Sunday, April 27, 2008

Dear Charlie:

Considering that my beloved sister made it here and back home without incident, I count yesterday a success.

Heh, but that's not the only reason. Just the best one.

So Sis and I got a good hour to just yak, uninterrupted, before heading over to IHOP for lunch with the gang. We weren't sure the vendors at the Ren Faire would take credit cards, and not all of us carry around cash (or have easy access to it, thanks to PIN numbers that don't friggin work...*grumblegrumble*), so we wanted to make sure we were all fed before trapping ourselves amongst the good food smells of monster turkey legs and lots of ale. Heh.

We introduced all around and had a few...okay, a bunch...of laughs. Then, we hit the faire. Now, keep in mind that this is a first in this area, but even so, there were quite a few tents set up with all sorts of stuff to gawk at.

Of course, it wasn't as well-populated as a long-standing Ren Fest. No jousting on horseback. No professionally choreographed sword fights. *sigh*

But there were weapons galore -- some even sharpened -- and lots of folk running around in everything from peasant garb to Goth lord gear. Heh. Admittedly, some people shouldn't wear certain things -- I'm thinking gold-and-black-striped tights with no codpiece, a particularly low-cut peasant blouse on a rather plump peasant girl, and a gypsy costume on a girl whose belly button gem I could have done without seeing -- but all in all, it was good fun.

I talked Sis into a really cool leather wrist cuff with silver studs and a neat silver heart. I got a cool set of tiny knives with stylized dragon hilts in a faux-leather carrying case. Pesh talked herself out of a set of knives, the blades of which are each hidden in the other's hilts, so when together, they look like a single, smooth rod of wood. Very cool. She'll probably kick herself for not getting them, later.

Then again, this is the woman who can cut herself on frosting, so it's probably for the best. Heh.

We hefted flails. Ogled hand-made boots. I was repeatedly tortored with clothing possibilities that truly were NOT possibilities at all.

I think the worst of the latter was a purple glittery...thing...with jingly little hangy-downies and very, very little fabric. Ugh. Or maybe the lime green satin bra-like top with lots of embroidery and tassles. Egad.

There were high quality goods, of course, but since none of us could remotely afford any of them, it was kinda hard to really look without worrying about the "you break it, you buy it" policy. Heh.

So, we walked around. Talked. Gawked. Laughed at this or cringed at that. Had a Woodchuck, which was described to me as "cider with an attitude" and which tasted like particularly cidery champagne, which is all right by me (though I usually like beer/ale better). Raised a Killian's Irish Red to the queen, who was appropriately regal. Walked a couple of miles back and forth among the tents, which seemed to increase in number over the course of the day. Debated a particularly nice wakizashi (or a short katana, whichever nomenclature you prefer) and eventually talked myself out of it, though the price was quite reasonable.

Had a good time.

And for the first time in years, I actually got a touch of sunburn. It's already faded into plain ol' tan, just overnight, but it's been a long time since I had to worry about that. Heh, I just don't burn, even without suntan lotion. But my nose was pink last night, which I found hilarious.

Anyway, we're all hoping the Faire comes back next year, because it'll only get better. And because Edy and Dave are likely already choreographing a more appropriate sword fight with which to dazzle the masses. And because it was a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon, outdoors and active and together with friends.

We should all have more days like that. Don't you think?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Dear Charlie:

Okay, so for the first time ever, a Ren Faire is coming to my area. I've always thought it would be geeky good fun to go to one. All the period costumes, the pseudo-period food and drink, the jousting, the swordplay, the armor and fighting....

Yeah. Guess what I'm looking forward to.

Anyway, so a whole group of us are headed there tomorrow. Better yet? My beloved sister is coming down to go with me! We so rarely get to see each other, so it just adds a nice spice to the day.

Something tells me there will be turkey legs you could stop a crime with, enough ale to drown a monkey in, and a few oohs and aahs along the way. Stuff to see. Stuff to blow money on. And Renaissance stuff galore.

Good times will abound. And maybe Sis will get a little inspiration for Conn, a character whose forearms are legendary, thanks to his love of Ren Faire-type swordplay. Woot!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ode to the Evil Editor:

So the next couple of days are sort of special. First off, one of them is Office Assistant Recognition Day, or whatever they're calling Secretary Day these days. This means I'll likely (though not definitely) get some chocolate-covered strawberries from one of my bosses.

Now, I'm not usually a chocoholic. In fact, I rarely care for more than a taste even if I'm craving it. It's just too much. So, the fact that I adore chocolate-covered strawberries beyond all reason is noteworthy.

But these days are special for another reason. See, two years ago, a real life editor in the book publishing industry decided to try a little experiment.

What would happen if he asked for aspiring writers to send him their current query letters for him to dissect? For advice on how to make them better? Would it help? Would it just be stomach-crampingly funny?

And what about the first 250 words of the story? What if he posted the first paragraph or so and let readers...well...continue it? However they wished? Funny or serious?

To his surprise, it caught on like syrup on pancakes, and two years later, the Evil Editor -- purveyor of such gems as Why You Don't Get Published and Novel Deviations 1, 2, and 3 -- is still up and running. Encouraging by dissing. Enlightening by tormenting. Amusing by...well, by being amusing.

Always challenging us to do better, to write more, to use our brains.

So, for the next two days -- April 23 and 24 -- we Minions, as we like to call ourselves, are throwing Evil Editor a party. If you want to get your publishing world craziness on, come join us here. We'll have drinks, games, general mayhem, and probably a few off-color jokes. A few laughs at EE's expense. A lot of laughs at our own.

Then, everything will go back to normal and everyone will forget that I somehow acquired the nickname, Queen of Explosions.

Oi.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sidebar:

Just watched The Forbidden Kingdom. Jet Li and Jackie Chan in the same flick.

You know, I'm pretty sure they made this entire movie just for the scene where the two beat the crap out of each other in the temple. *grin* Good times, that. I'd pay to watch it again, just for that part.

Admittedly, the rest was pretty darn good, too.

It wasn't as Disney as I was half-expecting. People died, both on-screen and off. One character uses a soldier's own sword, still in the soldier's hands, to slit the soldier's throat. Very little blood, but definitely not Disney.

Much ass-kickery, which rocks. A little mysticism, which is hella cool. The Monkey King, which will always get my attention, heh. Yeah, me and monkeys. They just seem to abound when I'm around.

And there was an actual story involved, which is always good. Oh, man, and the opening credits? Astoundingly well done. I'd love that bit as a screensaver. Of course, I'd never get anything done because I'd just sit there watching the comic book-like images flashing in pseudo-3D all day, but hey. Way cool.

But when it really comes down to it, while the movie was great in its own right, it's the first collaboration of two of the most well-known names in Americanized martial arts films. You really can't go wrong, there.

And Collin Chou makes me pretty happy, too. He has such presence. He should always play an emperor or something regal like that. Seraph in the Matrix movies was cool, but in my humble opinion, vastly underused. And as kid Jet Li's father in Fearless, he was excellent and dutifully awe-inspiring. But again, such a short part. He needs more lead roles.

Jet Li and Jackie Chan were spot-on, too. I like that their main fight was dirty. They each took hard hits, for all that they were masters. A couple of rough tumbles for landings. A few grunts and groans. To be honest, there were a couple of hits that look like they really landed. Like they weren't pulled. You gotta wonder about the outtakes for this flick -- if there'll be a bunch of just sparring between them. Heh.

I've always thought them both astounding for being able to not only do all of their martial arts work but to be able to act in another language. That can't be easy. I mean, Jackie Chan admits it freely in outtakes. And in Jet Li's first few American movies, he didn't even speak English. That's so impressive to me. I mean, sure, I could speak enough German to save my life, though I no longer consider myself fluent. I know lots of Japanese potty words. Quite a few French and Spanish ones. A few common phrases in Spanish, too. An Italian curse or two. Even a Chinese one. Heh.

But enough to act? To emote, to put emphasis on the right syllables to get the correct response? No way. That's impressive.

Anyway, all actor stroking aside, the flick is a great watch for those who have both a fondness for old kung fu flicks and an admiration for the newer wire-work-and-CGI-type mystical flicks. There are a few obvious effects shots -- the white witch's whip, to name just one -- but they don't really detract, considering all the wire work in certain scenes. And the chi energy is especially well done -- a fact to which I hope Steven Chow will pay attention when he goes to FX the DragonBall movie.

Oi, but don't get me started there. As far as I'm concerned, that whole thing should be CGI instead of live action. Ack! No soap box!

So yeah, go see Forbidden Kingdom. All sorts of good fun for traditionalists and newer kung fu-ers alike. Have fun. I know I did.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Dear Charlie:

1500 new words. Doesn't seem like much production for almost a week when I can usually put out that much in a single evening -- hell, in a couple of hours. But these words didn't come easy, and I have a feeling they'll come much faster now.

Why?

Well, they didn't come easy because it had been almost a year since I wrote in this particular story. In this particular set of Voices. Since I let myself think in this universe, play by its rules. Since I stroked down the Ino-zo's smooth-muscled flank.

And they'll come faster now because I think I'm finally tapping back into that world. Into the feel and the flow. And I might actually have the right mind for it now. The right...way with words and timing. Maybe.

I'm still debating whether or not I'll use much of the language I created for my beloved Inodin. I love the words, and I think they have a ring, but you know how the science fiction and/or fantasy community looks down on phony languages in a book. Heh, check out the Turkey City Lexicon if you don't believe me. I may have to kill that particular darling, but I'll worry about that when I get to it. I may just be able to scale it back to honestly non-translatable and strictly Inodin words.

Not too much sacrifice. *wibbles*

At any rate, I'm wading slowly back in. Taking my time. Enjoying the world I built and wondering how much of it should be revealed up front and how much I can save for later. And...yes, and hoping.

We'll see how it goes. I don't want to get too excited up front. Don't want to be disappointed when that rat bastard of a Muse turns his back again.

The big jerk.

In other news, I just found out that a very, very close friend of mine got some hideously bad news. Her daughter -- an adorable little spitfire of a redhead -- was recently diagnosed with leukemia. Now, they've already started chemo, and she's a stubborn little bink who could likely overcome death itself to prove someone wrong. But she's so young and so very precious. If everyone could keep her and her mother in your thoughts, I would certainly appreciate it.

I know they both have my prayers.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Dear Charlie:

Okay, so for the first time in the two and a half years I've worked at this place, I FINALLY take a day off just to...ya know...take a day off. Not because I'm sick. Not because it's a holiday. Just...to have a day off.

Admittedly, I had a dentist appointment this morning. I've managed to make it to 31 years of age without having a cavity, so I guess I was just due. Plus, since he was only going to charge me for the two -- three? -- minor fillings, he went ahead and did some of the pre-care work he'd wanted to do before but could't because it was too expensive, even with my insurance. So, I had quite a little bit of dental work scheduled.

But I was still going to head back to work. Luckily for me, I decided over the weekend that I'd earned a darn day off after the last few weeks, so I asked. And my excellent supervisor -- don't worry, I tell her she's excellent all the time, so it's not just blog-sucking-up -- said "absolutely". So, today off.

I planned to get the dental stuff done in the morning, then just laze about and write all afternoon. Of course, this is Geeb's world, where stuff like that is less likely than the possibility of intelligent life on a soap opera.

See, I'd asked my dad a couple of months ago if there was something he could do about the bounce in my living room floor. There aren't a whole lot of set points under the house, and so the living room floor isn't terribly well shored up. He said he could probably put in some floor jacks and set it to rights, but it would be a while.

Well, apparently, it was today. He called last night and said he'd be up to fix the floor. I told him I'd be off all day, so I'd help. Yeah. I know, I know. Like I said a few posts down, I get myself into far too much.

So when I called this morning to tell him where the house key was, he said he'd also called my old plumber to see about replacing the leaky faucet in my kitchen. I'd tentatively thought to ask a friend to help, but it's a darn good thing I didn't. More about that later.

So, dentist...then floor jacks...then plumber. No worries, right?

First off, the long beam Dad made to jack up under the floor joists had somehow curved and twisted. Apparently, some of the boards had gotten wet and then dried crooked, twisting the whole length. No worries once it's in place because the jacks and the joists will pinch it straight. But getting it into place? Ah, there's the rub.

So...to help...I had to...*insert dramatic music here*...brave Teh Evol Cellar of Death!

Okay, more like Teh Evol Cellar of Crawling Beasties, but whatever. Man, those steps look like something out of a crypt. Ugh. But I did it. With minimal wibbling, I climbed down into the depths and risked life and limb -- mostly limb, when the floor jack I'd just screwed up into place decided to topple over right onto my arm while Dad screwed up another one -- to help fix my own floor.

A couple of hours later, we decided to use floor jacks on the rest of the long beam, too, instead of just some 4X4s, like initially planned. So, we ran and got some more jacks, trooped them down to the cellar, and just started setting them when the plumber showed.

Heh. Remember many, many moons ago when I said I'd bought this place from a handyman who weren't too handy? Well, keep that in mind. Basically, if the plumber'd had as foul a mouth as I can, even my ears would've been blistered.

Some stupidity abounded, so the poor plumber had to fix it. Bless his heart, but he did it, too, and I am now the proud recipient of a new faucet to go with my new honkin' beam in the basement that does, indeed, prevent the bounce in my living room floor. Now, I have no excuse to not do my aerobics.

...

Darn it.

Heh.

So, after that, Dad said he was hungry. I was starving by this time because I hadn't had anything to eat yet and it was a good 2:00 in the afternoon, so we ran for Chinese buffet. Unfortunately, the vast amount of crispy-fried yummies were inedible because, while my teeth don't hurt at all, my gums are frackin killin me. Though I got several more anesthetic shots on the outside of my gums than on the inside ones, the inside ones left marks. Or wounds, I should say. Yowza. I'm usually not a baby about needles -- hell, I donate plasma twice a week, and they use a big ol' eleven gauge needle there -- but these do hurt pretty good. And I can even feel the holes left there with my tongue...which I can't keep away from them, of course.

Anyway, I crippled through lunch as well as possible, only to have Dad's tractor-mower hoist upon me as soon as we got back. Ack! Dad had just told me that the darn thing was worth more than my car, and now he expected me to drive it??

Dude! This is my day off!

But I did it. Not saying I did it terribly well, but I did manage to not run into any trees or over any small children -- though there was this one I was tempted to aim at -- and no harm was done. Plus, the lawn's mowed for the first time this year.

And...if I'd gone to work today...I'd just now be getting off.

...

Hmph.

So...why did I ask for today off again? I can't remember. I got a bruise on my forearm, cobwebs in my hair, all the cleaning stuff from under my sink spread all over the kitchen floor, enough grass/dirt/tree fuzz to choke even the non-allergic, and really sore gums.

Then again, I also have teeth that won't have cavities again, a new sink, a non-bouncy living room floor, and a freshly-mowed lawn. Hm. I guess that's an even trade.

Heheh. This...is my life. As the poster says, it may be that I exist simply to serve as a warning to others.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Dear Charlie:

Oi! Two posts in two days. No, I haven't discovered I have cancer.

I simply stumbled across one of my old stories this afternoon while idly paging through my computer files and...to my astonishment...found myself so hooked that I had to read the whole thing.

Remember that trilogy I was dinking around with when I first started this blog? When was that...back in 2004? Ay carumba. How the time flies. At any rate, I'd finished two of the three books and was well into the third when I decided that my style needed an overhaul.

I took some time off of the trilogy to write some short stories. Even got a couple published, though only one is still available for your reading pleasure, as the other e-zine closed down so fully that even the website is no longer available. And I did improve my style. More concise. More...conversational, I think.

Admittedly, I've finished one full and started at least five other books since then, but in the back of my mind was always this niggling little voice that said the trilogy wasn't a complete loss. Yes, I'd learned in my absence, but surely that could only make the story better now, right?

So, a year or so ago, I started a new document with a new focus. Brevity. Action. Comedy. These are my strengths. I would revamp the story with these elements, and it would be better for the lack of long-winded battle descriptions that no one but me found fascinating. Better without the fumbling attempts to analyze feelings, to get across the background without telling. Better all around.

And for all my improvements, I didn't get past the first five chapters before the siren song of a different novel snared me.

Don't get me wrong. The heroes are now more complex (though I gotta admit I did a pretty good job with them before). The heroine is less Mary Sue, less sweet, and far less likely to end up on the editing room floor, drowning in a sea of red ink. I'm getting to the point with far less exposition than before, which will only make the final story better and give me that much more backstory to play with later.

But for all that...as I opened the original file today, looking for a specific part in the second book that I wanted to laugh over, I found myself actually reading instead of skimming for the right part. Marveling that such complexity came from my head without me remembering it. Staring at so many threads winding around each other, coming around full circle closer and closer at each switch in point of view. Remembering parts from the first book that bore on this or that situation.

Enjoying myself, in other words. I'm a little astonished.

I mean, it surely needs work, but...perhaps not as much as I'd thought. The story is there, and it's far more broad-reaching than I remembered. There are so many characters, some lightyears away, that bear fully on the plot. There are so many intrigues, so many layers of history and mistrust and tyranny and hate. So much...story.

In a way, I guess I'm saying that this story is to me what the Shanhasson stories are to my sister. These are the words I cut my teeth on. The first characters that mattered enough to me to want to finish their tales. Their struggle still haunts me, still compels me to write.

I might...just might...have to give in to that siren song. After all, I finished up the second book and plowed back through the first, all in one lazy afternoon. And the unfinished third, as well. They read fast, for all that they're incredibly too long. That, in and of itself, is something.

I guess there's no point to this post other than expressing my surprise that these old, dear friends are still so...true. They still hold such fascination for me. And their story must be told to its full -- including how they ended up here in the first place, which I'm tempted to write first. That was supposed to be a possible fourth novel if the first three ever did well, because I figured at least a few people would be curious about my beloved planet Ino and its inhabitants.

I know I am.

But this is all speculation. Maybe just the drive to get back into any writing after such a stressful, non-creative period at work. And maybe the story isn't half so fun as I think it, but hey. As long as I'm writing for me, anyway, I might as well enjoy myself.

So, I might just drag the old friends out for some ass-kickery. For old times' sake. See what happens.

Heh.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dear Charlie:

Oi. You all know I don't like to rant here, which is pretty much why I haven't had anything to say for the last couple of weeks. Heh. Suffice it to say that I've done three things in four weeks, when I usually get those four weeks to do one.

Enough of that!

So, sometimes you just have to have a movie weekend. Get your mind off things, ya know? Engage the brain so you can let go of all the stuff that irritates you. That's what I'm doing: having a movie weekend.

Nothing I haven't seen before, of course. No, I'm going for the oldie-goodies. Sleepy Hollow, for its quirky darkness and Ray Park's kick-ass weapons work as the Headless Horseman. Major League, for...well, because it's Major League and I love movies about baseball, though I can take or leave (and usually leave) the actual sport. Undead, because it's so laughably bad but still has such a wacky premise. And because of that cuss-crazy cop's diatribe about f*ckin' finishing Marion faster than a birthday cake at a f*ckin' fat girl's f*ckin' party. Heheheh.

Those kinds of things. Stuff that cracks me up.

And then...I put in 1408. Because I adore/admire both John Cusack (he was brilliant in Identity...which I oughtta watch next) and Samuel L. Jackson. And because it's Stephen King, and I've long sang his praises. And because it has some legitimately creepy moments, which says a lot coming from me. I startle easily, but I don't scare.

Also on the agenda for this take-your-mind-off-it weekend? This. Over and over again. It cracks me up. I'm sure we all know "Total Eclipse of the Heart". Written by the same guy, Jim Steinman, who wrote most of MeatLoaf's stuff, and again, we all know how much I love MeatLoaf.

Now, Bonnie Tyler's version is, of course, the titular version that everyone thinks of. Roughing over those high notes. Pouring all the emotion in a love-wronged heart into the words. Good stuff.

This...is better. Ha! Okay, not so much better as frackin hilarious. Although the guy does have a great voice and doesn't need the comedy to make the song bearable. But who cares? The comedy is great.

Anyway, I plan to pop in some Indiana Jones -- you know, they have a new one coming out soon -- maybe a little Aliens, probably some kung fu. A few of my favorite things.

See? It's already working. Woot!