confidence, a little bit of self-delusion. They don't mention whether the ACTIVE blog community is shrinking or growing.

They do make the point of the rising phenomenon of mum blogging. Immensely popular public diaries of women bringing up kids, doing the dishes, battling for recognition at work, trying to find an acceptable compromise for their family/work balance. These are essentially novelizations of a life-in-progress, autobiographies on the fly. I read about one somewhere. (NYT?) Mainly read by other women? I would think so. (The woman in the article was getting thousands of dollars through her advertising! [see below] So it does work!)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Back to socialising. I meet people in different ways now. A couple of junk trips* organized by a part-time blogger with big tits (a friend of Indy, duh) widened my social circle again. Several of the people I met there now admit to knowing me still, and they permit me to sit at their table if I buy them a beer or two.

(*Junk Trip - an social phenomenon in the tropics whereby, usually, a "chinese style" flat-bottomed, motorised boat, (not the one last traditional junk with the pig's blood coloured sails - IKYN), with a rooftop lounge area and deep fridges is hired to take expats and people interested in expats to places where watery sports are encouraged (except for the people who look at the crap floating in the water), and to deliver drunken, sunburnt versions of the same people - and hopefully, the same number of same - back to the marina or jetty, safely. After which they all come back to E@L-GHQ and trash the place. In Hong Kong, try getting on or off one at Queen's pier - the rollicking junk is dancing and bouncing frighteningly in the reinforced waves reflecting from the reclaimed-land lined with straight walls of what's left of Victoria Harbour. Singapore is a cake-walk, you get on at a calm marina.) /end *)

Point being, these events are, and perhaps only could be, organized on Facebook. Or, OK, by complex txt-ing, I guess.

Create Event, send out invitations to your FB-ers, await RSVP.

Try and do that on a blog these days. No-one is going to turn up. No-one you know has read your blog in the past two weeks.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I only blog now once a week or so (no wonder no-one reads it) - partly because the the steam is let out of the kettle with a cloud of twitter-like status updates on FB that must drive my friends crazy. And because I am on MY blog so infrequently, I end up visiting other blogs less frequently as well. And those other people blog less as well (except the specific audience-targetted blogs - like for writing or for SciFi nutters or for other hobbyists). It's a vicious circle that has killed that must-read-fervor of the mid-to-late noughties.

Also, as I am hanging with a bunch of wannabe alcoholics my, I suppose you could call it *social* life, has gone through the roof - and landed ker-splat into the gutter as I slump from the taxi, vomiting copiously onto the potted plants like any good stereotypical expat. (Favorite joke: Girl says: "Get your mind out of the gutter!" Man says: "I can't, it's attached to my body.") I often have no time to write long posts - the ones that satisfy *me*, the ones *I* enjoy writing - and so I FB a brain-fart myself every so often.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Bloggers target the wider audience of the WWW, not your Dunbar's Number^3 of FB acquaintances.

It's a much bigger audience that blogs address and attempt to make some form of contact with, everyone in the world. Of course as many have done (Mercer Machine for one), you could link your blogs posts to Twitter and Facebook in order to draw readers. But these are already your friends and friends of friends, hardly the billions of un-entertained non-readers out there.

Who/what are left but the prolix ranters, (like myself, for whom Facebook's 450 characters are often not enough for me to finish my first sentence, let alone attempt the over-sharing brain-farts of Twitter - I have an account but I never use it), the serious social-commentary blogs, the intellectual observation blogs, the blogs from writers who are honing their skills (like Mercer Machine), the blogs with lots of funny or provocative pictures, the blogs where you can say things that you don't want your FB friends or your parents to read, the journalist's blogs where unedited articles can survive, the newspaper controversy blogs designed to stimulate hits to the paper (for REAL advertising revenue, not Google Ad's paltry token pennies [see above re: mom blogging), and blogs that only your enemies read.

I can't be sure, but the days of anxiously checking stats each day have passed. The days of making money from Google Ads have passed. The days of gaining credits from Amazon's referral points are gone.

And they days of leaving cardboard boxes of rants and story ideas and novel commencements are gone. Everything, like David Foster Wallace's posthumous new novel, are scattered around instead on the blog, in lost or abandoned external HDDs, on various laptops you have (6 computers for me now).

Or the text resides in the clouds. I am writing this on a MacAir in the office, using Evernote. When I get home, it will be on desktop computer. I could modify it on my Galaxy S on the way home if I wanted to (I am the one person on the train writing a blog), or on an iPad if I had one.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Points of all points: I am writing less on my blog. Fewer people are reading my blog (do I care?). I am reading fewer blogs. I am not looking for new blogs, though I am glad when I find a worthy one. Social blogs are dead in the virtual water thanks to all this social networking. Writing on blogs is a private thing, requiring time and space. You will not meet new friends through your blog.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blogging is so 2008 maybe, but for many of us, expressing ourselves is not about fashion. It's a need, a passion, a compulsion beyond. And so blogs have evolved. Well not really *evolved* so much as become smarter, better, more attenuated, according to the alcohol-kills-bad-brain-cells concept (however flawed).

Yes, only the select few million remain, those who have failed to be distracted and completely fallen by the wayside of short-term, near-instant feedback, quasi conversational, brief communication after all.

We are often older and wiser (or not), we are the proven survivors. And we like to waffle on.


E@L

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

p.s. I am sorry I haven't put in all the relevant links in at this point, MM was sort of pressuring me to get this out ASAP. Maybe he'll let me come back and do that.





cheers

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday informs you about Saturday

Those you waiting for the Guest Blogger today will need to wait until tomorrow due to circumstances beyond our control. The official reason is 'Got wasted last night and the dog ate my homework'.

Sounds reasonable : D

My Friend Izzy is Awesome

She says she still wants to play around with the font, or as Expat insists, the typeface. Izzy can call it what she wants, because I call it awesome.
Once all is ready and I parang my way through the formatting for Kindle, I'll be uploading this book of short stories to Amazon. I just wish they'd sell to Singapore. I need to find another platform that does. Currently considering Smashwords.

Once again, thanks so much Izzy. this is a truly beautiful, evocative cover.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Great Googlie Mooglie, why can't I just sleep in?

Sleep and I have had a difficult relationship for years- bouts of insomnia that would last for months, leaving me a withered thing that shuffled through my days cringing away from a too-loud, too-bright blur of a world. In recent years, that insomnia has trailed off and become a rare occurrence, but what has taken its place is this freaky 'no matter what time I go to bed I will wake up at an hour no farmer would sneer at even if I have no reason to be conscious' state.

It's seven in the morning. I've been up for an hour. Today I have nothing to do and nowhere to be before 12:30, and I worked a 12 hour day yesterday.

Well, they say as you get older you need less sleep...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wednesday warns you about Friday

Just to let you know, there will be a super-secret guest blogger here at SomethingSticky on Friday. I could tell you who it was, but then it would not be super-secret, would it? Geez. But feel free to guess who it might be in the comments section. I will give you three hints:

  • He (yes, it is a he) is not dead, nor fictional 
  • He may have some prior blogging experience
  • He is not the other voice in my head

Monday, April 11, 2011

Masochistic writing challenge, or "Breakin' th' Law"

So I was perusing submission guidelines, as I am sometimes known to do, and came across this from Clarkesworld Magazine:

Though no particular setting, theme, or plot is anathema to us, the following are likely hard sells:


•stories in which a milquetoast civilian government is depicted as the sole obstacle to either catching some depraved criminal or to an uncomplicated military victory
•stories in which the words "thou" or "thine" appear
•talking cats
•talking swords
•stories where the climax is dependent on the spilling of intestines
•stories where FTL travel is as easy as is it on television shows or movies
•time travel too
•stories that depend on some vestigial belief in Judeo-Christian mythology in order to be frightening (i.e., Cain and Abel are vampires, the End Times are a' comin', Communion wine turns to Christ's literal blood and it's HIV positive, Satan's gonna getcha, etc.)
•stories about rapist-murderer-cannibals
•stories about young kids playing in some field and discovering ANYTHING. (a body, an alien craft, Excalibur, ANYTHING).
•stories about the stuff we all read in Scientific American three months ago
•stories where the Republicans, or Democrats, or Libertarians, or the Spartacist League, etc. take over the world and either save or ruin it
•your AD&D game
•"funny" stories that depend on, or even include, puns
•sexy vampires, wanton werewolves, or lusty pirates
•zombies or zombie-wannabes
•stories originally intended for someone's upcoming theme anthology or issue
•stories where the protagonist is either widely despised or widely admired simply because he or she is just so smart and/or strange
•stories that take place within an artsy-fartsy bohemia as written by an author who has clearly never experienced one
•your trunk stories



Now I have this voice in my head. No, not that one. The other one, the one that makes me want to do things just because somebody told me 'don't do that'. And right now it's telling me I really, really wanna write a story with as many of the above elements as I can possibly jam in and still have a good story.

Who's in?

Friday, April 08, 2011

Not terrible writing, Exhibit A

I barely remember writing this. It's like somebody else wrote it, honestly, and I'd like to read more:



They sent me to Singapore.

To be more exact, they sent me to New Braunfels, Texas, and from there I got sent to Singapore, but the distinctions are too fine at this point to matter much. New Braunfels, time-wise, was simply a layover, unimportant except for the fact that I met Buddy Terkel.

The meta-company I work for – let's call it Globocorp—has their cthulu-like tentacles in virtually everything. From chemicals to construction, from publishing to software to plastics manufacturing to life insurance to fast food to elderly care and beyond. It is omnivorous and insatiable.

My division, Sundries, specializes almost by accident in the embarrassing, tacky and oddly appealing. Twenty-odd years ago, in the late eighties, it started off as the corporate gifts department, or so I understand, but over time all the odds and ends and novelties got dumped on us. Currently we add about five billion a year to the bottom line.

So one Thursday afternoon I was sitting in my cubicle going over the adult diaper sales for the quarter when my supervisor, Mr Hadley, poked his bald, shiny head around the corner.

"Addison."

"Sir?" I looked up. He had an odd gleam in his eye. This, I knew, did not bode well.

"How would you like to go on an excursion?" He smiled, and his grandfatherly eyes crinkled up behind his round, wire-rimmed glasses like an oddly hairless Santa Clause. Warning bells sounded. Normally I'd jump at any chance to leave the office, but I felt bad mojo humming down the line.

"Gee Mr Hadley, I've got the quarterly report and the TPS sheets to do…."

"Don't worry about that, Addison. Forman will be happy to take over for you. Won't you Forman?" That last bit he shouted over the cubicle divider.

"Oh yeah, sure thing Mr Hadly. Can't think of a thing I'd rather do," came the reply, the bitterly sarcastic tone utterly lost on Hadley, who was impervious to sarcasm, irony and whining.

"See? All taken care of."

"Looks that way. What's up?"

He glanced at his watch. "Well, technically speaking, you will be, in about an hour. I need you to fly to Texas."

I stared at him. I think I blinked a couple of times.

"Texas?"

"Texas," he confirmed.

"Like…Texas? Big State? Down South?"

"That's the one. Unless they moved it."

"Um, why?"

"I need you to meet with a shareholder."

I waited for more information. None seemed to be forthcoming. I went with what I knew.

"Um, why?"

"Honestly? I don't know. He called up and asked HR to send him the best and brightest from Sundries. I told them Joan was on maternity leave. Then he asked us to send the biggest underachiever in the department. Tag, you're it." And then he laughed that Santa Clause laugh of his, the one that sounds so jolly but is actually sonically laced with traces of pure evil. I cringed under the weight of it. When it finally trailed off, Hadley took off his glasses and wiped tears from the corner of his eye with one oddly hairless wrist. He noticed the time on his watch.

"Say, you'd better get going. The plane is leaving in fifty minutes." He handed me a manilla envelope and strolled off down the corridor whistling some Doris Day tune.

I didn't have time to go home and pack. I didn't have time to take a leak. I threw some odds and ends into a briefcase that hadn't seen use since I joined the company and ran out the door to catch a taxi. I left my computer on. For all I know it's still on.

That was two years ago.

prose unearthed

So I managed to get a large chunk of my writing off the old, schizophrenic laptop's hard drive (it chuckled evilly all the time, but didn't actually crash except the once) and have added almost all my viable works in progress and their word counts over there on the right side of the blog.

One down, two to go.

The PC is going to be a bugger. It doesn't recognize the keyboard or the mouse. I'd just forget about it, but I know there is at least one project on there that I want to complete, and there very well may be several I've forgotten about. The other ancient floppy drive Dell laptop I may just let rest in peace. The stuff on there is so old, it might as well be written in cuneiform.

What really blows me away is just how much there is. Over the last eight years I've started many, many stories. Some of them I abandoned for good reason- they stunk. But what surprised me today as I went over the material I recovered from the laptop is just how not bad most of it is. Not perfect, certainly, but you can't expect unfinished first drafts to be flawless gems.

The other thing I noticed was that I seem to have progressed over time, writing-wise. Sentences become sleeker, better crafted, with less padding and better word choice. Not to toot my own horn, but I have matured as a writer- or at least as a writer of beginnings. At the time I was writing these, the initial spark of an idea and the excitement that accompanied it quicky fizzled. I was sure it was dreck.

Nice to know I was improving nonetheless.

Now they're up there for all to see- the word counts, I mean, not the stories themselves. I'll keep it updated for myself, if no-one else. It's a good spur. :)

Stray quote of the day

Hatred is one long wait. ~René Maran

Stray thought of the day

Wisdom keeps its mouth shut.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

So Elton says Friday's allright for fighting and-

what? It's only Thursday?

Crud.

In other news, I'm pulling All the World a Grave from Amazon. I'm not comfortable just selling single short stories; too much risk of confusion, people thinking it's a full novel or a full collection of short stories. Out of the three sales on it so far, it's already happened at least once (sorry Izzy! I'll send you a hard copy of the short story collection) and I really, really don't want people to be disappointed.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Tuesday nights:

not so speshul, reely.

Need to mark some papers, so I bid the intertubes a fond goodnight and leave you with some random images:


Now choose one and write a 500 word short story, using it as inspiration. The best one gets an autograped copy of All the World a Grave, but don't let that stop you.


Monday, April 04, 2011

Now I have to scrape up the money for an HBO subscription

The first 15 minutes of A Game of Thrones:


http://www.hbo.com/video/video.html/?autoplay=true&vid=1170886&filter=game-of-thrones&view=null

Sometimes this question comes up

My very good friend and fellow geek Anthony (hi Anthony!) asked me via facebook when I plan on writing a sequel for Thagoth. If he'd asked me a year ago, I would have told him 'never'.

In actual fact, I've got material featuring Amra and Holgren written, sitting on one hard drive or another. None of it is finished, though the different projects are in differing states of completion. Some just sketches, one, if memory serves me correctly, at about 15k words and roughly plotted out to the end. But the brutal truth is, every time I think about this stuff, the question comes to my mind: why write a sequel (or a prequel, as one of them is) to a book that virtually nobody wanted to read in the first place?

On the one hand, Thagoth remains a sore spot on my writer's psyche. I could worry at it like a dog who bites himself till he bleeds, or I can move on to other stuff.

On the other, I like Amra and Holgren. I like writing about them. They're fun and interesting characters, and the scrapes they get into are amusing even when they're terrifying. From a business perspective, if I choose to pursue fame and fortune via Amazon a la Hocking, I stand a better chance with series characters.

What it ultimately boils down to is the ethos of the book and the characters. The main theme of Thagoth (and yes, it does have one) is bloody-minded persistence = survival, and possibly even success. Endurance trumps power. You do your best, and never, ever give up. You spit in the eye of those who can crush you like a bug, even if you have to run away like a littlle girl immediately after. That's what Amra and Holgren are all about.

***

For a few years now I simply couldn't write in that vein, not believably, because I simply didn't believe it anymore. I find it a bit ironic that two characters I created were stronger than I was.

Yes, I said 'was'.

This last year of my life has reminded me of that ethos. Sometimes being done a deep wrong gives you a gift, all unsuspected.

So. Will there be more adventures featuring Amra and Holgren? Maybe. I've got a lot of writing projects on the slate, and the resumption of my writing career is still nascent. I have eight years' worth of material to sort through and judge as to whether it's viable to continue (my problem was never starting a story, just finishing one). I have some experiments to conduct, to see how best to write now. I'm a different person than I was before, and I suspect a different writer. Certainly a more experienced person.

So, Anthony, this is a long-winded way of saying 'maybe' :)

Sunday, April 03, 2011

A week in the life

So the apartment is clean. I mean really clean, except for the bookshelves and the kitchen, and I'll get to them. The kind of clean where you look under the bed and see the eviction notice for all the dust bunnies and sundry other pests. Even the dog is clean.

So now that's out of the way, I've just got papers to mark and a 45 minute grammar lesson to prepare before Wednesday. Does this mean I'll get tons of writing done this week? Not really, because Sunday afternoon through Tuesday afternoon is about the kids. I'll go and pick Ryan up in about four hours, and then it's about him. Then tomorrow morning I'll take him to school and have four hours between school start and lunch time. When I take him back to school after lunch his sister Aubrey arrives, so there's a couple of hours with just her, and then her gor gor (big brother) gets off school, and pandemonium ensues. It's frenetic, dramatic, hair-pulling, full of vile accusations and dastardly deeds, and the best part of my week.

The brother will pack it in about 9:30, but little sis will fight for consciousness with every fibre of her little chubby body. Who knows when she will finally pack it in? 10:30? 11:00?

And the next morning there's the mad rush to get food in the boy and get him off to school, and then some time with the little one, then lunches, and then its time for me to go to work. It's all over too quickly. And Wednesday comes, with a packed schedule from 9 to 9, leaving Thursday and Friday a little writing room. Saturday is a 9-6 kinda day, seeing me reach home about 8. Dinner, a little internet or tv or a book, and done.

So no, I don't get lots of writing done during the week, despite my 'light' schedule. It seems I write in 500 word bursts, approximately. and that's fine. A couple of pages at a time.

Sorry for the blather. It's just that kind of morning.

Friday, April 01, 2011