Archive for the ‘Rants and ruminations’ category

how to survive the end of the world

February 15, 2019

Many years ago, on my now-gone blog, Roundrock Journal, I would post occasional videos. Generally these were of scenes or events in my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks. At the time, WordPress couldn’t take direct importing of videos (or if they could, my knowledge/skills weren’t up to the task), so I would post them on Yahoo Videos and then put a link for them in the blog post. I got good enuf at it that it became almost a weekly thing.

But then Yahoo announced that it was discontinuing that service. We users were given plenty of notice about this so we could download our uploads to save them. I always had my videos on the computer first, so I still had (have) them and just let my account disappear. (I made a few attempts at using YouTube for the same function, but by then my Roundrock Journal days were coming to an end as well.)

Recently, as you probably know, Google announced that it was ending the Google+ service. I have/had a Google+ account, but after a flurry of early use, my motivation flagged (as did apparently the motivation of millions of other users). The last time I was on it was nearly a year ago when my kids all tried to have a video chat using the Hangout function. (It didn’t work very well.) So I wasn’t at all upset to see my Google+ account go away.

But now, of course, I look at all of the other services I use with a nervous tic. I have a Flickr account where I dump notable photos I have taken or snagged. Did I hear something recently about that service being in jeopardy?

More concerning, though, is the thought of my Google Drive going away. (Back in 2009, I wrote about my use of Google Docs, as it was known then, here and here and here.) One ambition I had was to write an entire story, to what I considered a publishable state, entirely on Google Docs/Drive, the advantage of this being that I could use it at work and appear to be, you know, working. That never really happened. But I did and do use Google Drive as a back up. I’ve placed whole novels there to be safely stored, and occasionally, when the spirit moves, I will back up selected stories too. (I also have two other back up media I use. Sporadically.)

But there was one story that existed only on Google Drive. (Story notes actually. Not much in the way of development.) And I began to worry that this service might go the way of those others too. That story (and all of my backups) would then be lost.

So the other day I copied all of the notes for that story onto my computer where it will sit with the others and be backed up by my two other methods. Sporadically.

I need to be more diligent about making back ups. I know this.

sez who?

January 28, 2019

I’m always on the look out for rule breakers. I’ve said before that creative writing is such an uncertain process — does this work? will anyone read this? should I throw away this whole paragraph? do I even know what I’m trying to say? should I have changed my major years ago? — that there is a seductive quality to so-called writing “rules.” My personal bugbear is the admonition that only some variation of the word “said” is acceptable as a dialog tag.

So I’m plowing through Joseph Conrad’s The Nigger of the “Narcissus” right now, and in the first chapter I came across this bit:

The mate went on faster: — “Craik — Singleton — Donkin. . . . O Lord!” he involuntarily ejaculated as the incredibly dilapidated figure appeared in the light.

So there’s a dialog tag you don’t see everyday. And I count two adverbs in the mix. On the preceding page, one character “growls” and another “yelps.” And this is within the first ten pages of the novel.

Granted, this is late 19th Century writing (by a man whose first language was not English, by the way). And people don’t write that way much anymore, but are we richer or poorer for it?

and so, a turn of the year

January 1, 2019

I’ve long thought that the first day of spring ought to be when we reckon the changing of the year.* It makes a sense that I can see — the whole rebirth thing — that I can’t see in making the darkness of winter (in the northern hemisphere) the apparently arbitrary turning point.

But enuf of that. I “finished” the story “Three Small Words” yesterday. It’s part of the One-Match Fire universe though it takes place long after the end of that novel. (I know these characters so well now that it’s “easy” to write about them.) And at the top of the first page of the story I wrote “Copyright 2019 by the author.” It felt daring when I did that. A day early, of course, but also ambitious and hopeful — the first of a year’s worth of efforts in what really is a difficult and only infrequently rewarding craft.

I had intended to write a post here about the comparatively large number of publishing successes I had in 2018. But calculating this is iffy in itself. (Alliteration doesn’t work so well with the letter “i”.) Stories published within the year? Accepted within the year? Submitted within the year but accepted after the turn of the year? (I even have a story that I learned late last year was shortlisted, so should that be accepted soon in 2019, does it count for 2018? Or should I be fudging all of these dubious standards to swell my acceptances in 2019?)

As it stands, here is how 2018 broke down: seven of my stories appeared in print during the calendar year. At least one I know had been submitted in the distant past of 2017. By any count, that’s been my most successful year since I began writing/submitting fiction earnestly. (And as full disclosure, I also submitted eight other works in 2018 for a total of thirteen submissions still pending. Should any be accepted today or later, I’m going to tally them in the 2019 column. And fuller disclosure, I had twenty-seven rejections in 2018.)

In the coming days I hope to write my annual post about my visits to Roundrock for 2018, but I have to get down there to retrieve the calendar hanging on the wall (perhaps this weekend if the weather favors my fate). I’m not striving for any “successes” with those visits — not more than the year before, for example — but I always feel I don’t get down there as much as I’d like. Life interferes. (I read someone’s account of having several hundred rejections last year. Was he more diligent than I or less selective?)

I guess our little monkey brains want to quantify our lives so that we can make better sense of them and hold the (mostly) illusion that we are in control. Whatever.

I hope you stride hopefully into 2019. I know I’ll want to hear all about it.

*And some cultures do, as I learned when I acquired a Moslem daughter-in-law.

bits and pieces

November 28, 2018

I received three rejections over the weekend for stories I had submitted. Two were form letters, but the third was specific and detailed, saying how much they liked my story. “We really mean it.” And although they declined to publish it, they said they wanted to see more from me. Then I checked their submission calendar and found they were closed to submissions until the spring.


We had a baffling mystery at our house last weekend. My son and his wife were staying with us for the holiday, and my daughter-in-law noted that she could not get any hot water for her shower. She’d turned the handle all the way toward the “hot” side, but the water would not warm. We had that problem with the furnace a couple of weeks ago, and I don’t think anyone had used the guest bathroom since then, so I figured that bit of work must have affected the plumbing somehow. But then my son tried to have a shower and found that if he turned the knob in the “cold” direction he could get all of the hot water he wanted. We’ve lived in this house for 31 years, and this is the first time this kind of thing has ever happened.

It turned out to have a simple explanation. Apparently in faucets with a single handle (which is all of them in our house) there is a “switch” inside that, after years of use, can get flipped somehow. So hot becomes cold and cold becomes hot. The fix is fairly simple (for a plumber) but it involves shutting down all of the water in the house, which I don’t really want to do in the current cold weather. We don’t have any guests staying in the near future, and we know the solution to the problem, so it’s not really a priority.


I finished the rewrite of the story with the leprechaun in it and enhanced the supernatural part some, as the editor suggested. I sent it back to the editor with fingers crossed. He’s been known to take months to respond, so I’ll just move on to something else now.

punctuating stammering speech

November 19, 2018

as in, how do you do it?

In one of my stories I have two runners trying to have a conversation while they are running. One of them is fit and fine, but the other is a beginner, and he’s having trouble keeping up, much less pushing out words between his gasping breaths.

Here is a line of dialog from the non-runner:

“Not sure you can call . . . what I do . . . running.”

The point is to show how much struggle he is having pushing out words as he’s barely able to breathe enuf to keep running. (Later I use this same punctuation when the man is trying to speak as he is sobbing.)

My question is, is this how I should punctuate the sentence to get this across?

I don’t think an em dash would be right. That’s for interruptions and abrupt stops. And I don’t want to put something like *gasp* between the words. I tried punctuating each fragment as a sentence, putting a period at the end. But that didn’t look right. Still, I don’t know if what I’ve chosen now is right either.

I’ve made some forays onto the internet to try to find guidance, but I haven’t found anything that fits. About the only other solution I can think of is to watch for this same sort of thing when I’m reading and see how another writer and/or editor did it.

Unless you know.

UPDATE 20FEB19 – I came across a bit of text in a novel that has a similar scenario in it. Two people are climbing a hill, and one is less fit than the other. The stammering was punctuated with periods rather than ellipses, making them sentence fragments, which I can see makes sense. I may do that with mine.

Prometheus, bringer of fire

November 16, 2018

In my story “Pandora’s Tackle Box,” (sadly, the online mag that has published it has vanished) I have two brothers who are avatars for the mythical brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus. Poor Epimetheus falls madly in love with Pandora (or rather with her fishing tackle) while his smarter brother, Prometheus, watches and shakes his head.

Prometheus, as you know, was the Titan who stole fire from the gods on Mount Olympus and gave it to mankind, allowing civilization to develop. (And he was punished for this by being chained to a rock for all eternity, each day having an eagle eat his liver, only to have it grow back again overnight. In some stories he was later rescued by Hercules.)

Well, Prometheus visited my house last night and delivered fire, in the form of an induction fan so that my furnace could run once again. Within an hour the house was warm again and all was right with the world. My son and his wife are visiting next week, and although she has frolicked in the snow this week over in St. Louis where they live, she is from Kenya, about where the equator crosses it, so cold weather is not part of her life experience. I’m glad the house will be warm for their visit.


November 15, 2018

Second night without heat. Fortunately, no busted pipes or expired pets. We’ve doubled our count of space heaters (to four!) but they’re just making a small zone of tolerance in an otherwise chilly house.

There was some snafu with the HVAC company that came out to our house on Tuesday and the necessary part was never ordered. After some funny-if-it-weren’t-so-damned-cold calls to that company, and a half day taken from work to wait for the repairman who never came, I called another service company that has made the same promises as the first and is supposed to deliver on them today.

We have electricity and hot water, so I’m presentable for going to the office. Even so, they keep that space cool enuf that I wear a hoodie even in the summer. Will I come home to a warm house this evening?