Archive for category Travels

Catching up…

I’ve been steady… doing a lot of stuff lately. Even though I’ve been sitting on the 15k word bubble, I’ve been tinkering my way (mentally) through a blocking point, trying to figure out the connection from where I am, to where I see the story going… That’s a hard bridge to find, at the moment… However, I do still see the target date for the first draft as before Thanksgiving…

In other news, starting with the more pressing news/dates… my first night of class will be this Thursday, which will begin spelling out the rest of my work patterns for the semester. Specifically, if it becomes a pressing issue that I cannot use my current work-in-progress, then that will mean juggling two projects at once (which, hopefully, will mean two completed 1st drafts by the end of the semester). If I’m feeling really frisky, I may try doing some of the exercises with two possible projects, anyway – working backwards on the current project, and starting sketches for one of the next projects.

And I have two kinda-big trips planned for next year…
First, in May, a trip out to Denver, where I am thinking of applying to University of Denver for the PhD program, when I finish the Master’s. Still a ways off, but I want to make sure I feel comfortable with my options before I get to the point of filing applications. If I’m going to have to move, I want to make sure I’ll actually enjoy wherever it may be.

Second, will be a trip to Readercon in Boston. As of this writing, it will be my first convention that I am attending (in any capacity)*. Granted, it will be as an attendee, not as a presenter/distinguised guest, but it will be an experience I’m looking forward to.

And lastly, for now, the triggering point for the post, meeting resolutions. There will likely be several that will end the year much like they began… wisps of hope. But there is one that I can safely say will be able to pass into the next year with a sticker, like the kind we used to get in grade school (or now, I guess, with the reading charts… will have to ask my nephews about that)… I have finished my 26th book for the year (and here it is, still August, with four full months to go)! Book number 27 is already underway, and 28 is in the bag now (to be started after work tonight), and at least one other book that will be guaranteed to be read (and possible three more after that, thanks to required reading for my class)… So the 26-30 books for the year – done and then some. We shall see where we’re at when the dust settles at the beginning of January to see how far beyond 30 I’ve been able to get…

* If I play my cards right, and keep my ears open, I may be able to attend something more local before next July. If I can align some of my stars, I may be able to have a paper available or in the drafting stage that might be possible to present. Especially if I want to work towards a PhD… more publications, projects, etc. = better chance of acceptance to a program (and better chances of employment after completion).

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Back from the Mountaintop…

MC and I went to her grandparents’ place in Pennsylvania to take advantage of the long weekend (and we took an extra day off to make it longer!)… and the house is on top of a (smallish) mountain. The Appalachain Trail runs near their place (less than 1/2 mile from it, actually), and it’s quite a nice, quiet place.

And there were some alterior motives with the trip, as well… When I was first taken up there, almost two years ago (a sort of “meet the grandparents” before MC and I officially started dating), along with another of MC’s friends (Melissa), we (Melissa and I) were force-fed some of the history of the area by the grandparents… it’s not a bad thing, as people are always inclined to want to brag or show off some of the landmarks or features of the area, especially if there is some sort of personal connection.

In this particular case, it involves a now-lost luxury hotel (burned to the ground in 1967-ish) that opened for business in 1891. Being a hotel person in a past life (I do have a management degree for just such an occupation), it was something that intrigued me – and as a writer, it’s been something that’s stuck with me. Fueled by some ideas that popped up during my “Research” class, part of my plans for the trip were to gather some research information and ideas from the (now) grandparents-in-law. While I didn’t get as much as I would have liked (abundance of information, not enough time to make notes or get a lot of pictures of other locations – not from lack of resources), I have enough to start some serious story-boarding for a project (including a time-stamp for circa early 1940s to accurately use the sights/locations that I am thinking about blending into the story)…

I’ve got a couple of things bouncing around, that I hope to make some distinct progress on over the summer (to prepare for my class next fall). If things go well this summer, I would like to be well into a couple of works (near 30k words), to be well positioned to take advantage of the semester for workshopping and improving the project of choice.

To the drafting table!

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I’m Back…

Just in time for the new year… well, not really, since we’re almost a week after the ball has dropped… but I (we) have returned from our South American honeymoon. To many things that I would like to try and post, but I am and work, and don’t have everything lined up that I would like to say (including pictures, etc.)… so that will have to be pending….

I also need to make some corrections and updates, with regards to the “movies watched and books read” items, but that will also come in the “recap” post. As will the “2009 Resolutions” be in the works… I’m working on the “To Do” list as I type this, and it is just going to take a bit of time to put it all together…

Right, now it’s off to Flickr, to get a space ready for pictures…

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This will likely be the final “active” post of 2008…  I do have a few entries that will post in my absence, but today is the day that I think was mentioned several months ago… my wedding to Mary Catherine.

I am putting this together in a little bit of the downtime preceding the events this evening…  And tomorrow we leave the country for two weeks, and will not be that close to a computer (rather… blogging will be lower on the priority list during those two weeks…)…
Adios for now… I’ll post again upon the return…

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Traveling notes…

Since I will be gone for a few weeks, I thought it only fair to add the list of books that I will be taking with me. I will be taking four books – two Gaiman titles, a King, and The Painted Veil by Maugham. I don’t know how many of them I will actually get through before the year ends (or, during the trip), but that’s what I’m taking, and what will be the next few books from the queue.

The specific titles: Fragile Things (Gaiman) and Everything’s Eventual (King) are both short story collections, and will be the first books read. I am planning on alternating reads between the two books, and they will be the most likely to be finished (at least one of them). With less than 100 pages to go in Grafton’s “F”, these will be started long before the plane takes off on Sunday night.

After the story collections will be Veil, (originally published in 1925) to give a stark styllistic change from most of the other books that I have been reading for the last year, easily being the oldest (published) work recently read. If things are looking tight, I will probably just wait until January 1st to start this one, ushering in the new year with a clean start.

The other Gaiman book, Anansi Boys, will be the third novel of his that I will tackle, and will most likely not be started until 2009 – on the long flight back, if all goes well with Veil.

Beyond that, I will pull some more books from my shelves, and continue the reading streak.

Speaking of reading, a note on how I pick books…
First and foremost, in terms of getting books, I base on the author. If I like the style and content of a given writer’s work, then I will be more likely to get their books. As long as the content is relevant to my interests. Like Stephen King. I am more interested in his story collections, instead of his novels (I tried Salem’s lot about 20 years ago, but just couldn’t get into it, which probably soured me against most of his novels…) But I do want to try reading the “Dark Tower” series… And I have read his “On Writing”.

If I am looking into a new genre (I grew up mostly reading fantsy, science fiction, or straight fiction), I initially go with author reputation – and if there is a series I start at the beginning. Like Sue Grafton. I had gotten interested in the idea of trying to write several mystery stories – but to write something without reading any is crazy. So I sought out Grafton, initially, and started with “A”. I liked it, both the flow and the story involved (and, the use of a serial character), and have been progressing ever since.

In picking out new books, though, while walking the aisles of the local B&N… I look for interesting title names, or interesting cover art… And I read the back, or jacket description. If it sounds interesting, or looks like it might be in line with a style/genre that I may like, then I will consider it.

I also used the same strategy when going through my dad’s book collection. If there was author recognition or series recognition (Frank G. Slaughter, or the Nick Carter series), then I added it to my collection. If there were some that matched my genre interests (the “Baroness” series, or Ted Mark books), I added them. In most cases,if there was a series involved, I kept almost all of the matching books.

In picking books out of the stack (nay, mountain) to be read, things often go about the same. I pick out books that look interesting, and that I haven’t gotten to yet. If there is a story or style that I have in mind, I may tend towards those sorts of works (short story collections during the middle of the last semester, when I was focusing on short stories for class).

I do also consider length, to some degree (if the story is good, the length won’t really matter). Understand, though, that length can vary by edition. My copy of the King book mentioned above runs about 450-ish pages, but entries under Amazon show the same book at 600-ish pages. The trade paperbacks that I have been getting for Grafton’s Alphabet series run about 300-ish pages – but I have seen older paperback versions sitting around 200 pages.

And I try to avoid repeating an author too quickly. Imagine watching a TV series on DVD, or a string of movies starring X, or directed by Y, or all related to Z (like, a specific event – A WWII movie marathon, or a Bond marathon)… before long, the enjoyment would wane. (That’s why I am just now on “F”, when I read Grafton’s “A” back in 2007… and she has written through “T”!)

That’s the nut shell… now it’s time to go do a little more work before I leave for the day…

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Weekend Update: Concert (part 2)

We arrived at the hotel by 4 o’clock, still a little full from lunch at MC’s parents, so we just hung out at the hotel, setting up the fold-out couch, and getting ready for the concert. The room was nice enough – two queen beds and a pull-out sofa, but I was thinking it might actually be two seperate bedroom spaces (like I have had at some other hotels)… oh well…

My sister had not told her boys what the grand plan was for the weekend, but they had picked up that we were going to a concert. The youngest asked, “Mom, are we going to a concert?”

“Yes,” she replied. “And who would you want to go to a concert to see?”

He contemplated this question, tapping his chin in deep thought. “Rush?!” he said, his voice almost asking a question, as well as giving an answer. He’s seven, and likes to rock. His older brother (10) got in on it, “We’re going to see Rush?” And there was much rejoicing by them.

We stopped off at a Bob Evans, right next to the hotel, for dinner on the way to the show, and finalized the seating arrangements. I would be in the closer group of seats, with the two oldest boys.

We tried to use text messages between the sections, during the course of the show, but there just wasn’t the same immediacy as sitting with MC to point out some of the videos, or items on the stage. Also, since they released a live album from last year’s tour, and there are plans for a live DVD to be released this fall, I wasn’t so worried about trying to track down the setlist (like last year… which, by the way, I realized I was wrong with what I thought some of the songs were…).

The main recognition that MC’s nephew had with Rush was “YYZ” from Guitar Hero 2 (which was the last song they played), but he enjoyed himself. Of course, my nephews had fun (even though the youngest fell asleep during the encore, I was told his head was rocking along during the drum solo. MC was actually quite receptive, overall, for her first substantial exposure to them. “They’re obviously very talented,” she said, “but I couldn’t really understand them. And with everyone standing, I couldn’t really see the screens.”

However, one point of humor that has to be pointed out… you know how most of the time the line at the men’s room is usually very non-existent, or moves quickly, while the ladies room will extend 20-30 people from the entrance? Exact opposite… the ladies room was a breeze through while the guys were stuck waiting to go. “And I’ve never seen so many mullets it one place,” MC mentioned (referring to many of the fans).

Another humor point that my sister and I noticed – a guy, driving a black Ferrari… and having to park in a gravel parking lot. What the hell was he thinking?

We returned to the hotel, blessedly by way of a “back route” (the same way we go to the venue, actually – but it did not involve getting on I-85, which was how virtually all of the rest of the traffic was heading), everyone showered, and collapsed onthe beds for a few hours of sleep.

The next morning, we met up with my friend Ben who lives out there, and we all went to breakfast (at Cracker Barrel, again, as it was too early for the lunch-themed restaurants, and we were all hungry). After breakfast, we all went to Concord Mills mall for a little over an hour, to do a little shopping “since we were there”. After dropping Ben off back at the CB, we reversed the route, going back to Winston-Salem before coming back east, and calling it a trip.

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Weekend Update: Concert (part 1)

What had started as a plan to go to the concert with my sister and my fiancee morphed into something else… a family trip. As previously recounted here, I took my sister and nephews to see the Rush: Snakes & Arrows tour in 2007. When I heard they were doing another leg, extending the tour into 2008, I planned to go. I had only planned for the three tickets, since the nephews could have been with their other parental unit in Texas for most of the summer (didn’t happen, long story, but the ex-bro-in-law has moved back to NC… and I mention this only because it’s relevant to the story) on the anticipated concert date…

But I am a geek in that respect… I had the three tickets, but wondered, “Is there anything closer?” I checked, and there were (by about 15 rows), and I got another three tickets. But I had time to decide what to do with the other tickets, so I didn’t sweat it. I checked with some other friends (and MC’s family), with no takers. Since the ex-BiL was in the vicinity, I did the nice thing and offered to sell them to him – not because I really wanted to see him, but because it would give him a chance to actually, maybe, be a parent and allow him to spend time with his kids. And that fell through.

So we changed tack, and decided to take my nephews, which left us with one ticket – a little easier to deal with. So we tried the adult rounds again, but with no takers. MC had been considering seeing if her nephew (age: 14) could go, and with everyone else in our area declining, she called “out west” to see if he could go. Which, after some discussions out there, it was decided that he could go.

The weekend came for the concert, and my sister and nephews came up on Saturday – and we went out for dinner at Cracker Barrel, and breakfast at a local bagel shop – before leaving kinda early on Sunday. We drove out to Winston-Salem to pick up MC’s nephew, and switch vehicles (into something that would be more comfortable for six people). From there, we rolled down to Charlotte so we could check in to the hotel, relax a little, and get dinner before the concert.

Next: The details…

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