"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards." - Robert A. Heinlein

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Heroes... Chapter Seven - Harbordown by Night

Howdy! This is Chapter Seven of "Heroes...", in which we start pulling our heroes together and introduce two more major characters. There's no point in describing them; you'll know them when you see them.

Remember, this is a rewrite of a novel I've already completed. I am actively seeking feedback from beta-readers for it. As I've stated, if it sees publication, I plan to thank anyone who has given consistent (or lots) of feedback in the dedication. No, I'm not kidding.

I thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy!


Chapter Seven
Harbordown By Night

“Good evening, Dunbar.”

“Mr. Jerrold.”

“You’ve come for the bounty, I assume.”

“I have,” Dunbar said.

“Just a moment; it’s in the back. Watch the front, will you?” Titus Jerrold, Harbordown’s exchequer, left him alone in the front office. Dunbar drifted to the only wall that interested him. A dozen hand-copied posters hung there, the gallery of felons whom the city most wished to have in custody. A dozen hard faces drawn in ink glared down as Dunbar perused their crimes. Two-Dagger Hamish’s poster was gone, along with his list of crimes. The face of a church-thief was nailed in its place. Dunbar memorized the face, name, and list of crimes. Before Mr. Jerrold returned, he was waiting at the exchequer’s desk.

“I’ll need you to sign,” Mr. Jerrold said.

“Of course.” Dunbar signed his name in florid script on the receipt offered him and pushed it back across the desk.

“Ten silver sails,” Jerrold told him, placing a fist-sized sack in his hand. “I’ve broken it into shields and pennies, as you prefer.” As usual, Dunbar weighed it in his hand and slipped it inside his shirt.

“Is there still no word on Jaan Craymore or Den Tuller?” Dunbar pointed to the oldest posters.

“No,” the exchequer told him, folding the receipt neatly. “We’ve heard nothing from Tuller; he’s simply vanished. We believe Craymore took ship and left months ago. He has family in Northport, we’re told.”

“Another one gone to sea.”

“It’s the simplest way to avoid capture.”

“It’s cowardly,” Dunbar stated.

“Yes,” Mr. Jerrold said, “but not too many wish to remain here and be nabbed by the Watch or be caught up by the city’s finest bounty hunter.”

“I’m not yet the finest. Burrell the Bold still holds that honor.”

“He has retired, Dunbar.”

“Until I – or someone else – surpasses his number of retrievals, he’s the best.”

“Have it your way. Will you be attending the hanging?”

“The trial hasn’t been held yet.”

“What’s your point?”

* * *

“Are ye ready?” asked the man dressed in red and black.

The woman dressed as he was looked up and nodded. She pulled on her boots and stood up, flipping hair out of her eyes.

“I’m ready.” She spoke a language not often heard in Harbordown.

“Speak Talberan,” the man said. “Ye know I can’t understand ye.”

“Ready,” she said.

“Good. I’ve got our place picked out. It’ll do.” He turned and saw her blades lying on the bed, near where they had just been.

“Don’t faerget yer swaerds.”

“Knives,” she said in perfect Talberan, sliding the blades into their sheaths.

“Knives then,” Jaan Craymore said. “Let’s get moving. That lamplighter’s not going to kill himself.”

Click to Continue

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Greening of Twitter

This goes against my natural grain. I really am not a fan of bloggers and writers putting together blog entries about their various "social media" beliefs. Don't believe me, see this. In fact, it was my goal to do as little writing about it as possible. But with the by-now-pretty famous actions of Twitterers and Facebookers of the past week, I've decided I need to.

To those of you reading this who aren't on Twitter, let me explain: my photo is green. On Saturday afternoon, I changed my photo to all-green tones. This was my way of showing my support with the people of Iran - whom I genuinely believe had an election stolen out from under them.

I wasn't the first to alter my photo or avatar. There was one gentlemen, dlayphoto, who did it before me. He's usually very quick to leap into action when he thinks someone has been wronged. He might have been the first, but I don't know. I am absolutely convinced that he was one of the first to do it. I was the first I knew to adjust my photo. Again, I'm not claiming to be the first - and I don't care who was. I made the change, because I thought it was the least we could do to offer support.

To those of you who don't me, I am no wide-eyed young liberal looking to change the world every week. I'm not. I am a middle-aged man with a background in political science and journalism. I take my political beliefs seriously, and yes, by and large they are of the left-handed variety. But, no, I didn't do this to "jump on the bandwagon" or "change the world overnight."

I doubt anyone reading this is unaware of the fact that the current reporting on CNN or NPR or MSNBC or your local news is now coverage the unrest in Iran - the protests, the marches, the violence committed against the supporters of presidential candidate Moussavi's followers by members of the Basij - the Ahmedinajed-supporting militia. You are also likely aware that all of these news outlets are covering the coverage of the accounts - namely, the actions of many of us on Twitter, and to a much lesser extent, on Facebook.

The coverage has been almost embarrassing. For every minute the news channels cover what we're doing on Twitter, a minute where they could be actually covering Iran is lost. A part of me is pleased to see that we've made the mainstream press, but I'd rather that time be given to the people over there - the ones who are living with it.

The coverage has also led to a pretty furious backlash. Many bloggers, writers, and journalists are now decrying the actions of the Iran-Twitterers. They have claimed that there is no actual unrest; it's just being 'broadcast' as such. Another claims that the entire thing has been orchestrated by agents from Israel to destabilize the nation. Still others simply say that anyone involved is simply a "wide-eyed liberal" (or, to be fair "a reactionary conservative") who doesn't know what they're doing, and what they're saying.

I most respectfully disagree.

I was involved when this began. I've been a part of it since the beginning and remain so. As I said earlier, I wasn't the first to get involved - and I don't particularly care who was. But it needs to be understood that I was there from early on, so I can make clear that I saw how it began and how it evolved to what it is now.

With me, it simply started as a rant about CNN's lack of coverage of the elections - and the shameful actions of President Ahmedinejad. I was astonished - along with many others - that CNN simply had never figured that anything would happen. There was no coverage at all for a few hours, and then there were repeated hourly updates from Christiane Amanpour, but none of the wall-to-wall coverage that, frankly, the situation demanded.

I was not the only one who felt this way. I'd guess there were originally a few thousand angry Twitterers who agreed, since the #hashtag we were using to mark our messages (which allows people to track tweets by subject), #CNNfail, began to trend on Twitter - and other people began to take notice and ask what was going on.

Simultaneously in Iran, many young students, furious with the outcome, began venting their frustration through their Tweets. Iranian-born peoples living out of the country, and people of Iranian heritage began to complain, and somewhere in the midst of all this, a change began to occur.

The now-most-common #hashtag, #Iranelection, appeared. It is still in use one week later, and still trending. I began to be followed (Twitterese for "people began to read what I was writing and chose to let me know about it") by people from inside Iran. There were several of these. I was also followed by some of the out-of-country Iranians and some who simply had come from there.

It goes without saying that I also began to be followed by other Westerners of a like mindset. I followed back all of them - out of courtesy, but also out of a chance to tighten up a network of news I was receiving.

Here is where I depart from some of the detractors. Here is where things happen that most of the people who came later simply are not aware.

The tweets I - and others - received from Iran were from people who claimed to be in Iran. I took it first with a grain of salt. For all I knew, these were simply annoyed college students out to make a stink on the internet. This is where many of the detractors have decided it all falls apart. The detractors believe that many, if not all of these, were from outside Iran and in no way represented the people actually living there.

By late Saturday afternoon, I was following 8 or 9 people from inside Iran*. I listened to what they had to say, and in many cases retweeted what they said - so that my other readers would know. A lot of the original information was simply shock, anger, and descriptions of what they were going to do to demonstrate. Not all of it was. Some of them used the tweets to meet with others. Many times I retweeted one of them asking other protesters to meet somewhere. I have no problem with that at all.

But I still didn't have proof that these people were actually there.

Not until they began to back up their posts with photos and videos. There was a pretty standard timeline for this. We would get tweets saying, "The military has attacked people in the street!" (We now believe this was the basij doing that - but to those on the ground, a rifle butt is a rifle butt, regardless of who is wielding it.) Half an hour later, the photos started appearing on Flickr or other photo hosting websites. In each case, the photos backed up the prior tweets. A hour or two after that, we'd get word that a video of the action was now up on YouTube.

This sets up a chain. We would get the notification, then photos, then videos. By Sunday morning (Cali time), there was no question that pro-Ahmedinejad supporters were committing violent actions against the supporters.

Over a very long Sunday, it got worse. Three of the people I had been following simply vanished. I'm not "wide-eyed" enough to think that all fell to violence, but it's easy to assume that some may have been captured, or simply had their ability to communicate taken and/or destroyed. The mainstream media finally acknowledged that this did happen.

On Sunday, CNN added a few hours of Iran coverage, and openly admitted they were pressured to do so by Twitterers - #CNNfail worked in a multitude of ways. But from that day, CNN (which I am using to stand in for all mainstream media) has lagged behind.

Who are they lagging behind? Us. The people wearing green on Twitter. The people in Iran who are still getting the information out. And as far as I'm concerned, the information is still good.

One tweet from Iran was simple: "they're shooting people in the Square!" He followed up by saying he saw a man get shot. A few hours later, someone else posted a link to a photo of a man lying in the square. The next day CNN reported that, indeed, a man had been shot and showed the picture of the man lying there, blood flowing from his head.

If you had only gotten your news from mainstream media, you'd wonder how they got that so fast. I - and everyone else who had seen the tweet and the photos - wondered how they had gotten it so slow.

We continually receive word of what is going on hours before the rest of the media gets it. We retweet it for the people reading us - many of whom now actually live there. I've been thanked numerous times for doing this from people that I now know are there - sometimes for helping them, and sometimes for giving them information.

You question our sources? I assure you: I'm following people whose word is unimpeachable at this point. They've provided their bona fides in so many ways it is impossible to count.

But it's not all about the sources. I don't see this as "social networking done good." I see this as a form of very high-paced citizen journalism. As I take journalism seriously, I take this seriously.

I will ignore any tweet or link that advocates violence. I will take no part in helping someone try to turn protesters into a mob of killers. I won't. I don't know anyone who is. It is rare to see one come my way, but I always respond to them by saying I won't help them with that. I received a video link from a trusted source. I watched the entire video - which showed wounded Iranians, members of the basij attacking others, and footage from the shot-up dormitory. I was about to post the link when I saw it had a caption, which said (and I'm paraphrasing): "We will kill you!" - to the current president. I clicked off and sent the source a reply, asking him not to send me another. I won't advocate that.

If I'm sent a link, I read it. If I'm sent a video, I watch it. I do my due diligence. I receive numerous tweets in Farsi - which is contrary to many of the detractors, who say that none of the people in Iran are tweeting in their home language - and I don't pass them on. I don't know what they say, and I won't be responsible for something I have no knowledge of.

I'm not the only one showing due diligence. I've had conversations with half a dozen Twitterers, checking with each other over whether or not we think something is fake, inaccurate, or shouldn't be posted for any number of reasons. I've rejected some on my own, helped others to reject some, and done everything I can to keep this as true and accurate as I can.

Because there are others who I know are doing the same amount of filtering and checking I am, I feel very comfortable retweeting their information. I know if cbn2, or Cody_K, or dlayphoto posts it, it's good. I know they take this seriously. I know they are trying to keep it as true and accurate as they can. This pleases me.

It's not easy. We now know that Ahmedinejad has people on Twitter, doing their best to put out disinformation and sow confusion. Even mainstream media has begun to realize that. But most of that is done from accounts created after Monday, and most of them have been rooted out and exposed for what they are.

I've been attacked for this. I don't care what some guy with a blog has to say, or what some woman with an axe to grind has to complain about. I had one woman send me a furious stream of insults - "You people don't know anything. You'll RT anything that you see! You don't have a clue about the Middle East." I laughed, told her she was welcome to fuck off, and cut her off. I don't feel I have to defend myself against people who can't be bothered to do their own research, and see how much work we're actually putting into this.

(Once you've had rednecks sending you death threats for saying there would be no Weapons of Mass Destruction found in Iraq, you learn not to care about online attacks one bit.)

It's fair to say that I'm on the first line of information dispersement. I get most of my info from people in Iran, and pass it on to others. I have sources that some of the others don't - and they have some I don't. I pass on what I have to others - many of whom are getting their information from other folks like me. I say this not to blow my own horn, but to say: I take this seriously. When something's wrong, I look into it. When something's right, I pass it along.

I don't care about the "legacy" of Twitter; I don't care about history being made here. I'm convinced that what we're doing is good work, for a good reason.

I do believe that Ahmedinejad stole the election. I do believe that Moussavi likely would've been voted in. I do believe that having a conservative reformer in power there is much superior to having a conservative hardliner - particularly one who denies the Holocaust ever occurred and claims that there are no homosexuals in Iran anywhere.

I don't know if what we're doing will make much difference, but I'm willing to keep trying. I do know that the people of Iran are doing the real work, and they're the ones who will either force a positive change or be forced to live with the consequences. I also know that we - those who are doing nothing more than looking at photos, watching videos, reading tweets from those that are there, and passing that information on - have done some good.

In the end, that's really what I do care about.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Heroes... Chapter Six - Tzal

Greetings! This is the introductory chapter of the last of our five main characters, even though you got a glimpse of him last time. Tzal is a short chapter, barely 7 printed pages - less than 2000 words.

For those who need to know, Tzal is pronounced like the second half of "pizza" with an "L" on the end.

Remember, I am actually rewriting an already-written novel. Since I am seeking publication for this, feedback is the most important thing I need. If you can do it, please let me know what you think. It can be as short or as long, as gentle or as harsh as you'd like. To me, receiving it is the point.

You can leave your comments here, or contact me via email, Twitter, or Facebook. I thank you!

(You will see the exact message on the next page, should you choose to continue reading. Please don't worry about it; I'm still trying to figure out the best way to work this new twin-blog format. Thanks for your patience.)


Chapter Six - "Tzal"

The bald man led Tzal to a building fronting an alley off Anchorage Street. It was old, and a decade ago it had badly needed paint. It hadn’t gotten it. Tzal tried to remember which turns he had taken while keeping up his end of a mostly one-sided conversation. The bald man, he had learned, was Ruben Verner. Ruben used to be a member of the Seaman’s Brotherhood with this other man, Gitto. Gitto’s wife, Zenna, had taken sick a few days ago and had not left the bed. Tzal glanced around the shabby neighborhood, not wondering what could have caused it, but now many different illnesses she may have picked up.

They stopped at the door of the building and Ruben beat on it. After a moment, a short man with the build of a dumpling and a face like an old foot answered the door.

“Gitto,” Ruben said.

“Wait here,” the short man said, slamming the door on them.

“Doorman?” Tzal asked.

“They pay extra for that,” Ruben answered.

A few minutes later, a different man opened the door. He was short, thin, and hunched over. A patina of grime lived in the pores of his skin and Tzal doubted that anything as simple as a bath would remove it. Gitto had an aroma of his own, not a pleasant one. When he grinned, a missing tooth high in his smile broke it. Tzal felt a pang of shame. Had this wretched little man, and not Ruben asked for help, he would likely have dismissed him as a beggar.

Click To Continue

Monday, June 8, 2009

Oh, There's Been Some Changes...

Take a look. It's a lot less cluttered, isn't it? After about 34 hours of work, I've pulled the Washroom Annex from its home at WritersOwnWords and moved it to its new site next door: The New Washroom Annex - which is now on Blogger.

I've moved all the archived work - nonfiction, scripts, and the like - and set them up in their new home. I'll also be using the new Annex to host the Works-in-Progress and other bits of fiction. I've linked everything up as tightly as I can over there, so getting around should be easy.

I'll still use this to debut new chapters and whatnot, but the work itself will actually be hosted on the blog next door.

Feel free to pop on over and check it out. After a day and a half of work, I hope someone does.

In keeping with the changes, I've yanked many of the bells-and-whistles from this site. I'm not using them now, and I doubt anyone else is. I've moved the members' blogroll to the right-hand side, along with other link lists. "This Just In," the links to the Annex, and a few other odds-and-ends will remain on the left side.

Y'all let me know what you think of all this.

One last thing: let's all raise of glass of something adults-only to our new members: ...Gray... Spot, Gina Deeming, The Taco Traveler, and Caroline.


Friday, June 5, 2009

Friends, Members, Readers - Lend Me Your Ears

I'm beginning to hate the term "follower," and I'm fighting back however I can. Here, on the blog, I can't recall ever referring to the people that have chosen to read my thoughts as "followers." If they've opted to join the blog, I refer to them as "members." If they've not yet done so, then they're "readers."

I'm a writer, not a cult leader. Cult leaders have followers. I have readers, which is my preference.

Just recently, I was finally able to convince the Blogger software to let me change the terminology on the sidebar from "Followers" to "Members," and I would swear before a judge that it got petulant when I did it.

The same terminology applies on Twitter, but oddly, not on Facebook. This is one place where I think Facebook is superior. There, you have "friends." Let's be honest - that's overstating the case many times, but it beats "followers" by a factor of ten. The fact that a relationship must be two-way is also a plus. On Twitter, unless I physically block every moron that decides to follow/read my work, I can't stop them from beginning a relationship. And the truth be known, I could care less about anyone I'm not following back. That's no relationship.

On Twitter, I have "followers." On Facebook, I have "friends." But here, in my preferred domain, I have readers. Some of these readers have become members, which I do like. But since being a member implies - at some level - membership, I've decided there should be some "thank you."

This is one way I can do it. Let me introduce you to the members (using whatever names with which they joined the blog):

Bryan - He's a frequent commentor (particularly about politics - where we pretty much never agree). He's a longtime friend, former roommate, and one of the funniest people you'll ever meet. He blogs primarily as Almost Dangerous.

Fossie - She's another longtime friend (she'd hate it if I said old friend), and the wife of another good friend of mine. She's sweet, kind, and as protective of her friends as a mother bear of her cubs. She has a blog, Fossie's Bloggings.

Thomas Beck - He's one of my best friends, and a cousin-of-sorts-by-marriage. We've been roomies a couple of times and professional colleagues several times. He is a frequent commentor here. He's a professional photographer, and has one of the professional sites, Beck Photographic. Please check out his work.

Kelly - Kelly is my sister-in-law, and mother of two of the little hellions whose pictures I posted a few months ago - Tylar and Reilly. She is a phenomenally talented graphic designer, and has her own site, Kelly Furr Creative - and after several years in agency work, her own business.

Stewart - This is one of my friends and good buddies from Mississippi. He's also an ex-gaming buddy that managed to escape most of the stigma of that time. He's a writer, too, but unless things have changed in the recent past, he has no site and no blog.

Tony Durham - Tony is the oldest friend with whom I still speak. We met Day One in college, and have known each other since. Like me, he's a proud, happy geek and has no plans to change. He's a pretty frequent commentor here. So far, he's avoided blogs, sites, and Facebook pages.

James Griffith - This is another old friend of mine - and by old, I mean just that. :-) He is an unabashed Star Trek geek, loves science fiction in all forms, and has the greatest tolerance for bad movies I've ever seen in a human being. He's also married to a woman we all love, and is one of the most optimistic pessimists I know.

Adam Slade - Adam was the first member to join here that wasn't from my "real life" circle of friends. He's a fantasy writer from the UK with his own blog, My Muse Is a Vampire, and a well-known Twitter presence amongst us writers. He's also got better hair than I do, and I'm jealous.

DrSteggy - She was the first "perfect stranger" to join the blog, and she does desire her privacy. I will, of course, respect that, but I'd like to let her know how much I appreciate her joining. It actually boggled my mind that someone out of the blue joined.

Pan Historia - I don't actually know this man's name. I've called him "Pan" most of the time, even though he often goes by "Wyatt" - taken from Wyatt Earp. As Wyatt, he runs a blog/roleplaying/interactive fiction site that you should check out. I'm a member on Pan Historia. Are you?

Jenna - I'll have to say that Jenna is one of my favorite conversationalists on Twitter. She's from Australia, so the times we chat are odd ones - evenings/nights for me, and while she's at work. She's hysterically funny, painfully shy, and has shockingly good taste in music. Together, we're going to destroy the world tomorrow. By accident. Her blog: Jenna Cosgrove.

Diana - She, too, came from Twitter, where she won me over as a witty, erudite writer with mad skills of her own. This true lady hails from the UK, where I bet she throws off the genteelity grade curve in her corner of the world. She has a blog, The Urban Nutter's Journal, which stars her, her pets, and anyone unfortunate enough to become a character.

Brad Huffman-Parent - As you should be aware, Brad is the writer of Steel Rising, an indie comic with which he and his colleagues are competing at Dimestore Productions' "Small Press Idol" competition. They're good! Go here to help them out. Brad has his own blog, also titled Steel Rising.

Identity Krysis - This young lady is my Vancouver connection, and for those of you who know how much I liked Vancouver, you know that's a big deal. She's a tremendously talented writer whose blog, also called Identity Krysis, combines brutally open, honest emotion and prose fiction with the soul of poetry. You should be reading this.

Rebecca Anne - This Idaho woman is on her way to becoming a blog phenom. Her site, Provocation of Mine (d), gets more regular hits than any writing-based blog I know. She's good; she's really good. She is also funny, self-deprecating, and willing to admit to anything for a laugh - or to make a point. If you can find it, you should read her Watchmen post. I actually laughed so hard I cried.

Steph Infection - Steph is a improperly proper political lefty - a military wife. She comes to battle with the same snark and sarcasm I often deploy, but she does it in a more subtle (I won't say nicer; I'm afraid she wouldn't appreciate that) way. From the land of "poofy bangs," her blog is No One Can Own Your Soul.

Michael Gillman - Michael is one of my best Twitter-chums. He's laugh-out-loud funny, open, cranky, opinionated, and a solid liberal. Sound familiar? He also seems to like things like Miatas and fine wines, where I just grunt and say, "it's red." In other words, he's the kind of guy I want to be when I eventually grow up. Except for the Miata part - and that's just weird.

Brendan Garbee - Brendan drops in here from time to time, but like me, he holds court at his own blog - Brendan Garbee's Blog. You must see this. Combining fiction, essays, poetry, art, sound, and whatever he can think of, this might be the best multi-media literary blog out there. I'm not exaggerating. Go on. Check it out.

Helen H David - This lady appeared on my radar a couple of months ago, both here and on Twitter. Unfortunately, I haven't seen her either place, and her blogs haven't been updated in a while. I'm wishing her well, and hoping she checks in. She has two blogs: Gluten-Free Southern Cooking, and (I love this!) Ink in My Sweet Tea.

Imagyst - This young lady and I crossed paths while playing an odd blog-based game created by Seth Simonds, a frequent Twitterer. She logged onto here during the game and left the password, "burrito." (Seth also did, hence the burrito references.) I went to her blog, Heaven for Hell, and found a young person struggling with adulthood. In other words, she's all of us.

Ray Onativia - Ray hails from the land of taxicabs and delicatessens, and brings with him a certain urbane flair. He's also warm, friendly, and someone I genuinely enjoy chatting with. He's a hell of an interesting guy, and his blog, Ray Onativia Blog, is home to many fine poems. Not coincidentally, he wrote them.

Erin - This is one of the nicest people I think I've chatted with on Twitter, but don't get me wrong - "nice" is not her definition. She's whip-smart, funny, logical, determined, and observant. She has a wonderful blog, Death By Foo-Foo. She combines her own geek interests with raw emotional life. Please check it out.

Brayden Potter - This young man who hails from Australia was the first to join from Yahoo! Answers, where we both are members of the Books & Authors group. He is an aspiring writer, an asker of questions both funny and honest, and a likeable chap, all in all. I once gave him grief for some not-so-well written work, and he responded like a longtime veteran - with thanks for the criticism, and an earnest attempt to learn. There are many folks who could learn from him.

Lastly, I have to mention TwoTalia, who is not a member, but is my most frequent beta-reader. Her criticism is absolutely invaluable to me, and I wish others (hello!) were as thorough. I'm afraid I'm going to go on Talia Withdrawal when she goes on vacation. Everyone say "Hi." She's greater than great.

Thanks for indulging me in this - my way of saying "thank you." And if you get bored, and are looking for other things to read, other sites to gaze upon, check these links. There are some worthy folks here, and I'm happy they're members.

I think I'm going to call them all "friends."