Monthly Archives: December 2010

Short Story: Lavender

We all know that I’m a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson, well he issued a little challenge to write something, a scene, a snippet, a short story using only untagged dialog. Here is my effort, “Lavender”

 

 

“Do you smell like lavender?”

“No. First off, perfume doesn’t work on inpenitrible skin, second using perfume when you might have to sneak into a criminal’s hideout is suicide. It’s worse than forgetting your mask. Everyone knows that.”

“I smell lavender. It’s coming from you.”

“I told you. I don’t–Oh F— I use lavender detergent on my bed sheets.”

“Starting recently?”

“Always. I did a load yesterday.”

“And then rolled around in them before coming on stakeout?”

“I slept in my uniform last night.”

“On purpose?”

“Watkins does it.”

“Watkins arrested a pumpkin last week.”

“Oh yeah, well he also… made pies out of it.”

“Exactly. Someday soon we’ll be packing him off to an asylum with the rest of the crazies.”

“The pies were delicious.”

“Baking doesn’t require sanity.”

“Do you know why Watkins started sleeping in his uniform?”

“Because he’s a few tacos short of a combo platter.”

“Maybe, but he says he sleeps better when he can be the Onyx Falcon for a few more hours before he has to spend the day as Gerald Watkins.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being who you are.”

“Even when it gets in the way of who you’d rather be?”

“It’s the only way to do this thing.”

“Not if you join O.M.A.”

“O.M.A. can’t do stuff like this.”

“I’ve seen O.M.A. Soldiers on stakeouts and so have you.”

“Not on guys like Tiger Claw.”

“So, O.M.A. has bigger fish to fry.”

“No, O.M.A. has PR to worry about.”

“So they handle higher profile crime, they still get out there and do good works.”

“It’s doing good with an agenda, not because it’s the right thing to do.”

“Good is good.”

“We could take down as many drug dealers in a night as an entire OMA squad, but instead we’re here, where we’re actually needed, tracking down guys like Tiger Claw, guys only we can handle.”

“Does that mean we’re actually going in tonight?”

“There’s always a chance. Listen, if we have to sneak up on anyone you let me go first.”

“Like Hell I will. I’m invulnerable. I go first.”

“Less chance of them smelling you that way.”

“You are probably the only one who could smell me.”

“It’s raining, that makes you smell stronger and we’ve seen two new guys go into Tiger Claw’s hideout tonight. They could be capable of anything.”

“If they even have powers! This is not that type of gang. I don’t think Tiger Claw has anything besides the weird eye and the claws. No heightened senses, unlike someone I could mention.”

“He’s got a mean streak a mile wide and no compunctions about using those claws on this whole neighborhood. That’s enough to take him down before he gets established, so you stay behind me unless someone pulls a gun. Then you get in front and block those bullets.”

“You’re wearing kevlar.”

“Not on my face.”

“Fine.”

“Only you could smell a trace of lavender laundry detergent while sitting in a pile of trash.”

“You’d better hope so.”

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Look at that sidebar!

It may not look like much, but that little shift represents almost 4,000 new words on project Rizzo Allen! I’m on writers’ retreat right now and it is very exciting! We’ve been here since Sunday night and we go home tomorrow, but I hope that it was what I needed to kick this project back into motion!

I also added percentages for those who, like me, are not really good at gauging small changes in pictures. I’ll admit to stealing this idea outright from Brandon Sanderson’s blog, which I like quite a bit, except for the color scheme.

Gotta sleep now! Saving 3 lives tomorrow!

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Winterizing for your Geeky Lifestyle

I promised an Austen post today, but lo, the Snowpocalypse is upon us!

Seriously, we’re supposed to get about 2 feet of the glorious white stuff here in Minnesota and thus far it’s fine stuff, not heavy, wet, and capable of collapsing tree limbs and powerlines on it’s own kind.  We had that stuff a month ago and a I lost a whole weekend to driving people around in it.  In fact, thus far we have had three major winter storms and I have driven for hours in each of them. So my goal for the Snowpocalypse is to stay in my apartment and not drive further than the bookstore and only then if I am promised coupons and food.

I’m bracing for the worst here and I thought I’d share some of my checklist for battening down the hatches in the face of extreme weather (applicable year round, thanks Tornados!)

The central point of my severe weather strategy is to assume that you will lose one or more utilities at any moment. I’ll refer back to that throughout, but the thing about extreme weather is that it can do weird things. It can knock over a tree and the roots can clip your gas lines, it can cause a car to hit a power line, it can get so cold that your pipes freeze. Basically, the idea is to be able to survive without utilities until they are back on line or the storm is over.

1. Get a variety of Food.

If the lines at the grocery store (and the liquor store) were any indication, folks around here have this one covered, but to sum things up briefly.

You want to have some food outside your fridge. If the power goes out for half a day your refrigerator can probably keep your food cold enough, as long as you don’t open it. So that means having something to eat in your cabinets. I have a gas stove so cooking is still an option, but if the power’s out I might not have water. Luckily I have an electric kettle, so that and my biggest teapot will be full of drinking water until the storm blows over.

If the weather’s just bad and I don’t want to have to leave, it’s just nice to have good, potentially work intensive food to eat.  The idea is to prevent Cabin Fever, so making a new food, or an old food a new way (I tried Fake In-N-Out Burgers a while back) can spice things up. (Sorry, that one was way to easy)

2. Charge Absolutely Everything

Assuming you lose power the battery life of your devices is gonna become very important.  That old laptop with about 45 minutes of life? That’s a whole TV show or a bunch of minesweeper.  Your old iPod can save whatever juice is in your smartphone for non-entertainment purposes. I have no idea where a flashlight is in my apartment, but between my iPhone, my iPod touch, my DS and my PSP I have hours of light. Incidentally, I have used all of those objects and many others as emergency flashlights, not because I needed them to get around, but because I was reading and needed better light to see. So while you have power, charge anything that can be charged. While you have power, prioritize things that use electricity, playing Xbox over your DS for instance.

3. Make the Most of Daytime

It’s winter, night comes early, but while you have daylight being without power can be kind of fun. You get to unplug, read that dead tree book you’ve got sitting around, play a board game, maybe use the fireplace (this is what I did a month ago, it was a total blast). Do your unplugged stuff during the day when it’s warmer, easier to move around, and when you have light to see.  I don’t think you want to try cleaning your place by iPhone light.

However when you actually get to night, you might have some things to consider, especially if you’ve been without power all day. Can you stay where you are overnight? Do you have heat?  Do your friends/family have power? Safety guys! Don’t freeze to death if you don’t have to.

4. Remember your Towel

If it worked for Arthur Dent it can work for you.  Besides, if you’ve ever been in a blanket fort when someone spills hot chocolate, well you probably wanted a towel too.

5. Cabin Fever

I love that movie. The way I see it you can fight Cabin Fever or you can embrace it, but if the storm is really bad you shouldn’t run from it. I’m prepped to be as ADD as I need to be. I have writing to do, naturally, that bar for Project Rizzo Allen hasn’t moved in over a week, but additionally,  my nails are unpainted but longish (I may go full on Lantern colors again), I’m cultivating a desire both to read books (my shortlist: more Austen, more fairy tales, Dragonflight, Hikaru No Go, and Deathnote) and to watch any number of movies and TV shows (my shortlist: Kill Bill, Love Actually, the good Pride and Prejudice, Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, Firefly), I have some cleaning to do, I have christmas decorations to make/put up, I could build another treasure chest, there is Christmas Knitting, and there are video games. I’m just gonna follow my fancy and hope it doesn’t leave me too bored.

6. Clean What You Can Before it Arrives

I did not follow this one, but I wish I had. The idea is that some things are not great if you might lose power or something.  I wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a load of laundry or dishes when the power or water went out. Ditto cleaning out the fridge (Cabin fever takes strange turns guys). Vacuuming is not as bad but you could end up half done. Even taking out the trash leaves you in the cold/storm for a bit. If I was perfectly prepared, my apartment would be spic and span right now, but it is so not, and the dirty dish smell might get to perceptible levels tomorrow when I can’t do much about it. It stinks, but what are you gonna do?

Those are the tips I’ve got, and now it’s late and I’m gonna sleep while we accumulate another half foot or so of snow! Stay safe and warm guys!

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Books and Tweets in Large Quantities

Before I get to a discussion of what I am reading I’d like to mark a momentous achievement: I have just posted my 10,000th tweet. It’s sappy but I’m excessively proud of it. Twitter has been such a force for good for me that I really like to mark the big moments like this.

Anyway, now that that’s out of the way onto the important matters: What I have read so far this week, because being unemployed does wonders for your reading (warning, some of what I read is Jane Austen, my lingo may get all Regency on you, I apologize in advance).

First off, I scored the last copy of Alcatraz vs. the Shattered Lens (the fourth book in Brandon Sanderson’s epically charming Alcatraz series) from my local Barnes and Noble.  I know that I am a bad fan for doing this, that I should have pre-ordered it so there would still be a copy on the shelves to enchant some serendipitous child, but I’m lazy and it was sitting right there.  Alcatraz vs. the Shattered Lens was everything you expect from the series, laugh out loud humor, lots of action, a good heart, and crazy awesome magic.  This book has giant robots dressed as librarians, 13 year old girls with silver hair and giant swords, and bad math, magically bad math. However, since the last book both the main character and the writer have grown and matured.  Shattered Lens starts opening Alcatraz’s eyes to the fact that “the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters” and Sanderson handles it beautifully. The first person narration also got a bit more believable, not that it was ever bad, but it felt much more in character and also gave away a couple of secrets about the future.  It’s stuff that future Alcatraz probably wouldn’t think twice about writing, but that I as a reader was glad to hear.

Of course, that’s not the only thing I read since I last wrote briefly, I slammed my way through a gem from the most recent Audible $4.95 sale, Pride and Prejudice.  I’ve read it several times, watched the BBC/A&E/Colin Firth mini-series even more times, but somehow I had never listened to it before and in all the previous Audible sales the Pride and Prejudice was read by the narrator of my favorite edition of Jane Eyre and I couldn’t take hearing Elizabeth in what I hear as Jane’s voice.

As so often happens when I reread something in Audio the book was a completely new experience to me. I found myself identifying with Elizabeth less than usual.  I noticed her flaws more clearly than I had before, mainly her overreactions to events in the world around her. That sounds much harsher than I mean it to be, she develops decided (one might say, prejudiced) opinions about everything on the spot and holds to them doggedly until their incorrectness is flaunted in her face.  It’s something we all do. I know I react the same way to bad news, because I did so this evening and got it thrown in my face directly. I hope that by noticing it in Lizzie and myself, I’m growing past that way of thinking, like I have grown past her in age.

It didn’t bother me as much the last time I read Pride and Prejudice, but on this reread I was very conscious of being older than Elizabeth. It’s strange, because I feel like the same person I’ve always been, but I have gone beyond the Elizabeth stage. I graduated from College, got a job, moved out of my parents’ house and, shudder, grew up a bit (obviously not all the way, the first book I reviewed in this post is meant for 8-12 year olds). I still adore the book, but now the reflection I see of myself in the characters looks like a past me rather than the present me.

All of that introspection made me really want to reread Persuasion, which I have now started after downloading it from the ever-wonderful Hennepin County Library, but at first I tried to read something that’s been sitting in my Audible library for a few months now, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Final Empire. I’ve already read the Mistborn trilogy once, but I like to reread Sanderson’s books with his annotations, which are like a mix of writing master class and DVD commentary and The Final Empire has elements of Regency romance, so it felt thematically right.

I mentioned that regency element on twitter and had a bit of a chat with Laura Fitzgerald (she works for Tor, so you know she’s awesome) about other fantasy books in that vein.  She brought up Shades of Milk and Honey, which I’ve been hesitant to pick up, probably because Pride and Prejudice and Zombies left a pretty awful taste in my mouth in some respects then I get home last night and the Hugo Award winning author of Shades of Milk and Honey, Mary Robinette Kowal, had tweeted at me about my concerns about the book, eventually using etymology to prove that she knew her stuff from a historical accuracy point of view. 1) This is just so cool. I totally appreciated her taking the time to tweet at me. 2) Of course I immediately reserved a copy of the book from the library (what? I’m still wary/chary about the book, and if I like it I’ll buy a copy to keep). 3) This is more or less my favorite thing about twitter, how the things you say resonate across the cacophony and reach people who want to hear them.

That’s enough from me for now, I have a bunch more to say about Austen, but I’ll save that for tomorrow because it’s long and, I think, far more self contained than this mess of a post could ever hope to be.

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Briefly

It’s snowing out there, really, really snowing, and I got about 4 hours of sleep. So of course I volunteered to drive my Mom around today. Facepalm.

Carcicles. n. Snow that has been defrosted from a car only to refreeze as spikes of ice. A true sign of snowy desolation. If Carcicles form on your vehicle you should seek shelter immediately.

I’m gonna hole up in my bed with my DS and an audiobook of Pride and Prejudice until I fall asleep. I’ll report back from the two potluck parties I’m hitting tomorrow.

Also I’ll add links and pictures to this post, because you can’t do them from your phone (ETA: obviously, this has now been done).

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Explaining Two Sentences in Five Paragraphs

Ugh. 0 words written on Project Rizzo Allen today.  I mean I did a lot of things, I applied for a bunch of jobs and played a little Kingdom Hearts (replaying these games is good for my mental health, I swear it is) and I continued my experiments with alcoholic ice cream floats, just no writing.  I imagine that a few of the things in those last few sentences are confusing, allow me to explain.

Project Rizzo Allen

Doctor Who artist Matthew Dow Smith mentioned on his twitter that he uses Muppets as code names for projects he doesn’t want to talk about in detail yet. This makes a lot of sense to me. I don’t mind talking about what I write, but I don’t make up titles easily, no writer should get too attached to any title, and, honestly, I freaking love the Muppets in just about every form. So I’m using Muppet code names. Don’t ask me where the Allen part came from because I made it up in August and I have no idea what the purpose was at the time*, but I like it enough to let it stand.  In fact, if anyone wants to guess at why I put “Allen” at the end I will accept any silliness you all come up with as truth.  I updated the sidebar with the Muppet codenames for everything and I’m glad I have a way to talk about things without having to make up official titles for them. I hate naming things as is, so having a pool of names to pull from makes my life easier, as the Muppets so often do.

I Applied for a Bunch of Jobs

Here’s the thing, I’ve been working as a contractor for over a year, so I’m getting used to minimal job security. This one snuck up on me during November. I’m applying to my top tier aspiration jobs right now, gonna do more extensive searching next week when I am actually unemployed, and I’ll probably use my bartending certification in more than one way before this month is out.

Alcoholic Ice Cream Floats

Speaking of bartending, I blame NaNoWriMo, late nights, and twitter for my latest little obsession.  I was struggling on Monday night to hit 25,000 words according to my sense of justice (I put some outline words in for padding because the NaNo site kept eating away at my word count in the official validation) and twitter gave me two ideas for celebration.  Matt was having Scotch and Mitch was having a Root Beer Float, so I combined the two and you saw the results yesterday. I’m working on a new one, I will say it’s Orange Soda based, but I’m going for a complex flavor that I haven’t worked out yet.  It’ll be cool if I can make it work.

No Writing

This isn’t strictly true. I write very intensive cover letters that I edit very poorly (I’m a terrible self editor, remember that if I ever ask any of you to beta read a book. Terrible. Self. Editor.), I tweet constantly and I’m writing this here blog now. So what I meant was that I did no writing on Project Rizzo Allen, but I did do some nice worldbuilding on Project Pepe during my commute.

It’s exciting because I had all but given up on the world Project Pepe is set in, the original story (it was the NaNo novel from 2006) was a bit Mary Sueish and came darn close to X-Men fanfiction. I’ve always desperately wanted to do something cool there, because I like a lot of the worldbuilding, the characters and I think this world needs more Super Hero novels.  What I couldn’t figure out was how to mitigate the elements of, well, bad fan fiction until this week. I had a couple of those “What if I changed this?” thoughts that completely coalesced the story for me. It was what I like to call the coda book. I went through a period where all of my series had a main sequence and then a coda afterwards to give me some closure on the decisions I made during the series.  Anyway the coda, Project Pepe, is another feel from the Super Hero High School trope I was playing with originally and it’s so much better.  There is more meat to the story and I get to keep the parts of the world that I like while losing the baggage. I’ve spent months trying to work out how to do this world justice, and now I’ve figured it out and it feels really good.

So there, five paragraphs on two brief sentences about my day. How in the world did I manage to lose NaNoWriMo?

*ETA: I think I figured out where Allen came from, and I think the codename was originally for a completely different project set in the Project Pepe universe (thanks Evernote for keeping all my story notes sitting around), but at this point I’ve named so many parts of Project Rizzo Allen so many things that I’m just gonna run with it as is.  A gold star to anyone who guesses why I used Allen now.

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NaNo decompress

Today is the first of December and as such is officially designated the day of irresponsibility by all those who participated in National Novel Writing Month, hence NaNoWriMo or NaNo by those of us who take part in the giddy whirl of words and places and plots that is November.  This was my 6th NaNo and my 6th loss, but I’m not really saddened. I know I’m being a bit like Mark Tapley from Martin Chuzzlewit,

I would love to see Mark Tapley doing some serious ass kicking, because he would be jolly the whole time. He may be eligible for my zombie apocalypse fighting force.

That’s Martin being depressed on the stump in front of the depressing shack in the depressing swamp land he was tricked into buying in depressing America by slimy, slave-owning, American hucksters, a situation Martin finds depressing. That’s Mark off to the side, smiling like he’s out for a picnic, because even when he is dying of malaria in a swamp in America, Mark Tapley is jolly.  Which is why the survivors of my Dickens intensive put Mark’s catchphrase, “Still Jolly” on our class t-shirts, because we went through hell, but Dickens is hella fun.

So, I feel a bit like Mark today, because even though I technically “failed” the NaNoWriMo goal of writing 50,000 words in November, my previous best wordcount was 10,000 in 2005, my very first year, and I have never made it past the doldrums of the second week while still writing consistently.  This year, I wrote a bit on a lot of days, right up until the end, I socialized with other writers, which I intend to keep up, and I wrote 25,000 words. That is 2 and a half times as well as I have ever done before, which is a definite success in my book.

Furthermore, I get it now.  I’ve listened to writers talk about their need to write, to spend time with their characters rather than the “real” people in their lives and while I thought I got it, I had never felt it before.  Now, I totally get it. I really enjoy nights when I can just sit around and write, where none of my or anybody else’s issue get between us (those nights are few and far between, but they do happen) and despite all the pressure I still wanted to write today.  I’m not going to, for reasons I’ll explain in a minute, but I wanted to and that’s something I was not expecting.

So today I embrace irresponsibility. I am not going to clean my apartment or do laundry (even though I should), I am not going to cook dinner, I am not going to apply for jobs (even though I need to). I am going to eat pizza and drink soda and play Kingdom Hearts and be frivolous, because today I have accomplished something and I want to revel in it.

Back on the horse tomorrow.

ETA: I also celebrated last night with a delightfully alchoholic root beer float:

Yummy yummy get in my tummy

Recipe is on my tumbr.

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