Archive for the ‘First Draft’ Category

Girls Retreat – a mother’s finest revenge

January 26, 2008

I’ll tell you, there is no easier way for a mommy to teach a daddy how important she is to the family dynamic than to go on an overnight adventure with the girls. Janet and the other girls from the Hot Moms’ Night Out gang are off across the bay at an island resort/spa. It’s off-season, so rather than $200 per head, it’s $25.

I’m playing single parent daddy tonight. We’ve played Wii (dubbed Giggles & Giggles by my daughter; I don’t know why), we’ve been to Trader Joe’s, we’ve been to the gelato place, and now Rachel Coleman and the Signing Time crew are playing surrogate parent, while I make dinner and tap this out on the down low. C’mon, I’m here all alone. This is perspective.

Where’s the money coming from? The new freaking water heater, that’s where. saved 248 KWH last month and 513 KWH this month. Shoot.

Oh, the crash from the other room sounded bruise-worthy. I should hear about it in 3…2…1

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Rather than state the obvious…

January 23, 2008

I’ll just point you to a post from Skelliewag.org that kinda says it all for me. I’ve needed to spend a substantial amount of time on the second draft of the script. Not that the first draft was bad. I’m still very fond of the story. Something I learned from my years of tending bar: a story can always be told better. So could a great many posts for that matter. Please don’t think that I’ve abandoned Tap; rather, if Tap is a blog about the process of writing a book, it seems to me anything other than writing the book is taking away from the process. Chicken, meet egg.

I think we’ll pick back up when we’re closer to querying. I’ve been doing my diligence and researching like a stalker. The agenting hunt shall be both exhilarating and odd.

Oh, and the oven broke. It’s two years old. Put that on the list, too.

Top 25 on my iTunes

November 9, 2007

I have a lot of playlists on my iTunes at work. Occasionally, I’ll take a look at the Top 25 from across all the different lists. This is a pretty good representation; unfortunately, we had to migrate my data from one hard drive to another eight months ago, so I know this list would be different with that data. I mean, there isn’t a single U2 song on here. What happened to Story for Boys? Beautiful Day? Mysterious Ways? Acrobat? I mean, c’mon, the list is making me look un-Bono-worshipish. Sheesh.

1
Mary Won’t You Call My Name?
Morphine
Cure for Pain

2
Hotel Yorba
The White Stripes
White Blood Cells

3
Graveyard Shift
Uncle Tupelo
No Depression

4
Try Not to Breathe
R.E.M.
Automatic for the People

5
moral kiosk
r.e.m.
murmur

6
Save Me
Dave Matthews
Some Devil

7
Crazy (The Late Show with David Letterman 08-14-06)
Gnarls Barkley

8
Absolutely Cuckoo
The Magnetic Fields
69 Love Songs Vol. 1

9
So Damn Lucky
Dave Matthews
Some Devil

10
Eh Hee
Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds
Radio City Music Hall DVD

11
Grey Street
Dave Matthews
Some Devil [Bonus Disc]

12
Iris
Live
Throwing Copper

13
Here It Goes Again
OK Go
Oh No

14
Dust Radio
Chris Whitley
Living With The Law

15
Grey Street
Dave Matthews Band
Busted Stuff

16
City of Angels
10,000 Maniacs
In My Tribe [Reissue]

17
Phone Call From Leavenworth
Chris Whitley
Living With The Law

18
Made From Dirt
Chris Whitley
War Crime Blues

19
San Francisco
Hello Saferide
Introducing: Hello Saferide

20
Life And How To Live It
R.E.M.
Fables Of The Reconstruction

21
Turn You Inside-Out
R.E.M.
Green

22
Up The Beach
Jane’s Addiction
Nothing’s Shocking

23
Pretty Persuasion
R.E.M.
Reckoning

24
Boll Weevil
Presidents of the United States of America

25
Sample in a Jar
Phish
Hoist

Hello, hot water heater nightmare; how may I direct your call?

November 7, 2007

Another note just in from the ‘Are You Serious?’ Department: the electric is bad, too. Hold on, let me make a call.

[18 minutes later]

I called my father-in-law. He lives in the same time zone and is a retired Boeing electrical engineer (retired and Boeing – trust me I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but not in his case). He’s always good for a chat about how things work, or why they don’t. He’s much more methodical in his approach to reaching solutions. Me? I’m more ‘Damn, where’s the wine bottle.’ He asked if there were any other 20v double pull breakers thrown. There was. The circuit board is mislabeled. Still, FIL wonders what caused the circuit to brea…

Why did the breaker just blow?

[12 minutes later]

Well, something is funky with our electrical. I had my FIL on the phone again while we ran down the possibilities. Looks like a call to the electrician tomorrow. Do you know anyone in the Bellingham area? FIL is inclined to believe the breaker is going bad. Me? I’m on a second glass of wine and wondering if I’ll drag my rear end down to Lowes tomorrow morning – they open at 6:00 am, dontcha know – to grab a Challenger 20v double pull circuit breaker. Or something like that.

Man, what a ragin’ crazy couple of days.

37 days overdue (+911:06:32)

Happy NaNoWriMo (+48 Months)

November 1, 2007

Happy NaNoWriMo! I started this little book of mine for NaNoWriMo two years ago. I’m hoping to finish this first draft before the end of the month. Then I would consider myself a NaNoWriMo winner.

Heroes is going to air a set of episodes that feature an outbreak of a serious contagion. I know it’s very different than my story, still, I would rather my idea not appear a copycat.

Wanted to try something new: here’s a snippet from the book I rediscovered this evening while working on my story (I’m already behind my NaNoWriMo+48 months on the first night). This bit features Tim Tooley, Calvin’s younger and much thirstier brother. Remember this is from a first draft. I will want to edit it immediately after posting. Comment gently. (OK, chop it up if you want.)

Tim Tooley woke in a fog. His eyes fluttered open, and he squinted against the morning glare. He snuffed and cleared his throat, running his tongue over his teeth, feeling coarse wool on the yellowed enamel. He was lying on his back, he recognized the rafters overhead, whitewashed and cobwebbed. Not once in his career as a drinker did Tim Tooley wake up with a hangover. He joked with his buddies the freedom from hangovers was God’s way of telling him to drink.

In the faint, early morning light, Tim lay on the mound of straw, closed his eyes, and slowly drifted off to sleep. It would be another couple of hours before Calvin was up and nagging him about the booze, or the feed, or his drinking friends sleeping it off around the yard. He wanted to enjoy the quiet before Calvin’s fire started burning. It was really peaceful in the barn this morning. Quiet. Motionless.

Tim’s eyes popped open. He listened for the familiar shuffling of the cows in the stalls, the impatient chuffs and snorts of the livestock waiting to be fed. He was met with silence.

More curious than alarmed, Tim rolled to his side and pushed up on his elbow. He was in the corral, the cow corral. He shook his head, annoyed. He hated passing out in the corral. Aside from the danger of a hoof to the head as he slept; it meant his coat and coveralls would be caked with manure and the other hands would snicker and ask how his big date went.

The gate was closed. Tim sighed in relief; at least he hadn’t let the cow out to wander around the yard. Pushing off his elbow, Tim sat with his knees bent, shifted his weight onto his extended right arm and looked over his shoulder. Then he pissed himself as he scrambled away from the sight.

The cow was facing him; eye’s bulging from their sockets, grey and lifeless. Pink foam in his nostrils and on his muzzle had pooled in the straw. The cow’s tongue was black and so swollen it forced the animal’s mouth open. The turgid tip of the tongue sat in a wash of vomit.

Tim pushed his back against the barn wall and stood up. His gaze was locked on the animal’s grotesque death mask. The silence of the barn descended around him. He strained to hear the slightest sound. The quiet turned Tim’s stomach, anxiety pushing bile up the back of his throat. Lifting the stall gate latch, he scurried through to the barn’s center isle. Stalls ran down both sides of the isle. They were all dead, every cow, sheep, goat.

Tim strained to hear noise from the neighboring chicken coop. The silence was maddening. Tim sprinted to the house, screaming like a madman. Calvin was going to have to tell him what to do.

Time check

October 29, 2007

For posterity:

28 days overdue (+694:39:32)

And I thought I was writing fiction

October 2, 2007

I started writing my book during NaNoWriMo 2005 (specifically on November 5, 2005). I discovered the NaNoWriMo site because of a headline I saw on Google News (before the days of iGoogle and it’s time-evaporating excellence). It was the motivation I needed. I had my kernel idea: the sick and the scared. I was off like a rocket.

I wrote each night after the children had gone to bed and did my research during lunch at work. I researched viruses that cause the white of an eye to turn red. I found tuberculosis to fit. Tuberculosis can cause coughing fits violent enough to burst capillaries allowing blood to seep between the conjuntiva & sclera (the white) of the eye. With a little creative license, I could bend the traits of the virus to meet my storyline.

Then I found this December 2003 press release from the University of California at Berkeley. It turned out that during an experiment to test a latent strain of TB, the researchers created a mutant form more deadly than the counterpart.

“These findings came as a complete surprise to us,” said Dr. Lee Riley, professor of epidemiology and infectious diseases at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health and principal investigator of the study.

The test was to disable a collection of genes believed to impair the pathogen’s efficacy. As they discovered, disabling the collection made the virus more deadly.

“This is one of the very few hypervirulent organisms ever created,” said Lisa Morici, a lead author of the study who received her Ph.D. in infectious diseases from UC Berkeley in May.

The premise of my book: Research continued, fueled by government paranoia and the race to patent genes for profit (tip of the hat to Michael Crichton’s Next) with catastrophic results. My novel, Strain, follows the lives of a small group of people as they struggle to survive after the collapse. The fragile peace of the frontier town is shattered with the arrival of the first healthy newborn since the outbreak. The town’s power brokers tear the town, and one another, apart to gain control of the child and his mother. The child and mother’s only chance for freedom and survival is with one man, the last uninfected person in town – an outsider who lives in the shadows in fear of the virus, but who will risk everything to…

You get the idea.

Then today, I read this article on Wired listing the unnerving system and protocol failures at our nation’s laboratories handling the deadliest viruses and toxins known to man.

“It may be only a matter of time before our nation has a public health incident with potentially catastrophic results,” said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich.

Even with all the research I’ve done, the story still gave me the shivers. It was as if Wired had plugged into my back story. Crazy.

So I need to finish the first draft. I’ve eclipsed 70,000 words with my ending in site. I took the last several days and nights to track down where everyone is in the story. I really needed to get my head around all the threads to test their strength; found a couple of weak ones and gave ’em a tug. Found a lot of strong ones and felt much better.

I’m overdue on my October 1 deadline, but I did manage to create a story that is tense and well crafted. The second draft is going to be just as challenging, but with the solid foundation, the finish work should go smoothly.

Fingers crossed.

2 days overdue (48:47:30)

Looks like the silent type: the story plays coy

August 31, 2007

I haven’t done a lick of writing since my return from Emeryville. I don’t believe that it is related to the events of that week. From what I can figure, it’s just not been there. By ‘it’ I mean drive, focus, determination. Before the trip I was a machine. I wrote for hours, often nodding off, and rousing to find that I’d continued to type. During these brief somnambulist dictations, I would continue to write the passage or scene on which I had been working. Some of it was cool, as if I’d just extended a blink. Other times I’d find crazy sentences, creepy stuff. I didn’t keep that stuff, too weird.

Crazy, weird stuff aside, the point being, I was jammin’ towards my October 1 deadline. I was hitting my mark nightly. It was terriffic. Then I went out of town and my forward progress came to a screeching halt. I actually watched television tonight for the first time in, what, six weeks. Crappy, summertime television. It was awful.

This is, I know, part of the process of writing the book. The ebbs and flows. I like the flows much better. So here’s to Labor Day weekend; let the story shine on.

On a side note, I’m working on an old Dell C400, with 256k RAM. So on nights like tonight, with my Blink security software running along side Firefox, the poor old notebook – it’s like typing in molasses.

38 days remaining (888:50:41)

An Emeryville welcome

August 25, 2007

Back from a big business trip to Emeryville, California. Northeast of Oakland, it is home to our new client. We flew down Monday for a meet and greet/project launch. Stayed at the Four Points Sheraton; huge room spacious enough to fit two tables, a couch, and a coffee table, and a ridiculously small bathroom. When I mean small, I mean 1/4-inch clearance between arc of the bathroom door and the toilet seat. I was told the room I had was scheduled for renovation.

The concierge recommended the Townhouse for dinner. It was before 5:00 and beautiful, so we chose to walk the five or so blocks. There is a pedestrian walkway to cross the train tracks at Powell and Hollis. Then things got a little less sunny.

As we started climbing the steps, a trio of teens a half block behind us started calling out. It was enough racket for me to turn and see that we were the focus of their attention.

Great.

There are four of us: two of our tech/programming experts, my boss (principal of the agency), and me. The two tech gurus are in front, my boss and I are in back as we start climbing the stairs to the walkway. Median age of our group: 36. Median age of the three kids running to catch up with us: 14.

We get to the top and start across the walkway. The kids have sprinted up the stairs and caught up with us. They’re shouting, “Give us your wallets.” Yeah, whatever. Easy enough to ignore.

“I’ve got a gun.” Not so easy to ignore.

Still none of our group turns, stops, or gives any outward indication we’re being assaulted. Yup, we’re just walking down the stairs. We don’t change our pace. The two tech gurus in front don’t appear to hear or comprehend what the mealymouthed hooligans are getting at.

My mind is racing. I carry plastic, not cash. I don’t have a dollar on me. I know I’m not about to hand over my wallet, because…actually I have no idea why not, I just knew I wasn’t going to hand over my wallet unless someone got shot.

I glanced back to see the tallest of the kids with his hand at his waistband. They’re shouting about “having a banger. I’ve got the banger in front.” I’m not sure if a banger is a gun or a reference to our short haired tech guru. We’ve reached the first landing. Now they’re shouting threats about how soon they’ll shoot/kill us for our wallets.

I distinctly remember thinking “I wonder how much it’ll hurt? Is it a piercing pain, or a shooting pain.” The pun nearly made me gag. We get to the bottom of the steps and all I want to do is teleport home to hug my children.

Turning out from the pedestrian walkway, the boys are still on the steps, but the turn takes us directly past them. The three little punks are leaning over the side to give us–high-fives. No joke. They’re giving us accolades “for not never turning around.” And “you m——s f—–s are hard. I respect that.”

We walked one way, they walked another. My boss and my two co-workers were all giddy with bravado; “four-on-three,” “they’re boys, we’re men,” “I was trying not to laugh…”

Bullshit. It phucking sucked. We had no idea if they had guns, were serious, or were willing to take us down in broad daylight. “Pretend mugging” is a really messed up form of afternoon/after school entertainment. I cannot believe how lucky we were.

So, if you go to Emeryville, take my advice: don’t walk to dinner at Townhouse. But definitely go to Townhouse. Order the calamari and the prawns for appetizers and the flat iron steak, medium-rare, for your entree.

Fell behind on my word quota. So, I’m giving my ego and conscience a break. Call it a post attempted assault vacation and recovery. Tonight I add a 7-day deadline bump.

44 days remaining (10:32:32:40)

Power cords blow

July 25, 2007

The wireless router died last week at home. OK, let’s try that sentence again. Back in three, two…

Last week, I lost my internet connection at home because our wireless router died. The router is fine. The 5.0v power cord kicked the AC/DC bucket. Here’ s the scam, the power cord from our router-router (our non-wireless router) is a 5.0v, but a different size. $43 later, we have an internet connection again. That’s not the reason why I’ve not been able to keep to my debut novel manuscript nightly word quota. You see, I’m not a programmer, but I play one at work. I’ve got this crazy project going out at the same time another crazy project is going out, while another crazy project is starting.

Long/short: business for the company (17 people including principals and me) has doubled – upwards of $5 million (estimated) for the year, and we’re booked into October 2008 (if ever there was a moment I’ve wanted to capitalize numbers, that was just it). Ooh, I’ll try a bold tag <b></b>. (Yeah, I know I’m a codeslinger dressed as an ultra hip writer guy. As Toy Story Woody would say, “If the boot fits.”) 2008 (nice), but we have not doubled our staff…wait, I feel a math visual analogy coming. I’m unstoppable.

Work load(2) + 0 New staff = Pete’s slinging code!

Truth be told, I really enjoy it. It’s fun because it’s a puzzle. I work with some awesomely talented and patient developers who are buried with work, so I’m happy to help out. It’s just I don’t know many timesaving tricks.

Case in point, this afternoon I was pulling my hair out trying to plug a list into a table. Throwing down a little <ul></ul> here; a little <li></li> there, you know, noob stuff. Since a page of code makes me go cross-eyed, it’d been about an hour and I’d slammed out three <td></td>s full of some pretty sweet three item lists.

That’s when it happens, code sensei Matt comes over to my coding dojo workstation to check in on my HTML chi. Then he pulled an HTML 4.0 sweep of the leg.

“Dude, just drop in a <br> and hit it with a / before the arrowy-looking thing.” (Or something like that.) I was like pwned and roflmao and several other instant messaging memes. “OMG,” I said, “CUL8R.” Then I stuck my head in the lunchroom freezer until the office was empty.

Thanks for stopping by.

67 days remaining (1856:09:28)