So That Happened

I was coming home from work — in fact, I was about to turn onto the 1-block street that leads to my house. Then I noticed that there were flashing lights in my rear view mirror. Now, this isn’t an altogether unprecedented turn of events. I get pulled over every few years, usually for coming into town at a speed not quite worth ticketing. This time was different. Not in its result, because I was let go with a warning for the umpteenth time.

What freaked me out is the reason the officer pulled me over. Seems I forgot to put my new tags on last year due to never having ordered them. I have no idea how that happened. I swear that I even remember putting them on, but no such luck. Clearly someone’s been messing with the timestream again.

Anyway, I’ve now ordered them and paid the $10 late fee, so if I get stopped again before they come in they can at least see that I did register. Also very glad for discovering this before traveling out-of-state. And, as ever, for being a color the cops favor.

Drafting

Work on the novel continues, as does the speed with which I’m burning through the core plot. I passed 21,000 words, and I’ll be lucky to get another 10,000 out of the first draft. I’ve thought of a lot of things that I need to go back and insert, so while I still doubt I’ll reach the 80,000 count of a modern novel I’m still hopeful that I can get it to 50,000. In effect, my first draft is becoming a long-form set of notes. I can put details when I have them and gloss over things when I only have a vague notion.

Moreover, little but some of the dialog will remain from this draft. I’ve been writing it in sections of 1st person, alternating point of view. However, I want to tell more stories in this setting with different characters in other time periods. To tie them together I need a consistent narrative voice. So, it’ll be a total rewrite to 3rd person narrator. Well, I’m switching with the next chapter, so maybe more of that will make it through the next draft.

Mentally, I’m fighting to stay in it. With this draft on target to wrap up soon (probably by the end of April) my brain is doing what it can to make me give up. Remember the decade you spent on two drafts of that fantasy novel? Did you even keep a copy of it in the end, or did you destroy everything when you realized it was no good? Sure, you’re moving faster this time, but the result will be the same. It’ll never turn out, and you’re just wasting the time you could be spending on video games. Fortunately my brain isn’t quite as successful in thwarting me these days, and while I did lose a few days of productivity to Resident Evil 7, that game fortunately turned out to be disappointingly short.

At any rate: onward! And brain, you can shut up.

The Novel Continues 

I’m still working on the novel, and things are moving along at a steady clip. I’m just shy of 16,000 words now and have a bit of material to get through before heading into the conclusion. Still, right now it’s looking more like it will be a novella than a full-length novel. The smallest size I’ve found for a full-length modern genre novel is around 70,000. My first draft probably won’t break the 50,000 word goal I took from NaNoWriMo. There are a number of scenes I need to fill in for the second draft, but I don’t anticipate that bringing it anywhere near 70,000.

Continue reading

New Year, Same Old Zombie

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I don’t do resolutions. The arbitrary changeover of the year does however provide an opportunity to set some things down, so I thought I’d write down some things I hope for during this next spin around the Sun.

  • Continued employment: I don’t even need to enjoy my job. I just want to keep having one. (But it’d be great if it got better.)
  • Tolerable health: It seems like I’m always sick, and I’m used to that. I just don’t want to have anything major go wrong for me or my wife.
  • Cat poop in the box: Yeah, dream on. Let’s dial that down to keeping it on the tile floor of the bathroom rather than spreading to new and exciting locations.
  • No nuclear Armageddon: Everything else sort of depends on this one. At least I grew up expecting to be bombed, so fearing death by nukes feels oddly comfortable.
  • Writing: Lots of this. At least a first draft novel completed for the first time in nearly 20 years.
  • Impeachment: It could happen, right? Right?

Perfectly Broken

I’ve been listening to Bowie CDs on my commute, and for some reason I remembered something today.

The first time I heard David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs” album, I was in high school. My brother brought the CD back with him from college. Just the CD, no case or liner notes. That’s because he rescued it from some guys in his dorm who were using it as a frisbee. They, in turn, had come by it when one of them had bought a floor-model player and found that left in the tray.

I want to stop here for a moment to enjoy the thought of an appliance department playing “Diamond Dogs”, because that’s pretty cool right there.

Right, so we were at me listening to the album. I was floored. It was the glammiest, glitziest, post-apocalypse I’d discovered. So of course I had to tape it. I hooked my brother’s CD player into my system and put in a tape. Everything was fine until it got to the final track, “Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family”, which is really the outro for both the album and the song “Big Brother”. It’s basically a disco breakdown that ends with a short loop that trails away to nothing, and it’s terrific. Unfortunately the disc got scratched during all of the tossing it around like philistines. Sometimes the player could work it out, but usually it would start skipping during the chant. Because it was part of the track before it, this meant that I had to keep re-recording both of them until it finally played through.

My brother wondered why I’d bothered. In his view it didn’t matter because the song skips anyway. I was 17, so all I could say was that I needed it to be right. Now I can explain it better.

ahem

IT’S PERFECT, AND I NEEDED IT TO BE RIGHT.

A Few Good Things

It’s already hot enough to make me irritable, and the general election is so far away in a truly awful election cycle, so let’s kick off June with a little positivity! Here then are some things for which I’m grateful.

My partner loves and understands me. Wendi knows I really enjoy some odd things, like sitting out in the cold rain to watch horror movies with like-minded friends. She may well judge me for that, but if so she keeps it to herself and is outwardly supportive of my trips. She also just nursed me through recovery from oral surgery, during which she watched some truly awful movies with me. If that ain’t love, I don’t know what is.

My friend Tim did not turn out to be a serial killer. Seriously, I can’t explain why I agreed to go on a road trip to Evanston in the middle of winter with a guy I barely knew. For some reason my paranoia filters weren’t on, and the myriad ways this could end badly didn’t register until after I’d committed to the trip. To my delight and total surprise, I survived the weekend and enjoyed it enough to go 8 more times. I even wound up meeting those like-minded friends I mentioned above. So thanks for not killing me, Tim! My world grew because you dragged me to B-Fest.

For some reason I’m employed. I dreamed of being an impoverished writer. That’s the deal, right? Unless you were born into money you scraped pennies together for years until suddenly you became wildly successful. Instead, after getting married it became evident that we both needed to pull in good money in order to afford luxuries like food and pants. At first I resented the time spent not suffering, but honestly my writing didn’t get very good until my 40s. That’s a long time to starve for art. Also, money buys movies, comics, and video games.

The Cats Don’t Always Poop on the Floor. Sometimes they’re even useful. Just this morning I found Bacall and Bogart sitting innocently in the bathtub with the shower curtain in a heap beside them. Something under the curtain moved, and Bogart couldn’t stand to feign ignorance anymore. He started swatting at the mouse they’d cornered. So while they make messes and scratch up the furniture, at least our cats keep the rodents under control.

And now it’s time to put in a bad movie, so I’ll just leave it there.

Disarming My Smile

I’ve mentioned previously that my teeth are expected to explode, but I believe that circumstances warrant a recap. My permanent canines got lost and never joined the rest of the band, leaving me with two baby teeth sitting uncomfortably as the adults talked about their medical conditions and how much they hated their jobs. Dentists have been prodding me to do something about this for years — one of them going so far as to dramatically proclaim that the two little guys would explode — but none could even suggest what to do once they were removed. Would fake teeth be put in on posts? How would that interact with the canines that were still lurking up there somewhere? What about a bridge? No one knew.

Finally, one dentist gave me a referral to an orthodontist. Doing things for me is always a much better approach, as I’m predisposed to inaction. Of course, it took a further visit, a fresh referral, and my wife making the appointment before I actually followed up on this step. Scans were taken, casts were made, and a plan was presented to us. After hearing it I asked if I could leave my teeth at the office until they were done. This question was sadly ignored.

See, after my baby teeth get pulled, there will be a gap. That would let my remaining teeth move around, which is apparently a BAD THING. This is because left to their own devices they’ve already screwed the pooch. Not only do I have a large over bite, but my top teeth actually slope inward. Certain predators use this type of dentition to trap prey within their mouths, but usually this just gets me caught up on apples. The orthodontist recommended 2.5 years of wrangling my ivory dogies into position, which sounds to me like a lot of effort to reform proven miscreants. And yet that seems pleasant compared to the one little extra detail. Those lost canines? They’re pushing against the roots of my upper incisors, so they’ve gotta go.

This week I go in to get braces on my upper teeth. Then I’ll meet with an oral surgeon to schedule the extraction of my wayward canines (and the incidental removal of the baby teeth). It’s happening in that order so that the movement of the other teeth is under control before they get their chance to run loose. After the top incisors are pointed in the right direction, I’ll get the matching set of metal for my lower teeth.

I want to wrap this up with something witty, but honestly just thinking about this exhausts me. So many appointments to come. So many teenagers in the waiting room. So much money. No popcorn for almost three years. I’ll be pushing 50 when all of this is done. And when it’s all over I need to see about controlling my probable sleep apnea.

Now I just need to find a way to get proper nutrition out of pudding and beer.

How to Date the Travis Bickle Way

In Taxi Driver there’s a scene where Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) takes Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) to a movie, which turns out to be X rated. (It’s reportedly Ur kärlekens språk, a graphic sex-ed film from Sweden.) Maybe not the most conventional choice for a first date, it goes over poorly.

On a seemingly unrelated note, I went to a concert on this past Sunday night. You may remember that my social anxiety makes this a daunting prospect; but Jonathan Richman was performing at a local bar, and I was determined not to miss the chance to go. So determined, in fact, that I spent the week leading up to it  quashing the recurring urge to back out. By the time I met up with Tim and his friend, I was pretty much a  nervous cat and expected the worst at every turn.

Fortunately we all got along together, and the only hiccup was that some tickets were left in a coat that hadn’t attended with us. Not a huge deal on my end, as I hadn’t paid my way yet anyhow. Besides, admission was ridiculously cheap. All that mattered to me was securing one of the few wall-hugging stools. The three of us managed to snag exactly one stool, which was graciously granted to me. Then the woman who’d saved the seat next to me offered to free that one up by sliding over. We thanked her and annexed the stool to our growing kingdom of seatedness.

Eventually her husband arrived and sat down, but we didn’t really notice. As usual, Tim and I had started talking about movies. The first I was aware of the guy, he’d leaned over and injected himself into the conversation. After some awkward back-and-forth, he decided that it was sharing time.

Fella: Hey, you guys know a lot about movies, right?

Me: Some, yeah.

Fella: So you might know this one. For our first date, I took my girlfriend — she’s my wife now; this lady here — I took her to see Salo!

Me (weakly): Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom.

Fella: Yeah! It was a test, and she passed!

Salo is a masterpiece, but it’s not the sort of film that you show to an uninformed viewer. It’s an unflinching adaptation of the Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom, or the School of Libertinism, set in the last days of Mussolini’s Italy. Given writer/director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s previous works, it’s fair to say that the film is intended to show how human love and tenderness can exist in even the most detrimental conditions. However, those conditions include rape, ephebophilia, torture, coprophagia, and assorted other activities that are not for eyes of the cinematically timid or, y’know, people who don’t want to see that sort of thing.

I didn’t ask for the goal of this “test”, but obviously she passed it. Perhaps by ever speaking to him again. She certainly didn’t look thrilled that he was telling the story. The look on her face spoke volumes about how often she’d had to hear him tell it. I wondered briefly what sort of test he’d had to pass; being carbon-based, perhaps. I just hoped he didn’t drive a cab.

I’m Not Getting This Anytime Soon

I ordered a photo off of eBay for my site The Web of the Big Damn Spider. It shipped promptly then seemed to stall out when it reached Chicago. The seller and I have been in communication, and there was some excitement last night when the tracking information was updated.

Then I actually looked at the current location of the package.

Today I sent the following note to the seller.

Thanks for your quick reply.

Unfortunately the package appears to be in Italy now, which doesn’t seem to be an obvious route from California to Michigan. I’ll continue to watch and see if it returns to the States.

Thanks,
Sean

That promotional picture is going to see the world on $3 shipping. I might have to be a little jealous.