Internal Bleeding

lamb standing in dirt area

Yesterday evening my husband and I walked out of a theater after seeing the latest superhero movie, happy and laughing at its upbeat tone and humor. We both got on Twitter to post about how happy we were, but never quite got around to doing so. Texas was trending as a topic, as well as a small town northeast of Austin.

History will mark 2017 as one of, if not the, shittiest years of the 21st century. 27 people were gunned down yesterday in a church by some angry white guy who was living in the town where we go to celebrate Oktoberfest every year. A random angry white male, with the stereotypical history of domestic violence. I don’t give a shit about his name, or his politics.

This happened at least in part because any wife-beating asshole with enough money can buy multiple guns designed for killing people, not deer, and stockpile ammunition to his heart’s content, until he’s good and ready take out a bunch of people connected to whatever woman he’s most pissed off at, all while committing an elaborate suicide of his own.

That idiot that went chasing after the guy with his own gun didn’t stop the killings in the church, did not actually help the cops in any way. His gun ownership did not save anyone, and could have vastly complicated the efforts of law enforcement to take down the killer. But he got to play cowboy for a little bit, and is being played up as a hero for his non-contribution, so other morons are going to try to act on their fantasies of saving the day with their concealed handguns when they end up in a live fire situation that they have no training for.

It was only a few weeks ago that another random angry white guy with a history of abusing women managed to gun down 500 people in Las Vegas, as part of his own elaborate suicide attempt. He’d been rapidly stockpiling weapons for months, but no one knocked on his door or kept an eye on him.

It should be a pain in the ass to get a gun. Not necessarily expensive, it shouldn’t be a class barrier. People out in the country genuinely need guns that are utilized as tools. But the paperwork should be nightmarish, the sort of red tape barrier that slows down and usually stops people acting irrationally. Places to buy a gun should be far and few between. Anyone who buys a gun should have to watch hours of educational videos on gun safety, to see the names and faces of murdered children.

Weapons dealers and weapons organizations, any entity that benefits from war, violence, or keeping the general population scared of imaginary threats, should be disallowed from lobbying or making financial contributions in any form to politicians. Weapons dealers do not benefit from a population that is gets along with each other. The interests of gun lobbyists are counter to our Constitutional right to health and happiness.

So many people are dead. More people are going to die unless we, the American people, call for more restrictions on guns.

And fuck the NRA.


Feature image: Photo by Nadia Supertino on Unsplash

Books and writing and time

autumn leaves

I apologize for the rambling, but I’m currently in a “blog every day, especially if I feel I have nothing to say” phase, which makes me sloppy and unfocused. It’s also National Novel Writing Month, which leaves me a little mentally fried.

I started reading the first book of The Dresden Files last night, after resolving that next year I really am going to write my supernatural thriller series. I need to read a bunch of supernatural thrillers first, so I’m starting here. It’s funny, I ate up supernatural thrillers once upon a time, but with my reading habits following no discernible pattern for the last decade, I haven’t read much of the genre since I first consumed the early Anita Blake novels.

Time is going to be a more precious commodity in my life soon, as I’ve resolved to start looking for temp gigs to supplement my piss poor attempt to be a free lance writer. The weird thing is that this is going to help me build my business, because I need a fire under my ass fueled by the despair of office work and commuting and interacting with normal people on a daily basis. I might even have things to blog about again, that would be nice.

I haven’t done my NaNoWriMo word count for the day yet, but I did finish up some client work that really needed to be done. I’ve come to realize that it’s just part of my process to spit out a zero draft and expect to throw the entire thing out and rewrite it from scratch with greater clarity gained from making the first draft. I need to remember that in my efforts to write fiction, and just spit words out for the sake of having something to rework.

I suppose I could give the “Daily Post” community another go, but that messes with my head more often than not. A dear friend of mine died right at the beginning of the year, and for months afterwards, every time I checked into The Daily Post, the one word prompt seemed to always be a synonym for grief. Maybe I should have smeared all that half-clotted emotion out on the internet for every voyeur reader to smell and feed on, but the idea of it smelled foul and opportunistic.

I have five boxes of wine leftover from our Halloween party to work through. They have a six week life after opening, so I have some time, but I have definitely had more afternoon in the last few days than I’ve had in a few years. It’s nice for writing (and why this blog is happening), but I always have to be careful with my tendency towards excess, bless these Irish genetics.

I should pick up a book on cooking with wine. I made a delicious batch of ratatouille this week, using a Pinot Grigio (black box). I think Pinots actually cook better than Chardonnays, maybe it’s a stronger flavor.

I’m trying out an interesting experiment for NaNoWriMo. The company behind Sterling & Stone, StoryShop, and The Self Publishing Podcast, handed out an outline of a Young Adult novel for anyone to use for their own novel this month. I thought it would educational to write from an outline created by some experience writers, and thus far that’s true. I’ve reworked the world and the characters to make it my own, but I’m keeping the beats. I have no intention of selling this one, but after a few rounds with Critters it might be fun to post it as a freebie here on the blog.

No Pathfinder game tonight, so I’m off to happy hour at the cafe down the street for some craft beer and heavy word mining.

 

 


Feature Image: Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Halloween Pictures!

plastic skeleton and vase with black roses - halloween decorations

Halloween was kind of exhausting this year, with everything a bit too last minute, and shitty weather that made it hard to set up the day before the party. But we ploughed through these various obstacles, and plenty of people braved the cold to come hang out with us.

I’m pretty worn out, and today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month, so here is a post of pictures of the decorations!

 

halloween decorations of fake church
The theme was around Hammer Horror Dracula movies, which involve dozens of scenes in deconsecrated churches. I put that backdrop of ‘gothic’ windows together in two days. It deserved two months, but everyone liked it. Also cobwebs, black candles, and lots of wine.

 

 

bottle with label that reads Blood of Dracula
Taste the Blood of Dracula is a Hammer Horror film where Dracula is resurrected in a Satanic ritual from a bottle of his dried blood. The text says: Blood of Dracula – Do Not Taste! May cause convulsions, spasms, delusions of grandeur, cravings for raw meat, B-12 deficiencies, chronic anemia, Vitamin D deficiencies, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to blessed objects, redness of the eyes, compulsions to resurrect or otherwise serve the Prince of Darkness, spontaneous garlic allergy, sensitivity to running water, may develop skin rash when in physical contact with silver, silver plate, or silver alloys, severe insomnia, bloodlust, serial killing or other violent behaviors. Please seek out medical or spiritual guidance if/when any of these symptoms develop.

 

halloween decoration fountain of blood with zombie head
Bruce and Patricia, who hosted the party, put this monstrosity together. Red-dyed water, with a zombie head. Hard to see in the flash, but I put green water proof lights in the top ring of water. I was delighted when they sent us video after putting the fountain together.
halloween decorations table with vases and skulls
Decorations just set up before putting out the food. Big skulls, tiny skulls, various decorations, cobwebs, “Halloween mesh cloth,” and vases leftover from my wedding and repurposed.

 

 

chiminea with pumpkin lights
The picture doesn’t do this thing justice. It was super cute in person. The broken chiminea is filled with pumpkin lights. In person it looked like a little glowing pumpkin patch. It was Reed’s idea.

 

skull and vase - halloween decorations
A closeup of table decorations. I bought the last of these styrofoam skulls that Michael’s had, on clearance. I have a lot of skulls now. That vase has gotten a lot of mileage. For my wedding last winter, I painted the insides blue with glitter. I repurposed them with a base layer of gray paint, and a layer of textured spray paint for a stone urn look.

plastic skeleton and vase with black roses - halloween decorations
My friend’s preteen helped distribute the skeletons, and was proud of this layout. I found those black roses on Amazon. They were pretty inexpensive. They’re made of some kind of foam that feels like leather and keep their shape better than cloth roses. I loved their look in the ‘stone’ vases.

 

Cardboard Madness

Yesterday’s big project was an engineering feat of pure madness, but now my tombstone template exists and nothing can stop me.

cardboard cut into a template to make tombstones

Apologies for the terrible picture. I’ll make it up to you when I get good shots of the graveyard.

Today I’m tackling the gothic windows backdrop, which looks amazing in my head. I also have to do a big thrifting run to find some last minute things (like my costume).

We got most of the lighting figured out last night. That usually ends up being done at the last minute, so I’m very pleased that it’s been taken care of and we can plan around the lighting rather than trying to fit the lights we have to a layout created in daylight.

Tomorrow I have to make most of the food (after a day of painting), and that’s going to be pretty intense. Cookies, dips, some other appetizers, maybe cupcakes.

It’s finally cold enough for synthetic fiber yoga pants

squirrel skull

The shivering started halfway through my frozen fruit smoothie, and I had to put on house shoes and a sweater in order to finish breakfast. The temperature dropped to 41 F last night, which means I can wear clothes made out of things besides cotton or linen and not feel like I’m dying. Praise the gods, the weather has truly cooled off in Texas.

Something about the shift into fall seems to wake me up, like a creature that hibernates through the blistering heat of summer and craves cold air and long nights.

Our Halloween party is this weekend. We’re scrambling a bit this year, because of Reed’s business trip earlier in the month, but Dracula’s tomb is slowly coming together. We have been studiously watching the Hammer Horror vampire movies, with Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. Several of them are surprisingly good, and it’s a shame how hard they are to track down. They’re campy, with the blood effects done with thick red paint, but the acting is generally excellent and the writing ranges from bizarre to almost brilliant.

I still have to figure out food for the party. I had a vision of hors d’oeuvres inspired by weird 1960’s party food, really bizarre cheese sculptures, that sort of thing. We’ll see what actually happens. And we aren’t making boozy punch this year, which is a big deal. Last year I got a bunch of black box wine, and noticed that that was totally demolished, while the alcoholic punch was hardly touched. Apparently this is a sign of a maturing crowd.

So we’ll have punch for the kids, and some kind of liquor on hand for anyone who really wants something sweet and boozy.

I still have to find my costume. I want to dress up as Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing, which means finding a ridiculous tweed suit that fits me, a gray wig, and some scar makeup for my neck. That’s going to take some doing, and I probably will have to do some pretty intense thrifting tomorrow after I finish whatever client work I do for the day. I am glad that it will be cold Saturday night, so that costume will work.

I’ve been working on these black LED candles for our ‘Satanic altar,’ which is a reference to a couple of Hammer films where Dracula is resurrected by a dark ritual. They’re made out of PVC, hot glue, and battery-powered tea lights. I want to do one more layer of highlighting the drips with red, then I think they’ll be good to go.

While out enjoying the cooler temperatures, I found a gruesome surprise peeping out of the landscaping of our apartment building. I’m pretty sure it’s a squirrel. Can’t you just hear its ghost squealing, “Happy Halloween!” as someone walks by?

squirrel skull

I need to go air out our cold weather clothes and assess my collection of hot tea. It hasn’t been cold like this before Halloween in several years. I’m curious to see what it bodes for the winter. I may need to switch from fruit smoothies to some sort of hot breakfast soon.

Armadillo Con 39

 

My husband and I spent the weekend at Armadillo Con 39, a literary science fiction convention that has been happening in Austin, Texas, since 1979. This was, for all intents and purposes, my first writers convention, and it was really cool.

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I met some amazing people, hung out a bit with some of our writer friends, and completely embarrassed myself by fangirling at a childhood hero. Most of the panels I went to were fascinating discussions that ranged from the craft of writing to “what is genre X” to presentations by people from NASA. A couple of panels were duds, one due to poor planning, one because the moderator didn’t understand the concept of moderating.

I got to watch Nisi Shawl, Tamora Pierce, and Stina Leicht discuss slavery in speculative fiction, with L. Timmel Duchamp moderating. The biggest takeaway from that was that you can’t  casually toss slavery into a world or spec fic story without doing the work to understand how that form of slavery would affect the world or your characters. To do so is at best lazy writing, at worst using something with a million layers of complexity and nuance as a cartoonish plot device.

Another excellent panel was Religious Horror and Horrific Religion, which was moderated by Matt Cardin, and included Derek Austin Johnson, Gabrielle Faust, Nate Southard, and the hosts of feminist horror podcast Women in Caskets. This was, for the most part, a fascinating conversation about religious themes in horror. Matt Cardin, a practicing Christian who teaches religion and has several books of occult/religious horror, discussed how so much of the imagery and themes in the Bible are actually terrifying, pointing to the “Hell House” movement of Evangelicalism and the irony of how much of Evangelical culture condemns horror books and films. Great panel.

The NASA stuff was really cool. The first panel we went to was about Space X and more generally how NASA has been fueling private space enterprise to kick start innovation and get us back out there. There was a panel on asteroid mining that I learned a lot from, in regards to the difficulties of making asteroid mining worth the initial cost of experimenting and developing infrastructure for everything from transport to processing. These guys from NASA prefaced several statements with, “I shouldn’t say this, but…” That was so cool.

I turned into a lump of awkward babbling when I tried to introduce myself to Tamora Pierce. I was probably 11 when I found Wild Magic at the library, and I was instantly hooked on her books. Back in a time when there wasn’t much high quality YA, Pierce stood out, and she still does. She’s one of those authors that I like to hand out to my friends’ kids the minute they’re old enough for it.

My husband is a fan of Stina Leicht, and she was so chill that we ended up just hanging out with her for a chunk of the con. Her stories about meeting Neil Gaiman are hilarious. Through her we met William Browning Spencer, who is a delightful and particular flavor of old Weird Texas writer.

I also saw for the first time some of the ickier stories I hear about cons on Twitter. At the slavery panel, this guy asked a panel entirely of women talking about slavery themes in speculative fiction what could be said about the psychology of women who like 50 Shades of Gray. That was pretty gross; Stina Leicht pointed out it wasn’t relevant to the panel, and they took another question immediately. There was a climate change denier at one of the NASA panels, and it was unclear what he was trying to ask the panel.

There was a panel on world building that included Tamora Pierce and Nicky Drayden, and some guy named J. Comer. Comer did quite a bit of cutting people off and dominating conversations. During a discussion on language building, he claimed that missionaries were an excellent resource for how to romanize languages, and that got Tamora Pierce fired up about the need to respect cultures that you draw inspiration from. I’m so glad that Tammy was on that panel.

One good thing I got from that panel was Tammy’s explanation of how she uses older ethnic cookbooks. Apparently vintage cookbooks from Europe include all kinds of holidays, what food is appropriate for those holidays, customs around the food, culturally appropriate substitutions around the world, etc. Meals can accomplish a lot in a book, from showing elements of a culture to hierarchies in a family. That is going to end up being useful.

It was an intense three days. I think, except for a lunch break on Saturday, we managed to hit a panel in every single slot. There were hard choices to make about those panels, too; usually at least 4 different topics, plus several author readings, in every slot.

I learned a lot of things about the industry of speculative fiction, and I came away from the experience wanting to bust my ass to break in.


Feature Image: Photo by Katie Montgomery on Unsplash

What Ray Bradbury Told Us To Do

That silly, minimalist story I published yesterday was a proof of concept and writing exercise to show myself that I can, in fact, writer a linear story with a beginning, middle, and end. I am a bit embarrassed by the largess of this revelation, but the most basic mechanics of storytelling clicked into place in my head during that exercise, and I find myself eyeing the plastic tub of old notebooks and abandoned projects through new eyes and an understanding of how to make all those ideas work

I feel like I just bit into an apple from the Tree of Knowledge, and I want more. I want the skill that this understanding leads to.

Next I intend to throw myself into Ray Bradbury’s most important advice to writers:

“Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”

I do believe that in art, repetition is key to developing skill. Skill is what one needs to transmute the conceptual lumps floating about in our minds into real pieces of art, into stories we can give to other people so they can take those concepts into themselves.

I’m going to post the weekly story here, good or bad. I’ll only give myself three rounds of edits. One year of free stories from someone learning to be a writer.


Header image original photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Testing Google Docs WordPress Add-on

I’m testing out a Google Docs Add-on that can turn documents into WordPress drafts. I enjoy writing in Google Docs, so this could have interesting implications for my writing process. Still need to find the thing I was looking for though, will report on that later.

Supposedly it saves the formatting.

And the pictures:

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Let’s see how this goes!

Nintendo E3 Announcements Exciting

Nintendo’s big E3 event was today, and most of it was pretty exciting news.

Mario Odyssey

Mario Odyssey looks weird but fun. Mario has some sort of magic hat that lets him possess different animals and objects. That includes a tyrannosaurus that looks amazing.

Metroid Prime 4 for the Switch!

This was a big surprise to everyone. There hasn’t been a new Metroid Prime game in ten years; it’s generally known as the Metroid Prime Trilogy. It was announced as “in development,” so no telling how long before it comes out.

Here’s the teaser:

In the mean time, there’s also a new Nintendo DS Metroid game, Samus Returns. It’s described as a re-imagining of the original Game Boy game, and it looks great. I may need to get my hands on this when it comes out in September.

Breath of the Wild DLC packs

The first DLC packs for Breath of the Wild were announced, one coming out this summer, the next for winter holiday. The DLC packs will bring new quests and dungeons that fans are very excited about. We’re still waiting to get a Switch, and I’m just watching our initial investment for Breath of the Wild creep up with every announcement.

New Yoshi Game

I loved Yoshi’s Wooly World, and the new game looks just as cute:

 

Lots of stuff to be excited about. I still think waiting until Christmas to get a Switch was a good plan for us, because there will be plenty of games by then.

Weekend Reading: Tubes by Andrew Blum

We made a trip to Book People today. I was excited to come across Tubes, by Andrew Blum, which is about the physical places that the internet depends upon to exist. I’m working on a new fiction project and have been trying to wrap my head around this exact subject for several days. I intend to inhale this book pretty quickly.