Sunday, February 28, 2010

Café John Fantasy

The weather was clear today and I'm waiting for the full moon to rise over the wooded suburban hills across the way. Today was the sort of day for buying potting soil, weeding, pruning stray rose and rosemary canes, and sprucing up the walkways and retaining walls. It also was a day for minor electrical maintenance on the house.

On days like this my thoughts turn to Café John. This morning I took a rag and some cleaner and scrubbed and polished the glass top of the plastic wicker table. (Later Mark put some torn-out electrical wires on top, so I had to clean it again.) Then I swept off the cracked concrete patio and wished it was a little bit dryer out, so that I could bring out the indoor-outdoor carpet and not have moss grow on it.

My fantasy is to go out some morning when it's not too cold and write, pausing only to sip tea or partake of a small morsel, while soft music plays in the background. In a perfect little world, someone would bring me savories on a clever little arrangement of plates. But I have to prepare it myself. The bees buzz in rosemary and lavender, and the roses add their scent to the breeze. And then the useless creature hobbles over and meows for attention.

I used to have a gazing globe, green and perfect; but it exists only in memory.

I write, away from power cords and the internet.

And then the tea is cold, or the Neighbors with Loud Trucks return, or the battery icon on the laptop displays one less bar and anyway it's time to run some other errands. I find myself, garbed in polar fleece and jeans, and not in a velvet bedroom jacket and white silk cravat. I gather the empty plates and retreat to the kitchen, where the other dishes are waiting. My writing is done.

But for a moment I was somewhere else, somewhere elegant, where writers are sustained and supported by a garden of sensual herbs, the promise of clean crisp linens, and hot porcelain.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

John Is Writing!

John is Writing! Let's help him! Roll the dice for the number of pages he's produced! Uh oh! There are obstacles along the way...

  • Caffeine! Come to me, sweet ambrosia of inspiration and fill me with the frisson of creativity. Let the fountain of words flow from -- oh damn! Mark drank the last can! Before you head out to the store, your dentist is on the phone....

  • Dion Fortune Because every story, especially if it's a fantasy with magic, needs the slightly goofy but completely thorough magical theories of a quaintly racist 1930's English Mystic.

  • The Twin Towers of Tolkien Sclerosis and Not Enough Details (because it's so clear in The Author's head it doesn't need to be on paper). See the teeny-tiny crack between the two towers? The Author (and the manuscript) need to fit through.

  • The Dictionary of Obscure Usage, chock full of words like mantis (not the bug), dolmen (not quite what Stonehenge is), transmigration (not when geese fly to the sex-change clinic every spring), sortes (dicing with fate), triptych, pistols, and meniscus. Doesn't everyone read this book before they go to bed -- I mean, meniscus is in The Joy of Cooking...?

  • Mystical! Magical! Science! Or was that Scientific, Magical Mysticism? In any case, the characters are working in a world where even rubber bands have Deep Mystical Meaning. Very likely that eclipse is a Message From Deity, even if the characters are measuring discrepancies in Mercury's orbit during it. C'mon, what did you expect from a guy with his own portable Aubrey Holes? Roll die: 1-3 Go back to Dion Fortune.

  • An Alien? At least we think it's an alien. It might be a human in a latex suit. Or it might be a houseplant. There's also a possibility the alien is really The Author. Lose a turn for inscrutability.

  • Egypt! Or at least A Pyramid! Because ancient Egyptian things rock. Especially hieroglyphs (from Greek words meaning "sacred" (from hiero) and "carvings" (from glyph)). Go on, you know you want to put a necklace on and say "Almighty Isis (Isis, Isis, Isis...)." In a pinch, replace the Pyramid with a Really Big Spaceship. Oh wait... that's been done, hasn't it? Lose a turn trying to turn a towel into the headdress the Sphinx wears.

  • The Lost Chord Blame Sir Arthur Sullivan for this one. The Author won't go quite so far as to have his characters discover The Lost Chord that Opens the Spaceship, but they will have a Mystical, Magical, Science Moment while playing their rubber band guitars and singing. Almost obligatory. Roll die: 1-3 a Certain Sound Engineer throws a mixing board at you - lose a turn. 4-5 You duck and the board sails over you. 6 - Go to Mystical! Magical! Science!

  • Tea It's Time for Tea! Really. It will help. Roll die: 1 - What The Author really needs is a Pepsi, go to Caffeine! 2-4 Ahh! Steaming Ceylon Goodness! 5-6 Lose a turn reminiscing about the now gone tea salon -- where writing, scones, ennui and that certain je ne sais quoi fleet through the air like a forgotten chanteuse's melody...

  • Silly Hippies Or maybe aliens? They are The Author's equivalent of horny teens from a summer slasher movie. Lose a turn laughing at their antics.

  • Wikipedia Because it's absolutely essential that the sexual exploits between wasps and orchids be lovingly and accurately detailed as a metaphor in the story. Roll die: 1-2 Lose a turn; 3-4 Go back to The Twin Towers. 5-6 Go back to Dictionary of Obsure Usage.

  • Gathering the Lost The weary protagonist (or perhaps the protagonist's weary Dreamer love interest) must be sung home. Go back to The Lost Chord.

  • Chocolate. There's nothing that can't be solved with just a teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy, little chunk of chocolate. Followed by another. Now where was that stash again? Roll die 1-2 Found it! Chocolate is anti-oxidant, you know. 3-4 There's none to be had in the house for love or money. Go to Gathering the Lost. 5-6 Go to the store for more; lose turn.

  • Second Life Research! The Author really needs to understand the mechanics of addition while exploring the metaphysical and spiritual aspects of his six foot four, muscle-bound, 30-something avatar. Because the virtual can be spiritual! Lose a turn.

...Okay, back to the game...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Soapbox: Prosperity Checks

Lately I've been thinking about Prosperity Checks. They really bug me because they strike me not only as superstitious twaddle, but as greedy, superstitious twaddle. I get angry and sad when I hear about Neo-Pagans espousing them.

For those of you who don't know what a Prosperity Check is, the idea is that within 24 hours of a new moon, you take a blank check, write down a dollar amount, write yourself as the recipient, and endorse the check with either "The Law of Abundance" or "The Universe." You can write down on the memo line what you're receiving the money for, if you want. Then you're supposed to forget about the check and let the universe do the rest.

And this is supposed to be a spiritual practice. I'm not sure if this is because spirituality is about coaxing cash prizes from the Divine or if legal tender is how Deity shows heavenly favor.

The web sites that talk about this sometimes cite Jim Carrey as writing a 20 million check to himself and getting paid that sum for The Cable Guy. Gee, let's see, a single alleged instance of this working for an actor who'd already made millions in previous movies. Yeah, that's proof this works.

Now, I'm not going to say that making a list of priorities isn't a bad thing; and there's something to be said for being clear in your mind what you want -- but having clear priorities is only the first step. As Starhawk once said, "In order to heal the world, we have to know what we value, we have to know what actions to take, and we have to know what structures to create."

For a while, I thought I might write a Prosperity Check and on the dollar amount line write in "Snake Oil Mongers Revealed as the Frauds They Are," signed, "The Law of Just Rewards." And I'd visualize angry mobs with torches. But then I thought, Hey! Let's try another Scientific Experiment With a Data Point of One!

So, next new moon, I'll write a check to myself for $1000 and on the memo line "From selling short stories." Because, after all, elegant words telling a cool story about an interesting character isn't enough to convince periodical editors to buy my work. I need the new moon and a funny check to help me.

And if I receive the usual 99% rejection slips between March 15 and April 14, then it's that stupid Prosperity Check's fault.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Writing and Updates

Mark had a good time skiing this weekend. I stayed home and wrote. I've been writing (which is good because for most of December and January I couldn't seem to get up enough oomph to do so). I'm usually a "seat-of-the-pants" writer. Outlines are frustrating to me -- so this time I'm trying an outline. It's mostly fun, although I often get a feel for my characters by sotp writing. What the outline is good for is showing me the weak parts in the story.

I also went back and took a look at some of my non-fiction. I think what I have is a manuscript on Neo-Pagan Theology that started out as a book and ended up as a pamphlet. Okay - it probably started out as self-therapy. It was written in a sustained moment of peke, and, unfortunately, the bitter humor is more bitter than humorous. There are some good bits in there, and I have to decide if what I want to say is worth the time to clean it up for a paper-publication, or if I should winnow out blog-sized excerpts and time-release it to the blog.

On other fronts...

Second Life ... is fun. I'm trying to limit my time there. Current project is scripting markers for Aubrey Holes -- my script has a bug, changing the value of llSleep is somehow changing how the script calculates a position. It's weird, even changing the sleep value from 10 to 10.0 seems to make a difference (so I'm suspecting some kind of floating point overflow error).

On the shoulder front: I can now shampoo my head with my left hand, which is an improvement. Still have to stretch all the time, though.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Writer's Block

Lately it's been hard to write. Rather than blog about not writing, I guess I'll actually write a short story or something.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Philosophy of Art

Scene: Saturday Morning. John is under the weather with a stomach bug and is soaking in the bath tub.

Mark (surveying the living room): "All of our food containers are filled with craft supplies."

John (lathering his hair): "Because Art is the Food of the Spirit!"


Mark: "No, Cleanliness is the Food of the Spirit, (pause) and my Spirit is Oppressed."

Friday, February 05, 2010

Starlett and Moose

... we join the dream in progress, as the dreamer has been waking up every three minutes for the last hour...

It's the Muppet Show! With our very special guest star... I don't know who -- maybe Brooke Shields? She was tall, she had straight dark brown hair falling to her mid-back, and she wore a very revealing, red, push-up dress. (Pause to figure out where the phrase "You can show the fruit, but not the stems" fits into this dream and deciding that it's an earlier fragment ...) She obviously has breast implants.

Scene: The guest star dressing room. There's a desk in the center, with a kind of wicker bamboo couch next to the door. Because this is The Muppet Show, the wicker couch is also a lion (the bamboo canes move to make the lion's head). The guest star is talking with another Muppet -- this is a dream amalgam Muppet, probably voiced by Frank Oz. He's also tall and slender (kind of like Beaker, kind of like Gonzo), furry (like Ralph) and is a Moose.

Moose has come to Starlett's room to say "Hi," and to deal with the lion couch, which doesn't like being sat upon and keeps trying to eat Starlett's purse (I think). Moose and Starlett are former lovers, so there's that awkwardness.

Starlett: "Hi." (The camera angle is set from behind, below, and a little to her left; in other words, in such a way that the red scrap of cloth covering her torso looks like it's slipped in a Wardrobe Malfunction kind of way.)

Moose: "Hi. Um, I've come to fix the couch."

Starlett: "Oh. You've changed; it looks good."

Moose (staring straight at her breasts): "Uh, you, too."

The scene ends with Moose tripping over something and getting stuck in the lion couch.


It's a Muppet Show Music Video scene. Starlett and Moose are walking along the beach, leaning into each other in front of the sun. Scene of them floating in the reeds of an estuary and sunning on the banks. Mandatory Muppet "Lovers Running Towards Each Other From a Distance" scene, which is followed by, "Bandaged Up Lovers Riding a Side-by-side Bike Through the Cobblestone Streets of Some Quaint European Village" scene (I think there were also canes involved...). All the while some 1960's style big-band with saxophones, trumpets and a banjo is playing while Starlett whisper-sings a love song from a Ranklin-Bass Christmas special.

(and then I woke up for the twentieth time this morning and just got up...)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Back to Submissions...

Alright. Sent out six manuscripts today. I have to remind myself when I receive many rejections (especially within 48 hours of each other) that A) I send manuscripts out in batches, so it's reasonable to expect rejections on batches and B) I sent twelve stories to WOTF before placing.

And, having re-read some of my manuscripts, I'm pleased with my own cleverness.