Archive for June, 2007

How moonshine nearly killed the book

June 27, 2007

Here’s the thing, I’m not real smart. I compensate with Google. I’m writing a book about the human condition after a catastrophic event and the will to survive. Very high falootin’. I’ve taken a small town, cut it off both physically and communicatively from the rest of the world, and then sat back and documented the events as well as I’m able. Remember it’s a first draft.

So I’ve got these poor people surviving in a difficult situation without the aid of most modern conveniences, electricity, running water, sewers, garbage collection. Believe me, I’m not interested in writing a story about Filthytown with trash, poop, and other fluids slopping around any more than you’re interested in reading it. Yet, my short comings as a storyteller sometimes lead to surprising results.

Case in point, Calvin and Tim Tooley. Two brothers that own the only surviving farm in the small confined area. Calvin, the responsible one, is pissed that Tim spends his time snitching from the limited, and therefore much valued, corn stores on their farm to turn into alcohol using their grandfather’s old still. Tim loves the moonshine. So much that I figured it behooved me to find out how the hell one goes about making moonshine from corn. I hopped on the Google, and imagine my surprise to learn that corn-based moonshine is, in simplified terms so I can understand it, ethanol.

Yup, making and drinking ethanol has been around since, I assume, the pilgrims grew their first corn crop and cooked up a batch for the first Thanksgiving. Problem is in this little story of mine, they don’t have access to fuel; therefore, they’ve not been able to run generators for electricity, or, and this is the killer, drive to someplace better. What’s more, making ethanol is rather easy.

Time to expand my story’s worldview. I suppose this is a good obstacle to have sooner than later.

15 minutes. Time.

95 days remaining (2257:43:18)

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Viruses & infections – phriggin computers…

June 27, 2007

Crap. My laptop has been turned to a stinking pile of unpleasantness topped with lots of swearing. Except it had nothing to do with a virus or infection. Turns out the firewall that I’d tossed for eEye left a little residue that crapped on my….blah, boring.

The point? I lost the better part of 4 days trying to get to the bottom of it. Things are better now. Thanks for the therapy.

95 days remaining (2263:11:05)

98 Days and Counting

June 24, 2007

A shift in the para-dig-um. My hypothesis which assumed I could write for an hour during my lunch break did not prove valid. Since I’m writing on the downlow, I’ve not mentioned my new lunchtime routine. In short, I’m too approachable when an issue arises.

So, the shift. It occurred organically. On a typical day, I’m done with my work about 3:30 and routed my output to the various account directors for internal review or dispatch to the client. By 4:15 I’m in the clear, which leaves me with a tidy :45 to work on the story. It’s been a very productive shift. I believe it was my single best weekly output to date. Fingers crossed for this week.

By the way, it dawned on me that I need to actually discuss the book. This week I’ll get to the who and the what of a book I started writing on November 5, 2005. Plenty to talk about.

15 minutes. Time.

98 days remaining (2329:30:50)

My writing statistics

June 19, 2007

I love statistics. Not with a capital S. More along the lines of Harper’s Index. In this case, I’m interested in the number of words typed during a session and how many actually stick. A pasta test of sorts, throw the words out there and see which ones are sticky.

When writing the story, I seem to average about 10 words per minute. Ten words that read, sound, and feel right to the first draft. I’m not counting line breaks and overall aesthetic presentation on the page. Just words. 10.

So in an hour I can manage maybe 600 words. If I had an uninterrupted hour.

I’ve read some other posts in the blogospheriscope of writers that crank out thousands of words in an hour. The dude Trent over at the Simple Dollar that can slam out 1000+ word posts several times a day on two hours of effort – including research. Dizzying.

And he has a kid.

Me? I’m all about looking good when I write. Especially at my desk at lunch. Got to give off the right vibe, since anyone can walk up to me and hit me with a question or deadline at any time. So I keep the writing on the downlow. All alt tab and such. I don’t have no time for people asking me, “Who’s the Sheriff? Why is he hitting someone with a two pound hammer?” It leads to all sorts of awkward questions right in the middle of my lunch.

My solution? White type on white background. Solid.

And that’s my 15 minutes for tonight.

103 days remaining. (2449:25:18)

Professor Lentz’s name still brings fitful sleep

June 18, 2007

Wow. I never expected the flood of panic dreams. Evidentially, mentioning Mr. Lentz in the previous post stirred up some long buried anxieties. Sprung, or is it sprang – oh, I’m coming unhinged – to the surface in three separate, miserable dreams. First, I saw my long-time roommate, Ed, studiously preparing for I don’t know what. He sat next to an enormous stack of books. I stopped by his table to say hello, but he just stared at me. Finally, he said, “You forgot again.”

I woke up. Not too bad. I’m not sure what I’d forgotten the first time. Ed had far better discipline than I.

I dropped back off and was promptly greeted by a current co-worker, and pretty good chum, Matthew. Some waking-world context here, Saturday afternoon Matt and his wife, Laura, came by the house to pick up some yard tools. In dream world, he pulled up in his Mercedes and asked how I was doing. He mentioned how he wished he’d started preparing his project earlier in the semester.

Red flag.

Reluctantly, I inquired. He explained with finals starting tomorrow, that he’d spent his time studying, and did not have time to also complete his presentation. Typically, in a dream such as this, I get a bit dizzy or faint right about now.

I admit to Matt that I haven’t begun my presentation either. What’s more, I need to ask for which class and the deadline. Needless to say, I’ve not been to this class at the dream academy. To Matt’s credit, he looked genuinely concerned, rather than break into a generic nightmare’s fit of laughing and pointing. Matt said, “Oh, dude, presentations are due before finals week. Got to turn them in today before 7:49.”

I woke up. This time it took me a bit longer to recognize that it was a dream. Once settled I dropped off again.

Into a big pitch for work. I was supposed to guess which presentation audience member was to receive the envelop full of jewels. I asked a fellow standing at the entrance where I might find the recipient. The fellow was rude and insulting. So, I – contrary to my waking life – popped him in the schnoz and kicked him in the knee. I remember being very specific about kicking him in the knee. That’s when an account director from DDB (she was wearing a red “DDB” pin on her lapel), jumped up from her chair and said, “Perfect, except for the hair!”

Thank God it’s daylight.

104 days remaining (2486: 60: 45)

The collective consciousness frequency tuner called imagination

June 17, 2007

I’ve mentioned the collective consciousness frequency tuner before, but now I can give an example of what I mean. When I first started writing this book, a sentence popped into my head that insisted I type it before moving on. It’s in a very early draft, and it resides in the middle of a completely unrelated paragraph in which Guthrie makes a pivotal decision. The paragraph-crasher sentence:

Edgrin Finnebrook pushed his hands deep into the soil. The fragrant earth brought a smile to his face.

I’m reading John D. MacDonald’s The Quick Red Fox. It’s the first Travis McGee novel I’ve read. I ran into the passage:

Holding something alive, warm, sleeping is like handling fresh moist soil under the sun’s heat. Restorative. (Pg 62, Fawcett Crest paperback edition 1995.)

Obviously it’s not the same, but what struck me was the reference for good, wholesome, and restorative powers of soil. I liked the coincidence. Tapping into the ether.

Come to think of it, I’m sure this is some holdover lesson from one of Professor Lentz’s lectures. O.K., so I never paid attention in class, but possibly some of the Walden lectures – did we read Walden? – took root despite my best lack of effort.

105 days remaining. (2502:05:23)

Caffeine-free writing – a lifestyle oxymoron

June 15, 2007

Twelve-days in and at least the headaches are gone. But the hour I used to grab after everyone had gone to bed has been put on hiatus, too. Our kids get up between 5-6 am. (Yup, the time most decent single folk, or couples without children, are usually going to bed.) My wife and I are able to wrangle them into bed between 7-8:30 pm. Typically, we’re able to enjoy at least an hour before we retire. Not so much now that I’m dabbling in non-caffeinated potables. Bright side: I’ve allowed myself a return to the shelves of the – as Will Ferrell on SNL’s Celebrity Jeopardy would say – “Potent Potables.”

Finished John Connolly’s Every Dead Thing tonight. So I thought I would post the list of books I’ve read this year. I’ve never kept a list before. It’s been a cool exercise.

  1. Golden Compass – Pullman
  2. The Zero – Walter
  3. Four Agreements
  4. Next – Crichton
  5. Children of Men – James
  6. The Blade Itself – Sakey
  7. Shut Up, Stop Whining, and Get a Life
  8. The Road – McCarthy
  9. Hannibal Rising – Harris
  10. 101 Salary Tips – ? (Worked great. I received a huge raise without even asking.)
  11. 1984 – Orwell
  12. The Camel Club – Baldacci
  13. Echo Park – Connelly
  14. Fantasyland – Walker
  15. Alexandria Link – Berry
  16. Running Blind – Child
  17. Tripwire – Child
  18. The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Hamid
  19. The Rogue Male – Houseman
  20. Every Dead Thing – Connolly

I have a couple marketing books I need to skim. I’ll let you know how that goes.

107 days remaining (2545:36:08)

My Best Anne Lamott Impression – Premature Ventricular Contractions

June 13, 2007

Anne Lamott in her book, Bird by Bird, describes the methods and lengths of her writing procrastination, including hypochondria. It’s a humorous anecdote, but not one that I’d experienced. At least not until now.

Ever wondered what it would be like to have a fish in your chest? That’s the best description I’ve come up with, yet. The flopping sensation started short of three weeks ago. We’d launched a huge project, my son is cutting his two-year molars, and I’d been slamming some 100-watt coffee. Figured the wiggly heart was overdue for a little detox and some solid, wholesome sleep. A week later, good sleep, no caffeine – wow, did I actually spell that correctly on the first try? – nor beer, nor wine, nor Bourbon, nor Irish Whiskey, and still the double-dutch heartbeat. So, last Friday night, I searched WebMD. Big Mistake. As a younger man, I would have soiled myself.

Fortunately, my wife is a patient woman, and once she coaxed me out from my kids play fort and wrestled my daughter’s favorite stuffed guinea pig out of my grasp, she explained in no uncertain terms that freaking out all weekend without proper medical documentation was not an option. So I called the nurse and set up a very special Saturday doctor’s appointment.

I’d never had an EKG. Now, I’ve had two. Turns out I have a little heart goodie called premature ventricular contractions, or PVCs. They’re benign, and evidentially rising in prevalence. At this very moment, I’ve seven little pads stuck to various points on my torso collecting every flippity-dippity heartbeat over 48 hours. So, no big whoop, thank you for you concern. I can get back to the business of the story.

But wait, there’s more: I’d never shaved my chest, nor had it shaved for me until Saturday. Bonus: I had it shaved again on Tuesday. Extra credit: both times I enjoyed the shearing of a disposable plastic razor without the benefit of lather, that is to say, dry. I think I might find it arous…nah, it sucks.

109 days remaining (2600:52:10). 645 words per day.

Talking (and blogging) about writing vs. actually writing

June 4, 2007

Always a troubling topic. When is one a detriment to another? I’ve been focused on my little deadlines. (September 31 is creeping closer every minute – 2810:43:15 at the time of this post.) It’s another reason why I’ve given myself a 15-minute per post time limit. Get in, get out, get back to work. The trouble is, I find myself thinking about what it is I should post when I should be working on the story.

Lunch break update: It’s been a nominal success. Out of a four day week – we had Monday off for Memorial Day, I managed two days of writing during my lunch. I needed to work through the other two. That’s the one downside of my gig, account directors enjoy going to lunch and taking clients to lunch. Content strategists, on the other hand, have deadlines set by account directors, typically with a “sure, we can post that right after lunch.” Be sure though, I would never switch places. Account directors are on the front lines handling relationships and smiling through insults that would make a sailor blush. Pardon my gross generalization of sailors. It was convenient and I’m on a tight time schedule.

Distractions: Several. Primary, our yard/landscaping. We’re right in the thick of it. I need to finish to provide my family a place to run around, rather than run on me (and by extension the laptop). Family adventures -Hovander Farm, Larribee Beach (sp – I’ll check later, not enough time) trying to exhaust the kids so they’ll sleep past 5:00 am. Books – Just finished Rogue Male by Geoffery Houseman. Started Every Dead Thing by Connelly. I should post my read list.

15 minutes. Later

118 days remaining.