Thursday, April 30, 2009

Republicans vs. Republicans

According to one conservative I heard today, the entire swine-flu (excuse me, H1N1*) epidemic was orchestrated by President Obama as a chance to control the news cycle to cover up his "plummeting" approval rating.

It's moments like that that I rub my eyes and wish to God that I had some sort of superpower with which I could simply scrub away the stupidity from their brains, from the inside out. I'm thinking of a sort of frontal-lobe microwave vision.

This was just another case of a yappy conservative spewing his ideas for all to hear - ideas not rooted in reality, ideas spun from starlight and blue sky, ideas created solely for the purpose of widening the ideological divide in this country.

Obama isn't trying to work this up. If anything, he's staying calm about it. Joe Biden on the other hand...well, Joe's known for his stupid moves. This one was just another for the scrapbook. No, this was a media thing. I blame CNN, and MSNBC, and Faux News, and all the other little content providers who needed 24 hours to fill and chose that. Like many others around the world, I believe this has been blown out of proportion, and I'm more annoyed than angry about it.

But to claim the President of the United States is trying to bang the drum to keep it in the press if even more ludicrous. This is the type of ridiculous complaint the fringe right have taken to since Inauguration Day. And by fringe right, I mean just that. These aren't your average Republicans. Your average Republican was Arlen Specter, a man so alienated from his own party that he joined the Democrats. Your average Republican is Olympia Snowe of Maine, a highly-respected Senator who is berated for saying that perhaps, after all, her party is becoming exclusionary.

Your average Republican is my brother; somewhere between one-third and one-half of my friends; and many, many people I respect. For the most part, these people believe in small government, fiscal responsibility, personal independence, and a strong defense.

What they don't believe in is the idea of the USA as a "Christian-only" nation. They don't believe in exclusionary political dogma. They don't believe in policy as written by fundamental Christian beliefs. They don't believe that Obama has an Indonesian passport and is perpetrating the greatest hoax of all time. They sure as fuck don't believe in Sarah Palin as a viable candidate for anything.

And pretty much, they don't listen to Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the other mouth-breathing, drum-beating, saber-rattling morons of that ilk. They leave that for their looney colleagues in the fringe right.

I find it a little sad that I'm becoming more and more tolerant of the real Republicans and less and less tolerant of the fringe types. I wish I heard more moderate Republican voices, but for the most part, all that's offered on TV and radio, are the shrill yelps from the right-wingnuts.

Let me ask you real Republicans this: how can you stand knowing that your party is absolutely and completely falling apart around you? Do you like the direction you're going? Are you happy with those avatars of stupidity being the voice of your people? Do you really expect that with the current leadership, there will be any ground gained either in Congress or the minds of the American people?

These questions will be shouted into the ether. I won't get any response from the real Republicans. Most of them won't answer, because they don't know the answers. If I get any response at all, it'll be from the fringe right. And all they will succeed in doing is making the case a little stronger.

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*Gotta protect the pork industry from swine flu, and the swine from Egypt.**
**Has anyone else noticed that Egypt has functionally taken over Poland's*** traditional spot in jokes? If they can do something in a wacky fashion, they do. Thankfully, what they don't do is read this blog.
***However, I do love the readers from Poland!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Meet Martin Black

I believe this is the first time I've ever shown, displayed, posted, or shared anything from this particular part of my creative mind. It falls pretty solidly into the "urban fantasy" genre, and is the only thing I've written that does. Its working title is The Wyrd Magnet.

I actually don't usually care for urban fantasy; too much of it reads like everything else. For all I know, this will, too. Anyone familiar with Simon R. Green's "Nightside" series may sense some comparisons. I'm cool with that; I dig the series almost as much as I dug his "Hawk and Fisher" series. But, I actually wrote this first chapter about a year before the first "Nightside" book came out. Like some of my other work, this was based on a dream. (In fact, most of Chapter One was from that dream.)

I don't know if y'all will like this at all. I'm not sure how I feel about it. I know I've got another entire chapter written, two more somewhat written, and a few planned out. The problem? They're all out of order.

I'm going to post this here, but I'll most likely only post updates in the left-hand side column. Let me know what y'all think about Martin and his world.

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The Wyrd Magnet

Chapter One - Sub-culture

Club Houngan was the busiest nightclub in town, even on a Wednesday night. My cab made the turn onto Briar and pulled to a stop fifty feet or so away from the front door – about as close as we could get. A heavy line of black limousines waited, their drivers lurking protectively near them. The line to get in, which began around the corner, ended in an honest-to-God red velvet rope which was manned by a pair of bouncers that could moonlight as walls. A long canopy ran to the corner, keeping dry those fortunate enough to get inside within the next few hours or so. The rest covered themselves with umbrellas, coats, or fashion magazines. I glanced up through the car window at the three-story high building with a garish neon sign of a smiling voodoo priest atop it. The ugly red and white light of the sign reflected on the rain-slick pavement. This was the hottest club in town, and I’d just been told that an old classmate of mine owned it outright. Stranger still, that old classmate needed my help.

“Thirty-one twenty,” the driver said, turning down his pounding tech-metal music. He turned to face me. “Make it thirty-one. I don’t need your twenty cents.”

I gave him a pair of twenties: “Keep it.”

It was a decent tip, not enough to be extravagant, but enough to ensure the next time I needed this guy, I’d get him.

“Thanks, man.” The driver pushed a button and unlocked the doors. I got out and did my best to smooth out the wrinkles in my shirt and overcoat. I ran my fingers through my hair and strolled toward the head of the line. A couple of things were certain. The first is that I was at least ten years past the freshness date for this club, and I was making a bad situation an egregious one by not showing up with a bauble on my arm. The second thing I knew was that the bouncers weren’t going to be able to do a goddamn thing about it.

To continue:
http://www.writersownwords.com/washroomannex/work/268/

Stick a Fork in "Dunbar" - He's Done

Because of my now-widely-discussed absence, due to laptop issues, "Chapter Two - Dunbar" was posted here longer than any other. Since it's been posted for weeks, and it's even made the round of my writer's group, I'm calling this puppy done.

Oddly enough, this remains the introductory chapter that most vexes me. In any form, it's always read better to others than it has to me. This continues to be the case. But I'm glad it pleases everyone else.

This time out, I want to give a particular "thanks" to Twotalia for her timely, necessary, and very valuable feedback. Thank you.

And if any of you who are familiar with the older (pre-blog) version of Dunbar and want to know why I've changed his speech patterns, you may thank my girlfriend, who basically campaigned for him to speak somewhat normally. I left a bit of the arrogance, and yanked the rest.

The updated version of "Chapter Two - Dunbar":
http://www.writersownwords.com/washroomannex/work/267/

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Why April Has Been Such a Bother

This month has proven to be a challenging one. It began with the loss of my grandmother. She'd been in a nursing home for quite some time and everyone in the family knew that she would soon "pass on." When she did, there was no surprise, but it was still heartbreaking. She was the grandparent I was closest to, and the last remaining one I had. At my age, I've been fortunate enough that I haven't lost anyone in my immediate family. I still have my parents, my brothers, my nephews, and my niece. I've never lost a girl I was particularly close to, though I have lost some good friends.*

I received the news on Wednesday morning, approximately 15 minutes after I'd been given my first freelance newspaper assignment for a small paper here. This pretty well shoved the assignment to the back burner - though it needed to be done. The hardest part of losing my grandmother was knowing that I wouldn't make her funeral. She was buried in Arkansas, where she lived, and as everyone here knows, I'm a current resident of So-So Cal. There was no way to justify the expense of spending money on plane tickets to fly home for a Saturday funeral, and return. I don't like flying anyway, and I'd not go alone. If I went, I'd take my girlfriend. But only a few months ago, she lost her grandmother and decided to remain here instead of returning home to Maine. Complicating things further was the fact that she couldn't take off work and I had work training to begin the following Monday. No, there was no way to attend the funeral - and frankly we couldn't afford it.

Instead, I just grieved for her here. And I wrote the piece over the weekend. And I posted "Chapter Two - Dunbar" here on Sunday night. And I started training to work with the U.S. Census as a temp worker on Monday.

During that time, a remote control fell onto my laptop and unbalanced the cooling unit. I took my notebook to the best computer geek I knew in the area, and we checked it out, but there was nothing we could do. Without going to a Toshiba dealer to crack the case and get deep into the guts to replace the unit, I'd just have to deal with it. This became much more difficult to do as I had less and less time available.

The thing began to overheat; the fan made high-pitched clicking noises. I couldn't risk melting it, so I had to rein in my computer usage to almost zilch. I pretty much gave up on Twitter, and I was unable to update here the entire time. All these applications pull a fair amount of power and sent that cooling unit into clicking overdrive.

I trained in Quality Control for the census for 3 days, tested on Thursday, and went to work 3 hours later. I worked for a week and was offered a promotion on Friday. I say this to underscore that I've been working my tuckhus off for the past couple weeks.

Things will still be hectic for some time. I don't know how long this job will last, and if I'll be able to continue through the summer and into the fall. I don't know exactly what I'll be doing or who I'll be working for. But for the moment I'm working.

At the moment, I've bought a cooling pad for this thing. It's hot today - really hot. We have the windows open and a breeze moving through, which is our preference. But the air is hot and dry, and my notebook has only made slight clicking noise a couple of times, early on. I think it's going to be okay. This may work as a short- or long-term work-around. That means I'll be updating here again, but the updates may be shorter and more sporadic than they were.

I'm currently working on "Chapter Three - Sloan," which might get posted this week. I've also got a piece tentatively titled Wyrd Magnet or Regret, which I may start to post as well. And though I've not been able to use this notebook, I've actually been working on a longer piece at nights. I may begin to post part of it as well. For the moment, I'm calling it Spans Forever.

Hopefully by the end of April things will seem a little more normal. I appreciate all of you who have hung in there and let me know you're wondering how I'm doing, or worried, and I particularly appreciate those of you who have checked in to make sure I was still breathing. I still am; I'm just breathing a little hard.

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*I've also lost a bunch of "buddies" - guys that wouldn't be bothered at all by the fact that I'm about to say that some of them died in events that should have been Darwin Award runners-up. Remember, most of my buddies are from the South, where the most common last words are "Hey! Watch this!"

It's Such a Delight Watching Them Activisting...


Before I go any farther, I just have to ask: is there no one in the Republican or Libertarian Parties with a working knowledge of slang? We all know I'm talking about the teabagging the fringe right gave America the other day.

But do you know there's a mostly-pathetic attempt going on to start a boycott of California's goods and products until the voters toss out Nancy Pelosi and anyone else the neo-cons want? Clearly this is being led by a group of people without much knowledge of agriculture, economy, or industry - or they'd realize they'd be boycotting a vast amount of food, particularly produce.

So in the same spirit of stupidity that led them to teabag the U.S. of A., I have to ask, are the Republicans ready to reciprocate a bit and start tossing our salads, too?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Heroes... Chapter Two - Dunbar

Welcome back, beta-readers! This is the second chapter, entitled "Dunbar" - and focusing on the second main character of the book. You know the drill: read, enjoy, and leave some feedback. You may do so here, or by Twitter DM, or by email. My address is on the page. All opinions are welcome.

Just so you know: this time out, the blog readers are the first ones to get a crack at it. As usual, I've already done a rewrite to bring it here, but first feedback goes to y'all. Enjoy!

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Chapter Two - Dunbar

The peal from the bell in Nender’s Tower was still echoing midnight. A light fog had drifted in from the harbor, limning the roads and buildings with ghostly glow. Unable to see more than a few yards past the lamps that lined the streets, many Harbordowners had locked themselves in for the night, even those that lived along streets that often were a-hurry until dawn.

In Old Town, the Street of Swords zigzagged through seedy neighborhoods, careened around taverns, rowhouses, and faced onto entire blocks of buildings that used to be the weapon smithies that gave the street its name. Now sapped of most of its usual nighttime residents, it was a closed-in world with white borders – a place where sounds traveled further than images.

One figure strode up the street. He was tall, nearly seven feet, and moved with fluid grace. He was garbed in gray and green. His shirtsleeves had been cut away to allow his arms freedom of movement. A heavy broadsword hung on his left side, a long dagger on his right. He carried a short bow in his left hand and wore a quiver of arrows across his back. His hair was black and loose, hanging wildly to his shoulders.

He was bene sidhe, a great elf. Only infrequently seen outside of Geshuan or Cheldria, his kind was rare in Harbordown. Unlike most of his kin, Dunbar Stormglow found himself more attracted by the wilderness of a big city than to the glades and forests that he thought were laughingly called “the wilds.” Like most of his family, he had taken to the hunt. He had just opted to hunt a different kind of prey.

To continue: http://www.writersownwords.com/washroomannex/work/246/

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Rewrite - With a Little Help From My Friends...

This is the rewrite of Chapter One, following suggestions aplenty from persons here on this blog, from writers and readers from Twitter, and from (as usual) my good friends and compatriots in the North County Writers of Speculative Fiction group. Though it will embarrass her, this time, I'm going to call particular attention to one of those members, Irina, who helped me - not only with good feedback, but also with good advice.

For whatever reason, this chapter was probably the hardest thing I've ever had to write and/or rewrite. I can't tell you why; I simply don't know. All I know is that after a couple of weeks of fruitless rewrites, one very long conversation with her helped immensely.

I count myself genuinely fortunate to have people such as y'all - people who'll read, offer praise and criticism both, and (most unusually) come back again for more.

I'd salute you, as Malcolm does, but that might send a message that I was about to sink your ship, and that's not really what I'm trying to say.

How's this? Thank you!

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Chapter One - Malcolm

Dragonfish plowed through the green and white waves of the Sea of Men, launching salt spray into the whipping wind with every crash. She was a bit smaller than most traders, her hull smooth and round-bottomed. She was laden with trade goods from Geshuan and sat low in the water. At eight knots, she was pushing her top laden speed, a fact that could not be lost on the vessel pursuing her.

On the main deck, sailors assembled ballistae along the gunwales and marines issued heavy blades and crossbows to the men. On the poop deck above, half a dozen officers readied for what was to come next. Only one man watched the preparations below. Satisfied with the crew’s speed and demeanor, he nodded and glanced up at the ribbons dangling from the rigging. The telltales pointed toward the bow; they couldn’t ask for a better wind in which to run. He turned to face his fellow officers.

To continue: http://www.writersownwords.com/washroomannex/work/234/