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Like a Bolt Out of the Blue

NaNoWriMo 2011 Winner Badge

(Disclaimer: I cannot be held responsible if you now have the song When You Wish Upon a Star stuck in your head. Preferably the Linda Ronstadt version. Well, OK, now I can, having purposefully—dare I say “maliciously”?—brought it to your attention, and gone so far as to prompt you with a voice. You’re welcome. It’s a great song, isn’t it? But I digress.)

Last year around this time, I had already had many, many ideas for NaNoWriMo. I hit upon the idea of writing 26 short stories, which I won’t go into again, here. Suffice it to say, it was a raging success. One of those stories got me into Viable Paradise.

But this year? What with all the preparations for Viable Paradise, I haven’t really had time to stop and think about what to write for NaNoWriMo. I’ve been re-working ideas for my urban fantasy series, but it’s been like beating my head against a wall. I want to do something that will help me with that instead of something entirely new and different.

One of the major problems I’ve had with my urban fantasy is the magic. It’s set in modern-day Atlanta, but magic works. And I am specifically staying away from sexy vampires and werewolves. My main characters are agents in the Paranormal Crimes Investigation Unit of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. They are also mages. Two other characters are normal (non-magical) cops. Another is a TV reporter. And so on.

Magic for DummiesBut how does magic work? I’ve written a ton of words, but I haven’t been able to just nail down that one little point: how does magic work? What are its limits? How can it be used? How prevalent is it? Does the public in general know about it? Etc!

And I need to know these things.

And that’s when I said to myself: "Self, what you need is a magic book for dummies."

KaZOT! (This is the theoretical sound of a bolt out of the blue. Fate steps in and sees you through . . .)

I guess I know what I’m writing for NaNoWriMo, now. A "For Dummies" book-type thing, but all about magic in my universe.

I can literally use it as a reference if I get stuck. Or I can modify if it I need to. :) And having that hard deadline of November 30th by which it must be finished should help me get past this snag I’ve been stuck in for a while.

Of course, I found a way to generate a nifty cover for it. Because, really, why not? On the Internet, if you build it, they will come.

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A New Idea

Noir by Bo47, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  Bo47 

While I was brushing my teeth this morning, this popped into my head pretty much fully formed. I wanted to get some of it down. Does it sound like something that would be fun to read?

It’s deliberately done in a very noir style, and the name of the private eye is . . . well, I’ll leave it as an exercise. :)

The subject is this guy Charming. Calls himself a prince. According to the missus—nice lady named Ella—he’s anything but. She thinks he’s a two-timing sack of soot. Hired me to follow him, find out where he goes.

Name’s Miles Maltese. I’m a private eye. In Fairy.

I was in my office finishing up the Gruff case when she walked in. First thing I noticed were her shoes. Well, okay, the second thing I noticed were her shoes. Made of glass. Very unusual. Made little tinking noises as she walked across the floor.

“Those look uncomfortable,” I said.

“Mr. Maltese?” she said, and I could tell she was about to bolt.

“Have a seat, ma’am,” I said, and I got up and helped her sit in the only other chair in my office. I sank into my chair behind my desk. “How can I help you, Miz . . . ?”

“My—My name’s Ella. Ella Charming.” She took a handkerchief out of her purse and used it to dab at her eyes. “I—I understand that you help people with, um . . . sensitive problems.”

I can kind of see a whole series of these, each one based on a different fairy tale, of which there are hundreds to choose from. :)

I’m actually pretty excited about it, which doesn’t often happen, and I’m having to force myself to actually go to work or I’d sit here all day and fiddle with this.

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Live Reading of “D Is for Dragon”

Dragon (the dragon bridge in Ljubljana, Republic of Slovenia) by Zoe52, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  Zoe52 

Hi, everyone. I wanted to let people know that this-coming Thursday night, March 22nd, 2012, at 6 PM SLT (Second Life Time), I will be reading my story “D Is for Dragon” live.

Second Life Time is the same as US Pacific Time, so that’s 6 PM on the west coast, 9 PM on the east coast, and 10 PM if you live in those extreme eastern provinces in Canada. You can probably do the math to find your local correct time.

The reading will occur in the Workshop building, on the second floor beside the traditional meeting circle. Our area is in the Pen Station region. The reading is a voice event, so attendees are encouraged to come with their “ears on” and their microphones off. Since the event is also being recorded, we request that you refrain from using audio “gestures” or other devices that create ambient noise.

If you get on, my name on Second Life is “Sathor Chatnoir.” Contact me or “Timothy Berkmans” (our host for all things podcasterrific) for a landmark to the event site, or click on that link above (on “Workshop building”). Show up early (15 to 20 minutes, I’d say) so you can adjust your settings for voice.

The recording (or perhaps a cleaner one) will appear on our podcast in the next couple of months.

Those of you who are not already on Second Life can get on (For free!) by going to the web site (See that handy link earlier in this sentence?), downloading the software (For free!), and creating a character (For free!). Those of you who don’t want to be on Second Life can wait for the podcast. (For free!)

Those of you who <sniff> don’t want to <sniff> hear my story (that I worked so hard on), I <sniff> understand. Really. It’s <sniff; wavering voice> OK. <sniff> Really.

For free! Did I mention that? (For free!)

"Moleskine Brand" © 2005 by boy avianto

Moleskine


<This is where you all say, “Hi, Gary!” at the same time.>

<No, go on and do it.>

<I’m not going to continue until you do it.>

<I’m waaaaiiiiitiiiiiing.>

<Thank you.>

Some people collect unicorns. Some collect turtles. Some collect mementos1 from a favorite movie or TV show, or autographs.

Others collect everything, and we call these people “hoarders.”

I have always been a fan of notebooks, notepads, clipboards, different types of paper . . . as far back as I can remember. I have a whole closet in my office at home replete with this kind of thing. It is with some degree of difficulty that I’m able to stop myself from buying more even though I have enough to last me many, many years.

Of course, when I buy really cool notebooks or notepads, I don’t want to use them because . . . well, they’re really cool. Somewhere in my house I have a notebook where the covers are made of computer circuit boards sanded smooth. No one has ever seen this because it’s really cool and using it would reduce the really coolness.

You see how this could become a type of trap, I’ll bet.

The other night, I went to a special Thursday night session of my Tuesday night writers group. I thought I might need to take notes, but alas! alack! I had no notebook. At all. (Because all of my really cool notebooks are locked in a closet in my office at home.)

The book store didn’t, of course, carry simple legal pads, which is all I wanted, really.

But what they did have were Moleskine notebooks. A lot of them. I neeeeeeded something to write on. Really. So I bought a three-pack of dark red Moleskine notebooks. But this time, I was determined to actually use them even though they are really cool.

Of course, I needed to take no notes at all. So at the end of a more-than-two-hour meeting, my Moleskine was unsullied by ink or graphite.

I wanted it sullied. I wanted it sullied in the worst possible way.2 But every moment of unsullied . . . ness was one moment closer to these three really cool Moleskine notebooks finding their way into my closet.

I brought them to work with me on Friday morning, thinking surely I’d find a way to sully them. Or at least one of them. Surely.

But . . . I didn’t want to use them for work. (There. You see how this starts? A really cool notebook shouldn’t have mundane things written in it, like notes from a silly meeting or phone conference. A really cool notebook needs to have really cool things written in it.)

When I went to lunch, I took one of them with me. The intent was to use the notebook to work through some ideas for my alphabet series of short stories I talked about the other day. I was stuck at the time on the letter F.

I took along my favorite pen. (Which, incidentally, I also seldom use because it’s really cool and I might lose it or chip it or damage it in some way. See how this goes?)

Well . . . I did it. I wrote “F Is for Fangs” at the top of the first page and . . . and . . . took notes! In my really cool Moleskine notebook using my really cool ACME Writing Instrument. And then put “D Is for Dragon” on the next page. And “H Is for Hive” on the one after that. And “G Is for Gravesite” on the one after that.

Sullied! I have sullied my Moleskine notebooks! I even crossed some stuff out so it’s not perfect.

If you knew how big a step this is, you would not now be making that face and thinking about rotating one hand at your temple in the international symbol for “one ring short of a binder” or making that “cuckoo” sound. Yes, I know what you were thinking. I mean, come on . . . it was obvious.

I thought I had lost said sullied notebook, but today I found it and made some more story notes, including a snippet of dialogue for “D Is for Dragon,” which I’m going to have a lot of fun writing.

One page for each letter of the alphabet will use 26 whole pages.

Oh, and Z? It’s for Zombie, and these are the stories that keep sleep from me. “Zombie” and “from me” kind of rhyme . . .

Disclaimer: This post may not be used to establish or confirm any lack of sanity that may be hinted at by the contents thereof.


  1. Every time I see this word, my mind says, “The Fresh-Maker!”
  2. Well, that’s not true. The worst possible way would be to give them to Snooki and have her pen her next best-seller on them. Oog. I think I just threw up a little in my mouth. But I digress.

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Where’s Luta Challenge

CSIS

CSIS

The July challenge for The Quillians was to write 250 to 350 words inspired by a song. We had to postpone the ‘judging’ meeting twice because the first time, only two people had entered, and the second time, our Fearless Leader–Luta in-game–didn’t show up. Speculation about where she was ran rather rampant. I suggested that the only thing that could keep her from us was that she had been kidnapped by pirates. Or perhaps clowns.

Or pirate clowns.

One thing led to another, and the challenge for August was to write a 350 word story explaining just where Luta was. :)

As usual, I was given a word count, and I met said word count exactly. So here is my entry in the “Where’s Luta?” challenge.

Oh, I should mention something: Luta is Canadian. From Nova Scotia, specifically. That will make the story make more sense.

Stephen Harper, brows beetled, chewed his lower lip. “Are you sure it has to be her? She hates it every time she’s activated, and besides that, it’s Monday.”

“Oh, for the love of God, Steve. If you’re afraid to call her, just hand me the phone and I’ll do it! Canada could be on the brink of ruin, and you’d worry about one woman being irritated with you.”

Not just one woman, he thought.

His wife stood, hands on hips, glaring at him through narrowed eyes, her foot tapping soundlessly on the carpet. He supposed she was right. It wasn’t every day that an agent so deep undercover was activated, but this one was special. He picked up the phone.

* * *

Luta folded laundry with one hand while checking her daughter’s math homework with the other. “No, honey, you need to carry the two,” she said as she checked the clock again. Only a half hour to go.

The phone rang, interrupting her thoughts. Oh, for the love of…it’s nearly 10 on a Monday. What now?

She laid down the sheet she had been folding, and, dodging dogs and trailing a daughter with an open notebook and a pencil, she marched upstairs and into her office. The phone blared twice more. If I answer it, it’s going to be something bad, and I have a Quillians meeting on Second Life. I can’t let them down!

It rang twice more before she picked it up. With a heavy sigh, she said, “Hello?”

“Um…” came a harried, tentative voice, then a fumbling sound. She thought she heard someone say, “Really? This is the activation phrase?”

“Hel-lo?” she said, emphasizing each syllable.

“Yes, um…’Yo ho ho and a big red nose.'”

Luta’s face, which had been a mask of irritation and impatience, instantly relaxed into one of supreme calm, her eyes narrowed. “Prime Minister. This had better be damned good. Last time—”

“I-I know, Luta, but…it’s that situation in Moose Jaw.”

She closed her eyes. Crap. I thought I took care of that last time. “Tell me.”

“Well, [REDACTED]

I knew from the moment I came up with the idea that the last word of the story had to be [REDACTED]. :)

Anyway, I presume this will be judged toward the end of August, or possibly the first Monday in September. Wait. What is that in Canadian?

<ducking>

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I’m Not Twitching, Yet, Am I?

"The Scream" © 2006 by 7E55E-BRN

The Scream

I’ve been writing like a fool for the last couple of weeks. Once I figured out how to get past the snag I was . . . well, snagged on, it all started to flow, again. I’ve written two complete chapters, started a third, and added copious notes.

And then I ran up against another snag, but this one didn’t have anything to do with writing. Or at least not directly.

I use a MacBook Pro 17″ (I call it The Shiny™) to do all my writing, and I use a lovely application called Scrivener to do it in.

After an ill-timed mishap involving a falling laptop, a cat, a bottle of Coke Zero (Elixir of Life™), and a USB cable (insert your own interesting story here) . . . I think something was a little wonky with The Shiny. It would play sounds if I had the headphones in, but not through the speakers.

Now . . . I need my sounds. I share a house with someone who goes to bed at 8:00 (because she gets up at 3:00 AM for school), so I wear headphones much of the time, but you can only wear them for so long, you know? I mean, ear-sweat is not a topic to discuss in polite company, so I won’t.

On Saturday I took The Shiny to The Apple Store where I had an appointment with a lovely Genius1 named “Mike.” Of course, when demonstrated for Mike, the problem miraculously went away (and the nearby patrons all got an audio demonstration of my abiding love for A-Ha as their 13th album began to play at high volume), in the way problems since the Dawn of Man™ have gone away whenever demonstrated for the person who is intended to fix it. I can easily imagine two Homo habilis dudes sittin’ around the campfire, chillin’, makin’ flint spearheads. Og can’t get it right to save his hairy neck, but when he tries to show Zug, it works perfectly every time. Of course, as soon as Zug leaves, Og can’t make a single correct blow on his flint with the striking stone.

I also imagine this was immediately followed by the first-ever (l)user joke and the first-ever 3-hour wait on a tech support “hotline.”2 But I seriously digress.

Because of all the symptoms I described for Mike, he suggested—gently, I might add—that the problem was almost certainly hardware-related and that even though nothing showed up on a hardware diagnostic he ran, I should leave The Shiny in the capable hands of Apple so that they might fix whatever might be wrong once they crack it open. <wince>

After assuring Mike that I do, indeed, do regular backups (I use Time Machine—as opposed to a time machine, which would be awesome—and it runs hourly, plus I ran it about 11,394 times in the 15-minute period leading up to the time I needed to leave the house to get to the Apple store on time), I handed The Shiny over and . . . and . . . and left it there. Alone. <twitch> <lip-quiver>

He assured me I’d have it back in about a week. Maybe less.

Since all my writing is on there, I have, of course, been absolutely inundated by ideas. Poughkeepsie3 must be practically empty by now.

Of course, on top of not having Scrivener to write in, I have had to go several days, now, without podcasts.

Podcasts, to put it bluntly, are why you have not heard about me on the national news. You know, along the lines of

MAN, 46, GOES BERSERK IN ATLANTA TRAFFIC, SLAYS 32
“Morons! It’s the pedal on the RIGHT!” — Insane Atlanta man

I can’t stress enough how much of a calming influence they are on me. (I might be exaggerating just a bit.)

Luckily, I have a backlog of some podcasts I’m catching up on, and I’m in no danger of running out of them any time in the next week. But this means I’ll get behind on the ones I regularly listen to. But I’ll catch up. I always do.

So, anyway . . . That’s how my weekend went.

(I’m not <twitch> twitching, yet, am I?)


  1. I’m not being facetious or snarky—that’s actually what they call their support techs. I do wonder, though, if there is a clause in the employment contract with Apple that requires all male Geniuses to grow a beard, whether they really should or not. I’m just sayin’. . .
  2. I can only imagine that the poor drummers’ arms got tired relaying the hold music. . . “Short and hairy and young and lovely, the girl from the next cave goes walking upright, and when she passes, each one she passes goes, “Aaaah!”. . .
  3. There is an old story, probably apocryphal, which claims that Harlan Ellison used to get asked the question, “Where do you get your ideas?” just one time too many, and he finally answered, “Poughkeepsie.” It’s been attributed to others, and some stories say it was Schenectady instead. I’d probably say Walla-Walla.

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An Anti-Valentine’s Day Poem

©2009 by Zen Sutherland

"Stabbed Heart" © 2009 by Zen Sutherland

The Quillians, my writing group that meets each Monday on Second Life, were given a challenge by the group leader/moderator last week.

“Just for fun, and for those of you battling writer’s blockages of various sorts: Write an ANTI-Valentine’s Day poem (that is, not a typical romantic poem). Any length, any style. Have it ready to share at our Feb 14th meeting!

Have fun!”

Well, I ask you: how could I pass that up?

Now, there’s a reason I don’t usually write poetry…

The first thing I thought was, “Valentine’s Day. Love. What are some of the clichés about love that I can think of to parody?” I asked a friend to help me think of a few, and we came up with “can’t live without the other person,” “my other half,” “consumed by love,” “love is blind,” and “you stole my heart,” among others.

Then I thought about the format the poem would have to take. Well, Shakespeare wrote one of the most enduring ones, and it was a sonnet. And would therefore have to be in iambic pentameter, 14 lines long, and with a very strict rhyming scheme.

I could do that.

For several days I’ve been working on it. I now share with you my anti-Valentine’s Day sonnet “Mine eyes were ne’er to roving so inclined.” (In keeping with Shakespeare, the title is just the first line.)


Mine eyes were ne’er to roving so inclined,
But each contingency you sought to cull.
You quoth to me, “’Tis said that love is blind,”
Then left two empty sockets in my skull.

My love, you stole my heart away from me!
Our lives together destined to be blessed.
My lonely heart, you vowed to set it free,
And left a gaping wound within my chest.

Consumed by love I said was my desire,
Our souls entwined forever; two as one.
You tossed my lifeless corpse into a fire,
And then consumed my flesh upon a bun.

My death turned you into a necrovore,
And now we’ll be as one forevermore.


Did…I mention that there’s a reason I don’t normally write poetry? :)

Keep in mind that this is intended to be funny. It’s also written for a Fantasy and Science Fiction audience. And the sing-song rhythm is intentional and is intended to mimic the sound of a beating heart. Lub-DUB. Lub-DUB. Lub-DUB… (You know…an iamb?)

So…yeah. Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you from all of me. :)

Other entries from the same challenge: Nancy S.M. Waldman

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