Monday, November 24, 2014

Randomness...

A hypocrite is someone who writes a book about atheism and then prays that it sells.
-Woody Allen

Friday, November 21, 2014

We Are Wired For Story

Validation for your choices in life come in many flavors, but the best flavor is scientific backing.

In her TED talk, "Wired for story", Lisa Cron provided great insight into why we humans can't help ourselves from getting absorbed in a good story. It led to our very survival. Turns out we aren't wired too well to take in facts and figures with any level of detail if they are simply told to us; but wrap those same details up in a good story and we usually walk away remembering them, or even better, getting the point of what they were meant to imply upon us in the first place.

One day, long ago, one of our early ancestors was walking along a path in the forest. He'd been traveling for days and he'd run out of his rations two days prior. He was hungry, and the game in the forest wasn't cooperating in his hunting them. Now he came across a bush covered in small round pellet-like red berries with long narrow green leaves. His mouth watered in delight...

Now, if someone had set him down as a kid and given him a verbal list of berries, describing which kinds were edible and which were not, it might be very tough for him to remember years later if the berries he now found were okay or not. After all, remembering the many hundreds or thousands of different plants in the forest would be a challenge for anyone, and quite boring too when given just as naked facts.

But what if, as Lisa Cron suggests in her talk, the man had heard a story about Caveman Bob, a family neighbor from his days a kid in Bedrock, and how Caveman Bob had eaten a handful of red deer pellet-like berries growing on a green bush with leaves that looked like the fingers of a small forest creature? And at the end of that story, Caveman Bob never came out of his cave again?

Chances are our protagonist would remember such a tale involving red deer poop-like looking berries with small forest creature fingers for leaves. It's interesting and draws our attention more than "red berry about the width of a small fingernail and with four to five green leaves about two small twigs in width and one slimy slug in length.

Story saved our lives and let us evolve into who we are today.

But we take away many more things from story than just how to live in a forest. We grow up with stories in books and movies, learning about love and loss, and how to handle and deal with both respectively. They teach us sometimes about how to be good parents or deal with adversity. Story does a lot for us without us even realizing it, though marketers sure understand the value of it! Of course, story can also teach us how to be bad, and that's not such a great thing.

As a writer, though, (and for all those other writers out there) there's another takeaway from Lisa's TED talk. It's near the end, and number two of her three last thoughts she leaves us with. Look for it around 16:43 in the talk.

To paraphrase: Don't explain something to someone, when you can better deliver the information in the form of a story. It'll stick with them longer.

From the writer's perspective that validates the age old advice about not using the expository, because you're better off passing along information to readers showing them through story.




Sunday, May 4, 2014

May the Fourth Be With You!

Unless you're a Star Wars geek like myself, May 4th probably doesn't have much meaning to you. In fact, it's probably just the day you go out to stock up on barbecue fixings and alcohol in preparation for Cinco de Mayo (tomorrow!). But to those of us who grew up in and imagined ourselves a part of the Star Wars galaxy back in the seventies and eighties, May 4th is a day to geek out.

May the Fourth be with you...



#MayThe4thBeWithYou

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Done.

I won't pretend it wasn't hard. I lost a good week and a half, almost two to unforeseen circumstances. What that amounted to was a three day run of marathon writing to finish up finally with 807 words over the 50K mark for NaNoWriMo.

I'll wait till later before I go back to see how bad it all is. Truth is I don't want to know yet. The story, while complete for the by the competition's standards, has a ways to go before it's actually complete and ready for me to back track over for revision.

But, it's done and I'll go back to my 2000 word per day count goals. Something more akin to a 10K run versus a marathon. And I'll be more attentive to the other things in my life. This blog for one, and cleaning up all those dog rugs my shedding pup has been leaving behind in my house.

Nice seeing you again, folks!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

December 1st.


  • Coffee overflowed onto stove-top from espresso pot.
    • Planned clean-up: Dec. 1st.
  • Dog poop piling up in the backyard.
    • Planned clean-up: Dec. 1st
  • Halloween decorations still on front lawn.
    • Planned pick-up: Dec. 1st
  • Dishes piling up in sink.
    • Planned clean-up: When I run out of clean ones.
  • Patches of dog hair appearing on carpet from a late-shedding dog.
    • Planned vacuum: Dec. 1st
The point of all this? Nothing gets done until NaNoWriMo is done.

  • Blog updates.
    • Dec…oh, bloody hell. What am I doing here?


Monday, November 4, 2013

Nano, 4 days on

Okay, so I'm definitely on the Nano journey. And, yes, I'm on it with a boat load of baggage in tow. But that's okay. I'm still determined to get this thing done and I fully expect to have the banner "NaNoWriMo Winner 2013" splat across this blog come December 1st.

I'm also excited to be doing my first Nanowrimo Write-In tomorrow with some fellow Gulf Coasters also competing in the event. We're heading over to a local coffee shop in Ocean Springs, MS, tomorrow afternoon. It'll be fun to meet some of the other crazies participating this year.

Off topic, I thought I should say something about my last couple posts. Truth be told, I don't know who comes by to read this blog. I expect more spam bots than real people, but you never know. That said, I can't say whether or not my ramblings of late over my dog, Candy (her name came with her and she was too old to change it), are appropriate for an "author blog", but here's my take...

For now, writing is my hobby. I'm not making a living at it (can barely even take my wife out for the occasional pizza, in fact, on my paltry writer's income), and my audience isn't such that I worry over making high-vis missteps when posting entries or comments. I just don't carry that kind of weight in the virtual world. So really this blog is also something of a hobby and I'll treat it as such and worry about giving it a 'professional' gleam if my stuff really ever takes off.

These days, though, I need the catharsis that comes with venting to the great unknown. It is - believe it or not - a little therapeutic. In another life I would never have considered such an act. So security minded and privacy focused was I that even the thought of letting go a magazine I'd gotten in the mail with my name and address labeled on it was a sin to burn in hell for (if you believe in such a thing). Actually, I still do rip off those labels, but you get the drift. I've loosened up a bit and am more willing to put things out there.

I've come to realize that no one really gives a shit about me enough to worry about a little whining over my woes. So there. Maybe if I had something in the bank worth stealing my identity over, or were famous enough to draw people in so much that they hung on my every syllable it'd be a different story. But until I win the lottery or sell a million books, here I am, World. Deal with it.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Distractions

Nanowrimo's right around the corner, and already distractions are setting in. And not the good kind.

Today, for instance, I should be refining my plot lines, zeroing in on my characters' voices, and thinking about the long game that'll get me to the end of November in style, but instead all my thoughts are with my pup, Candy. We're going to see an Internal Medicine specialist in Louisiana about some issues she's been having lately that the local vet cannot diagnose fully. That said, there's a pretty good chance the little girl has cancer.

It's a tough situation to deal with. My wife and I are suckers for the hard luck cases at the animal shelter, and Candy was just such a case. When we found her we were only going to visit to show one of the previous caretakers of another of our rescues, Mace, how far he'd come. And that's when Candy and my wife made eye contact.

Candy had been at the Humane Society for almost six months. That's a long time by their standards, as most dogs are not given the chance to adopt out over that period of time before space requirements mean they must be euthanized. Candy's a small dog, though, so perhaps the limited space requirements to store her helped...that and the fact that small dogs tend to adopt out better than larger breeds. But she had several strikes against her, beginning with her age. She was 10.5 years old, and hardly anyone wants to start off a new life with an animal nearing the end of theirs, especially when there were already several medical issues apparent. She was missing spots of fur, she has a collapsing trachea, and her entire lower vertebrae are essentially arthritically fused with a few of her discs already collapsed.

After managing to pull ourselves away from her that day, we went home and discussed the possibility of adding a third pup to our cadre. We'd recently lost our 16 year old dog, Ewok, a couple months prior and were set on not putting another into the fold for some time. Candy went home with us the following week.

Over the next few months we nursed her back to health and dealt with some of her personality quirks, the worst being her food aggressiveness. But when you invite someone in from the shelter as old as Candy was then, you have to understand that her first decade of life is an unknown to you. Was she abused? Were there other, bigger dogs who used to compete with her for her food? We didn't know, so patience and consistency became our guiding principles.

And they worked. Two years later, and Candy is not the dog she once was. She's more confident, and with a healthy diet and a course of Glucosamine and MSM she was moving almost like a puppy again. She was a happy dog.

But over the last couple months her appetite has waned. I've tried all variations of dog food, then began cooking food for her, and still she lost almost 30% of her body weight. I'm syringe feeding her now, and she's taking it well. Turns out she's severely anemic, and after an ultrasound and some blood panels, we've seen some disquieting things going on with her spleen and especially her liver.

So, today Candy and I are driving an hour and a half away to go see a specialist and (I hope) to see if her condition is treatable or at the very least manageable. Maybe it's not cancer, but we don't know. Nothing in her medical story so far is following the textbooks, my vet says, and usually that points to cancer since that particular disease tends to rock the boat when it comes to picking its own path.

And that's where my thoughts lay at the moment. Not with writing, or plotting or even Nanowrimo, which begins this Friday. But with a little black dog who has endeared herself to our family with a distinctive personality all her own.

Wish us luck.