Facts? Bah!

I was pretty pleased with myself when I realized it was perfectly logical for my point-of-view character to be claustrophobic. After all, she was born in the ocean (literally) and lived almost her entire life on a raft. Sure they had canvas structures to keep the rain off their heads, but overall, the sky has been her ceiling.

So when she’s on a submarine, that’s got to be pretty awful, right?

I got to that point and realized that I know next to nothing about: a) claustrophobia, and b) submarines. After about two thousand words in this setting, I have finally dug up a cutaway of a typical attack submarine, and, well, the sub in my story has a lot more decks. Maybe that’s why the ceilings seem so low to her; the decks are only four feet apart to fit them in a 33-foot diameter cylinder.

But that’s what rewrites are for, right?

NaNoWriMo 15-day Checkup

November is half-spent, and I’m still pretty far behind on my novel, at 18.5 kilowords. I was even farther behind before this last weekend, but I fell into a good rhythm of 1000-word sprints — write a thousand words, take a little break. I have 32 more sprints to go, but honestly I’m not too worried; I’ve taken some time off work in the coming days to be around for an influx of home repair and new appliances, and I should be able to get in three sprints a day on non-work days pretty easily, and sometimes more.

Meanwhile the story itself has really just been an exploration of the setting, and the cultures of the people in what was once Miami. I’m getting a good feel for the raft culture, though sometimes I wonder if perhaps their traditions are too well developed — after all, there are people who can remember Miami before; has enough time passed for a navajo-inspired system of intermarriage to have evolved? Probably not; but if that’s the thing people pick out to complain about then I’ll feel all right.

Several characters have had “audition chapters”, in which I experiment with whether they would fit in an actual story. A couple of the scenes were pretty fun to write, others fell flat.

Fun idea: if algae blooms suck all the oxygen out of the water and kill off marine life (look up “dead zone Louisiana”), a few vegetarian air-breathing species might flourish. Some sea turtles are strictly vegetarian, for instance, and in the absence of predators (except of course for starving humanity) they might do well. Also, I may introduce manatee farming.

There have of course been some of those crazy first-draft no-time-to-go-back moments. There is a floor in one of the buildings that at first is empty, every sound resonating as a storm rages outside. Then, maybe half an hour later, that same space is crammed to the gills with industrial equipment and supplies. Perhaps that place is a portal to another dimension, but nobody in the story said, “Holy shit! Where did all that stuff come from?”

If things get tight around Nov 28th, that portal may reopen, and who knows what would come out. Just sayin’.

I’ve also managed to find a couple of little touches to communicate the magnitude of the disaster, to go along with the skeletons of fallen high-rise buildings. An Igloo cooler sitting on the seat of a submerged utility truck, with a lunch packed inside that would never be eaten, things like that. Jaqi, who dives into the wreckage and into the past, usually isn’t affected by them; things have been like this her whole life. But when she is separated from her raft/family, those old clues of the humanity of those who died can touch her.

Will I have an interesting yarn at the end of this exercise? Honestly, probably not, though it does have moments. But I think I’ll have a pretty good place to put a yarn, and a few interesting people to play the parts.

Knives Episode 19 Released!

It seems like someone — or something — is trying to prevent our friends from reaching the fortress at Brewer’s Ford. The fort means different things to each of the companions — to Elena it represents safety; Katherine may be walking to a dungeon cell and the gallows. Martin is not a big fan of walls, but considering what’s out here trying to kill them, he’s willing to chance it for a while.

In a way this episode is its own biography, as it has seen its share of resistance as well. Chapter 19 has gone through several metamorphoses as it has moved closer to the big time, with whole sections inserted only to be removed again. Until a very short time ago I had moved much of what I planned to put into chapter 20 into this chapter as well, but this chapter was getting huge and I don’t want to hold back on the descriptions of what happens next. (As I’ve hinted before, episode 20 is a biggie.) So ultimately this episode is a little underweight, but has plenty going on to make it worthwhile. I hope I haven’t overworked the chapter, but it reads pretty well to me.

Thanks once more to all the patrons!

19: The Crossing

All I want for my birthday…

… is patrons.

And macaroni and cheese, but that’s been covered already.

While I’m at it, thanks for all the well-wishes sent my way via various social media and even good old-fashioned email. I now have a pirate song sung by dogs stuck in my head. The song said I was supposed to drink beer; I better get on that.



Knives going live!

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Knives, my serialized fantasy story, is now officially launched! Woo! You can visit over at its swanky new digs. For those of you unfamiliar with the genesis of this story, it started as a fun little project called The Fantasy Novel I Will Likely Never Write, but two things happened: People started clamoring for more (yes, clamoring), and I was having a ton of fun writing it. So those first few chapters of dubious quality gave way to richer, better-written ones, and it began to look like TFNIWLNW was not a very good name for the project.

I have spruced up the first few chapters and put them in a new home, all on their own, so people can enjoy the story without being distracted by all the goings-on over here at Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas. That turned out to be rather more time-consuming than I had banked on, so those who clamored have, ironically, had a long wait.

In fact, the clamorists still have a bit of waiting to do, as I upgrade the first chapters from light first drafts to richer second drafts. But here’s where you can help! You see, there’s a lot of things competing for my time, and the one way to make sure Knives remains a vibrant story is to put beer in my refrigerator. You, my good friends, can become patrons of the arts.

Please go visit the new site, and give a read. If you like it, click that Patreon button and pledge a wee bit per chapter. When certain goals are met, new chapters will come out. Plus, patrons will (eventually) get some modestly cool extras for their eyes only. Still working on setting that up.

Go, read, enjoy. It gets violent, and there’s a teenage girl who is gleeful with her profanity, so Knives is not for everyone. But I’ve got chapter seventeen champing at the bit to rush out and greet the world, but, like a younger daughter, she can’t get married until the elders are all taken care of.

Hm. Not my best metaphor stew. But you get the idea.

And to those already supporting the story, please, spread the word! Help me get to the targets that will free the next chapters!

Using my Photography to Promote my Writing

I’ve got a bold new venture in serial fiction kicking up, and I’m facing the simple reality that pictures sell. I can’t draw worth a lick, but I do take pictures and could possibly even shoot video. The thing is, I’m completely stumped about how to take pictures that support the particular story I’ll be flogging. I suppose I could put friends in costume and head out to the woods for a shoot, and then photoshop the crap out of the results to make it look less photographic, but…

There’s got to be a better way! As someone who claims to be creative, I have to admit I’m totally stumped by this one. Maybe I’ll just put the fish-eye lens on the camera and take close-ups of my little dog. Nothing to do with the story, but people love that stuff.

My Little Clickbait

My Little Clickbait

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Announcing Knives (Beta)

Well, it’s time, I think, to introduce Knives, the serial fiction project formerly known as The Fantasy Novel I’ll Likely Never Write. It has its own place now, knives-the-novel.net, where you can see the first five (improved) episodes.

At this time, I would appreciate a few people checking it out, and letting me know what they think of the organization, the theme, and the experience in general. Please leave your comments here on Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas — finding a good discussion forum for Knives remains stubbornly on the incomplete list.

Also, I would be Super-Duper grateful if a couple of folks who are so inclined could report back on the Patreon Experience. Of course that means pledging support for the story; I sincerely hope some of the regulars here see fit to toss a bit into the tip jar.

Once I work the kinks out of the system, I will be exhorting you all to spread the word about Knives, but for now, let’s keep things modest.

And, once more, faithful readers, thank you!

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Where’s TFNIWLNW?

The Fantasy Novel I Will Likely Never Write is moving to a new home. I’ve got the announcement all set to go, but like many construction projects, getting the new home set up has been way more time-consuming than I bargained for.

Brief aside: WordPress has thousands of widgets for almost every purpose, and most of them suck. I mean, they really suck.

So I’ve been spending time on that, and not on the actual story. Bah. The time I do devote to the prose I’m investing in rewrites of the early chapters, when “IWLN” was still mostly true, so I wasn’t putting as much into the finer points of writing a good yarn. I think you’ll appreciate the difference should you be inclined to go back and read. You know, when the new home is ready.

I guess the message is, faithful fans, please be patient.

And if you, or someone you love, can draw me a couple of pictures, please let me know.

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Turning a Corner — With a little help, maybe?

I had a long episode all ready to go making a big announcement about The Fantasy Novel I’ll Likely Never Write (including the title!), but on more careful consideration I think it is premature. However, if you are an illustrator or a crowdfunding expert, I’d like to grossly underpay you for help giving TFNIWLNW wings. Nothing complex on either front; no people-drawing required (unless you like drawing people), and as for the crowdfunding I mostly need someone to explain what all that shit is and help me figure out what’s right for this project, or maybe it’s just a paypal tip-jar-thermometer thingie.

Any help greatly appreciated! You can hit me up at [email protected] I can’t pay much, but I’ll do my best to get you a walk-on role when the feature film comes out.

For now, I’m going back to making episode fifteen make sense. Expect to see it soon!

TFNIWLNW Reality check

While I remind myself that I am writing for myself and no one else, it’s been a while since the sweet-o-meter has been clicked for an episode of TFNIWLNW, and the comments have dried up, and as far as I can tell no one has shared links to the episodes with anyone else. So at this point I suspect that I’m writing for only me.

Through other channels a couple of folks have said they’re enjoying it, and I am Really Stoked about the upcoming episode (we get to see what the Soul Thieves are capable of), and overall that’s what matters.

But, if you like it, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if you were to let me know. You’d even make my day if you mentioned what parts you like, and even what you don’t. And if someone else says something you don’t agree with, a little brush fire can be fun, too. Doesn’t mean I’ll change (that would imply a better plan than I have anyway), but I’d still like to hear from y’all.

And I’m not going to get that movie deal if people never see it. So pass it around. I’ll be adding previous/next links to the episodes to make the story easier to follow, and I think I’ll be adding more about the process in comments from here out to provide another layer of entertainment. But I’d really like it to be a discussion, rather than me going blah, blah, blah.

I think I may have discouraged discussion with my rather absolute pronouncements about back story and exposition in previous comments. Um… sorry? To make up for it, I think I’ll sneak in a backstory episode for Katherine and another for Martin — or maybe for his dark-bladed knife. That little piece of cutlery has a story to tell for sure.

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Expanding my Footprint

avatarMy experiment over at Tsū is going pretty well, but that platform is not as text-friendly as I’d like it to be for sharing my writing. I’ve started an account at 3tags, a profit-sharing blogging platform, to house Jerry the Writer, while at Tsū I will be Jerry the Photographer. I will of course always be Jerry the Muddled Rambler right here.

3tags may become home to a more-polished version of TFNIWLNW, but first I have to come up with an actual title. Right now all the ones I come up with are too generic (“The Soul Thieves”) or too glib (“Stabbin’ the Soul Thieves”). Hopefully I can come up with something soon. The rough-draft version of TFNIWLNW will continue to accumulate here. (There’s about 1.8 episodes in the hopper as I type this.)

I have no evidence to back this up, but I think keeping identities focussed will be more follower-friendly. I’m not sure 3tags is the right platform for me simply because there aren’t very many people there – I was able to grab the user name “Jerry” — so building a following will be a long and slow process. One thing that helps is that 3tags makes it easier to announce new posts on Facebook and twitter.

When people read my stories there, I get paid! If you accept the following invitation and then you create things people like, you get paid (and, since I invited you, I get paid a little, too).

Currently only a handful of people over there will see my stuff based on the tags, so I really hope folks like you will click the links on Twitter and Facebook to see my words. This means I’ll finally have to figure out Twitter, I suppose.

Here’s my invite link if you’d like to check out 3tags — it seems like a pretty capable blogging platform, and I hope they hit critical mass. Heck, if you’re gonna blog, you may as well get paid for it, right?

My Beef With Star Wars

Maybe this is a good time to bring this up, with the first of the new batch of Star Wars movies sitting on the doorstep. The problem with the last batch was not Jar Jar. Jar Jar was annoying as all get-out, but no more annoying than the fur bears in the previous movies. These are films that chose not to grow up with their audience. I’m all right with that.

The real problem with the last batch (Episodes 1-3) is R2D2.

Watch the films chronologically. You will see a droid with rockets in its feet, that can take down a battalion of battle robots, that was built by Darth Fuckin’ Vader himself, only a few years later get zapped by a little dude with glowing eyes — the galactic equivalent of a dumpster diver — while tottering along over rough terrain at about half a mile an hour.

The same robot.

And apparently Artoo forgot that he knew intimate details of his creator, information that might have, you know, saved everyone a lot of trouble. Like the name of the guy who built him from a Radio Shack kit. Anakin what? Skywalker? You don’t say!

Sorry if that was a spoiler. Vader was Luke’s father. Big shock to everyone — except R2D2, apparently.

This urge to add superpowers to R2D2 in movie sequence, while ignoring the story timeline, is what really gets my goat. As I watched Artoo level up time and again in Eps 1-3, I grew increasingly annoyed. Rocket feet and battalion-blasting just made me throw up my hands and say, “fuck it, this story’s broken.”

Brief timeout for goat runner-up: People with the Force forgetting they have the Force. One example: giant spaceship battle. The Empire comes up with one of its few actually intelligent weapon systems: little robot fuckers that latch on to larger spacecraft and start taking them apart. (By the way, that’s a weapon of the future. As a young adult, imagining integrating myself into the Star Wars universe, that was the stuff I imagined building. Clouds of little things that would weasel into big things and break them.) Anywho, one of the Jedi dudes is flying his spaceship in this big battle and a little robot fucker latches on to his boat. Right outside his cockpit! It’s a tense moment that requires some really sweet flying by another Jedi pal to resolve. (My spelling checker accepts Jedi, by the way.) IF ONLY… If only this Jedi pilot had some way to affect things happening three feet from his head… some sort of, I don’t know, force he could have applied from where he sat.

If only.

OK, Timeout’s over, back to my original beef.

Time, it seems, is not kind to R2D2. In the years between Episode 3 and Episode 4 it lost a lot of functionality, as well as its memory. When (not if) I watch Episode 7, I expect our favorite trash-can-shaped robot will be deep into senility, barely able to move at all, and unable even to remember C3PO’s shiny metal face.

C3PO: What’s that Artoo?

R2D2: Twee chrp mmbl mmbl

C3PO: No, Artoo, I don’t think Lord Vader has been stealing your email. Lord Vader turned nice before he died.

R2D2: Chrp squoo blttt.

C3PO: As you are well aware, Artoo, as a cybernetic being I have no colon.

If the droid is portrayed in any other way, Lucas has some explaining to do.

NaNoWriMo Victory!

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My explorations for possible plots of The Fantasy Novel I Will Likely Never Write was somewhat successful as I did discover at least one avenue to explore for what the nature of the grand conflict is. And far more important: I had fun writing.

My last sentence:

“All right then,” I said. “We dump this guy. We pack our stuff. Then we put this thing in the fire and run like hell.”

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Writing for Social Media

It used to be that here at Muddled Ramblings I would just develop ideas at my own pace and trust my readers to hang with me for a few sentences to let things get going (there is actually no evidence that they did that, but I like to believe). Lately I’ve become (perhaps detrimentally) aware that most of my audience is only presented the first couple hundred characters of my ramble before they are presented with a go/no-go decision.

I’m a little bit embarrassed to say that it has changed the way I open my episodes here at MR&HBI. I’m fishin’ for the hook.

Last night as I posted episode one of TFNIWLNW to a new social media platform, I was compelled to add a little preface. The thing is, in all these platforms, what shows to the casual feed-grazer* is only a couple of sentences. TFNIWLNW starts with sexual assault. So, aware that said assault is going unhindered for the first 250 characters of the story, I decided to graft on a little intro with two goals: tell readers that the asshole’s gonna die before we learn what the asshole’s doing, and to introduce the audience to the narrator’s voice. I’m pretty sure I had only a partial success, but you’re welcome to tell me I’m wrong.

Then, not knowing the culture on this new Social Media site, I put in a little parental warning that also used a pretty sweet metaphor and accelerated the understanding that our narrator is, in some fundamental ways, not a nice guy. From a literary point of view the extra words serve a good purpose. From a “goddammit tell me a tale” standpoint they come off as masturbation.

Writers have always needed to put a hook at the start of a story, but the hook now has to catch in the first few words. I’m pretty sure I unhooked TFNIWLW:1 in an attempt to fix it. But if I’m going to keep it up over there, i’ll have to be very careful with the first 70 words of each episode. Maybe that’s a good thing. A book where every scene starts with a hook is the kind of thing about which reviewers say “I could not put down.”
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* I am a little bit proud of the phrase feed-grazer, so please don’t tell me how many times you’ve heard it before.

TFNIWLNW on tsū?

I’ve been pondering how to make it easier for people not interested in this blog per se to follow my serial fiction projects, without all the other blog stuff and without my commentary.

I’ve also been curious about a new social media thing called tsū, which shares ad revenue with its users. Get a lot of clicks, get a wee bit of cash. So if I were to publish things there that lots of people liked and shared, it would be cool.

As far as I can tell, tsū is really not suited for serial fiction, or even posts of more than a paragraph or two. It may be completely impossible for people who stumble across Episode 3 to find Episode 1. But maybe, just maybe, it’s a growing platform that would embrace words as well as pictures and memes and whatever the kids are posting up these days.

More likely, I’ll have to find a different platform. But it’s worth a shot.

I’ll keep posting TFNIWLNW here, so don’t fret, kids, you need do nothing to continue to enjoy the upcoming twists and turns, and maybe even a plot. Maybe. But if you’d like to check out what this tsū thing is all about, click this link and you can join up as my personal guest. Or just sign sign up and when they ask you who invited you, use the code ‘vikingjs’.