Knives Episode 34 Published!

Knives Episode 34 is out! A bit of travel, a campfire, and a look at the thing from the well.

I was sorely tempted to put a stinger on the end of this episode, but boy would that have messed with my plans. You can’t just put every shiny idea you get into a story, no matter how well it would have rounded out this episode. So, no fireworks this time.

On the writing side, I’ve discovered that the way to make money on Patreon as a writer is to write porn. I’m just going to stick with hoping my patrons see fit to spread the word about Knives, however.

In other news, the chicken that lives next door just laid an egg. Life in a trailer park is nothing if not glamorous.

Anyway, enjoy Episode 34: The Prize!

A Letter from Betty

I get these occasionally:


I’ve been reading a few of your posts, and they’re really good – Your blog is really in depth, and it just so happens to be in the same industry as us. Which is why I’ve approached you for a guest post. Would you be willing to host a guest post on your website which is well written, researched and packed with information for your audience

If you would like to collaborate and hose a post useful for your audience please feel free to get back to me. I look forward to your reply.

Best Regards
Betty Miller

Occasionally I respond. Not because I particularly want a guest writer, but because I hope that out there, somewhere, is a talented person trapped in a shitty job who will at least crack a brief smile upon reading my response. It also offers me a chance to ask, “what is MR&HBI?” because it actually is a difficult thing to define. Like the way ‘America’ is hard to define.

So I wrote back. I don’t always, but I have to admit I was curious to find out what industry I was in. And just now I noticed that the query message has a missing period. Would a robot commit an obvious grammatical error?

Anyway, I said:

Hi Betty,

I’m flattered that you’ve enjoyed my posts; it validates the over one million words I’ve written over the years. Perhaps you will now be joining the small but fiercely-loyal Order of the Muddled. (Note to self: Order of the Muddled merchandise. And a theme song. And a cool coat of arms. And a private-label scotch whiskey.)

I’ve never had a guest writer, although I have received offers like yours before. Unfortunately, up until now all those offers have come from robots — except the one recently that came from a thin-skinned jerk. So please forgive me if I jump to the conclusion that this mail came from the former, and please excuse yourself if you are the latter.

Likely there is no Betty, there is just a robot ready to pass any responses to this mail to someone willing to pretend to be Betty. That would be you, whoever is passed this response. Pretend Betty.

Going back to your original message, you have to admit that “in the same industry as us” is a pretty vague, robot-spammy thing to say. So first I think we need to figure out just what industry we are talking about here. I cover* a wide range of tech issues, focussing perhaps mainly on privacy, but I couldn’t say that’s what MR&HBI is actually about. The most recent episode was about dishwasher installation. Or ineptitude. Or something like that. OK fine, it was a list. But a list that told a story, if you squinted at it just right.

I picture you, Pretend Betty, as a student, or maybe an ex-pat living in Prague (ah, Prague!), getting paid slave wages to plant links in “guest posts” across the Web. I’ve actually known people like you, creative and ambitious, stuck in a rut but having to pay the rent. The challenge, Pretend Betty, your challenge, is to find a way to stretch your literary wings while still pleasing your spammer masters.

Well, Pretend Betty, here’s your chance. You can write about just about anything at MR&HBI (had you *actually* read any of my posts, you would know that). There are only two requirements: You have to believe it, and it has to be in your voice. Humor is welcome; if you can work your overlords’ links into your submission in a fun and playful way all the better. Art trumps substance. Voice trumps art. Storytelling trumps all.

Safe to say, substance is not a priority at Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas. Just so you know, it will have to be pretty good writing for me to make space for you here. Much better than my own writing — if I had to please an editor each episode, there would only be a fraction of the words on this site.

There it is, Pretend Betty. Your chance**. I eagerly await your response.


* “cover” is a nice way to say “rant about”
** “chance” is a shorthand way to say “opportunity to have some fun and maybe get published in the backwaters of the forgotten blogosphere to the benefit of no one”


Tools I Used While Installing a Dishwasher

Tape measure
Box knife
Medium flathead screwdriver
Small flathead screwdriver
Pliers, electrician’s
Pliers, slip-joint
Pliers, long-nose
Pliers, groove-joint
Wire stripper (crappy)
Desk lamp
Flashlight (cheap and annoying)
Extension cords (3)
9/16″ crescent wrench
7/16″ crescent wrench
Drill motor
Medium philips screwdriver drill attachment
Drill-screwdriver extension
3/32″ drill bit
Mazda Miata (1999)
Credit card
Tote bag, canvas (No Kid Hungry)
Wood planer (antique)
Belt sander, small (belts all broke)
Belt sander, medium (borrowed)
Dremel motor with cutting bit
Mini Countryman (2014)
Circular saw
Dust mask
Vacuum cleaner
Level, carpenter’s
Level, torpedo
Socket wrench, 1/4″ drive
Socket, smallish
Socket, very small
Packing tape
Duct Tape
Multi-tool (used by helper)
Towels, cloth
Towels, paper
Topical antiseptic

Knives Episode 33 Published!

We rarely outrun our pursuit, we outlast it.

Knives Episode 33: The Hardest Lesson has been published! Things happen, but they’re small things. Things that might or might not develop into large things.

Over here at Muddled Ramblings I talk for a bit about a character quirk of Martin’s I reveal in this episode, that to actually make sense I’d have to go back and tweak a lot of previous episodes. I left that quirk in for now, and perhaps you can spot it. In the next few days I’ll have to decide what to do about that quirk. Either erase it from this episode, or go back and do some rewritin’.

It is taking me much longer to get to looking at the goddam thing from the well than I thought it would. That’s because there are more important things going on. Or at least that’s my story now.

Behind the scenes, things are going pretty well. I’d like to welcome a new patron, and send out special thanks, while respecting privacy. Thanks, new patron! I’ll have your special access set up real soon. All y’all feel free to spread the good word.

Serial Fiction Blues

For the most part, writing serial fiction really agrees with me. When you release a story a chapter at a time, shit has to happen every chapter.

That’s a good thing. One of the most celebrated Fantasy Epics, the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, became so agonizingly cumbersome and long-winded that the networks probably won’t make it into a gigantic TV drama. Had Jordan written it as serial fiction, he would likely have told the story with about one-third the words. Maybe less. Things have to happen. There’s a ticking clock, but it’s not a plot device, it’s the readers’ expectations.

I realized recently that while I’ve spent months working on the story, much of the action for the characters has been compressed into a handful of days. The slow pace of Martin’s dissolution in Mountain Hole suddenly shifted to a steady physical pounding as his world has gone up in flames. More than once I’ve had to remind myself that it was yesterday that our hero(ish) took a right beating.

But those are good challenges, and I’ll manage them.

Today I wrote a sentence, and it revealed a character quirk of Martin that I really like. Nothing plot-changing, but indirectly and casually revealing something fundamental about him, a window into his not-quite-like-you-and-me nature. The thing is, to make that work I have to go back and put that trait into every observation Martin has made up to this point.

I expect most successful serial fiction starts out with a much more detailed character design than I had for Martin, but even with the best of plans, something like this is inevitable. Surely in season two of Mad Men the writers had a great idea about a character that was probably too late to implement.

But for me, what is the definition of too late? I don’t really have that many readers; I could revise the previous episodes and carry the trait forward. Perhaps the occasional new reader would be more likely to be hooked. But then again I’m already behind posting backstory content (Katherine’s youth will be coming REAL SOON), and a revision like that will slow me down even more.

But knowing this possible trait, can I write future episodes without it? Or what if I go back and retrofit it everywhere and it turns out to suck? I do not know how to deal with these choices, so I’m just going to write something and hope it comes out OK.


Last Night I Dreamt of Snakes

The girl lay, loosely curled, in a garden next to a gravel path, the autumn tones of her jacket blending with the dried leaves and flowers, her long brown hair collecting leaves. An early spring sun kissed her face, and here and there the plants around her showed the first timid hints of green. One of her hands lay outstretched, flexing unconsciously as a snake, blue with dark markings dancing down its body, entwined itself between her little fingers.

Perhaps she was dreaming; her other hand grasped at the soil. Only it wasn’t soil, it was another snake, gray and pale, as thick as her wrist. At first I thought it was dead, but then it began to move, unwinding and refolding endlessly, neither head nor tail discernible in the mass.

Another snake, the color of brick with black accents, reaches out timidly and touches the girl’s face with its shy tongue, and her cheek dimples with a fleeting smile. Another snake, orange-yellow, is coiled by her head.

The longer I look, the more snakes I see, surrounding her peaceful slumber, sharing her radiant warmth in the weak sun, whispering reptilian secrets that she probably can’t hear.


The Robots are Slacking

Over there on Facebook, I got an ad for some kind of wedding-related thing. I wasn’t surprised to see it; in retrospect I was surprised that it took four months after changing my Facebook status to “engaged” for an ad like that to show up. Sloppy work, robots!

Oh, and in case you don’t all hang on my Facebook relationship status 24/7, I suppose I should announce here that Sam and I are getting married in December. Woo Hoo!