Lots of stuff . . . that’s that I muse about. Or, is it “muse on?”

See? I muse about/on that too.

Along with my musing, I present a few B&W photos. Except, they are not B&W. They are shades of gray with some specks of pure black and pure white. Mostly, they are gray . . . just like my musings.

For them just interested in the photos, there’s a gallery at the bottom. I say that because I be writing mucho lungo. Lots and lots of me just letting my fingers go where my mind will lead them. 

FYI, I’m doing this in the hope that putting it down on (virtual paper) will empty it from my mind and free me up to write fiction. 

All of these photos can also be seen in THIS SmugMug Gallery, and all of the originals can be seen in HERE. You can also click on the photos to get a slightly larger version. 

So, what am I musing about these days? Well, there are always the old stalwarts; politics and religion. Let’s begin with those.

Quicker Than Quick Update

Holy triple crap on a jumbo size cracker . . . we survived our first of two moving sales. We did really well and already we can’t remember the majority of what we sold.

In the process, we met a lot of nice people. We also had a lot of requests for advance notice when we will have our next sale (in May). Also, lots of stuff was sold that was not yet offered at this sale (people who walked into the house to look at something and ended up calling dibs on stuff that will be for sale before we move). 

One of the benefits of what we are doing is that we’re not paying much attention to the news. Just as well since . . . 

November election

I mentioned that we met lots of nice people . . . except for two. Two people, a husband and wife, were immediately odious to me. Just based on their comportment, and before I heard them make disparaging comments both about the stuff we had and the people shopping there, I immediately disliked them. 

I can’t stand snobs and especially snobs that are also assholes (a surprising amount of crossover and overlap in the two categories). I so wanted to ask them to leave, but if I would have spoken to them, I would have engaged my other almost limitless talent . . . the one that is the complete opposite of charming. Funny thing, without me having to say anything, later that evening Melisa remarked how nice the people were . . . except for this one couple. Great minds think alike. 

Even Quicker Update

Holy double crap on an extra large cracker . . . my feet are dead. We rolled up our garage door at 7:30 a.m. — a full 30min before the start of our moving sale — and people were already waiting outside.

I had to ask them to give us a few minutes to move the stuff out so that they could walk around the garage. From then until 4:00pm, we had a constant stream of people come by . . . er . . . buy . . . er . . . by and buy. 

We. Moved. A. Lot. Of. Stuff.

We. Have. A. Lot. Of. Stuff. Left. 

We. Have. Too. Much. Stuff.

For 8 hours straight. I was on my feet wielding my considerable charm. I like to think said charm was, in no small part, a contributor to what was a great first day of getting rid of stuff. 

What? Yes, I got charm! What, are you kidding me! I had both guys and gals swoon to my humor, personable and friendly demeanor, and seemingly amazing personality.

Mind you, I normally keep my charm all bottled up behind a sour and dour visage designed to dissuade people from approaching or even nodding at me. 

But, when I open the floodgates . . . boy, oh boy, does the charm flow!

A quick humor graphic . . . 

cage free

. . . and then on to cruisers details.

Quick Update

Some have noticed my blogging output has dropped off. That is an unfortunate byproduct of us upending our lives by selling our house and planning to move. At this time, I don’t want to say any more about it other than I’m busy. Swamped, even.

That means fewer posts and fewer — and often, quick — visits to blogs to which I subscribe. I try and look at all new posts, but I occasionally miss a bunch if a few days go by and the number of posts I need to read exceeds my allotted time to read them.   

Sorry about that. And, sorry also for warning the current situation will probably last at least through June. The month of May will likely see even less of me dipping my toes into online social interactions.  

A random joke I found funny:

brain muzzles

Random Humor

It’s been a long day. Well, all the days are the same length of time but when you do a lot of stuff, they can seem to both fly by and also be interminable.

By the way, listening to this:

Great music . . . crappy movie. Rather, a movie with a lot of promise that veered off the path, careened down a steep embankment, hit a giant boulder which began a massive landslide that uncovered an even more massive cesspool, the contents of which covered and masked some of the stink of the movie . . . but still left it crappy.

In case you’re wondering, that’s not the humor I’m referring to. Nope, no written humor. Instead, I’ll post some older (not ancient) cartoons which the reader — that be you — can perhaps place in the appropriate timeframe.

For example . . .

ft-podrace

ft-maul

Writing Ideas

One of the questions often asked of writers is “where do you get your ideas”. I’m never asked that question, and hence my worry that I’m not really a writer. 

Also, that’s a trick question of sorts . . . we all get our ideas from the same place: our brains. Yes, that’s the snarky answer, but only because the question is not properly phrased. It should be “how do you come up with your ideas for stories”, emphasis on the “how”.

I contend we’re all natural-born storytellers and if you don’t believe me, just listen to yourself next time your significant others asks why you did or didn’t do something, or the next time your boss asks you why something is late or not working or both, and especially if you get audited by the IRS.

Consciously or unconsciously, people construct stories all the time, usually geared toward either getting oneself out of trouble or minimizing the consequences of said trouble. Now, just envision a situation where your character is in trouble, and go to town with your natural-born talent. Oh, and write it down; that’s the important bit.

That said, there are three ways my stories get crafted.  

The first is by way of a vision. I don’t mean some Holy Smoke coming down and messing with my brain. No, it’s my own brain taking the aggregate of everything I’ve read, seen, or heard about in my life and envisioning a scene much like one would see in a movie. Usually, an awesome and interesting scene.   

So, for instance, not something like this:

Evelyn started to open the drawer but Bill intervened. 

“No!” he yelled, his hand stopping hers . “It’s too dangerous; I’ll do it.”

Bill gently moved her aside and then opened the drawer. There it sat, all innocent-like. Bill picked it up and attached it to the tuna can on the counter. After making sure it was secure, he turned the butterfly handle and a few minutes later, the can lay open, its content scenting the surrounding area. Albacore tuna made the best tuna salad.

He returned the can opener to the drawer, gave Evelyn a brief nod, and went back to cutting out paper snowflakes. Bill missed Evelyn’s comment.

“Idiot!” she said.

Sure, there is drama, tension, resolution, but it’s not exactly a vision of awesomeness. 

Writing & Trigger Points

One of the stories I wrote last September (part of my effort to write stories for submission to paying markets) was based on THIS quick piece of flash fiction.

The full story still sits on my computer, not going anywhere. There are two reasons for that: one, there is a tiny flaw in the story that I need to resolve. Two, the story contains what one of my beta readers said were triggers that readers might dislike. 

So, what are triggers (in my case, trigger scenes)? It’s something which might cause a reader to feel uncomfortable, perhaps even traumatized, by ‘triggering’ the memory of a traumatic event.

You can read the first of two trigger scenes in the above link. In that flash piece, a little girl is in the process of being abducted by a man when someone intervenes and returns her to her mother. 

The other scene is in the expanded story (it’s password protected) and involves the same girl, now a teen, being pressured by older boys to attend a party. There is the implication the boys have less-than-honorable intentions. 

In my defense, both scenes are set up and cut short before anything happens and before the girl is harmed or traumatized (the hero comes to the rescue early in the action), but I can imagine someone who experienced something like that, either as a victim or by being related to a victim, might have an adverse reaction to even the implied intent.

But, where does that leave me, the writer? What can  I write about that will not trigger something in someone? I suppose I can write nothing but humor and comic situations. But, even then, how can the writer (this writer) take into account all of the possible traumatic events in people’s lives so as to not trigger anyone? 

Talent

I read an article that had me thinking about Talent. I mostly agree with the writer about the many misconceptions of talent. I’m often told . . . er . . . sometimes told . . . oh, OK, a couple of people have told me I have talent in something or other. 

I know I don’t, and I point that out. But, if it’s not talent, what is it? In the article I link above, the author points to putting the time and effort into doing something. I think that’s only part of the equation. I think the other part is having the interest in doing that something. More than interest, even, is passion. Many people want to do stuff but say they don’t have the ‘talent’ for it. What they mean is they don’t have enough interest and passion in that something to put in the time to actually do it. 

Goddess of Creativity

Photography  and writing are two things I showcase in this blog and both have, for many years now, taken up a lot of my time. It’s then not surprising that things I produce in both those areas are sometimes favorably perceived. 

By “pro markets” I mean publications who pay what is considered a “pro rate” for the right to publishing your work. For short stories, that rate ranges from 6¢ to 10¢ per word. 

Many people are so intent on getting eyes on their writing that they are willing to work for free in exchange for ‘exposure’. Some are even willing to pay — a lot — to get published. I might have linked these before, but THIS ARTICLE and THIS ARTICLE are worth reading (warning — unlike the blandness one can find on this here blog, Chuck Wendig does not hold back with the colorful language bit).

Don’t get me wrong . . . I’m guilty of giving stuff away myself. I have published a lot of my fiction on this blog. My thinking went along the lines of “I’ll post it here, perhaps a few people will read it, and then, when I feel like it I will get it published”

I was wrong on both counts . . . my fiction writing blog posts continue to be the least read of all my stuff . . . not a big deal, I suppose, since I now can’t get that stuff published anyway. That said, it’s on my own site. I’m not providing others with content just so I can gain exposure while they make money.

Back to pro markets . . . aside the money, one of the reasons for submitting to pro markets is that they make you eligible for membership in SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America). They really should get an editor or two to join . . . their acronym is missing a letter. 

Imagine you use a public bathroom in a mall. You do your business while trying not to touch anything, you wash your hands (that makes you a rarity), and you leave. As far as you are concerned, that chapter of your life is over and done with.

The next day, as you are sitting at home watching a reality show where people with no talent and annoying voices are vying for a $52,537 prize by acting and being more outrageous and odious than the next person . . . where was I going with this? 

Oh, yeah . . . you’re sitting there and you hear “You Got Mail!”

“I really need to switch from AOL,” you tell yourself for the umpteenth time as you amble over to the computer. 

“Dear Sir, 

This is Zachary from Big-Ass Midwestern Mall. I am contacting you today to follow up on your restroom visit from yesterday. We wanted to make sure that you received truly exceptional service while you used our complimentary facilities and that everything you needed was addressed. We really appreciate your feedback and would love to hear from you.

Sincerely, 

Zachary
“Your business is our business!”

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! Seriously?! 

I’ve not started editing my NaNoWriMo No. 3 (a. k. a. NNWM-2K15) because I’ve been busy with other stuff and because I’m still letting it simmer. 

I have, however, been sending out a few things. So far, I’ve had three rejections for my short stories. Two from Asimov’s Science Fiction and one from Clarkesworld Magazine. I’ve not yet heard from Analog SF/SF and Tor. Of the fifteen agents I queried with my 2014 NNWM, ten have either declined or their stated maximum response time has lapsed by multiple weeks, and hence can be considered as not interested. 

None of the rejections were of a personal nature. For them who don’t know, I’ve worked out there are three types of rejections.  

  1. The “how dare you even contact us” is characterized by a lack of response. When you submit, you’re often informed that “if you don’t hear from us in X-number of weeks, you can assume we thought your stuff was crap and we are amazed you had the audacity to query it”. The ‘X’ varies from four weeks to as long as six months.  
  2. The “form letter rejection” is self-explanatory and falls into two camps. The first I call the “it’s not you, it’s us” camp and says something like “thanks for wasting our time with stuff we don’t need at this time”. To their credit, the wording is a little more polite that that, but I know what they mean. The second I call the “it could possibly be you” camp and it says something along the lines of “we did not connect with your submission, and by the way, here are some helpful links about the craft of writing”. I don’t know . . . I assume they are trying to be nice, but it still sounds a lot like “wow, we’ve not seen drek like this since grade school, and speaking of which, perhaps you should consider going back to one”, you know, suggesting I should go to a trade school. Into welding, perhaps. 
  3. The “oh, so close; keep trying” takes the form of a more personalized letter explaining in detail what they hated about your story. From reading the oracle that is the Internet, I gather this is the desirable form of rejection. Apparently people like reading that what they thought was their best work is not quite there yet. I guess I’ll see how I feel if I ever get one of these. 

Now, I get that everyone is pretty busy these days, what with Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and all them other wonderful tools designed to improve one’s efficiency and productivity.    

Another flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig. As some might recall, one of his previous challenges resulted in a short story I’m shopping around (already got one rejection, so I’m stoked). 

This time, the challenge is for a piece of Flash Fiction no more than 100 words in length.

I want you to write a story in five sentences. No more than 100 words.

You can view it, if you’d like, as:
Sentence 1: Beginning / Inciting Incident
Sentence 2: Middle
Sentence 3: Middle peak, act turn or pivot
Sentence 4: Climactic turn or twist
Sentence 5: Resolution

That is not a strict map, but rather, a reminder that a story is a story, not a snapshot: it has a beginning, a middle and an end.

That is something that can be difficult in a flash fiction piece, having all components of a story. 

I don’t know if I succeeded, but . . .   

I’ve covered before my propensity to use pareidolia and enhance it by hand-drawing appropriate faces on various food items. For them who are not up on it, HERE is one such post.

I also have the program Portrait Professional Studio 15. Basically, it’s a program to “enhance” portraits. You can see an example of that in THIS post where I wanted to see what happens if you tell the program you are working on a female face but are actually modifying a male face (mine). 

I then got to wondering . . . while the program will not recognize a quasi-face, it will let me define eyes, nose, mouth, and face contours; it’s a very trusting program.

So, what happens if I take a potato . . . 

20150323_124357-2_DIGI

. . . and tell the program where the eyes, nose, and mouth are? And then, what happens if I add mascara, fake eyelashes, colored contacts, eye shadows and liner, lipstick, etc. etc.?

Well, this happens . . .

20150323_124357-2_DIGI_pp

Whereas in previous posts one sees the effect of me hand-drawing eyes, teeth, lips, etc., in this case, I did nothing more than throw a few sliders.