Friday, April 30, 2010

When Life Impedes Writing

I don't mean this in the sense of, "Oh, I'm far too busy. I could never write a book." No, I mean this in the sense of, well, I'll just get on with it.

As I have mentioned before, it's quite possible I have very mild/high functioning Asperger Syndrome. If I don't, it means I have somehow entirely analogously developed traits identical to Asperger Syndrome. This can make writing very, very hard for me, as I don't really know how normal people behave. My image of "normal" people is probably horribly skewed, not only because of my own biases I inject, but also because the aforementioned issues make it hard. I mean, if you were to observe me...Think Seventh Doctor meets Second Doctor meets Fourth Doctor meets Sherlock Holmes. So in some ways I guess it's a good thing I do write fiction though, because I am very good at characters. People who are real enough, but no matter what they could never pass for being real; there's always just that thin sheet of ice there.

But! This creates much, much bigger issues. As I have mentioned before I have created a character who is intended to be a romantic interest, insofar as the hero is interested in her romantically. Still debating whether that relationship will develop. As I was writing the scenes with her, and even moreso now re-reading them, I have been banging my head in agony. Surprise surprise, I cannot write romance. Again, this is partially because I am kind of Sherlock Holmes and three Doctors snowballed into one entity, but more than that.

I cannot flirt.

At. All.

I am even worse at picking up on women flirting with me.

In January when I went to go get my iTouch, I brought along a friend because he wanted to get a new iPod as well. I went about my business thinking the girl behind the counter was just being personable. On the way out my friend pointed out she was flirting with me, and being that I was single at the time, asked why hadn't done anything about it. Outwardly, I just sort of shrugged. Inwardly, I was running through the whole thing trying to work out when she started flirting with me and how, exactly. It boggled me well through the weekend, and on Monday I had to basically run through the whole scenario with female friends to get their opinion. All four women agreed she had been flirting with me. And that's just the most recent example of it. Worse yet, I still can't see how what she was doing was flirting.

And oh dear lord do not get me started on my pathetic attempts at flirting. That's's just put one of those "Accident Black Zone" signs up over it, shall we?

Now, this is important because, Rocelyn is supposed to be flirting with Daniel. Instead, what she is doing is smiling a lot more than is natural. She has essentially turned into some kind of Toothy Tooth Monster from Toothville, Toothica, Toothworld. She gives a polite "hello" sort of smile when she walks in. Fine. But then she smiles at Daniel every other time they encounter each other. Whenever she spies him catching a fleeting glance at her, smile. Going into the elevator to go home? Smile. Walking past his desk? Smile. And the dialogue. Oh, dear heavens, the dialogue. The flirtatious dialogue makes my miserable attempts sound like Giacomo Girolamo Casanove de Seingalt.

So what we've got now are characters who are obviously characters, and the worst attempts at flirting in human history. Worse than those cheese-tastic chat-up lines like "You're so hot, your ass is on fire" or the just plain awful, horrendous, who ever thought this would work, "Come here often?"

Yes. I am so much worse than that. And my characters are so much worse than me. I feel like I should forcibly lock them all in chastity belts to ensure they can never, ever produce offspring with such bad skills, but then I remember they're so horrible they won't need chastity belts to keep from having sex.

Alright, well, to be fair, I'm not always worse than that. Usually I am sometimes so much worse than that. But sometimes I such a big ball of cheese I make the 80s look like Pluto. For example, in a pathetic attempt to "woo" my third girlfriend, and dear Lord I to this day have no idea how this worked, well...

Yeah. Sang every bit of Sinatra's parts of that song. And that's me at my best. God forbid me at my regular or my worst ever see the light of day again.

I think I might just completely wipe Rocelyn from existence. Save everyone the pain of this...stuff, if you can even call it that. So, so painful.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Why a massive graduating class sucks

There are a little over 1500 people in my graduating class, the largest to date for my high school, and a record that won't be surpassed for a while as graduating class sizes are progressively going down. Today, they shuffled us all into the gym for the panoramic whole senior class picture thing. Fine. Had I had more time, I was going to wear what I normally wear in Scotland and deliberately position myself near the front, so there would be a man dressed like Henry Jones Sr. in the front. But I didn't have time to do that.

So, being that today there's a Liverpool game, I wore my kit. On the way to the gym for the portrait, I ran into people who I've seen around the halls before, but before now did not know they were fellow seniors. I have no idea what their names are, but I was so proud of what I did, and damn giddy. Having never met either of them before, I convinced them to go along with something. I was wearing my Liverpool kit. One of them was wearing an Everton kit. The other was wearing a Man United kit. We were going to sit next to each other and deliberately position ourselves near the front so the kits would be prominent.

We get to the gym, and the massive surge of 1500+ students all shuffling to get into position separates us. I have no idea what happened to Everton Man and United Boy. But it totally ruined my day, man.

....until 5th period. For the record, watching heads gets chopped off makes any day brighter.

Unrelated note: Hello two new followers. Welcome aboard the good ship Insanity.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Things I Think I Thunk Today

Warning: The following contains very eccentric ramblings of the often nonsensical nature.

1. I was awesome as a kid. Like, crazy awesome. Not only did I used to dress like Basil Rathbone, but in cleaning my room the other night I discovered a plethora of notebooks and folders from when I wanted to be a paleontologist. There's plenty of other awesome stuff I discovered but I'll spare you the long details.

2. I read something the other day that says those volcanic ash clouds may become a semi-regular occurrence for the next forty to sixty years. I kind of hope not. But I kind of do. Britain: You overreacted. Seriously. Other European countries opened up their airways after a while, but nope, you gotta keep em shut. And then you decide you need to haul people out of the continent all Dunkirk-style. Really? I mean that's cool and all, but really? Also, I hope the next volcanic ash cloud settles lower. Over the summer there were awesome sandstorms in Australia and a friend who lives in Canberra took pictures, and it looked like they were living on Mars, which is cool. So I guess if the ash cloud settles it will look like people are living on Pyrovillia?

3. I don't know why but I have felt compelled to dance to get everywhere I go today. Fortunately I have been staying indoors, because I can't dance solo. I can waltz and tango, but doing either with the air just ends badly, and dancing without a partner makes me dance like a teenage girl from the early 1960s with the occasional appearance of disco. Okay, so this one actually stopped around noon, but still.

4. Why, oh why, did Caprica have to take a mid-season finale? Now I've got nothing to do on Friday nights. Actually come to think of it the only actual thing I have to do during the week any more is Doctor Who. Which is a good thing I guess. Television was my schedule in elementary and middle school. So thanks, TV, for going down the shitter when I came into high school. Now I can actually have a life. Kind of.

5. I always hate shopping for new jeans. With cargo pants, I know what size to buy of which brand and the specific cut makes no real difference. With trousers, the numbers are pretty uniform across the board regardless of company. But jeans -- oi. Relaxed fit Levi's I can buy down from straight cut, and Arizona I need to buy up. Also, the length makes very little difference on the fit of trousers or cargo pants, as long as they're in the general ballpark. Not so with jeans. For the love of god someone please find a way of making jeans fairly uniform like every other style of pant. And don't get me started on other clothes shopping woes...

6. My hair confounds me. I have brown hair, but ginger facial hair, and my facial hair looks black until it's all in. Why does brown hair on top give black hair around the face which somehow turns into ginger hair? Not that I mind. I enjoy my ginger beard. But right now it is itching the fuck out of my neck because it isn't 100% grown yet. Will be by Monday though. Three weeks of no shaving is usually when it decides to come all the way in. Probably won't shave it for a while this time.

7. I have been listening to the same song pretty much all day. (No it's not either one above) At this point I'm not sure I can stop. Ever. I think it may even infiltrate my sleep. Except it will stop. Because, erm...

It took me a very, very long to get over the Weeping Angels last time. And now they've got a two-parter and can muck about with recordings and such? I foresee another year of not leaving via the front door for fear that the angel statue in the garden will kill me. I don't care if they do kill kindly, the Weeping Angels are creepy fuckers and the Moff should be banished from Earth the stroke of genius that invented them.

8. Also, going back to jeans: Who decided jeans with holes in them was a good idea? Who buys those things? Last time I checked holes in pants were non-desirous.

9. If I were to use a pseudonym I would totally go with Geoffrey Markham. The whole name is a nerd reference.

10. It dawned on me that every Doctor has had some form of overcoat as an at least semi-regular piece of his wardrobe. I think Twelve should buck the trend.

11. Three days later, and fish custard is still delicious. Go buy yourself some fish fingers and custard. I promise it won't disappoint.

12. Is it weird that I think Karen Gillan looks better in her costume from Time of Angels than that police costume from the Eleventh Hour? Probably.

13. I don't care how stupid this is or how many times I've watched it, I still love this video:

Now I want waffles. Well, I know what I'm having for breakfast tomorrow.

14. The West Wing continues to be grand. 4 episodes into the second season, it still leaves a lot of room for improvement, but it's a lot better than it was.

15. SIMON FUCKING DUTTON. I do not care how many times I read that he's going to be in Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone, SIMON DUTTON is going to be on Doctor Who. THE SAINT IS GOING TO BE ON DOCTOR WHO. Okay, sure, I prefer Ian Ogilvy, but Dutton is to the Saint what Dalton is to James Bond -- closest to his literary origins. Well, of the latter TV Saints (there was an actor, whose name I now forget, who appeared in two Saint films in the 40s who was by far closest). Besides, Simon Dutton hasn't really done anything since he was on The Saint. AND NOW HE'S GOING TO BE ON DOCTOR WHO. This calls for the various Saint themes.

Can you believe there is NOTHING of the Saint in Manhattan on youtube? I mean, c'mon guys. I know Andrew Clarke was miscast and he has the whole Tom Selleck tache going on, but that is still a solid incarnation of the Saint otherwise. Anyway I realize this has been a very youtube heavy post, even for me, so to close:

Late Night Rambles

So, over on twitter we got into discussing my love of Scotland, sort of. And from that I brought up the old stereotype of Eastern Seaboarders, which is totally true. Of course like all stereotypes, not everyone proves the rule, but as someone who has lived here for all but the odd trip the UK, and what with all of the family I keep in contact with living either in this area or in New England, I have noticed a lot of truth in the old stereotypes about us Northeasterners. And unfortunately this leads to the occasional clash with my own personality, though I must admit I am guilty of a lot of them as well. So, from one Northie looking at his fellows, how do these old bones hold up?

1. The West Coast is the Enemy. Capital Enemy. As in, Second War in Heaven Enemy (Doctor Who reference, see here). This is very much truth. Oh yeah, you'll find a lot of Easterners who disagree, but yeah, it's very much truth. Sure, I've West Coast friends, but even the tightest of them isn't that tight. It's funny in a way because you usually expect us Northerners to be at odds with Kentucky or something, but really, especially California...whoo doggy. Let's just avoid the comparisons between the two and leave it at, the West Coast is the Enemy. Now that that's out of the way...

2. Northeasterners will keep you at a distance, but if you get past that wall, you will become tighter than family. So, so true. I'm more open online than real life, but even online I tend to be very reserved. Real life...well, let's just say so far only six people know about my relationship: Me, my girlfriend, her mom, her dad, her sister, and my friend Phil. This observation really has and I think always will stand the test of time. A lot of people complain about it, saying they would prefer Southern hospitality, but I would rather have this. A bunch of strangers being nice and helping each other out is grand, but show me people who make as tight connections as we Northerners do and I will show you a golden stairwell to the moon.

3. The East Coast tends to be more formal. Kind of an extension of the above. We aren't really, we're just much more reserved around those who aren't closer than blood, and generally, bar teenagers, the fashion tends to be less...out there than that of the Enemy.

4. Everything is GO! GO! GO! Sadly, yes. I mean this isn't always a bad thing, but I am very much the tortoise. Here be hares.

5. Metropolitan Easterners tend to be loud, pushy assholes. And damn proud of it. It's a fine balance, the asshole-friend. Also we may appear more assholish because of point 2, but yeah, the whole asshole thing tends to be true, but you just rock with it man. That's the way things are. Like I said, it's a finely polished art people perfect from youth.

6. The East Coast is much more class-conscious. Not as true as it used to be, but you can bet the old New Money v Old Money feud and similar things are still carrying on. It's not like out and out war, but generally we middle class keep to ourselves, the upper middle to the upper middle, poor to the poor, etc. Lord knows what the Enemy does.

7. Northeasterners are straight with you. You know, I think we have yet to hit a lie? I mean we've hit exaggerations and conditionals, but no lies. And this isn't a lie either. Like all of them, there are exceptions, but for the most part we don't fuck around. I mean like anyone most people dick around a bit, but only in scenarios where it would end badly to be one hundred percent honest.

8. Neuroticism is fun. The only way to truly appreciate the early Woody Allen is to have lived here for quite some time.

9. Ambitious, yet cynical. We doubt, we stumble, we weep behind closed doors, but we do not give up. And yet simultaneously all those scrapes and burns make us turn on our own ambitions, and anyone else's ambition. It's an odd contradiction, but it's a great way to be. Nothing makes you work harder than hating on yourself. And nothing makes you hate yourself more than working harder. It's a vicious circle of inevitable victory.

10. We like swearing. Ties in with the assholish thing, but we do everywhere, not just in the cities. Most East Coasters can appreciate a good "fuck you" so long as it's deserved. Shit happens. You can be disgusted or you can get over the fact that someone just swore at you and get on with your life. Really there's only one swear word that fazes me any more, and even that not so much as all the non-Northies I know...

11. Religion is important. Not insofar as everyone has to be religious, in fact most of us are non-religious (myself included; take the time to google philosophical theism if you're curious). But we like to know who is what. It doesn't affect who we hang out with, really. We just make it our business to know who's Catholic, Anglican, Jewish, Hindu...again, no idea why, we just do it.

12. Who the fuck lives in Jersey? Speaks for itself really. Unless you're from Jersey, you've at some point spoken a variation on this. And I imagine even people from New Jersey have said some sort of variation at some point as well. Actually one thing I've noticed over the years is Jersey is a lot like Wales. It could drop into the sea and no one would notice for a year, and when we finally do figure it out the only thing we'll care about is that we're suddenly beachfront property.

13. Sei ein mann. Always. For one, never look lost and never be lost. If you are in a foreign city, act local. If you get lost, don't you dare admit it. I mean sure, people from other parts of the country do things like this to, but no matter where I go, it seems us Northies are always the most, well, fight-y. Being a Northie teaches you to be independent, and incredibly shrewd.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying these are universal. Like all stereotypes, there's a grain of truth in them, and there are the people who are the embodiment of them, but they tend to be unfounded. Tend to be. Like all of my posts, this has kind of devolved, but really, in my experiences living here, those of us in the Northeast match our stereotypes (and does aren't even all of them, they're just the ones friends and I could think of off the top of our heads) pretty damn tightly. And of course, most of these stereotypes are true of the metropolitan hubs, slightly less true but still very much so of us out in the burbs, and not so much of the rurites. Especially here in PA. Hell, even the Harrisburg and Pittsburgh areas are more mid-west-y than here. I blame the fact that there were mountains in the way, so the Britons and Germans stayed in Philly and Jersey and Manhattan, whilst the people from New York state and Ohio and Canada came to take over the rest of the state.

Also, I like to think an English saying applies here in the States as well. "You can take the man out of the North, but you can't take the North out of the man." Okay so variations on that get used a lot in a lot of places. But I like to think it holds true because it would oh-so-totally suck to lose my Northie-ness if/when I move.

Here's some fun food for thought:

The stereotypes/attitudes of our various regions are the fault of their settlers. For sake of brevity, I'll only go into here and the Enemy, so sorry other parts of America, you'll have to chime in with your own thoughts.

The East Coast: Initially settled by people seeking some freedom, but not dire changes from the old ways. Throughout its history, settled by ambitious people, straightforward people who placed more emphasis on work ethic, which is of course reinforced by the weather. The springs are nice and the summers hot, but autumn cools fast and the winters are rough, so if you spend your warm months dicking about, you're suddenly dying come Christmas. The Northeast is a blend of that old Puritan uniform work ethic (seriously, do some looking into the Puritan way of life, it's kind of cool to read about) with the dreamful work ethic of the influx of immigrants. It's a region of rolling up your sleeves to struggle up that ladder, from janitor to Emperor.

The Enemy, by contrast, was largely unsettled even after we got our hands on it. California wasn't really settled until the gold rush, Oregon was temporarily settled before they botched all the land, and fuck if I know anything about Washington other than why I hate it (which I shan't go into here). Both the Oregon land rush and the California gold rush were attempts by people from the east to break away from that old rolling up your sleeves to climb slowly to the top sort of life. Instead, it was the first get-rich-quick scenario. It was people who wanted to make their own rules instead of stick to the ones which had been in place for centuries. And this continues. If the East had its Puritans reinforced by the later generations of immigrants, the whole of the Enemy was reinforced in the 1960s by the flood of hippies and in the 1990s by the interweb folks. And again, the weather is a factor. Washington is an exception to the rule, but the bulk of the Enemy has nicer weather than us here on the East, especially the Southern Californians. So why work hard all year when you can play nine days out of ten?

At the end of the day, really, I think wherever one has spent the bulk of one's life is really where one will think of being the best place on Earth. Lord knows I love the UK, especially Scotland, and oh hell yes I do intend to move there and will be happy, but you can bet your ass I will always think the Seaboard > Scotland. Favorite, after all, doesn't mean best.

And like I said above, like all posts this tends to devolve. I may re-do this post with lack of hastily assembled list, and just write about general contemplations regarding the specific here and get one of the Enemy to write about the specific there and mesh them into a post. In the future I may stop writing posts at the crack of sleep and actually stopping for a while when I get distracted instead of trying to trudge on when the Brain Train gets derailed.

Also, I have been addicted to this:

So, yeah, there's my contemplative post for today. Stay cool everyone.

P.S. on that Woody Allen note: Annie Hall is a great analysis of the differences between us and the Enemy. Sorry other parts of the country, no film for you.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Just a quick thing

Out of boredom, I signed up for Goodreads. See here. I'm getting tired of adding books so I'm pausing for now, but any book on my shelves at home will eventually find its way onto there. Just marking everything as read. Link's there if anyone's curious as to my reading habits.

Friday, April 16, 2010

On the Origin and Evolution of Ideas

With this being the time of year when I was working on my spy novel, I've been reminiscing a lot about that particular story and the other things I was working on last spring and summer. And just a few minutes ago, I was listening to the above song, and it sparked a whole new memory. Sparked, because it was one of the few cases where I listened to music while I wrote (it was only a few short days after I found out about SFG and I was still in the ZOMGNEWBANDISAMAZING phase). The memory itself gave rise to this post.

So in honor of all my nostalgic conflicted feelings, I thought I'd do a post tracing the evolution of a character I mention every now and again. Remember Ian Goodenough? Goodenough came about like so:

I am a very huge fan of the Saint. Have been ever since I caught some re-runs of the old Roger Moore series on either Gold or ITV (I believe it was Gold, but not certain) about three years back. (For the record, I now hold Ian Ogilvy as my favorite Saint but that's for another post) I had finished my first spy novel, tentatively named for a song I had been listening to shortly before writing a pivotal scene early in the book during which the song title slipped itself into the dialogue...that song, for anyone curious, was To Live is to Die. Which is admittedly a pretty sick song. But anyway, I had wrapped up TLITD and written about two chapters of a follow-up story/sequel/what-have-you. And then I hit a rut, because all I had planned for Book 2 was it to open with the black-ops group the hero worked for having moved to Key West...pretty much just because it was summer and I felt like setting scenes in Key West, dammit (granted, I had planted valid story reasons in book 1 just for this reason). But that was it. No plotline planned beyond he's on Key West, he gets an assignment. For some reason I think it may have been dealing with Cubans (bear in mind book 1 was set from March to July 1959, and book 2 beginning in late August or early September the same year). But yeah, I was in a plot-less rut.

And so I took to re-reading some of my Saint books out of partial boredom and partial I re-read them a lot because do you know hard it is to get your hands on Leslie Charteris these days? And it lead to me thinking, literature used to have great characters like the Saint (who is so much more than a gentleman thief but it is a big piece of his character at times) and Arsene Lupin (the epitome of gentlemen thieves, see a theme here?) and suddenly there's no one like them. And so I decided I wanted to write a story about a Saint-like character. Not directly Saint-like, but in the same basic spirit of Simon Templar, for the modern day. From this was born a character who I knew I wanted to be named Ian, and, well, the surname didn't come for a while.

In the original draft, Ian was awesome but eccentric beyond words. He had been an expert gentleman thief and sort-of Robin Hood, re-selling some of the stolen artworks to collectors who would treat it well or even to other museums, and then giving that money to various charities selected seemingly on a whim. Then he stole some stuff from the Louvre and left a note at the scene of the crime announcing his retirement. Flash forward to the modern day. Ian is living on a massive estate in Northern Wales, dresses in early Edwardian garb, and likes to speak in riddles when dealing with the police. Oh, and he keeps an assortment of animals on his estate. He has roving flocks of sheep out on the grounds. He has an alligator pit in the foyer, just because he can. Hell, when he first appears at the beginning of chapter four, he shows up riding a giraffe.

Ian aside for the moment, in the original draft, a group of crazed domestic terrorists who built their organization around a deck of cards break into the British Museum (it's a real place, seriously. lazy names ftw) and steal several objects from a special touring exhibit and proceed to blow up cars out front to cover their escape. MI5 is looking into things of course, but being that this is a book about Ian, they're mostly a bunch of gibbering tits who can barely put their pants on. And the Met, of course, realize they can't solve this case, so the Commissioner turns to Ian, who has at this point pretty much been given amnesty so long as he promises to help the police whenever they come to him and not bone them over by stealing stuff from anyone other than the bad guys in the process. What ensues is Ian & Police Officer Flunky (who I think may also have been named Paul; I seem to like that name for policemen) chasing this organization about while trying to learn what is they're up to, ultimately tracking them down to a totally made up town in Devonshire where it turns out...they're stealing the recipe for Greek Fire. A solid course of history or a quick look at Wikipedia will tell you why this is a bad thing.

Then comes the about-annual pilgrimage to the UK and whilst bumming about London we stumble upon Goodenough College and from thence comes Ian's surname.

New draft. Ian is still an ex-gentlemen thief, but now he's a private investigator, living in a rather opulently furnished loft in Swansea. Police Flunky Paul is now DCI of the Met. DCI Paul is unhappy at home because his wife is unhappy with their marriage and sleeps around without bothering to try to hide it, and his daughter has gone off to university and even though she's just on the other end of London she never really comes home to visit. Paul gets woken up by his kickass Regan-esque DI at three in the morning to come to some flats not far from where he lives to find a friend of the family, a young up-and-coming Scottish Labour MP whose BG is a very thinly veiled slightly modified Gordon Brown, is found dead. Due to potential conflict of interests, Paul can't work the case. Paul's cousin who lives in Sheffield ends up implicated somehow (I don't even remember at this point), and by now Paul's already over-stressed mind can't take any more so he goes back through the records at work, finds the data on a private investigator they (secretly) brought in to help nick a serial killer a few years back, and treks off to Swansea to hire him. What follows is some epic detective work and amazing gentlemanliness. I am amazed that that is actually a word. In the end, it turns out it wasn't DCI Paul's cousin, but that the young MP had had files presented to him revealing some bad shit, top secret bad shit, and he panicked and decided to take them to London to show his bosses and ask what should be done...only to be killed by one of the evil dudes' flunkies right as he was about to wake his boss and give them the briefcase. In the end, evil dudes go uncaught, because they are way too powerful to be fucked with, but their flunky involved in the killing does go to prison, so the victory isn't totally pointless I guess.

New draft. Goodenough is back to being slightly eccentric, but nowhere near what he used to be. Still an ex-gentleman thief, and still a PI based out of Swansea. DCI Paul's home troubles remain, and his Sheffield cousin is again implicated in a murder, but this time there's no politics to the plot. It's pretty much just straightforward murder with it (this time) 100% coincidentally looking like Paul's cousin did it. Proper villains are caught and the day is saved.

New draft. Goodenough is very eccentric. Not as eccentric as first draft, but I instilled a lot of my own quirks to help make the eccentricities more out there while staying believable. Goodenough now lives on the Isle of Dogs, was never a gentleman thief, and is just a rather eccentric detective. Paul is a fresh DC having just come back from four years with the VSO in Africa, though he knew Goodenough prior to leaving by back-storying up the salient details of the previous draft. This is where the Holmes/Poirot style of Goodenough started to take hold. A young Scottish teen comes seeking Goodenough's help. He lives in an isolated little hamlet not far from Dunoon; close enough to nip in for stuff but far enough to keep hidden, and that's how everyone there likes it. Super-super-super recluse man turns up dead in his bedroom, and of course the whole hamlet panics because it could be any one of their beloved neighbors. Goodenough pretends to be busy with another case and sends Paul up to start the investigation. Paul uncovers that he was pretty much a messed up JD Salinger and wrote the best book ever and then fled the US to live on his own to escape the press and his screwed up family. Eventually it turns out Mr Recluse Author had been a closet homosexual and after meeting a fellow gay American expat (who rather conveniently was his neighbor in this hamlet) they started shagging, but then they have relationship drama and he hooks up with one of the younger of the Irish brother characters for about a week, ultimately leaving him for the fellow gay American expat, and this angers the young twenty-something Irishman so he murders the old author dude (but for some reason not the old fellow expat).

New draft. Fuck novels! Novels are a bad format for Ian Goodenough, I decide. Instead, I write a short story. Once again Scotland plays an integral role here. Goodenough is showing further signs of Holmes/Poirot-style detectiving here. In this particular story, a portly chum from Inverness named Hamish Wilson comes seeking Goodenough's help, because someone has used magazine clippings to send a note stating they intend to steal all of the money from his private bank, which only deals with very wealthy clients, and they have used clippings of RB to sign the note. Off to Inverness they go and oh no! All of the customers who come in that day have the initials RB. Goodenough arranges a stakeout and...spoilers, I'm afraid. Yeah, bit of a cheap move there, I guess, but there's a reason for this.

New draft. Exactly the same as above, except for one chief thing. Goodenough is no longer a throwback style in the modern day. Goodenough works better in the old fashioned, so I tweak the story to set it in the early 1900s/early 1910s (exact date not mentioned, but I waffle between 1912 and 1903). And the ending is still spoilers. Why? Because I still have this draft saved. I like this draft. I intend to send it off to The Strand and other magazines after some polishing. Also I may post this or other Goodenough stories to the blog.

So there you have it, folks. A rather slapdash history of Ian Goodenough, from June 2009 to April 2010. Enjoy the SFG. I require sleep.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What's Better?

I was reading something the other day which said something about one's work, and how if it's instantly popular, it's probably just a fad, something down to good marketing, but if it remains popular, then you have art on your hands. I don't think any of us would only want to be popular now, or only be popular later. We'd want what the latter option is, of being popular now, and maintaining that popularity in the future. I mean, wouldn't we all love to be the next Agatha Christie and be surpassed in sales only by the Bible and William Shakespeare? Sure, some of those sales are people just curious as to why she's so insanely popular, but the sheer volume of sales clearly means she was doing something right (and boy howdy was she ever).

But suppose you had to choose. Suppose, for a minute, you could be like Stephenie Meyer and her Twilight books -- insanely popular now, and likely to experience the occasional moderate resurgence, but no doubt it'll all fade into relative obscurity in a couple of decades. Or you could be like Vincent van Gogh. Indeed, van Gogh wasn't totally unknown throughout his career, but his popularity didn't begin to spread until the last year of his life, and after his death, his works took off. Which would you rather be, rich now or rich later? Famous now or posthumous fame?

Of course, we don't all want to be rich or famous. Rich, I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to be. Would I be perfectly happy with less? Certainly. But to have that kind of financial security would be nice. Famous I could do without. But these are just example terms, reiterating a point I've already made. So allow me to repeat myself one more time:

Would you rather reap the rewards now and fade into obscurity in your dying days, or would you rather struggle now and see success in the generations after? No middle ground option. Obese artist or starving artist, those are the only cards on the table.

As for myself, I don't know which one I'd choose. I would like to be the van Gogh, to enjoy some degree of appreciation in my lifetime, but to know people love my work so much they'd keep buying it well after I'm gone. At the same time, like I said just a short while ago, the creature comforts are indeed nice. I guess at the end of the day all we really can do is put ourselves out there and hope for whatever degree of success we can.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A rather more literal take on the blog title

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, this is the skipper speaking. I'm afraid we've reached a bit of turbulence and...hang on, wrong speech.


Anyway, I hope you all are having a lovely weekend so far. Mine has rather not been. But! There's the el Clásico tomorrow; kickoff 22:00 Spanish time, 4pm EST. Kind of late for a game really but I do not question the Spaniards. I just watch them play some dern good football. For the record, el Clásico is the term for the match played between Real Madrid and Barcelona, two of the greatest clubs out there at the moment (and, let's face it, Real Madrid have always been one of the best clubs and probably always will be). Personally I support the Real side, so we'll see what happens tomorrow afternoon. If for whatever reason the prospects of this game interest anyone, I would be more than happy to provide linkage. Also there's the fact that The Beast Below airs tomorrow, which means around the time the game ends it'll be online in good quality, which means I shall probably do with it what I did with The Eleventh Hour and watch it six times in three days.

And, yeah, that's about it really. As with last night, I thought of something quite awesome to post, and then proceeded to forget it not five minutes later because I was watching rather awesome TV shows (note to self: in future, avoid the West Wing and Return of the Saint when plotting posts), so I've kind of got nothing to talk about. Think I'll go watch some Magnum P.I. and/or Remington Steele.

Happy weekend everybody. Enjoy (or don't) the music:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

À la recherche du temps perdu

This morning, as I was getting ready for school, I paused to consider bringing along some reading material. The first place my eyes wandered was (no surprise) my collection of Doctor Who books, specifically the two Eighth Doctor Adventures novels which I have yet to begin (still only read the first two books). From there, my eyes hopped square to my James Bond collection, which sits on the adjoining shelf. I almost plucked down The Man With the Golden Gun and read it for the who knows what number time.

And the other day, as I was working on beginning to clean my closet, I came upon a big bin full of papers. Most of them were just tossed in carelessly; some had clearly been in some semblance of order once. I knew what it was before I even opened it. All of my stories, notes, everything I'd written back in the day, was in there. I took the time to fish out the 160-odd pages of the first draft my first ever novel and set it on my desk. Of course I know everything that happens. Of course I've read all the 32 drafts (many incomplete, but I count each fresh tackle at revision as a draft) numerous times. Of course I know it was very largely shite -- derivative bordering on plagiarism in a few places. But I still sat down and read Part I.

Yesterday, when it was very very warm and I was out relaxing under a peach tree in the front which never bears fruit, I was thinking about the book I wrote last summer. My verdict: Not as bad as I thought it was back then. Yeah, it was still bad, and the writing in places was weak, but in all honesty it was sounding pretty good. Agent on a train running from the Ukraine to Croatia sent on a capture-or-kill of a would-be defector, captures him and arranges for a detail of three of his fellow agents to help him smuggle him aboard a cargo ship from Croatia to Venice, and about halfway there the ship sinks suddenly. From there, it leads into the agent being hunted around Europe as he tries to work out who sunk that ship and why, once it becomes apparent the obvious suspects (the USSR) are out of the question. Oh yeah, everything post-sinking was executed pretty poorly, but the first eight or so chapters I'm now thinking were quite grand.

And then there's the crown jewel. I went digging through my old computer where I wrote my audio dramas, and I stumbled upon something I wrote as blatant, sheer, campy, hamtastic, moronic fun. Never meant for the project to go anywhere, just wrote it. A team of wildly incompetent Gestapo with very basic psychic talents are sent to Sark to recover a British scientist who has been feeding the Nazis advanced technology before the Nazis launch an invasion attempt on the Channel Islands. What ensues is six insane Gestapo vs one badass SAS man, fresh home from the African campaigns. Add to the mix that the scientist's latest invention was a time machine (obviously disguised as a fob watch) and you have a recipe for OTT success.

Why discuss all this stuff? One thing which has been bugging me a lot lately is the thought that I am T E R R I B L E and utterly unpublishable. Bugging me so much it's halted my writing yet again. And so it services as a slight reminder of the fact that I used to be worse (except in the case of that Gestapo script; I don't care what you say, that is definitely the greatest thing I have ever written or ever shall write), and it therefore follows I can only get better with time. It's also just kind of interesting to see exactly what progress I've made.

Ultimately what I've been trying to do is to bear in mind something I've always known, but it kind of has taken an outsider reiterating it for it to really start sinking in. We're all terrible when we begin. You can't expect to write War & Peace on your first effort; that just doesn't happen (whether or not such a book is your first published effort is a different matter entirely). The only place one can go is up.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Of Falsities and Jelly Babies

All right, this operates on the inverse of the basic principle of the other award -- that is, tell six truths and one lie, rather than six lies and one truth. There is only one other stipulation: You have to be weird. Not necessarily crazy, someone-get-her-in-a-padded-cell weird, but not normal. Eccentric. Daft. Whatever you want to call it. Point is you can't say something like "I can't cook bacon" because I'm sure there are plenty of people who can't cook bacon. Things like the fact that I can't cook bacon without somehow setting things on fire totally count, though. As with the last one, I'm not passing this on to anyone in particular, so if you feel so inclined, go ahead and join in this with me.

1. When I was seven, my cousin Dan and I took the feathers off of geese my uncle had mounted on his bedroom wall and proceeded to glue them onto our arms in the hopes that we could fly from his roof. He managed to leap onto a nearby branch and was disappointed that the tree got in his way. I couldn't jump far enough and, very fortunately, landed in a deep snowbank.

2. Perhaps not eccentric, per se, but in my first He-Man competition for scouts, on the first day we were allowed to split up into whatever groups we wanted, and we were to build our own shelters. One group took down two trees and used a lot of branches to make a makeshift lean-to which they made improvements upon the next day. For myself, I spent the whole of the afternoon everyone was building their makeshift shelters, and a good chunk of the night, binding branches together with twine and thatching to make a circular roof, which was carefully strung to four trees which had boxed in a big, thick central tree. The next day I spent the better part of the day, putting up makeshift walls creating six divisions, with gaps between in the walls so people could move freely, with the intention of it becoming a shelter for everyone. In the end, only myself and seven friends wound up staying in it, but it sure was a fun build, and to this day I am saddened by the thought that I had to tear it down a week after it had gone up.

3. When I was younger, friends and I built a rather-more-literal soapbox car with a makeshift sail and used it to race along the local train tracks. We never went very far, just following the stations that lined the local towns, in a big circle, and the moment we even thought we heard a train, you can bet we got out of there ASAP -- always careful to carry our trusty vehicle to safety, of course.

4. On one of my many trips to visit friends who live in the UK, my friend Kath and I "borrowed" two my friend Rhona's horses and rode for twenty-eight hours near on end across the Lowlands. Why? What reason is needed beyond we could and we felt like it? God. You act like there's something wrong with that.

5. Regarding firstborns: If it be a son, I intend to name him Alphonse. If it be a daughter, I intend to name her Reinette. Both shall be told lies as to from whence their names come, particularly the daughter. Brownie points if you can guess from whence I have taken these names.

6. Friends and I once tied our trunks to the front of dog sleds and went racing down a rather large hill and across a frozen pond during a camping trip in December, letting gravity & the momentum do the pulling for us. The sled I was a part of won, but about halfway through our gloating the ice started to give. In reality, it was just a lot of scrambling to get away, but I like to think it looked a lot like that scene in King Arthur, only, y'know, without all the Saxons shooting us with crossbows.

7. My friend Clint and I took a pair of electric guitars to a wave pool to use as surfboards once. We got kicked out of the water park after three runs.

So, think you can spot the lie? Also, remember, this is still on the table, folks.

Stuff and Things of Whatsits Nature

Well, the weather's warming up again, and that means a lot of things. Most importantly, it means the ol' summer bridge sessions will be starting up again soon. And because it's just so damn nice out, my mind is totally elsewhere right now, and I can't think of much anything to post. I'll still be working on wrapping up the things I have drafted and I'm sure stuff will come up, but right now, my mind is 99.99% on Doctor Who, .005% on bridge, and .005% on how nice it is, I don't foresee many posts coming in the next week-ish, probably more. I'll not be taking a sort-of break this time, however. Instead, I reckon we'll do something which may or may not become a feature.

What, you ask? It's very simple really. Q&A. You can ask me anything you'd like. No matter how banal or outlandish, it's free game. From now until midnight Sunday EST (in all actuality you'll probably be safe asking later), use the comments, twitter, Bransforum PM, whatever, to shoot me whatever questions you like. And on Sunday, I promise I will answer them, unless I feel they cross some sort of line. In all honesty, like I said above, this is really only being done because it's nice out and I don't feel like thinking about things about which I may post. Also, Doctor Who.

So, yeah. There's that then. I promise the Incredible Edible Jelly Baby Award is coming sometime soon, probably tonight actually. Okay, well, maybe it's not quite edible...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Da Truf

The following is in response to yesterday's post:

1. I actually started driving well before I got my permit. I tried. Many, many times I tried to go driving well before I got my permit. I even once made it so far as to begin backing out of the driveway. But I always got caught before I could do anything and eventually it got the point where shit went down if I came even vaguely close to the driver's seat. Lie

5. I owned a pet snake as a kid. Also a lie. Remember when I said the attentive viewer would be able to rule one out immediately? Take a glance at the sidebar. It's okay, I'll wait. See those phobias? Acrophobia is the fear of heights. Herpetophobia is the fear of reptiles. Now, someone in my family did used to own many, many snakes, and there's a whole story to go along with that and how exactly I developed herpetophobia, but I never owned one myself.

4. At one of my uncle's many quarries, I played with the switches and levers and things on the freight train. It didn't end well. Was yet another lie. My uncle does own many, many quarries and we did visit one once, on a day when the rest of the team had off and he was going just to check on something. I was twelve at the time. My autistic cousin Matt, my cousin Dan, and I did go on the freight train. Matt and I did try to play with levers and things, but Dan stopped us, so there was no chaos brought about by playing.

2. I suck at cooking most breakfast foods, so on the mornings when I have time I end up having pretty much the same meal, give or take a couple of items. I can cook pretty darn well actually, but it's true I can't cook breakfast foods for the life of me and can really only make two types of eggs and fry meat. Most mornings I don't end up with the same meal, however. I usually just decide I'm sick of eggs and have something like ice cream for breakfast. Lie.

6. I used to own a replica of King Theoden's sword, but it kind of went missing. I wanted Theoden's sword so, so badly, but I never actually owned it. I didn't get any swords until two years ago actually. I proceeded to lose one in a duel to a friend and break another. None went missing. Do still have my bokken, though. Lie.

3. When I was a little kid, my cousin and I used to turn up the treadmill to various speeds and jump on. We turned it all the way up, he jumped on and got hold of the railings straight away. My fingers slipped and I was catapulted off and smacked straight into the wall. If you've been paying attention, you would know this is the only choice left. Aforementioned cousin Dan and I often got into whacky hijinks as a kid. T R U T H

And the titles for the last round of the opening lines game, in case anyone's curious:

1. The 39 Steps
2. Sharpe's Rifles
3. A Passage to India
4. A Study in Scarlet
5. The Ghost
6. Devil May Care

Saturday, April 3, 2010

One of these things is not like the other

You have no idea how badly I have been addicted to this thing since discovery about nine months ago

So, Mia posted that six lies, one truth award thing, and I thought, "I'm so crazy any truth would sound like a lie and all the lies would be too normal sounding, it'd be too easy". So I was going to create an award for the inverse of it. Still am, actually, but I don't have access to good editing software at the moment and do you have any idea how hard it is to make text of any color even vaguely legible on a jelly baby in MS Paint? No, you probably don't. It sucks. Hard. So in the meanwhile, I'm going to do the original, and try to keep everything as normal as possible, because the whole point of the jelly baby one is the reveal outlandish/eccentric truths.

Like Mia, I'm not forwarding to anyone specific because there are only a slim few of you, and some of you probs already have this, and really I'm doing this out of boredom more than anything, so if you feel like doing it, do it, if you don't, fan-bloody-tastic too. And remember: Six lies, one truth.

1. I actually started driving well before I got my permit.

2. I suck at cooking most breakfast foods, so on the mornings when I have time I end up having pretty much the same meal, give or take a couple of items.

3. When I was a little kid, my cousin and I used to turn up the treadmill to various speeds and jump on. We turned it all the way up, he jumped on and got hold of the railings straight away. My fingers slipped and I was catapulted off and smacked straight into the wall.

4. At one of my uncle's many quarries, I played with the switches and levers and things on the freight train. It didn't end well.

5. I owned a pet snake as a kid.

6. I used to own a replica of King Theoden's sword, but it kind of went missing.

Okay, I lied. Five lies, one truth. GO!

The attentive viewer should be able to rule one out immediately. The truly attentive viewer should already be able to tell which one it is (okay, not really). Have fun, you darn crazy kids, you.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What Keeps You From Writing?

Tangent: You know what I hate? Grammar courses. Not just because it's often very simplistic stuff we've all known for ages. Oh no. I hate when teachers bring out the grammar books because I suck at it. Weird, right? I mean, sure, my grammar isn't flawless hereabouts, and even occasionally in my writing I slip up, but usually when writing a book or a paper we're pretty good to go. But in all honesty, last year a teacher made us do grammar and one of the exercises involved identifying adverbs. Simple, simple stuff. I got every answer wrong. I'm like that with defining words, too. I can't define things for crap, even the most advanced words that have more common synonyms, because they are all as common as "the" to me once they're a part of my vocabulary. And yet give me grammar problems or ask me to define something in Latin and I am stellar. Moral of the story: Everybody start speaking Latin and maybe I'll start making sense.

Warning: Contents May Contain Angst

~ahem~ Now, we all hit times when our real lives are perking up and it seems like we just don't have the time to write, or if we do have the time we're too damn tired to write, or the only time to write is also our only time to sleep and maintaining a healthy brain is kind of more important than writing (pretty sure 5 years of sleep deprivation is responsible for a lot of my me-ness). But then there are the times when we want to write, but can't bring ourselves to do it, or have just wholly given up on writing.

I'm very much in both of those spells right now. There are moments when I feel like writing, but I just can't. Some days the ideas don't come. Other days the ideas come and as soon as my fingers touch the keyboard, poof! Brain has gone more blank than a fresh canvas. Most of the time, however, I'm feeling like I just want to never write a damn word of fiction again. And it bugs me. A lot. Writing is one of the few areas where I have vaguely any talent and I'm currently experiencing the hell of the old employment catch-22 (can't get a job without experience, can't get experience without a job) coupled with the employment hell of a not-so-great economy, and if I don't become a published novelist...nothing. I have zilch back-up planned. The only other area where I have any talent is even harder to break into than writing, and would actually cost me a lot of money along the way. It would also require moving to Texas or Los Angeles. No offence, but I just don't dig Texas that much, and, well, the west coast is the Enemy.

And see, this right here is exactly what is keeping me from writing. Fear. For one thing, it's now April of my senior year. It's just kind of weird to keep thinking that in a few months it's over. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited to be graduating and all, but for thirteen years of my life I have spent the better part of my day, five days a week, for nine and a half months, in school. And eventually I'll have to go and find a job and get a flat and everything. I'm sure everything's going to pan out just fine, and most of the time I'm damn excited for it, but it's still just weird to think that I'll be spending considerably less time in school after that pretty much defined my life for thirteen years, and will have to actually work and pay bills when I've gotten off with doing nothing for eighteen years. And it is exactly this same kind of fear that keeps me from writing. A plain old simple, "But what if I fail?"

This, friends, is the fault of something commonly called the lizard brain, actually known as amygdalae, two tiny little pieces of your limbic system. Your amygdala accounts for the basics of survival. It only wants to eat, sleep, shit, and get fucked. It's responsible for that most basic of survival instincts -- fight or flight; and nine times out of ten it will choose flight. And it is from this exactly that this fear comes.

The amygdala is a tricky beast. Say you have a job interview coming up for a high-ranking position in a multi-million dollar corporation. You want to do well so you can land the job and bring in the dough. You want to be successful. But old Mr Almond decides to kick it up into the 90% and there go your chances. That example is a bit extreme, but very true. The amygdala is our self-doubt. As said above, the amygdala is responsible for the basics of survival. It is the most primordial piece of our brain. It's sole function is to keep our bodies ticking. If that means running away, that means running away. This, unfortunately, also sabotages us now that we live in a time where life isn't solely about living to the next meal, or the next sunrise.

Making matters worse: It remembers. Had to make a speech in front of the class way back in elementary school, fumbled over your words, and had everyone laugh at you? Your amygdala is suddenly going to put a big red flag on public speaking and tell you to run the next time you have to make a speech. Sent a dozen queries to agents and had them all form rejected? Your amygdala is going to put a big ol' red flag on it and tell you to not even think about sending another query.

Now remember, this is the "But what if I fail?" piece of our brain. Humans dislike change, for the most part. The amygdala is largely responsible for this. It knows taking a shower in hot water works. For all it knows, taking a shower in cold water could be one of the most dangerous things on the planet. (Again, a somewhat ludicrous example, but you get the point.) It is hard-wired to steer us clear of danger at any cost. I'd wager that a writer like Stephenie Meyer or Ian Rankin still doubt their books from time to time, but their successes have probably taught their amygdala that hey, it's okay to write novels, because you won't fail. But we haven't had successes yet. Or haven't had enough. Our amygdalae are still trying to steer us clear of writing that book, because it doesn't know the territory, and it's afraid we're going to fail, and, well, die.

I'm sure none of this is news to you. The amygdala is something we've known about for ages, and it's something often mentioned in self-help kind of things. In fact, I've known about it for so long it almost feels pointless to be writing this post. But right now, my lizard brain is in overdrive. With transitioning from the old, familiar form of school to college and making plans to move out in a year or two and everything, my amygdalae are going haywire. They just can't keep up with all the horrible, potentially failure-fraught changes, and are fighting like a bitch. One section to be taken offline in the amygdalae's battle is my writing.

At the end of the day, our amygdalae aren't going away. I would like to say unfortunately, but in a way, it's fortunate. True, the amygdalae tend to sabotage us, and that's very, very bad. But they're also responsible for survival. If you were to have your amygdalae surgically removed, I don't think you'd live much longer. The trick is learning to ignore the amygdalae, to suspend our judgments, to put the ice on the "Am I Crazies". It's a trick I haven't mastered yet. If you have, great for you.

Anyway, that's what's keeping me from writing. What about you?