Sunday, August 21, 2011

Chap. 2 Bell, Two Doorways

In brief, as Bell has stressed using a three act structure, the two doorways are an extension of this. A doorway should  be thought of as a moment where the lead is presented two choices, stay where they are or step through the door and change their life in a way that means there is no going back.
 Early in Act I it is best to have a disturbance which jolts the lead, this disturbance can then pull or direct the Lead until they are faced with the doorway. The disturbance does not need to be a huge thing, it can be quite small. A note from a loved one, a missed phone call, a car breaking down, or witnessing an accident. Any of these things can propel the Lead toward the doorway.
  The first doorway must present a situation that pushes the Lead forward and will not let them return. A kidnapped loved one, a cop with an assignment. The question should be, can the Lead walk away and the answer should be, no. Through the doorway is the unknown, discomfort, danger.
 One thing Bell emphasizes is that while this is a common structure, it is not something that you have to do. However, a writer should be aware that as you depart from this style, you depart from the readers expectations and might begin to lose them. Of course that all depends on your reader. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Trying to send some emails to people who have posted here, say thank you for the comments. Managed to 'follow' my own blog accidentally and then somehow freeze the followers box. Fun.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Men With Pens

I just found a great site, you probably already know it but I will drop the link here.

It's full of great, short articles, and its only for men. . .that's a lie.

Chap. 2 Bell, Structure: Holding a Plot Together

 Bell begins this chapter with an anecdote, his son wrote a simple book with four pages.

 Robin Hood went riding.
 A bad guy came.
 They fought.
He won. (Of course one wonders who won. . .I would like to think the kid is a dark soul. . .)

 This is essentially the structure of a standard plot. He explains that plot is about elements, the pieces that go into making a good story even better. Structure is about timing, where the pieces go. He recommends the three act structure for the simple reason that it works. It is odd how certain numbers just seem to fit the human soul. 3, so many trilogies, bell curves are basically three, there is something harmonic about this form and it helps stories to flow better. In a basic story the lead is presented with a problem (Act I), grapples with the problem (Act II), and then solves the problem (Act III).
  He points out that beginnings are about who, an introduction to the lead and why we should care. Middles are about a series of confrontations or battles between the lead and any oppositions. Here subplots can be interwoven. And, of course, ending are about resolutions. Even stories that will continue on to another book establish some kind of resolution at the end, even if this resolution is to grapple with another problem in the future.
 These ideas are basically a repetition of what he touched on earlier in the book, so we could looka thtem as reinforcement. He does move on to new material. The Mythic structure. He presents Star Wars as an example of the Mythic structure.

 Intro to hero's world.
Call to adventure
Hero may ignore of heed the call
The hero crosses the threshold into a dark world
A mentor may appear to teach the hero
Various encounters with forces of darkness
The hero has a dark moment within himself that he must over come
There is a talisman to aid in the battle
A final battle is fought
The hero returns to his home

He points out that while some have argued this is a different structure, it is simply an expanded 3 act structure. 1-4 are Act I, 5-8 are Act II, 9 & 10 are Act III.

When I look at my own story it dies include many of these elements, but the order is a bit different. I had not thought of my story ad a Mythic type, but well. . .

Me Book

My book had five story lines. One thing I find incredibly difficult is to keep the thread matched up properly along a time line. I made calendars and penciled different activities at different times and the results was confusing calendars that I never looked at again because it was a confusing mess of five story lines covering pages. And I forget what I wrote the day before, can't keep track of what my characters are doing and why. It is absolutely maddening. I can remember stuff quite well, have always had an excellent memory, but I can't remember my own story.
 So, cure. I have split the five. I will write the story line of each group of characters as individual novellas that intersect at certain points. I also plan on setting myself a word limit for each story. 40,000 words max. Each story must be finished within 40,000 words. Anything over must be edited out. I wonder how this limit will affect my writing. Has anyone else ever done something like this?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


    Well, I shall hack my book, I shall rend it asunder. I shall pull the five thread into five separate books and in this way I will reconcile and finish. I once did 74 to 1.5 and I can do that again.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Opening Strong

The next in our Bell series, opening strong. That is opening strong, not strong opening. Anyway, Bell gives a list of what to shoot for in a strong opening. A strong opening should have:

 A hook!
 Establishment of a bond between reader and lead!
 A smidgeon about the world or setting!
 The general tone of the novel set!
 Something to pull the reader toward the middle of the story!
 Introduction of the opposition!
 No egregious use of exclamation points!

 These are the elements crucial to a Strong Opening!

 We are all pretty much taught in our writing to have a great hook. People won't stick with a slow moving book especially if it starts boring, so grab'em and don't let go. Make your first first line intriguing. 

She didn’t struggle; in fact she appeared to be unconscious. The first time Theo saw Ng a sticky wet trail of blood ran from her forehead to chin and dripped one drop on the dusty wood underfoot. 

That's the opening line in me book, intriguing? I'm not sure. 

He mentions avoiding descriptions but also states that they can be used, as long as they serve to move things along. Speed, or movement seems to be a key here. 

He mentions a few different kinds of hooks:

Action, pitching your reader in to the middle of an action sequence so they are immediately given conflict.
Raw Emotion, characters introduced with deep emotion, a death, loneliness, deep love.
Look-Back Hook, look back in time to something relating to the story. Sounds a bit dry but he uses two Stephen King examples and although his writing has certainly declined, he used to be a master.
Attitude, give your lead a hard edge, or a wity was with words and slam it home.

Prologues: Using prologues is popular, but as with all things they have to draw the reader in. Something relative that grabs the reader. This can involve the lead or not. If the lead is not introduced then make sure the prologue ties to them and the first chapter in someway links back to the prologue. Another thing, keep it short.
 The very first novel I ever attempted had a single spaced prologue that was 74 pages long. The Prologue. Of course my reading group shrieked like stuck pigs when faced with it. I trimmed it down to a page and a half by the next week.

So, that's it for a bit. You may quit, if you wish.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Art of Samson

    Other than smiting 10,000 with the jawbone of an ass, what is Samson known for? Well, what he should be known for is his larger than life art. Let me show you some of his better known works.

This, one of his earliest works entitled, "Unnng!" captures the inner turmoil that Samson felt on that fateful day he smote the Philistines in their own temple. If one looks closely at his use of line and curve on his man skirt, one can see the conflict that dominated his sexuality. Also, note the limpness of his hair, which in later works was always shown to be full and healthy. The two pillars, phallic symbols edified, are cracked and fall around him, showing his struggle and triumph over his own maleness.

This, a work from his middle period, clearly shows the burden he was forced to carry by the patriarchal society of the time. The leering task master who holds the rope, the wooden arm (Again the phallus appears in his work) to which he is chained. The women and men in the background who cringe away from his tormented nature. Truly, this is one of his finer pieces. Note, many people are unaware that he made the paints for his painting from the natural oils emitted from his hair. Also, note his short hair, this was during a time when he had cut his hair in protest of the use of animal skins for clothing.

And finally we see a late work, this one entitled, "Samantha Unchained!" After undergoing a sex change, Samantha began to feel a freedom he had never known. Once more he allowed his hair to grow long and flowing, also he changed the color to blond. Notice I refer to Samantha as a he. This is done to honor and respect his wishes, for although he had the change and considered himself a woman, he also considered in Id to have remained male. Samantha described himself as the world's first Idvestite.

Apart from his violent streak early in life, it can clearly be seen that Samson/Samantha was a conflicted soul who, oppessed by our intolerant world, was forced to hide his true nature and once that nature was revealed, forced to kill lions with his bare hands to relieve the stress.
Truly a sad and moving story of triumph, failure, crushing defeat and decadent absolutism.

L.A. Noire

    I play video games, its one of my favorite things to do. A lot of people discount them, they see video games as a useless waste of time, brainless entertainment dulling the minds of the young. There is some truth to that, there are fighting games and shooting games that seem simplistic and mindless. A considerable amount of research has been done that shows this is not the case, kids who play these games actually have heightened analytical skills as well as improved hand eye coordination.
    Those kinds of games do not really interest me much, I play role-playing of adventure games, these basically have a storyline. In the past these stories were limited by the medium and also by those who were making them, they tended to be simply and repetitive. Not so anymore, Hollywood and writers had better sit up and pay attention. These types of games have reached a technological level that has allowed for increased creativity. Also, the industry has begun to hire professional authors to write for them and it shows.
    I recently purchased L.A. Noire and. . .wow. Imagine being a detective in late 1940's L.A., that's it because that is the game. Now, you are forming a mental picture of what it looks like, and you are wrong. When you begin to play the game it quickly dawns on you that you are very close to being there. Want to go somewhere? You have to walk to your car, get in the car and drive the real streets of L.A. as they were at the time including traffic, people walking, traffic lights etc. Your fellow drivers may obey the traffic laws, or they might turn left on a red right in front of you. If you have a fender bender, and my god have I had many, they get out of the car and yell at you while your partner makes some snide comment about your driving.
     The makers of the game took the real maps of LA at that time and recreated the city. Alleys, streets, shops, parks, weather, litter on the ground. I am having to learn to drive all over again. And if you don't want that, ask your partner to drive, and that will change his opinion of you. And while you drive you and your partner have conversations and they are not cheesy, they actually sound and feel real.
    And the crime, you are sent to cases, look for clues, interview a witness, and keep notes. Once again it is much more involved than you would think, intervieing a suspect is not simply asking questions to some wooden character computer face. Real actors were used for facial expression, body language, a nervous tick and you have to watch all of these and pay attention to what they are saying and what clues you have found. Do they jive? Did he look right or snap at me in anger? The guide book teaches you the basics of readin gpeople but you have to learn for yourself. The creators got real detectives to help them with this element of the game. It is frustrating and yet fun at the same time. I spent 30 minutes interviewing a guy, trying to figure out whether he was lying or not.
    The dialogue is excellent and does not have those odd bits where what you say doesn't seem to match the answer. The characters have depth and backstory. It has the depth and feel of L.A. Confidential, a story I loved. You investigate the kind of petty crimes police come into contact with as well as more serious ones. This is no run around and shoot bad guys story. I was faced with a man holding a bystander hostage with a gun to his head. In this scene I had to decide whether to talk him out of it or shoot. I shot (by accident actually as I was still learning the controls) hit the criminal in the head and killed him. This actually affected the story line, it wasn't just mindless killing, my partner reacted to it and you gain a reputation. Gees, did you have to kill him? Nice job, Cole! So on and so forth.
    Of course, your captain is Irish, a bit of a cliche, but it was a fun one to see.

    This kind of game has the potential to displace movies and TV as the primary form of entertainment. I do not mean anytime soon, as there are still large swathes of the population who simply will never give something like this a chance. But as the younger generations mature they will increasingly make these things dominant. Already, young people no longer watch TV, many don't even buy them, why should they? They can do see anything a TV can better on the phone they carry.

Now, I'm going to go let my captain yell at me because I didn't smack a suspect around in the interrogation room.

Dr. Wilston Bumpfer

Dr. Wilston Bumpfer was one of the least known and yet influential scientists of the mid-seventeenth century. While his achievements are few in number, the one for which he is most remembered is his invention of the green bean.
    Before 1737, those wishing to put something into a good casserole, were sorely lacking in options. With the invention of the onion ten years previous, and dairy products having been in existence for centuries, people were looking for some way to combine these divergent foods. Enter Dr. Wilston Bumpfer. One rainy autumn evening, while eating an onion and milk dish called Milchenfrig, the good doctor accidentally impaled his hand on his two pronged fork. As the servants scampered about looking for the bloodletting kit so they could bleed the impaled fork from his hand, he noticed that his napkin had fallen upon the table in a roughly long and tubular shape.
    Later he was to write that it was this folded and fallen piece of cotton soaking up his precious life essence   that caused him to think of a long thin vegetable that could act as a binder for the onions and dairy in his Milchenfrig. He spent the next five years cross breeding celery and pinto beans until he had created a long thin and yet shrunken piece of celery that had several beans inside. He called it a Celebean but his wife, the Duchess Bumpfer recognized the name would never catch on. She suggested green bean and it soon took off.
    So why do we all forget his contribution? Well, a young Benjamin Franklin stole it, after murdering the Bumpfer family, the bloodthirsty and conniving Franklin took his invention and claimed it for his own, thus thrusting himself square into the American Revolution and history.

Friday, August 12, 2011


James Bell makes a few points about dialogue, mind you these are in no way in depth, in an overview chapter at the beginning of the book. Dialogue should be unique to each character (they should sound different) and they should tell us something about each character. This seems obvious as each person has a unique way of speaking. it is difficult to do in practice, however. Something that must be overcome is your own style of speaking dominating the characters in your book. Of course, if your voice is coming through, then in an general way the language of your characters will be influenced. Giving each of your characters their own personality through their own voice is a matter of knowing them and overcoming your style of speaking.
I have one character, who borrows heavily from me, and he speaks like I do. Oddly enough this does not make it easier to write. He becomes more difficult to write because each scene becomes a "what would I say" scene. I have another character, Ng, she speaks in her own unique way, all words clearly pronounced. Ng uses no contractions, it is hard as hell to write like that.
    How do other people make their dialogue unique?
    Also, how do you surround your dialogue? I use a mix of she said or he leaned back and closed his eyes or nothing. It is a tricky thing to balance and I tend to favor using only enough to show the readers who is speaking.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Music & Writing

    I was thinking about this the other day while walking home from Kaiserpermanente, when I write I need background noise. Some people like silence, some people a busy coffee house (those people are simply there because they want other people to see what serious writers they are) I like meaningless droning in the background. I also like good music, it puts a person in all sorts of moods. I am sure many people have written about this and we all have our opinions and favorite writing tunes.
    I like dark music, came of music age in the Grunge era of the 90's and so enjoy that. My musical tastes are actually quite eclectic. No rap, R&B or country western though, they give me the willies. As I write this I am listening to five women talking about sexual satisfaction and a new miracle drug called Zestra (the result of years of clinical trials!) They have used the word 'percolating' a lot. What is it about coffee and sex that gets women to make commercials?

    Anyway, When I listen to music and write it makes the words flow, distracts me from doubts. That doesn't mean I don't make errors, in fact my typing goes all to hell but the writing itself, the story, comes more easily. Any body else a music writer?


    Starting this blog has become a source of frustration. While I have enjoyed the outlet for my creative side, work on my book has completely shut down. That ticks me off. I was writing like gangbusters und now zilcho. I am currently searching for someone else to blame for this and if you would like the position, email your resume and cover letter to me.

The Naked Mole Rat

    God has placed many wonderful and bizarre creatures on this planet. The Howler Monkey, the Peruvian Cave Hog, Gnus and even Feminists, they all amuse us with their wild capering and churlish antics. But among these animals there is one that stands out in its greatness. I speak of course of the Ethiopian Naked Mole Rat. I love these little mammal-insects. What other animal can make us laugh with their yellowed, overlarge incisors. Name another creature that has such pink translucent skin allowing us to view their intestines both upper and lower. Yes, these are truly magnificent creatures and it is my intention that the world come to know and love them as well.
    Naked Mole Rats grow to be roughly the length of Rosanne Barr's fully erect penis and are graded in size on the RBEP, or arbep scale. As one can see from the picture, they have evolved beyond the need of hair, eyes, ears, wrinkle free skin, and a soul. Dr. Candlwick C. Brickman, a noted Naked Mole Rat scholar, recently discovered that their rapid evolution in these areas had begun some 70,000 years go and was brought on by the introduction of puppies and small humanoids to their diet.
    Naked Mole Rats live in large burrow in large family units ruled over by large queens. These queens sleep, eat, sex up males, and get tats in a central den. When a new queen is born, she struts her stuff in front of the drone males until egged on enough to attempt to 'serve' the old queen. When this challenge is laid down, the old queen and the new queen engage in a ritual dance competition sometimes involving whipped cream and oil and always ending in the death of one of the bystanders. Its a sight to see, let me tell you.
    Young NMRs quickly learn their place in this wonderfully complex society. After six months (or 13 human years) of federally subsidized schooling, they have a wide variety of fulfilling careers to choose from. Some move on to become worker drones, others simple drones, and the few elite are selected to be workers. Recently there has been in increase in non-drone activities such as hanging out in the tunnels gnawing on pot-root, sullenly mocking the elder drones, and wearing their wrinkled skin low around the ankles. Some have blamed this on bad parenting but this author knows exactly whom to blame. NMR teachers unions and their thuggish uncaring attitude toward work.

 Next week: Sex and Teen Culture in a small seaside NMR community!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


    I read a short internet writing thingy that Sunny Frazier wrote on a website about mystery stuff. Anyhoo, she was writing about words and it got me thinking about words.


   People feel trapped by words, they feel the need to use real words and look things up in the dictionary. Dictionaries are good, although spell check can usually do the job, but don't treat a dictionary like a word bible. I have to teach my ESL students that sometimes the dictionary is wrong. Eyes just bugged out. How dare you suggest a dictionary is wrong, its the people who are using the words wrong! I think Willy Wonka said it best, "We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of the dreams." Never let a book control you, you breath air and walk around, it gathers dust and sits on a shelf. What is a sword compared to the hand that wields it?

On the other hand, having a big vocabulary really helps you to look smarter than other people. I threw a few big words around my office and now I got them thinking I'm some kind of Einstein. It doesn't matter that I stare stupidly at half the questions they ask, I used the word 'perspicacity' correctly so damn I must be smart.

 One of my favorite words is nebelwerfer, it means fog thrower in German. Chicken fat is a great pair of words. I taught my friend's kid (who has downs syndrome) these words and he now gleefully says them whenever I visit. He's having fun, I'm having fun, screw you mother nature.

Ghengis Hannibal!

    I just watch two mongols pin cushion an elephant on one of the stupidest shows I have ever witnessed.

    Deadliest Warrior! Hannibal vrs. Ghengis Khan. Really? They made this? I love history, I read history and I enjoy watching a good history show, and this my friends, is not one of them. Its like those dinosaurs vrs tigers they had on the 'science' channel. And they prefaced it with, "Putting thousands of years of speculation to the test!" because I can't even begin to recall the number of symposiums I went to that asked such burning questions as, FDR vs. Ho Chi Min: Showdown in Perth! or Sheriff vs. Bobby: Who would win in a cage fight!?


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Plot & Structure II

  Chapter two starts off with the reason that plotting is necessary for a solid story. Bell shares a couple of anecdotes about literary writes who disdained plot in favor of well crafted words. He points out that while well crafted words can be beautiful, they do not a story make and story is what keeps all but the most ardent of literary readers reading.
  Myself, I have little use for literature. I do not mean to say that it is bad, of course not, I am simply not interested in it. Good writing yes, but not stuff I would call literature. 1984, Animal Farm, Brave New World, To Kill a Mockingbird, these I liked and I know they have story. His examples seem an extreme form of literature and most good literature does indeed have story. anyway. . .
  What comes next is his own system to analyze the plot of any given story. He calls this the LOCK system. Lead, Objective, Confrontation, Knockout.
Lead: A strong plot starts with an interesting lead, a character that grabs the attention of the reader. Pretty obvious, if your attention is not grabbed then you will put the old book down. Of course, he knows its obvious and he is not discovering new stuff here. My own book, hmm, the way I have started it I don't think the lead is particularly interesting and this is something I need to go back and rectify. On the other hand, there is a secondary character who takes the focus and sometimes I have wondered if in fact my secondary character is in fact really the lead.
Objective: This is the driving force for the lead. The is a want or a desire. The lead wants either to get something or to get away from something. After this he gives a few examples of objectives. No clear objective and the story flounders.
 Confrontation: The enemy, the thing trying to stop your lead, to tear them down. he gives a good image of getting your lead up a tree, throwing rocks at him, and then getting him down. No confrontation will create boredom.
 Knockout: The ending to a story must have power, a tie is not going to be good enough for the reader. I have trouble with this, I have always like my stories muddied, I like ambiguous endings where we wonder if anybody really won and so i have wanted to bring this to my own story. The problem here for me I think is running before I walked. Without the ability to deliver the solid ending, then trying for an ambiguous one will fall flat.

He next describe the difference between a literary plot and a commercial plot. He gives two simplistic diagrams, and he acknowledges they are so, with the commercial consisting of rising action to a knockout ending and literary lacking that rising action and instead have either a hopeful or an ambiguous ending. (Alright, I have misspelled ambiguous four times in a row)

 Okay, I'm tired of this for the evening although a realization has come to me. looking at these two diagrams, I have been writing a commercial story using the literary plot structure. Interesting. Its flat like and inner journey with nothing much to say. well, 24 chapters of boredom. Woo hoo.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Umm. . .

   This is my second time blogging, the first time was a complete waste. I wrote about nothing. But now I have members? People are commenting? This is terrifying. You did this to me Sunny. . .youuuuuuuuu!

ah well, sic transit gloria mundi

Plot & Structure

    Thought I'd try my hand at commenting on a book. Plot & Structure, By. James Scott Bell is a writing book I picked up at the local Nobles & Barnes. I read through most of it and it helped me with my work quite a bit. Never done this before so I think I'll just dig in.
    Mr. Bell opens with an introduction targeting one of the most common misconceptions of writers. Many people believe that writing is something we are either born to do or not. They seem to think it some gift given to us and if we are blessed with the gift, then there is no point. Growing up in high school and college he let what he calls The Big Lie control him. The big lie tells us just what I have written earlier, writing cannot be taught. When his early effort didn't produce good work, he gave up. This is something I have gone through and indeed many of us have I suspect.
    I've tried to write a book several times, I've also tried poetry. Honestly, I have no idea if my poetry was good or bad because the first few people I showed it to gave me a, meh, and that was that. I let the big lie win. Poetry is an innate thing, you either have it or you don't and it cannot be learned. So, I gave up. Now with books, I was more persistent, possibly because I did have some talent. The people I met who read what I wrote told me there was something there and so I imagined I had that spark.
    "You have talent Roy, but its not enough. Rely too much on your talent, and you'll fail."
    Bell learned that writing is work and writing can be learned through persistence and that is the point of his books.
    Discipline. Bell begins by listing what it takes to learn to plot.
   1. Motivation: He gets a little bit into self help book territory here, but his advice is not bad. Bell recommends some sort of visual motivation device, a statement of purpose, a picture, a mock up of your first books cover. If that is what you need, then certainly do it, but as more me, I know these things would not do it.
   2. Try Stuff: This boils down to experiment, try out what you have read about. Study, read to learn, that is, dissect the books you love, see what the authors did and try it for yourself. I haven't done this yet, I admit I have been too lazy and to obsessed with my own book.
   3. Stay Loose: This is what it says, relax. Forcing it to come will not work. Remove as much anxiety as you can.
   4. First finish, then fix what you finished: Again, self-explanatory. This is the one that has over the years given me the most grief. I have started, tossed and restarted too many books to think of. Now, while it may have been good practice, it got me exactly nowhere.
   5. Set a quota: This is straight up work. Some people advise sitting down to write for a certain amount of time. Bell recommends you commit yourself to a certain number of words each day. He points out that you might spend your time producing very little, but with a word quota, you force yourself to put stuff down. Of course, it will all still be for naught if you don't stick to the quota. After reading this, I committed to write every night. Bit of a hypocrite, but I manage to pump out a few thousand words almost every night.
   6. Don't give up: Of course. Successful writers do not give up. When people cough politely before saying, "That is really a big fat steaming turd." push forward, remember, they are low brow pig squealing evil little trolls with no heart. When you self publish on Kindle and nobody buys, publish something else. Don't give up.

  Well, that is all for tonight. Felt like a real hypocrite writing some of that stuff since I haven't been able to practice what I preach, still, I keep pushing forward.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

New Link and Old Links

    Just added a link to my friend's website. I hope she does not freak, although I think she won't. She was a dental tech in the navy and I think it was her true calling. So be a deeentist. . .you have a talent for causing me pain! Little Shop of Horrors.

 The Chive: This is a sight for pure fun. DAR will take you on a walk of sublime madness, for the guys and saphos, the Chivettes are a treat, and I have yet to get a virus from it.

Instapundit: I was a little leery adding this link. Glenn Reynolds is one of the biggest bloggers period and I have loved visiting his site for many years. On the other hand, some bloggers try to use his site to increase numbers to theirs and I'm not sure how he feels about that. It is not my intent to use it this way. I just think its a really good site to find insightful commentary and great links. So, if you have never been there, visit it!

Cracked: Funny, not much more to say. Their brand of humor is just what I like. Smart and cutting. Sure, they are fairly biased toward the left, but as a righty I can handle people who disagree with me. Surprisingly, many of their articles combine humor and some interesting information. Well worth multiple visits.

Drudgereport: The only news site. Nuff said.


    I do a lot of walking. Living in Honolulu and working for under 30,000 (net) a year, I can't afford a car. Now matter, I like to walk. I get up every working morning at 5:00am, have a cup of instant with French Vanilla and then pack up and head out for work. Its a forty minute walk to the office. The walk has produced some lessons learned.
   1. Bus drivers are assholes. Now, Honolulu recently had their bus system voted the best in the U.S. I teach at an ESL school and we having students from Europe and Asia. They all vomited a little in their mouths when they found out. The buses in Honolulu are okay, they're late sometimes but overall they get ya where you want to go. The problem arises when we are hit by heavy rains. This being Hawaii, you would think that was a common occurrence, its not. The city is fairly dry, but now and then we get a real heavy downpour and it leaves the streets half flooded.
    Enter the bus driver. Buses need to pick up passengers, ergo they drive in the right lane. The right lane has gutters, gutters fill up during and after rain. Now, most drivers realize this and drive more slowly when forced to drive in the right lane. The Bus drivers here do not. They drive full speed with a ten foot fountain of water spraying out the right side. You think I'm joking, you think I exaggerate for comedic effect. Usually you would be right, but not this time. I have been soaked head to foot three times by bus drivers. Two of them stared straight at me while they did it.
    Bus drivers in Honolulu are assholes.

2. The homeless really smell. Sounds cruel and heartless right? Well, it is a little bit. But dammit, they reek! There are places where I and most people hold our breath for fifty or so feet. I am not joking. The smell of sweat and urine waft through the city, again, I do not jest. Having walked the same route for a year now I have learned all of the homeless who live in the area. My apartment is  near and area known as Boogville, by the homeless. There are nine homeless people who live in the area. I know all of their habits pretty well. Some are insane, and some are just down and out, and one of them is an interesting mystery.
    So am I being unreasonable in my annoyance at their stench? Maybe, but people, we live in HONOLULU!! The freaking ocean in about half a mile from all of them! There is no law that says they cannot swim in it and guess what, water does a fairly good job of cleaning people. All they would need to do is take a walk down to the beach, slip in and swim around a bit, and bingo, they feel cleaner and better.

 3. There is a mysterious homeless man who lives in a park. He has made his home near a transformer and under the canopy of two large trees. He has some furniture, a couple of coolers, large umbrellas, and both writing and reading materials. I pass him on the way to work and away from work every day. He has company sometimes, they sit and chat. Sometimes he is reading a book or making notes in a binder. He seems a perfectly normal rational man. And I wonder, who is he? I really want to know but at the same time I will respect his privacy. My guess is that he is a retired man who has enough money to live but not enough for an apartment. Hawaii has good enough weather that he does not need one.
    And the stench? He has none and this is why I rail on against those who do. The man washes his clothes, bathes and takes care of himself. He has pride, he remains a man, and that I respect.

4. People in stores are jerks. I stop by a Walgreens almost every morning and get a Mocha an danish, sometimes a hot chocolate. I have my debit card ready and swipe it while my stuff is being scanned, I push the buttons fast and step out of the way to pack once they are finished with me. Total time, less than a minute. It's 6:30am and there are usually quite a few people in there doing the same as me. We are all heading for work and we need to get a move on and yet, invariably, there is someone in the line who basically gives us all the bird.
    They come to the counter with six rolls of paper towels and three boxes of Vienna sausage (I'm not joking that was what one guy really had), they also have the newspaper with coupons and leisurely flip through them while their goods are being rung up. After the ring up they point out a coupon. The clerk scans the coupon.  They then take out their wallet or open their purse and retrieve their money. They have been standing there for minutes while things were being rung up and its as if they suddenly realize that, oh yeah! I have to pay? They pay, moving like a sloth. If cash is being used they always dig in a coin purse trying to find correct change. Th eline behind them continues to grow. The clerk has already called three times for back up and no one comes. I mean it, they call and call and no one comes to back them up. Then, once they have paid, they stay right where they are, blocking the register and packing everything away. Sometimes they chat with the cashier who looks like he wants to punch them in the face.
    Believe me sir, we all want to.

4. Walking is damn good exercise. My wife recently left me for a salsa dancer. Sounds like a bad movie but its true. One of the reasons was that when she saw me last I had gotten a bit chubby from drinking beer. I was lonely and bored, so I had beer most nights. She found me grotesque and it added to whatever reasons she had. She has never told me why she left me, I have had to pretty much guess. Anyway, since coming to Honolulu and walking all the time, i have dropped weight and slimmed down to a size I have not been since high school.
    I have fat thighs, I mean hippos fat. Both of my folks have big hips and I gott'em as well. I have been down to 113 lbs and my thighs were still fat. Now, having walked for an 1:30 everyday, my thighs are actually normal. Its quite shocking.
     Anyway, if you want to slim down, walk, eat less, and don't drink beer when bored. oh, and have your wife leave you on your birthday, that tends to rob you of whatever appetite you may have had.



 Been discussing writing with a writer friend of mine. She's a successful mystery writer and conference speaker who is very active in the writing community. Her name is Sunny and her latest book, Where Angels Fear, has a cover featuring a whip and a pair of dominatrix boots. I like one and not the other, you can figure out which. Anyway, she's had a few books published while I have languished for years as the rewrite, unpublished wannabe. That she has had patience with me this long is a miracle.
  I've been stuck recently, near the end of my book, and been growing increasingly frustrated. She has been patiently beating me over the head with advice, her latest point being discipline. Considering the cover and topic of that last novel, apparently it is something she is familiar with. You need discipline, she shrieked. Shriek typing is a unique skill. And I protested, I write every night! And she replied, that's not what I meant idiot. I meant story disipline and yes its true.
  I write sci-fi/fantasy because that is what I love to read. One important element of this genre is a believable world and it is this that has helped to overwhelm me. Several times I have vowed to shrink my story down to one narrow line, and each time, the deeper into the story I went, the more sprawling it has become. At first, I have one plot line and then I think I need another line to explain why something is happening. So I add another and swear only two. But with the new one I realize I have to show another person's point of view, and now I need to explain why they are sending spies to Bladada land down south. And soon I am back to multiple overlapping story lines that are confusing the hell out of me.
  Honestly, I have yet to mentally work out how to keep to the one thread. All I know is that I will not do another rewrite. Too many rewrites and it has frozen me for too long.
  And I'm writing this, which no one will read, but it feels good to get it out.
  And it's the whip, although I prefer riding crops. ;) That's a joke. . .no really.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Banana Slug System: A new and equitable rating scale.

I love a good movie, I love a bad movie as well. Throughout this blog I will rate the movies I watch on a scale of 0 to 5 Banana Slugs. I choose this Gastropod because I like them and when I was three I tried to eat one. Without further ado, here is the scale.

0 - You might possibly attempt suicide if unable to turn off this film. Through either its stupidity or boring nature it will lead you down a spiral into severe depression and self loathing. Avoid. Example: Mindwalk.

1 - You won't wish for your own death but you will for the makers of this POS. They should be hogtied and left to bake in the hot sun before ritual sacrifice to whatever god you worship. Example: An Inconvenient Truth

2 - If this film is free on TV you might forgive yourself, if you paid a rental fee you will seethe for its return. It may include one or two saving graces, egregious and mindless violence, a funny quote, pointless but welcomed nudity. Example: Rambo (2008)

3 - Some watchable moments, good for a few laughs and to tell your friends about. The film has a story, its mindless, annoying, maybe preachy. Example: Laserblast.

4 - Decent flick, maybe it doesn't take itself seriously or the premise was interesting. It has moments of tension and the acting is decent. Still, not something you'd watch again unless drunk. Example: Taken.

5 - Good flick, well written, acted, filmed. A film you would enjoy watching again and also want to turn others onto. Example: Arsenic and Old Lace.

The Waters of the Deep

    So, I write. I've been working on books off and on for almost 15 years. Never been published, ha, never finished a book. For a long time I had what I called the 10 Chapter Curse, I would always get to the tenth chapter and then stop and throw the book into the trash. It has taken years but I've finally gotten over that, unfortunately I now have the Can't Think of an Ending Curse. 24 Chapters and no ending. Damn. Still, I plug along.
    What it boils down to is fear of finishing. To finish means to try and get it out there and that brings along responsibility to readers. The idea of that is daunting. The stories must be good, they must be made to be worth reading and that is hard work. I don't fear the work, I fear the failure to create a good story. I read a lot of books and quite frankly a lot of garbage gets published. I just don't want to be another writer who puts out garbage. I want to be a rich author who puts out garbage, because money brings happiness.

MST3000 Laserblast

Our Heroes:

Billy: Tall, blond, handsome, whiny. He's a 1970's emo without the cynic edge that makes today's emo's so damn insightful and deep.
Kathy: She a young woman. That's about it, not much else there. Oh, yeah, she thinks attempted rape is no big deal.
Gianni Russo: Well tailored suits, check. Black four door sedan, check. Wallet with mysterious credentials, check. He's a government agent with a mission, unfortunately, by the end of the movie we are still wondering what that is.
Generic Sheriff: He chews cigars, drives a car, and adjusts his hat. Yep, sheriff.
Deputies Unger & Jeep: Those are their real names. Pot smoking, ticket writing, non-shaving, good ole' boys. They are the glue that keeps this great country sputtering along. 
Chuck & Froggy: Laser fodder. Chuck is the kind of man who can rev an engine and rape a woman and still look good in a pair of bell-bottoms. Froggy is his. . .something, not really sure what. Possibly lovers.

    A green faced man runs alone in the desert, on his arm is attached some awkward device. We soon learn this is a Laserblaster! Apparently, the galaxy-wide military industrial complex has not quite got the hang of ergonomically designed weaponry as this thing is a monstrosity of design. If you fell while wearing it, you would snap your elbow like a twig. An ice cream bar shaped shipped buzzes overhead, lands, and two dinosaurs emerge. They squawk and carry advanced weaponry. They are also Michael Jackson fans, each wearing only one gold glove. Soon the green man is vaporized and the dinosaurs are on the move. But wait! What is this? Some strange alien technology on this backward little world is approaching! They turn and flee at the sight of a crop dusting plane, full of menace and malithion.
    Did I mention this is the desert? Yes? Well you can see the problem then, we all know that plane should be carrying DDT, not malathion but they couldn't, cause that miserable bitch Carson and her Silent Spring! Screw you Rachel.
    Anyway, they somehow forget what they have traveled through time and space to retrieve, the Laserblaster! Oh, and the necklace. It seems the Laserblaster! is connected to a necklace in order to shoot and well it all makes sense back in Galweapontech.
    Our hero, Billy, awakens to discover his mother is leaving for Acapulco. This is the first in a list of troubles he experiences prior to Laserblaster! discovery. Now, Billy is around 20-21, he has a girlfriend who will have sex at the drop of a hat, and the house will be empty for who knows how long. His reaction is to whine. Throughout the movie he proves to be an accomplished whiner.
    His mother leaves him an empty house: he whines. Next, his girlfriend's crank grandfather threatens him and refuses to let him see her, he whines. A coke machine gives him his coke at the wrong speed, he drinks his coke with a fiercely whiney look. Challenged to race by Chuck & Froggy, his van suddenly refuses to start and he looks forlorn and pounds the roof of the van. A few seconds later he is driving down the road just fine. Deputies Unger  & Jeep give chase and stop him by running him violently off the road. This is one of the strangest scenes of the movie as the fat bearded Unger menaces our hero, warns him "he knew what would happen" and then gives him a ticket for, well I'm not quite sure what. Unger has some inner hatred for Billy which is never explained. I would like to think it stems from jealousy over Billy's cool van, but Unger has a cool police car with a tall floppy antenna so that cannot be it.
    Billy is angry, confused, and carrying a now empty coke which seems to baffle him. You drank it, you twit! He parks in the middle of the desert and tosses the coke bottle which smacks into the Laserblaster! which he never noticed lying in plain sight. He picks it up and our Autraloemopithicus spends the next few minutes doing a Leatherface dance and making 'Pow Pow" sounds. It is quite embarrassing to watch and one is struck with the need to violently slap Billy around.
    We switch scenes to young Kathy, she meets our hero and they go to a birthday party with cake and a pool and a little rape on the side. Upon discovering his girl being mauled by Chuck & Froggy, he opens up a can of whup-ass with a tennis racquet. Kathy now insists her rape experience was no big deal. The kind of thing Whoopi would say was not 'rape rape'. Now the revenge begins! Revenge for a lifetime of whine inducing slights he can no longer tolerate.  I would guess the writer intended us to feel sympathy for young Billy, but we cannot, he is just too pathetic.
    That night, as Chuck & Froggy leave the party that has ended hours before, Billy stands nearby on a cliffside. A spot light picks him out (really, he is illuminated by a spotlight) and he turns Chuck's car into twisted metal. Oh, he's wearing the necklace so his face has become green and his teeth pointy. Apparently the designers at Galweapontech had a sense of humor or odd sexual tastes.
    Later, after a hot lovemaking session on a blanket in the wilderness (it seems our couple has a wild streak as they refuse to use Billy's empty house for their trysts) Kathy expresses worry over the metal disc embedded in Billy's chest. Did I forget to mention that? Well, it because it is suddenly there. They go to the town doctor, Roddy McDowall! Who looks concerned and removes it. Billy seems utterly unconcerned to have a hunk of metal burned into his chest. Like most people he knows this is all just a part of puberty. The doctor makes a telephone call to a local friend/laboratory all the while looking concern. He then drives to take his sample to the lab. Green faced Billy meets him and sends him to the angels or back to that terrible planet of apes, one of those.
    How did Billy know he was heading toward a lab at midnight? How did he manage to cut him off? We will never know and that is a good thing. The violence escalates, Unger needs to make a pit stop in a dark outhouse in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night (as we all need to do once in awhile), Billy takes out the shitter and also the police cruiser. Jeep manages to get away and is never heard from again.
    Oh wow, I've forgotten all about Gianni Russo, our intrepid government agent. This is because although he menaces and shows his mysterious badge, he doesn't seem to do much. He looks at things, he goes to labs and tests things, and he warns generic sheriff about a threat to the town. The town is locked down, which means that umm. . .well nothing because everybody manages to still leave the town. He visits the crank grandfather and they talk about the old man's retirement from a secret government project. What it has to do with the plot, we have no idea.
    Back to Billy! Chuck & Froggy have managed to evade the town lock down and drive somewhere to get him a new car. They are returning and Froggy sits in the front seat chattering on incessantly and scooting closer and closer to Chuck. Really, by the time they are blasted to pieces by an ambushing Billy, Froggy is practically giving Chuck a hickie. So, they're dead. Billy has once again proven prescient in his ability to locate targets on roads and destroy them. His van is nowhere to be seen and so he runs. A hippie picks him up and they drive.
    Oddly enough, he seems to have solved the green face problem as he now wears the necklace and wields the weapon green face free. He notices a plywood Star Wars sign on the side of the roads and blow it up. The hippie is impressed and so he must die. Now Billy has reverted back to green face, perhaps it helps him to get in the mood. Billy drives toward somewhere and we soon see Gianni Russo and Kathy are driving after him. How they know where he is or where he is going, we have no idea. This happens a lot in this movie.
    Billy reaches the east coast in record time as we are now treated to his blowing up news stands on a Brooklyn street. The aliens have returned and as he staggers about waving the weapon, Gianni and Kathy arrive. One of the dino-aliens blasts Billy from a roof top and Kathy rushes to his side. The Laserblaster is gone! It seems the aliens were just toying with us, as they could have magically taken the weapon by magic anytime they wanted. Billy dies, Kathy cries, and Gianni drives. The End.

    All in all it was a wild ride of whining and blasting and rape. The kind of thing a man can remember when the going gets tough and the bullets start flying. Billy is a hero to us all, he knows that when whining doesn't get you what you want, there is always violence as a fallback plan. Somewhere, somehow a dino-alien will get a Laserblaster to you and you can get things done. And isn't that what life is all about? Isn't it?

Final score: 3 Banana Slugs

Starting Afresh

Well, this is a restart for me, forgot I even had this blog. Where to begin? Considering the chances are no one will read this, I will keep it short. This blog will be about writing, books, movies, work, and whatever else strikes my fancy. I'm pretty clueless how to do these things so I will be floundering for awhile.