Archive for June, 2011

If At First You Don’t Succeed

My wife is absolutely awesome. I say that because she put up with me yesterday as I went on an emotional roller coaster ride trying to get a short story started. Here was my rough schedule:

  • 2pm: Start work on new short story.
  • 3pm: Finish first draft, having written fewer than 900 words.
  • 4pm: Decide that it’s utter crap and needs to be completely rewritten.
  • 4:15pm: Try to figure out why every story I start recently has needed to be started over.
  • 4:30pm: Decide I’m clearly the worst writer ever and give up.
  • 4:45pm: Figure out what was wrong with the story and where to start over.
  • 5pm: Start over.
  • 5:30pm: Decide that those 200 words are also crap, just crap in a different direction.  Give up on story.
  • 7pm: Figure out why those 200 words were crap.
  • 7:15pm: Restart story fixing that problem, though only writing first sentence to avoid ending with more frustration.

I know that I’m not the first writer in history to have that day, or that story.  Where you just want to tell a story that’s running around in your head, but it just won’t tell itself right.  It gets confused, jumbled, comes out all wrong.  You start off with the wrong main character, the wrong voice, the wrong absolutely everything, and the only way forward is to go all the way back and begin again.

But there are two things that I’m happy about with yesterday.  First: I saw and diagnosed the problem.  Earlier in my writing, I might have been happy with the 900 word original, chalked it up to just being a short plot, and gone about editing it.  Second: Ultimately I didn’t give up.  In the end, I still might not be able to tell the exact story that I want to tell, but I didn’t just give up, tuck tail, and decide to completely scrap the concept.  It was a rough day, but I saw it through to the end, and I think the third approach is going to make for a story worth actually telling.

So.  Back at it tonight, and hopefully get things on the right track.

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Weekend plans: SCIENCE!

What am I up to this weekend?  Well nothing short of biological science of the finest order.  I’ll let this video explain:

Ah science, why do you make me so thirsty?

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Eat This: Grilled Corn

I don’t mean this as a slight against Nebraskans, though I’ve yet to have anyone from the fine state visit this blog, but I don’t understand corn huskers.  You’ve seen them.  They stand around the corn in the grocery store, pulling every last husk off the ears they’ve chosen, and leave them in the trash cans that the stores provide.  This saddens me for two reasons.  The first is the squeaking sound of half a dozen corn huskers going at once is like nails on a chalkboard.  The second is that it means they’re going to go home and boil their corn.

It means they aren’t going to cook their corn the best possible way: in husk and grilled.  Or in husk and baked, if you’re not grilling.  Or even in husk and microwaved.  The trick is the husk.  It’s one of the single finest cooking vessels that mother nature provides.  There’s a reason there are other recipes that involve cooking withing corn husks.

It’s simple.  Just soak the corn in water for a few minutes, put it on the grill, and wait until the husk is starting to blacken.  Then pull it off the grill, shuck it, and enjoy the best damn corn you can make.

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A Dashing Post

I’ve noticed two lexicographical topics popping up on Twitter in the last few months.  The first is the move to only one space between sentences.  The second is the proper use of the various horizontal lines that are part of the English grammar.  It’s an odd pairing, as one looks to simplify the more obscure rules of English, the other looks to reinforce some of the oddest ones, ones that directly measure how long a line is in order to determine its exact meaning.  I can’t help but wonder if there’s some conservation of anal retentiveness going on, as I can’t find any better explanation.

So.  In order to better understand horizontal lines, I decided to do a little research and figure out just what the differences are so I can use them properly.  My results are below.

The Em-Dash.  This is also referred to as the “mutton” as it was originally derived from sheep during the early days of type setting.  The em-dash is a bit of a joke created by authors of style guides, who secretly know that there is no actual situation in which this is the correct punctuation.

The En-Dash.  These once roamed the midwest in great herds, and their calls could be heard for miles away during the rutting season.  Unfortunately it was learned that their meat is tasty and their corpses make fine punctuation, so today they have been hunted nearly to extinction.  Now protected by the endangered species act, there is a $500 fine associated with using one in a manuscript.

The El-Dash.  Long thought to be mythical, the El-Dash has been described by various early style guides as being anywhere between ten inches and three feet long.  The confirmation of the El-Dashes existence was discovered in 1954 at an archaeological site in Syria where the remains of an el-dash just over a foot long were discovered amongst the pottery shards.

The Hyphen.  This is not actually a dash, but is properly a circle viewed edge-on.

The Swung Dash.  Often typed using the tilde character on modern keyboards, the swung dash is the daring, devil-may-care darker cousin of the dash family.  It is used to emphasize that there might be derring-do afoot, such as in the example: “Death Is Imminent ~Explorers Be Ware!~”

The minus sign.  Once used exclusively for mathematics, this horizontal line recently bested all other comers in a two-falls-out-of-three wrestling match, and is to be used for all horizontal bar punctuation needs from this point forward.

I’ve certainly learned a lot from this bit of research, and I hope you have too.  Just remember to keep double spacing your sentences, and make sure to always use your minus signs.  If you discover a horizontally linear punctuation not on this list in your reading or writing, please contact your local authorities and above all else stay calm.  ~They can sense fear!~

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Fortnightcap: That was the Problem

That was the Problem

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

That was the problem.  And That’s what she called it, short for That Thing.  A large baby-blue creature, covered in downy fur with a long and swishy tail, That had been following her for the last week and a half.  At first, That didn’t seem like too big of a deal, but it was beginning to disrupt her life, interfere with her sleep, always there and never leaving her alone.

That was what brought her to the psychiatrist.

“There’s no one else in the room, Susan,” he said, with a practiced empathy, but she heard the condescension.

“I can see That.”

“Then why do you insist there is?”

“Because I can see That.  And I know you can’t see That.”

The blue creature shifted in its chair, looking at her with a soft and sad expression.  She knew it was trying to play on her sympathy.  It wasn’t going to work, not anymore, she was done with That.

“When did this start?”

“About two weeks ago.  I turned a corner, and it was just standing there, big as life, but no one else could see it.  It just started following me around.”

“Does it ever say anything?”

“No.”

“And what is it doing right now?”

“It’s looking sad.”

“Are you sad?”

The question puzzled her.  “What do you mean?”

“Often times, these sort of visual hallucinations can be projections of someone’s inner feelings, a part of you you aren’t willing to deal with, don’t want to listen to.  Now it’s taken manifest form, refused to be ignored.  It’s not common, but I have seen this before.”

“So you’re trying to tell me That makes sense.  That’s a part of me?”

“Very likely.”

“So the way to make it go away is what?  Learning to live with That?”

It perked up at the question, nodding its head hopefully.

“How long should I give That?” she asked, still looking at the soft blue creature.

“A few days.  A few weeks.  If it’s still there in a month, then we might have to worry.”

“A month?  Well.  Maybe.  I mean, I guess That’s not so bad.”

“Good.  And if you do want to talk again, please feel free to make an appointment.”

She left, and That was That.  The doctor smiled, knowing That would never really go away.  After all, he had seen This before.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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State of the Writer: June 2011

I got an email last night from Hydra Publications, the house putting out the Steam Works anthology that’ll mark my first actual publication, asking for an Author Bio.  There’s nothing I find more daunting to write, especially early in my career when I can’t easily pad it out with other publications.  That also means that the anthology is still moving forward, and they are still looking for a July publication.  As always, I will keep people in the loop with what I know right here.

So that was a positive note to end a rather positive month.  The month also saw me get rejected from Mammoth Book of Steampunk, but turning the story right around and sending it back out the door.  I got my story done and sent off for Bad-Ass Faeries 4.  Both stories were sent off for June 30th deadline competitions, so there won’t be any news on them until, hopefully, sometime in July.  Also with a June 30th deadline is Future Lovecraft, and I’m up to my elbows in that story.  It’s not turning out to be the smoothest write, but I’m hoping to clean it up a lot, and quickly, in editing.

Had another anthology come across my desk after getting followed by its Twitter account.  It’s called The Memory Eater, and I would pass along more details, but its website looks to be down this morning.  Deadline is July 15th, I remember that much.

Successfully completed two Fortnightcaps, and entered #5MinuteFiction every week this month.  Yay for keeping my brain rotating.

State of the Writer’s Beer: The first bottles of Mustache Cat went into the fridge, and the first has now come out again.  It was a little more bitter than I expected, and the yeast is still in solution, yielding a slight bready flavor, but that’s also Vitamin B.  Strawberry flavor is undeniable, and hopefully everything will mellow out some more with time.  Sat in on a home brew panel at Balticon, and it’s great to see the overlap between brewing and writing.  It’s all about creation, I guess.

Next batch is supposed to arrive at my door step today.  It’s a Lemongrass Ginger Ale that I’ve taken to calling “Space Ale” as whenever I say the name out loud I’ve been saying “Ginger Space Ale” to distinguish it from a non-alcoholic ginger ale (which, yes, also has a space in it, but the point gets across).

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