Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

The Satanic VersesThe Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A confounding, challenging book that leaves impactful philosophical impressions! This book is so many things: a weird odd-couple story that crosses the planes, a tale of the immigrant experience in England, and a fable about surrender to religion versus a rigorous adherence to secular science. I found the narrative to be lovely, especially the description of Jahilia's marketplaces, the sounds, smells, all those bright images.

Rushdie is working on multiple layers. Jahilia is also the state of ignorance of divine guidance, and it is here that the character Mahound (who is based on Muhammad) is tested. This depiction is one of the largest sources of controversy to this novel, which is supposedly sacrilegious, though it is actually not an attack on Islam or even religion at all. It's a story about life's experiences, and how our perception of the essence of life changes as we change.

Throughout the story, we are posed questions even by a God character about who and what we are and what we mean. Whether these are meaningful questions to the reader depends on your ability to be open or closed, as Mirza Saeed Akhtar learns. Sometimes it's better to hold one's breath and swim and sometimes not.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, though I expected more controversy. I'm shocked that Rushdie is persecuted by expressing thoughts that are entirely beneficial to humanity. Questions are never bad. Doubt isn't bad. Answers, especially those that are so certain never to be questioned, will be our ruination.

The writing itself is dense and can be challenging, especially drawing from so many sources. Read it slowly and enjoy it.

That's it.

View all my reviews

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

My Dubsmash Experiment

This app was fun for almost a week.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Saturday, December 3, 2016

How Long Do Novels Take? An Infograph


Finish This Sentence: "I was really surprised to find out..."

“I was really surprised to find out…” The author’s sleepy words dribbled off into a mumble. 
His wife’s eyes widened. Why couldn’t he be like other men that enjoy football games, movies, and maybe even come to bed at night? Instead he types like a maniac until the no longer wee hours, drinks coffee until four in the morning, and listens to Symphonie Fantastique again and again, his eyes growing a little wider each time the head rolls. She sighed and handed him another cup of inky java.
“You asked me to read your last revision… What is this, number twelve now? It’s the last one, right? I don’t understand why you say you are surprised. I’ve been telling you for weeks. Your one-legged elf, the Saci-Pererê, runs away from crosses and leaves a sulfur smell behind, but he’s not the same as the Devil.”
“I am just simplifying the folklore for readers who don’t understand the customs.”
“It’s incorrect though. Saci-Pererê is from the children’s literature. It’s kinda cute. You can’t just make him into Lucifer for the sake of expedience.”
“Fine, fine. I know. I mean, I’m going to fix it, but that’s not what I am saying anyhow.” He took a steadying sip and set the dripping mug upon the table already bearing a dozen impressions of other times he forgot to find a coaster. “I meant that I was really surprised to find out that all writers, even the best ones, all face the same adversary, themselves, and that, even with all the experience we muster, our internal war never abates. The only recourse is to reach deeper inside our ever-emptying souls. Bird by bird? A small portrait frame is just a useless device, a ploy! In the end, all of us must steel ourselves and wade naked into the ring to slay the Saci-Pererê, Lucifer, or whatever literary obstruction, and it doesn’t matter what it is. It must die for the story to go forward. We must kill it. That’s the only truth.”
She rolled her eyes. “You must be really tired. That’s a mixed metaphor. You wade into the ocean or a pond. You don’t wade into a ring.”
He raised his hands in a futile gesture of appeal. “But that’s not even the part that matters.”
She kissed him, a feathery brush against the forehead, and offered her hand.
“Just come to bed,” she said.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Secrets of Barrington Hall - Update

Kyle made this delicious cover for me. I love the art, but not so much the layout. Maybe it should just be called Barrington Hall? Secrets sounds sinister but maybe potential readers will think it's a romance. Needs more blood.

I'm going to rewrite it in December from the first person perspective (Bartholomew's) as an experiment to see what I can leach out of his warped mind.

It's only 85000 words long, so it won't take long.


How Areas of Physics All Relate in One Picture

Big version you can read easier.

Salut Salon - La Dispute

A very different take on Vivaldi. :-)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Goodbye Poem

Adiós, ciao, au revoir
Adeus, hamba kahle, Hwyl fawr
Adieu, namaste, shalom
A salaam alaikum
Adéu, peace out, addio
Hasta luego, até logo
Slán go fóill, Viso gero
Paalam, hüvasti, Αντίο
Bon voyage, totsiens, hyvästi
Aloha, Arrivederci
Salve, hiragana, zàijiàn
auf Wiedersehen UND... 
auf Wiederemailen
Bon voyage, vale, deuces
Chalky blokes, I’m bout to dip
Ta Ta, muthafuckas I’m out

Mama Gabrielle, Alaina, Ally, Donna, and Justin: Thanks for sharing all your stories. I really enjoyed this time together. You can email me from the blog if you want to meet up and you can't find me through the wc system.


Uncrossing the Stars

I remember one sunny day in September, sitting on the corner of Dwight and Telegraph, strumming my guitar absent-mindedly—what song is this again?—my myopic eyes in constant scanning patterns, searching crowds, reminiscent of the night before, when I found and lost and found you again. Remember I gave you that American Beauty that my friend plucked from the Cosmic Splat? I still smell its sweet petals somehow. And then we spent the night in a forest of eucalyptus by a running stream and caught the first rays of sunshine in each other’s faces. Yes?

But then you left. I remember watching you go, feeling doom settle into my marrow, regretting that I somehow played my stoic card too well, frightened that indifference leaked in with that borrowed Dylan line: we’ll meet again on the Avenue. What do you do, though, when you’re young and your heart is paved with scar tissue? Loving hard hurts.

And so I bent strings and searched, but the day was fading, and I needed money, so out came my tarot deck for fortune telling: past, present, future, power of individual to control the matter, hopes and fears, fate and environment, final outcome… ad nauseum, always keeping those dark major arcanum at the deck’s bottom. All along my eyes continued darting around, searching desperately.

Fear crept in. Maybe you were lost. You didn’t even know Berkeley, and why… why was I so stupid to let you go? I should have stayed with you, made sure you got home at least. And, then, deep from that dark burrow where rejection resides came a mocking voice, taunting me, assuring me someone so wonderful was never meant for me, “Good fortune has moved on, sucker. Enjoy misery.”

Whatever. Good riddance, right? Women are so complicated anyhow. But now I was pissed, stabbed again. I hate Love. Love is merciless.

Isn’t it funny how life just seems to pivot on a few key moments? Right then was mine, ours, when you appeared and rescued me from loneliness forever.

Thank you, my dearest, for coming back to me.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Nanowrimo Winner Status

Yeah, I'm proud! LOL.

This novel was pretty tough at first, but once I recovered from the election, the need to rise above intensified. I forced myself to ask why I was making such difficult choices and commitment, when I am willing to let external events affect me. Bad as this year has been for America, the World, and all of us, the message needs to be grind harder and make the things real that we an. Once I thought of the sacrifices I had already made in committing to doing the book, I found the energy to go forward and bring Lyza to the end of her story arc. I did need to do a ton of last minute research about geology and it's probably not 100% perfect, but hey... it works well enough.

I'm under no illusions. It's not really done. It's just a first draft, but the story is there and "just" is an enormous understatement.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Moving to the Climax Now

I have a lot of revision to do. This is truly an "ugly first draft", but the story is coming together as I write. Three more chapters to go, plus two intermission segments, altogether about 17000-20000 words, which can certainly be done in the 10 days remaining at this pace.

This will indeed need a lot of work later though.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Lyza Is Really Turning the Corner - Keep Going, Girl - Bring This Home

I think I've really turned the corner on this one. I cannot write it fast enough. It very simply flows and I just have to write it down. Character led, just like it's supposed to be, and it's filling an enormous void in my fantasy world. A history is being created.

I'm very happy about this development.

One Sign = Right On!

I love this image. The tables have been flipped. Where are the real Americans? Right here:

This is what his mother Brisa Pinho told the Huffington Post:

“The wall I speak of in the sign is figurative. [It’s] a wall of hate, racism, and xenophobia that if built in the years ahead, will be torn down by my son and his generation.”

Monday, November 14, 2016

Only two days behind now! :-)

Tomorrow Lyza leaves Vilory on her great adventure.

By contrast, last year (when I also fell behind) I caught up on Day 14:

I predict that I will not have difficulty hitting 50,000 words anymore, but I will have a hard time finishing the book in 50,000 words. It's an odd book, but I'm still only a third of the way through, and half the month is gone.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Progress Report - Lyza Still Lives (but was on life support)

Today's effort definitely helped. I've a good layout for the next chapter too. I think the book is coming along pretty well, even though it isn't precisely the story I wanted to tell. For a first draft, it's not too bad.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Nanowrimo Progress

I'm making fair progress, but I had plans to be farther along. Looking forward to a few more hours tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Short Poetry

All I Crave

Heavy hungry nights of strange appetites
Lurid hunts through jungles of reward. Faces painted
with hope. Inked by savage tendencies,
proposals of bizarre possibilities,
vivid promises of hard realization. 
Satisfaction somehow, somewhere, somewhen. When
all I wanted, needed. Lusted, starved for
Heart, Head, Loins… Soul
All alongside me. Right here. Immediate in bleeding time.
Those last narrow grains of sand
To be caught, held close, clutched, cried upon
Me, busy searching for less than what I have.
You in my empty bed

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Shiny Side Stayed Up

From high in the passenger seat of a Peterbilt truck, the featureless expanse of the Great Plains stretched to the horizons. Beside me The Cisco Kid, a Canadian trucker, my ride, a lonely soul who spotted me hitchhiking in Sacramento, thumped the steering wheel, keeping time.

 It was March, and Cisco — I never learned his real name — kept the cab cold and the music loud, just above the CB chatter.

 “Ooh, I'm driving my life away, looking for a better way, for me”, Cisco sang in his scratchy voice.

It was the hundredth time I’d heard Eddie Rabbitt’s song since my road adventure started. Behind us an 18-wheeler carried a load of concentrated juice. Cisco drove and drank sweet creamy coffee, while I smoked and told stories to keep him awake. Eddie Rabbitt was fading away, but never very far. Cisco reached for the CB and increased the squelch.

 “Breaker 1-9, Westbounders on the I-80, how’s it look over your shoulder?”

 “Lake Rat here. Y’all look good back that way,” a disembodied voice said. “Copy?”

 “Cisco Kid copies.” He took a gulp of sugary caffeine juice. “Clean and green your way, but smile and comb your hair east of Des Moines. 4-10?”

 “10-4. Keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down.” The Cisco Kid winked, as he hung up the mic. “Pizza and Murder by noon.”


 “That’s right, boy. Chicago. The Windy City. Find me some country music.”

 I gave a silent groan and fiddled with the dial. Seconds later Eddie Rabbitt’s voice returned. “Well the midnight headlight finds you on a rainy night…”

 “Great job!” Cisco said. “Yeah.”

 “Gotta keep rollin”, Eddie sang. “Ooh, I’m driving my life away…”

 Two thousand miles we’d come together, and I was far, but still nowhere further. I rummaged for my notebook and wrote a couplet.

 “Looking for a better way —”, sang Eddie, and the Cisco Kid grinned. I smiled back, inhaled toxic smoke, and watched the snow-covered cornfields shoot past.

 “Looking for a sunny day”, I whispered along. He’d heard me anyhow.

 “That’s right!” he said. “Gotta keep rollin’.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Check Out This University of Saskatchewan Gender Role Reversal Project

This culture jam is a school project that was created for a Women and Gender Studies class at the University of Saskatchewan by Sarah Zelinski, Kayla Hatzel and Dylan Lambi-Raine.

It begs the question about the sense of our gender representations in advertising. If they are strange for men, they must be for women too, but we are conditioned to ignore them (well, men are anyhow)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Garbled Dispatches

It’s a sunny afternoon in April 2004. Although I’ve consumed three doppios since rising at noon, I’m half-asleep when I grope for the telephone from behind three code-filled monitors — one buzzing with dangerous static. The phone’s chirped five times before I answer.

“You sent a letter to my son.”

It’s Jim, my oldest brother. We haven’t spoken in months. He doesn't sound drunk, just furious. The webs inside my brain lurch.

“Um, yeah. I'm sending him a board game and some recordings. I'm a taper, you know.”

“He forwarded me the letter. Young man, what the hell were you thinking, saying you don’t agree with the war. He puts his life on line every day to save your cowardly ass! You liberals are all the same: griping about President Bush who has the backbone to defend our country, spouting views that we’re better off without Saddam Hussein, but moaning about the only person who has guts to fight back.”

I ignored his hostility. He'd had a stroke.

“I thought some entertainment... He’s away from his wife and kids.”

“He’s busy killing terrorists before they come over here and kill cowards like you who wave the flag, but fail whenever they’re asked to defend it. Board games!”

“Puzzles, maybe?” I said to provoke him. His aggression had ruined my day, but I didn’t want to grant him the satisfaction of ruffling me. “Goddammit!” he said. The line went dead.

I waited a minute before calling. “They didn’t find —” He hung up again.

Seconds later, my phone rang. We spoke five minutes. I asked about his grandchildren and my sister-in-law. He gave polite answers and reciprocated similar questions, all chilly though. Later, I reviewed my well-intentioned letter wondering how it triggered such a response.

Those events taught me to avoid contacting them. When I carried him to his grave, our relationship was cool, but not Arctic.

Wiser now, I understand his outrage: My reasoning travestied his son’s daily danger, and his self-righteousness fertilized his hopes for a safe return. Skepticism poisoned them. He had no choice.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

What’s Gone Is Gone. Next Please

Security: When I was eight, Susan, a classmate, was kidnapped, raped, and murdered, and her severed fingers mailed home. I remember Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King getting shot. The Zodiac Killer haunted our region. The Vietnam War was raging. Horror was my childhood’s backdrop.
My first friends: after moving to Sacramento in 1972, becoming an outsider and never fully recovering. Governmental faith: watching Watergate hearings — Nixon’s “I’m not a crook” seems quaint nowadays, doesn’t it?
Invulnerability: spending six months home with osteomyelitis: a swollen arm, pulsing pain, fever, interminable blood tests, x-rays, nuclear scans, and, finally, a successful operation. I listen to doctors.
All my possessions twice: one backpack stolen, another accidentally traded with a lady in the desert while hitchhiking. Almost none of her clothes fit me. Equilibrium: Ugh. My friend Stuart and I complained to the bartender about the quantity of tequila in our margaritas. I staggered home, fell into a bush, puked in a park, and hated myself. The next morning I wore a crown of real bloody thorns.
My humility: playing guitar on Telegraph Avenue for spare change. Someone who looked like Jerry Garcia gave me a 20-dollar bill. Secular worldliness: after witnessing the dome of the Oakland Coliseum get unscrewed and the eyes of something ineffable peering inside. You become naked.
My heart stolen by a carioca dancing in a tennis court outside the Greek Theater: 1981. She heard psychedelic music and wandered uphill. I still wonder how I was so lucky. Disbelief in miracles: first, my newborn son, Charles, recognizing me seconds from the womb (so it’s you again?) and second, when my 3-year-old, Kyle, imitating his first sounds in speech therapy.
My dad: ravaged from within, but bravely smiling, I understand him better now.
Belief in organized religion: hearing the congregation’s warmongering after 9/11 reminded me of the crowd shouting “We are all individuals” in Life of Brian. Never went back. Masses of unquestioning humanity are fearsome beasts.
Certainty: I’ve learned many times that we control our destinies, but only if we invest time and energy. Our words and actions define us.


After experiencing loss, its sheer weight is so devastating that I’ve been blinded to the eventual ramifications, even those that mitigate the damage, so my first reaction is how my losses often led to greater gains. For example, I am positive my time absent from school instigated a love of knowledge, transforming my life. Also, would I love the horror genre so much if my childhood were spent in idyllic surroundings? I doubt it. Is my oblique perception and constant obsession with consciousness linked to psychedelic mind melting? I suspect it is, but, honestly, I cannot be sure. It’s an impossible experiment; I cannot be my own control group. My second reaction is that I’m somewhat disturbed by what’s unlisted. For example, my tequila incident is here, but one brother, a nephew, a niece, two great friends, and two business partners (those both suicides) never will be and didn’t survive the edit either. Have I become calloused to death, or am I shuttering my senses to stay sane, because everyone I’ve ever loved will die? No! That’s not right. Death is part of our journey. So, what is this list telling me then? It looks chaotic. Perhaps it’s the uncertainty that I crave! Imagine life as a river. I’ve navigated past pilings, shoals, and calamitous waterfalls, but whenever disaster occurred, I’ve pushed the boat back into stream and headed for deep water. I long to discover what’s beyond the next bend. Thus, I remain a work-in-progress, still defining myself, but patient, so any reflection on past events must be made with always one eye on the future. In the meantime, I’ll keep improvising, rowing against the current, and enjoying the ride.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

My Worst Job

How I Lost Some of My Life

Once upon a time, I became a systems analyst for the now-defunct Banco Nacional. Dias, the R&D department manager, hired me, assigning me, the "resource", to a gringo-hating division manager. They asked me to validate a network system to be installed in over 400 branches, a deal worth millions, the saving grace for a company in São Paulo. Nobody explained I was supposed to rubber stamp it, or that the president's brother-in-law owned the company.

The system was a mess of obsolete microcomputers with shoddy networking capabilities. I broke the code in several hours, but writing the report was difficult. My savvy partner-in-crime, Ronaldo Pinto, helped with translation so the board could understand my hacking. To prove the system’s weakness, I transferred representative funds from and back into my personal account without creating transactions, but with documentation showing different balances. This is a bank’s nightmare scenario.

Ronaldo called me before work. “Don’t go to the office. Termination notices are on our desks.”

“What do we do?”

“Many people will be canned. We’ll survive if we don’t show up at our office.”

It was a big company. We toured other offices for weeks doing feasibility studies on nonsensical projects: a $300,000 laser printer for a department that prints a dozen annual reports, a backup system of 8-inch floppy discs, and a dual purpose video poker/automated teller machine (for employees). Idle time was spent in Gávea watching Flamengo games, Ipanema or Leblon soaking up voluptuous temptation, or the Tijuca rainforest getting stoned. We knew that it was borrowed time. Finally, bored, I returned to my desk to be fired.

They escorted me to Personnel. I argued, but I was just a case number. I was furious. I seethed. My laughter frightened them.

They paid three month’s salary plus a pension. It was the law, but it felt like hush money. I already had another job and should have forgiven them. I didn’t. Instead, every misfortune they later suffered brought me joy.

It's ridiculous, but writing about it, even now, I'm frustrated. Ego I am.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Monday, September 26, 2016

JK Rowling is a Plotter

Adverb Hating Tonic

So adverbs get a lot of hate, especially the -ly ones, and worse than any, the ones on dialogue tags. A lot of good modern writers, Stephen King, James Patterson, and Brandon Sanderson among them, have argued against wide use of adverbs. Here are some dissenting opinions (and better advice):

In short, any word that is the wrong word should be avoided. Every word matters.

And you can make the argument that instead of using a weak verb and an adverb as a 'booster', it's better to use a strong verb that conveys meaning more succinctly.

Just use the right word:

Who am I to argue against luminaries like King, Patterson, and Sanderson? Nobody, but I don't need to. They use adverbs in their books too, sometimes even on dialogue tags; and, sometimes, often, it's the right word.

My advice is simple. Be against dogma instead. When you write you own your words. Make them the right ones.

I did some analysis of other great writers. One of the greatest, most lyrical writers of the 20th Century is Virginia Woolf. Her first novel, Mrs. Dalloway, has in its first 18000 words:

34 suddenly
25 perfectly
24 really
16 presumably
13 merely
11 extraordinarily
11 directly
9 precisely
8 awfully
8 utterly
8 scarcely
8 slowly
7 gently
7 possibly
7 instantly
6 exactly
6 probably
6 easily
6 naturally

in short 714 adverbs outside dialogue. She also uses adverbs and adverbial clauses in her dialog tags.

Here is some of the dialogue:

“Good-morning to you, Clarissa!” said Hugh, rather extravagantly, for they had known each other as children. “Where are you off to?”

"rather extravagantly" is two adverbs and then an adverbial clause follows "for...children". That's a lot of distraction from "Good-morning to you, Clarissa!"

“Dear, those motor cars,” said Miss Pym, going to the window to look, and coming back and smiling apologetically with her hands full of sweet peas, as if those motor cars, those tyres of motor cars, were all HER fault.

"going to the window to look" is an adverbial clause

does she need "apologetically" there?

I would say yes. This reads well. The image bursts into your mind.

Some adverbs are fine. Really fine. Really. Really.

Self Publishing Guide Link

Link to Selp-Publishing Guide

Useful World-Building Links - most are subreddits (will add to this)

James Patterson Writes a Ton of Novels - The Murder of Stephen King Is One Too Many

This is just crazy. James Patterson just cancelled a novel on the eve of its release. This would be a tragedy for most writers, but Patterson has some slack in his rope. It would have been his 14th book of the year (10 have been co-written):

The book's title?
The Murder of Stephen King
Here's the story:

The promo page now brings up a 404:

Why would he do that? I mean... come on. It's a lot of work to write a novel. Look how much of your life you pour into it. Do you really want to be associated with a book that inspires some Annie Wilkes to take matters into her own hand?
Anyway, I found this old interview where Stephen King gives opinions about best-selling stalwarts like James Patterson, Stephenie Meyer, and Dean Koontz:

It's something less than a ringing endorsement.
For what it's worth Patterson considers himself a fan of King. Patterson has written (or co-written) 147 novels since 1976. 114 have been New York Times best sellers.
He writes... wait for it... IN PENCIL:

Stephen King, John Irving, and J.K. Rowling at an event. Here are J.K. Rowling's answers.

Guest appearance by Salman Rushdie.

George R. R. Martin and Stephen King

This is like the Beatles and the Stones on the same bill.

Stephen King Advice on Creative Writing

I like a lot of what he says here, but so much of it seems atypical to my experience.

Script Abbreviations in Screen Writing


ELS extreme long shot 
MLS medium long shot 
LS long shot 
MS medium shot 
MCU medium close-up 
CU close-up 
ECU extreme close-up 
OS over-the-shoulder shot 
2-S or 3-S two-shot or three-shot 
POV point of view shot 
ZI or ZO zoom in or zoom out 
INT interior 
EXT exterior 
SOT or SOF sound on tape or sound on film
BG background 
SFX or F/X special effects (can be either sound or visual) 
VO voice-over 
OSV off-screen voice 
DIS dissolve 
MIC microphone 
VTR videotape 
Q cue (as in cue talent) 
ANNCR announcer 

SUPER superimposition