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A Political Position: 2016

I try not to discuss politics, since it can be such a polarizing thing. My personal disposition is that a person’s political opinions are their own thing, like the faith/spirituality they choose to practice, who they choose to partner with, or what kind of underwear they choose to wear – nobody’s business but their own. Likewise, with the media the way it is these days with the signal to noise ratio (all relative to what channel you watch), and life’s to short to sort through all the bullshit being shoveled.

But this is a Presidential election year where, to say political opinions are polarizing, would be considered the understatement of the season. The singular advantage to the abundant media exposure today’s candidates have (so much more now as opposed to even in 2008 or 2000), is the opportunity for those on the fence – willing to look at the candidates as people, not just a party affiliation, and determine the best person for the job of President.

That said, here’s my political stake in the ground, as of 28 January 2016, based on what media I have been exposed to. To better understand that stake, however, there needs to be some context.

When I became old enough to register, I registered as Republican, because that’s what my parents were, and what I thought those with conservative tendencies did. As I’ve aged, while I still have conservative tendencies, I have shifted more toward “Independent” (that whole “who do I think would be the best person…?” thing). Some of the folks I have supported have won, others have lost, it’s the way it goes.

When potential candidates emerged a year ago, I made the comment to MC that I liked the idea of a Carson vs Sanders, and actually hoped that’s how things might fall.

Then media happened, and while I would still prefer Carson to get the eventual nod for the Republican ticket, it’s not looking like that will happen. I can’t bring myself to support any of the other candidates.

Which leaves the Democratic hopefuls…a year later, I’m still hoping Sanders gets their endorsement. But part of the reason why him and not Hillary didn’t quite crystallize until I read this, from Wil Wheaton (where he references this article, which pretty much sums it all up), but the tl;dr..

Wheaton writes:

Paraphrasing, the thesis [of the article is] that she lacks political courage, and won’t take a stand on something unless is politically safe for her. From marriage equality to the war in Iraq to ensuring that the poorest Americans have opportunities to have a better life, she has never supported a law or policy that was politically risky or would threaten her chances to advance her political career. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has taken principled and politically risky stances, not because they would advance his career, but because that’s what he believed in.

So, my hope is to vote Sanders in November.

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Farewell, Frey

Damn, this year is starting out like shit. Bowie. Rickman. Now Glenn Frey.

I found this out late yesterday, when I was out with MC, and it was sheer accident that I saw it then. (The overhead radio where we were was playing Sirius XM’s “Coffeehouse” blend – acoustic versions of songs. An Eagles track had already played, we talked about it, and the conversation moved on. Later, there was a cover version of Queen’s “My Best Friend.” As I was searching on my phone, the mention of Frey’s passing showed up under “Related News.”)

The Eagles were already history (read: considered Classic Rock) by the time I was getting into music, and the members were already well established in their respective solo careers. Henley may have been the bigger name, but Frey was the one that seemed to have the higher profile – soundtrack appearances for Beverly Hills Cop, and for Miami Vice (which he also had a small character role on). His solo stuff was more rock-tuned, and he was the singer for most of the Eagles songs that I gravitated toward as “favorites.”

Time to queue up some Eagles, and hold a lighter high.

 

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PF: The Winding Path, Colorado, 2010

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I’m fuzzy on the exact location the image was taken, but I think it was from near the Cave of the Winds. (If I am remembering correctly, that dirt path leads to an entrance further down – maybe the original entry from when the cave was first discovered/explored – as opposed to where the cave tours enter.)

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Farewell Rickman…

Source: Wikipedia

I walked into work this morning to be told that Alan Rickman was taken by cancer… In fact, the news had only just been released minutes before I walked into the office.

To say that I was stunned is a bit of an understatement. Besides the fact that he’s one of my wife’s favorites, he was an actor I could appreciate for his breadth of roles – and vocal range. Yes, he was English, but he didn’t always sound English… Remember Die Hard, where he’s trading barbs with Willis and sounds distinctly American. Or, and I always chuckle at this one, in Prince of Theives, when he’s got Costner on the ropes, draws the sword and drops into a Southern/Texas twang to say “Reckonize this?” (Since recognizing that shift, I’ve wondered if that was a degree of sarcasm at how un-English Costner’s Robin Hood sounded.)

To speak of range – and I’ll sell this woefully short, unfortunately – impressive isn’t even the right word. He could play a wonderful villain (Die Hard, Prince of Thieves, Sweeny Todd), a perceived villain (Harry Potter’s Snape), but he could do comedy (Marvin in Hitchhiker’s Guide, Metatron in Dogma, Galaxy Quest) and lead performances – Blow Dry and the BBC production of Song of Lunch come to mind [seriously – go watch either/both of those. They are SO not Snape or Gruber). And I’ve only referenced the roles that I know well.

I’m sad that the world has lost another talented artist, and to cancer, no less.

Time to check Netflix for a marathon.

 

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On Bowie…

Holy crap… I just discovered that David Bowie passed away over the weekend. (Three kids under the age of 4 limits the amount of “news” that gets received.)

It’s…an odd thing to process. I mean, I was never a huge fan, but when I was younger I understood, on some level, how much of an impact he had on the music industry. It’s an odd thing to say that he’s no longer going to be involved with it.

My favorite song of his – this may seem weird to see – isn’t a distinctly “Bowie” song, yet at the same time, it is. It’s his version of Little Drummer Boy with Bing Crosby. Apparently, unhappy with the the arrangement (and it’s lack of showcasing some of his range), he wrote the lyrics for the other half of the song (what he sings).

I think it’s (past) time to check out the rest of his discography…

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Revising the Process

yeti-gallery-04

I mentioned the other day that I have been tweaking my writing process. Looking into 2016, a large part of that will involve the use of voice. Dictation.

I first got the idea from reading about Kevin J Anderson’s process, then it took on more traction after a classmate at Seton Hill did a teaching presentation on “Technology for Writers.” Specifically, he was addressing  Scrivener and Dragon Naturally Speaking. Scrivener, I was already using. Dragon intrigued me, but I had not seen it in action/spoken with anyone actively using it. That’s not to say that I’m planning on switching completely over (Dragon, for example, I’ve tried with mixed results), but there is merit to the process of dictation.

I have already been carrying around a portable recorder for the past year, using it to record my hashing out of story ideas – character motivations, exploring events [“What events would make sense if this thing needs to happen?” or “What might happen next, after some big event happens?”], or simply exploring beats in a scene.

 

Part of my plans for 2016 do involve trying to dictate actual scenes – usable prose, not just brainstorms. To that end, I picked up a Yeti Blackout (like the one pictured above), from some Black Friday watching, to use with the home computer. I just unboxed it and set it up less than an hour ago and gave it a test spin: about 500 words, while randomly blathering, in under 10 minutes.

Was the capture great? No… For example:

Playing with the controls with disputing points of words being completely random completely non-formulated completely and proud just kind of off-the-cuff seeing how well this works how well this picks up how far away I can be set for omnidirectional witches intended goal like podcasts and voice overs oil as my tethered point so standing up to about I can hear the fan and their purchases sound machine as well some be interesting see what it picks up six out how it picks up and the headphones

But, it was still words on a page. Ever hear the writer’s adage “You can’t edit a blank page”? Part of what I’ve noticed is that it’s an issue with my rate of speech – fairly quick, if I’m just riffing. So my plan is to run the portable recorder at the same time, then I can go back and re-listen during  an initial editing pass…At least, until I can retrain myself to slow down a bit while working (versus whatever I might do while brainstorming).

So far, I’ve been impressed with how the Yeti sounds (listening through the built-in headphone jack at what it can pick up, even with a small fan and ambient noise machine in proximity to the mic). I am hopeful that this will become a useful tool for slinging words and building stories.

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2015 – In Review (the short version)

Time is…fleeting, and as there are still just over 26 hours left in 2015 [at the time I’m writing this], there are still things from the past year that I am pondering, and am not quite ready to commit to pixels. Or, at least, not quite ready to commit to heavy amounts of typing – yet.

As a brief recap, however, here are a few of the highlights that I plan on elaborating on in a later post, after we’ve crossed fully into 2016.

January – I was awarded my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction
March & May – Kids got older
Somewhere in there, I began an affair with Audiobooks
Summer – A whirlwind trip back to Seton Hill (this time with Mary Catherine along). And Chuck Wendig.*
July – I committed to a new writing project.
September – Signed up for Paradise Lost 6 (2016) Writing Workshop
November – I got older
December – Kool-Aid consumption – I upgraded to El Capitan (from Mountain Lion).

Specifically speaking to the writing component for a moment, this has been a year of discovery…of taking stock of myself, of what I want to accomplish, what stories I want to tell, and how I can best go about committing story…

Like I said at the beginning – borrowing from RHPS – time is fleeting. When I looked at the solid list of ideas that I’ve been tinkering with (stand-alones, planned trilogy arcs, potential series characters [small arcs with potential for more adventures]), there are at least 30 books. 30! So there has been a lot of focus on how I can maximize my opportunities for story development and getting words down.

That focus – on implementing and refining my process – will play a large part in my plans for 2016. Because words matter…stories matter. And I have stories to tell…

* Wendig was the guest speaker for the Summer 2015 Residency, so I was able to meet him, briefly, during his books signing after his night session.

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Thoughts on Process, August 2015

One of the things that I’ve struggled wiith since finishing my MFA program back in January has been production. Wait, let me roll that back. Not so much the production of ideas, but examining the idea of maximizing production during the brief moments of time that I get on an average weekday (the only writing time I can guarantee, with any regularity).

It’s actually a thing that I’ve been considering for some time, since my chief goal (being a consistantly publishing writer) demands output, but I knew my available writing time would be scarce for a few years once hint of the twins surfaced in 2013. Many of the consistantly producing writers that I read/heard about their process were doing two things: knowing (roughly) what their endings are, and do some kind of outlining.

Disclaimer: as I worked througgh my thesis, I did have the rogh idea of the ending (“showdown must happen!”) but no idea how that was going to happen, nor the road to that showdown. Basically, I had my beginning before I started the program, and new the rough ending, but otherwise pantsed the middle. Longhand, then typed it up.

And, knowing how long it took me to write that novel, I knew I needed to rethink my approach.

So, graduation back in January, and despite having ideas that wanted to be written, I was still trying to wrap my head around figuring out what might work for me. Dragon, and it’s “transcripton” process (record a file elsewhere, then letting the software handle the conversion to text, instead of being connected to the computer and talking real-time), was a crapshoot with the equipment, pacing and how I was generating the raw audio. For a 20 minute recording a year ago, about 4 pages of text, I spent more time correcting the text before I could edit it that it turned me off for months to the idea, despite knowing the potential.

But the “Outlining the Mary Way” episode of Writing Excuses kept naggging me. It’s one I’ve frequently relistened to, printed out Mary Robinettte Kowal’s supporting blog posts, and while it made sens at the time, something still wasn’t firing. (Honestly, I think it was still haviing thesis on the brain at the time, and even though I was thinking of other projects, I had grad school stuff that was nagging my focus.)

I read a few self-pubbed craft ebooks the first part of the year, of the “Mega Word Count in a Short Time” variety, and they supported the “outline/know what you want to wrrite before you sit down to write” concept. One of them also advocated dictation. I had also read comments from Kevin J Anderson, about how he developed his dictation process, that when he started it was more about recording his brainstorming sessions instead of trying to spit full prose scenes.

Connections were happening, and I was starting to figure out an approach.

Then, a group of alumni from the grad program got together to continue the crit partner process (read: acccountability), and I jumped at the chance to test said approach.

So, for right now, here’s what things look like:

Portable dictation, hashing out the story arc, exploring the “what ifs” and “elsing the story.” Then, doing it again, embelishing and expanding, looking for scenic beats, etc. 

For s&g’s, I decided to install the Dragon iPad app, to see if it’s performance was any better than the regular version. (The app is free, performance was meh. Network connection needed, and it can only process about a minute at a time.)

Then, I decided to combine them – and that was today’s experiment: record my blathering, but concurrently talk into the Dragon app to get something onto a page to edit (or, a more fleshed guide for frantic typing), later.

In about 45 minutes, working from a rough beat outline, I generated what I’m calling an ugly 3000 words (about 4.25 single spaced pages). That’s expanding a rough 1/2 page, 4 paragraph plan for the first 4 chapters. I call it ugly” because it’s mostly surface level plot stuff, telling things, etc, not going deep into paintingg the pictures and emotions.

But it’s a start, and I can mold from there.

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Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied – FTW!

I’ve mentioned my affinity for The Fratellis before… a few times. (Seriously, the impulse buy of Costello Music from the local Best Buy in the March-April of 2007 was one of the few positives going on at that time in my life. In fact, it’s the only disc of the several gotten that day that still gets heavy play. I can’t say enough about how worth the sticker price that album has been.)

Second album, just as good, and almost as many replays. Third album, I only recently discovered a few months ago, and it’s been played it several times at work (usually at least once a day since I downloaded).

Their fourth album, which I had pre-ordered (the Deluxe version), dropped Friday. (Note for context: There are very few groups these days that I’m willing to pre-order music from. Most, I’ll just add to my iTunes Wish List, and wait to listen through the samplers before committing.)

Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied – I’ve been listening to it almost exclusively – when I’ve listened to anything – since downloading it Friday morning. (The exception? This week’s Writing Excuses episode, then back to the Fratellis.) I kid you not, I even plugged it in to the speakers on the jogging stroller while walking the twins around the neighborhood over the weekend. Despite a strange look at first (well, strange for 15-month olds), curious at what they were hearing, the eldest twin got it, and I caught him on more than one occasion tapping his knee to the beat.

Check it out. Trust me.

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Conversation with a Toddler – 7 Aug 2015

One of the movies that our eldest will request is Bolt. Tonight, it was requested. Then this happened while waiting for the movie to start…

Eldest: “Daddy, you’re Bolt. Mommy, you’r the cat.”

MC: “Who are you?”

Me: “The hamster?”

MC: “Rhino? Are you Rhino the Hamster?”

Eldest thinks for a moment. “No. I’m the Green-Eyed Man.”

MC: “Who are your brothers?”

Eldest:” They’re small.”

MC and I laughed. Quick thinking 3 year old… Never a dull moment.

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