I’ve actually been a little sicker than I’ve let on, but I’m back and blogging today. Let’s see what I can pull out for inspiration.
Well, this is not inspiration so much as it is news and a hint of controversy. Here are the Hugo Awards Nominees for 2014, as republished on John Scalzi’s blog. There is also a little bit of controversy surrounding the shortlist, namely the fact that Vox Day has a novella in the running. I’d wager most of the people arguing against his inclusion haven’t actually read the novella in question. (I have, and one other one of his as well… they’re not bad, but they’re not on my Requested Reading List that I hand out to people.) After the flame wars and the debacle last year over certain actions in the SFWA, I think just one controversial nomination is not too terribly bad. Personally, I don’t like a lot of the guy’s opinion (‘don’t like’ is an understatement) but his stories are decent; in my mind, that’s what the Hugo Awards should be about and not about whether he or she voted for the wrong person or said something insensitive. So that is, I think, the biggest controversy with the awards this year.
Well… actually, there is also the matter of the entire Wheel of Time (all 15 books, counting the prequel) being on there. Not only do I think that nominating a series that took 23 years to be published is the most blatant exploitation of a loophole, it’s… well, listen, I’ve read some of those books three times, and I can’t say I don’t like them. But they’re bubblegum fantasy. Fun bubblegum fantasy, but not what I grew up reading in various Hugo-award collections. I really think there were better novels that they could have put up for this year.
More inspiration and perspiration later.
It’s been a long, rough, itchy week, but things are looking up. I finished a couple of good books this week, did some car maintenance, played with the cat without requiring a blood transfusion (she was the problem cat at the shelter… really… we’re perfect for each other) and wrote a story that I really like. That doesn’t mean that I usually (well, frequently) go through long emo jags where I think everything I write is shite. I mean, I have so many people telling me that that it frees me up to actually enjoy my writing from time to time. But for some reason, I really liked this particular story. It’s a nice feeling, reading something and thinking “Holy crap, that was ME.” I recommend that feeling to everyone reading this blog.
However, next week’s is going to be a little different. This week I finished one of Flannery O’Connor’s two story collections (Everything That Rises Must Converge). On top of that, I started reading Best American Noir of the Century, starting with the horrifying awesome story “The Paperhanger” by one of my heroes, William Gay. Not only did he write smooth and deadly southern gothic, taking only the best parts of Hemingway, O’Connor, and Faulkner, along with a liberal dash of black humour here and there, he served in the Navy, taught himself the craft by ceaselessly writing, and didn’t publish until he was in his late 50’s. I’m not there yet, but I can still think of him as a role model.
On top of this ultra cheerful reading list, I also had a comment or two that my stories have been a little too cheerful, lately. Luckily, I have hopefully addressed these critics by going back to the notebooks I kept when I was an undergrad at STFU and I think I’ve found a couple of good ideas for next week. We’ll see.
Link salad tomorrow. The cat’s snoring and my books are calling.
So after a good evening of reading and working on the new story, I decided to hold off on my book reviews until this morning. when I could focus on them a little more. Starting some time last night, a rash started to spread around the left side of my body, starting with the back of my neck and spreading to my face, scalp, and now my upper back. I have no clue what it is. I haven’t been rolling in anything rotten (lately) and while we did find poison ivy in our back yard last week, that was a week ago, and I’ve never reacted to poison ivy before. (Poison oak is another story entirely…) So, since my plans for today involved going out and hanging out with some friends in the park, I’ve decided to play it safe, slather my body with cortisone, and work on book and site reviews today. Also, writing about itching is the worst thing one can do when one itches. Just putting that out there.
I’m still working on the new theme for the blog (though Thursday’s story is finished, and next week’s is slowly peeking out of the closet I keep all my new ideas in). So, most of my inspiration today will be related to HTML, CSS, PHP, and WordPress hacking. Those of you with a blog might like these articles. Those of you who’ve tweaked your WordPress might want to offer me suggestions. And those of you who just read can either apply some of this stuff to writing bitchin’ comments in full HTML, or read something.
From WordPress: Five Elements For Your Front Page
Also from WordPress: Site Design and Layout
And here’s the CSS tutorial from W3Schools… there might be flashier ones, but this tutorial is short and blunt and to the point.
Digging into PHP and MySQL and such can get a little trying, but HTML and CSS are pretty powerful on their own, and really aren’t hard to learn. (Especially if you’re like me and grew up with a word processor or typewriter that had control codes.)
I’ll be back a little later with more inspiration.
Today is a day of halves:
- I’m halfway through my final draft of the ‘Agata’ novella, and I think I might have made it through the hardest part. Even if I haven’t, well, I’m halfway. It’s taking longer than my (originally quite naïve) schedule said it would take, but I’m moving forward and coming ever closer to finishing it.
- I’m halfway through the story for Thursday, though in this case, I know I’m through the hardest part. The story’s finished; I’m just adding flair to it, now.
- The storm that’s been pummeling the southeast is about halfway finished. Or at least it is according to Accuweather. No serious flooding where I live, though the cat keeps reminding me that she never signed up for this thunder crap.
- And I’m halfway through Infinite Jest. I’ve read a lot of meta-novels (a good chunk of Pynchon, Ulysses, Remembrance of Things past (it might not be the most accurate translation of the title, but it’s the most poetic English version, I think), and the ever-awesome Tristram Shandy, which the movie version described as “a post-modern classic before there was a modernism to be post about.” Oh, and House of Leaves. This is, so far, my favourite of them, and it keeps getting better. Yes, it’s a slog and a third in spots (Tennis, anyone?) but I’m starting to see how everything is coming together, and if DFW does pull off the ending the way I think he might, it will be worth it. It’s definitely not a book for everyone, and no, I don’t subtly mean ‘A lot of people can’t handle the way the book’s written because they’re just not advanced enough.’ There is that matter of taste, and in that, I really do mean that it’s not for everyone. As far as meta-novels or post-modern novels go, it’s no Finnegans Wake, though as much as I like James Joyce, I’m happy about that. But it does have quite a few quirks. For example, I’m actually right around page 490 of 1080… but if you count the fifty-odd pages of footnotes (some lasting 18 pages of 8 point type, some with footnotes of their own) I’ve definitely made it halfway. The references are sometimes obscure, and while there is a good Wiki to help you keep everything straight (such as the corporate sponsored names of years) there were some days when I would read 30 or 40 pages in an hour or so, and some when I was happy to have made it through 5. Still, the story’s entertaining, the characters are definitely one of a kind, and I don’t think the book could be written in any other way. In between, of course, I’ve also read a couple of Moorcock books (taking a break for the nonce), two YA books, and most of a collection of Flannery O’Connor stories. But I’m getting there.
So that’s where I am today. Well, that, and digging into the guts of this website. I really don’t like the way it looks, and now that I have a little more content on it, I feel it’s time to fix that. Suggestions are
demanded requested at gunpoint politely entertained.
Just when I thought that my hard weekend was last weekend, my to-do list crawled out from under my desk and started giggling madly at me. Let’s see what’s on the agenda…
- Another four chapters of the novella’s final draft
- Finishing the rough of next week’s story, which is about half-done at 1200 words
- Playing with an essay about writers as cheerleaders, including sections on why I often find lists of random writing prompts anywhere from distracting to insulting. (I have one exception, but that’s because it’s set up like a huge creative writing site, and not just a random list given to writing students like they are some sort of magic.)
- Play and perhaps plan the next story, which is either another novella in this same world, or a new novel.
- Sleep, if possible.
I do hope everyone reading this has something planned for the weekend. Let me know what it is so I can live vicariously whilst sitting in the corner, feeling punished, and banging out my sentences.
I do have a few links to share, and those will come later. Feedback on the stories, even if it’s bad (especially if it’s bad) is definitely requested. Next week will see me hitting the 1/13 mark, and that’s far enough in to start making changes, if changes need to be made.
I keep trying to log off and get some more reading done tonight, and then I keep running into interesting articles like this. Read this. Live it. The only thing I’ll add is that I made a resolution over two years ago to check my library for any book I want to read first, and then look for a personal copy of it. There are exceptions, of course… at least one of my current series saw me check out the first book, return it, and then buy the rest because I knew I was going to want to read them all, multiple times. Still, I might be spoiled by the excellent library system in Fulton County, it’s rare that I have to go outside the library to find something, especially a reference.
The Public Library as University
I don’t often post about video games, but since this is less about games in general and more about a glimpse into the world of goat, I’m posting this. Also, she helped me with a rough patch in one of my stories, so some of you might consider that a good thing.
You know, just in case there were any questions about how my weekend editing project went.
On the bright side, I hit my goal and got my submission package finished. I’m working on another part of the story now, and hopefully, the whole thing will be finished by next weekend. The new weekly story is coming along as well; like the other two, it’s completely not like them. Poetry to follow. I thought of posting one of my old ones…
I’m more depressed than anyone and I hate my life
I took down all the mirrors just to stay out of my sight
I really wish someone would come and kill me in the night
To save me all the trouble of getting my suicide note right
…but I decided against it. Happy positive thoughts, right? Though, according to electrical theory, negative thoughts would suck all the positive thoughts out of the air and to my head, right? Isn’t that how it works?
Beyond just having a good handle on HTML and CSS (even if you’re entirely using a third-party design from WordPress or another blogging site, it’s nice to customise) some of us like to take a little more control. One forum I go to on reddit is the amazing “www.reddit.com/r/learnprogramming” one, and their hypercritical (that’s a good thing) denizens recently put up a link to a new Web Development Curriculum. I spent this morning poking around a little bit of it, and it’s quite well laid out. If you have any kind of interest in doing something with your site besides dragging, clicking, and activating, take a look at it.
The Odin Project