And the sun shone on them today.
My progress will be slow due to the need to study for that exam. But I just opened a new project in my SmartEdit Writer program, and I have 1,961 words already, mostly from jotting down bits of scenes and dialogue here and there.
Plus, I also wrote some that I thought about putting in Confluence but realized they’d fit better in a third book, and I saved them. I wasn’t going to give myself a word count target; however, the program has set it up at 20,000.
That gives me a 645-word target per day. I can probably manage that. Even if I get behind, I should be able to catch up. A good writing session for me can hit 2,000-plus words easily.
This one’s going to take a while, folks. I don’t have a title for Book 3 yet, but we’re off and running! I’ve dropped a small meter in the sidebar at the right of the home page. I’ll post weekly updates (not daily) because I’m busy.
I’m sorry I haven’t been around much lately. I meant to give you an update sooner than this.
2020 has been crap, as you well know. Mostly, it felt like slow torture. Some stuff happened— good, bad, and a mix of both.
– I published Tunerville even though it got lost in the shuffle of COVID and endless garbage from the dumpster fire in DC.
– I met some very cool people online: lots of lovely resisters, performers, and artists.
– I got a free CompTIA Project+ class to help me get a job.
– I watched a lot of good TV, like Superstore (NBC/Hulu; I didn’t think I’d like this one, but I loved it), The Witcher (Netflix), and The Mandalorian (Disney+). I actually subscribed to Disney+ for the upcoming Marvel series blitz, but Din Djarin and his baby son Grogu kept me going all through this hell year.
Don’t sue me, Disney; I’m giving you free publicity for The Mandalorian. Who could resist that face? Anyway, I love macarons, and I will attempt to make the space ones as soon as I have a kitchen again.
– I learned that I’m pretty good in an emergency (ugh).
My mother had a stroke the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. She got to the hospital well within the three-hour window to receive tPA therapy. They also corrected an underlying condition that caused it in the first place. As a result of the swift treatment, the doctors said she should regain full function.
Before you ask, she’s doing very well and is now home after two weeks of inpatient rehab, continuing with home care OT and PT. Her right side was affected; she can talk and think and walk, but her hand isn’t working very well and she needs a walker for balance. Plus it takes her time to get words out—she said they’re in her head but she can’t always get them out of her mouth.
Thank the gods I was here and understood what was happening. So having no job was providential.
Everyone should know the signs of a stroke, and if you think something is wrong, PLEASE call for help. Better safe than sorry. First responders would probably be the first to tell you that nobody ever died of embarrassment. Their job is to help you, not to judge you. They’ll do that later after they get you out of the tree.
– I have so far managed to steer clear of COVID-19. But our third wave is going strong. So wear your mask, stay home as much as possible, and keep your hands clean and off your face!
And of course,
WE FIRED TRUMP
Whether the slow-moving attempts at a coup (and yes, it is a coup), aided by seditious members of the Greedy Oligarch Pervert party, manage to take hold remains to be seen. I can’t relax until Biden is actually in the White House, and even then, I’ll be holding his and his AG’s feet to the fire until every last one of them pays for what they’ve done.
In other news, Confluence is back from the editor. I had to deal with Mom stuff, plus I’m still trying to study for the certification test, so I just now started reading it again. When I start editing something, it feels like chipping away at the outside wall of an edifice, that I constructed, and I’m not sure how to get in and clean up my first and second draft mess. But I’ve started to feel the building blocks shift. That’s exciting.
I’ve made a kick-ass cover (!!!) and you’ll see it a bit later since I’ll probably do a pre-order blitz for the e-book. I hope to have it out in late spring or early summer depending on how things go on the job front. I usually tweet before I post here, so follow me at @DameWritesalot and @BoomkaartBooks for updates.
Stay warm and I’ll see you in a bit!
WE DID IT, Y’ALL
WE FIRED HIM
And not only that, but the world was happy too.
We got lucky, folks. The systems that put him in place are still there. If the last four years have taught us anything, it’s that autocracy can happen here. It very nearly did. Our checks and balances came very close to crumbling.
Now, we have to strengthen them. Black voters helped us get out of this but it’s up to white people to dismantle systemic racism. We can’t afford not to. The next would-be dictator will be much smarter than Trump, and he (it’s almost always a man because autocracies are mostly patriarchies and patriarchy won’t elect a woman) will learn from his mistakes.
If we pretend it didn’t happen (it did) or that it wasn’t so bad (it was), it will happen again.
And we’ve also (hopefully) learned that we cannot take democracy for granted. We can’t just vote and then forget about it for the next four years. Every single election is important; our government grows from the seeds we plant at the local and state level. These policies are the ones that affect our daily lives the most. Our congressional representatives come from our communities. While they’re in office, we have to push them for what we want, lest they become complacent and forget that they work for us, not the other way around.
During this protracted agony, particularly during the still-ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the state governors and AGs and health departments who’ve done the work and taken the heat to keep people safe. Not all of them rose in defiance to a profoundly corrupt and uncaring administration, one that refused to enact a federal mask mandate, with the result that over 230,000 people have died, and as of today, November 8, 2020, the US has the highest rate of coronavirus infection in the entire world.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch / Photo by David Carson, email@example.com
Georgia may have gone blue during the 2020 election, but Missouri will never change. Never. St. Louis, the bluest city and county in the state, isn’t big enough to overcome that. Hence my push to get out of here.
We’re getting there, slowly. The United States has drifted over time toward more progressive policies. Younger people who grew up with mass shootings and in an increasingly diverse country have become more politically active. We put a woman in the Vice President’s seat for the first time in our history—and not just any woman, but one of Jamaican and Indian descent, the child of immigrants. There’s plenty of reason to celebrate. Then we must roll up our sleeves.
Our work has only just begun. I’m ready. Are you?
I can’t make you feel better because nothing will make me feel better until black and brown people dying for no reason ends. And that may not happen in my lifetime.
If you’re white, and you are not actively examining your privilege right now and sitting with that discomfort, then I can’t make you feel better. I’m too busy looking at my own.
If you think I’m going to agree with you that violence is never the answer, I can’t make you feel better. I don’t feel that way. No, I’m not in favor of looting, and I don’t like it when people get hurt. But I like it even less when people who should be presumed innocent until proven guilty are instead condemned to death with no due process because of the color of their skin.
This isn’t about guilt. It’s about knowledge. White people cannot experience racism in a white supremacist society. We just can’t. That’s because racist oppression is a system, one that’s designed to favor us.
Some people think the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States ended racism. It did not. Racists burned him in effigy. They obstructed everything he tried to do. They (Trump in particular) originated and spread the birther conspiracy. Meanwhile, black people have kept right on dying at the hands of police and armed citizenry.
George Floyd left this world too early under the knee of a cop, one involved in at least 17 other misconduct complaints. The protests and riots following his death have focused on the police brutality that happens overwhelmingly to black people. Do you think if a store clerk suspected me of passing a counterfeit $20, knowingly or unknowingly, the cop (I’m not going to type his name) would have killed me?
Go to my About page and look at my picture. I’m pale as f*ck, so no, I most likely would not have died that day.
White women need to look at themselves especially hard. We are less likely to hold executive positions than white men, get paid less (though on average, more than black women), and face many of the same issues as black women — domestic violence, sexual assault, not being taken seriously by medical professionals. While we don’t suffer them to the same degree, therein should lie a glimmer of understanding, a glimpse of what it’s like to move through the world feeling like a target.
But racism is about power. Racist white women are exercising the little power they have against people who have less power than they do. Instead of supporting other women, they turn on them, bully them, put them in danger. They kill their men and their children. Why? Because a stranger asked you to leash your dog? Nobody deserves to die for that. Put your f*cking phone down and leash the f*cking dog like the sign says.
White people who truly want change have to realize that while we may not overtly discriminate against anyone, we still benefit from white supremacy. Racism didn’t stop just because we didn’t see it. A fish doesn’t realize it’s in the water. But a person can learn, and I’m gonna argue we weren’t looking for it.
I saw a comment —I think on Buzzfeed— that put it really well. I searched for it but couldn’t find it again, so I’ve tried to recreate it as best I can. Basically, the person posting it said, “When we say Black Lives Matter, we don’t mean NO OTHER lives matter. We mean Black Lives Matter TOO.”
You need to make yourself feel better. There’s only one real way to do that. And you know what it is.
If you’re white and you want to help, do these things.
- Support and vote for black candidates, especially women, especially candidates who promote police and prison reform.
- Call out racism when you see or hear it in everyday life and online, even if your voice shakes. Calmly stand up to people in your family. Let other people, especially the smallest ones, see and hear you do it.
- Put yourself on the line when you see cops interacting with black people. Stick around and be a witness. Watch them; film them if you feel safe doing so. If you see injustice and you’re called on to testify, do it.
- Think twice when you’re tempted to call the cops. Do you really have to?
- Support black achievements. Let people know about the work of black artists. If you employ them, pay them fairly, and give them credit.
- Patronize black-owned businesses. Seek them out in your community.
- Oppose gentrification of historically black neighborhoods to benefit affluent whites. This development practice is intersectional with poverty, but it also has deep roots in racism.
- Lift up black voices. Let people tell their stories without comment. Believe them when they share their experiences. They don’t need us to filter their narratives or tell anyone what they mean.
This will not end until we end it. We means white people. Don’t ask black people to end it. That’s not their job. You don’t ask victims of generations of systemic violence to do anything. You give them everything they need and let them live. You do everything you can to dismantle white supremacy so they don’t die and redouble your efforts when they do.
And above all, say their names.
Suggested reading for white folks:
A Decade Of Watching Black People Die (image above)
Anti-racism resources for white people (Google Doc)
Edited to add:
Happy New Year!
So I did a thing. I put Tunerville on Amazon.
I’ve blathered on about how I didn’t want to self-publish. I had good, sound reasons. But you know, I couldn’t stop thinking about this book. It was like being in love.
I’m a fan of the podcast WRITERS/BLOCKBUSTERS (Thunder Grunt). The three screenwriter hosts analyze movies from a screenwriting angle. On the Doctor Sleep episode, they were talking about the filmmaker, who started with very little and had made short films, as most do. This led to a discussion of how the only real way a screenwriter knows a script is truly filmable is to film it. Make it and put it out there, they said.
This got me to thinking about my book, which got close but didn’t quite make the hurdle to traditional publishing. The best small presses that take unagented submissions in my genre are closed to them currently. Perpetually, it seems; I keep checking in vain for open calls.
While listening to the podcast, I thought, Why not? Why not just say ‘f*ck it,’ and put it out there?
I wrote Book 2, and I’d like to close out the trilogy with Book 3, even if my readership at this point is very small. I want to finish The Catalyst. I’m tired of waiting and I would like to move on from this relationship.
The odds of getting noticed this way — for novelists, anyway — are practically zero. But that’s not necessarily the goal — maybe just doing it so it can be read is enough. I worked damn hard on restructuring it, and it’s finally as close to the book I hoped it would be as I can currently get. It might not be the breakout but that’s okay as long as someone besides me likes it. And let’s face it; right now, even Baby Yoda-sized revenue is better than nothing.
Image: Disney/Forbes please don’t sue me lol
Off-topic, but you should go get Disney+ and watch The Mandalorian. Seriously, it rocks. The channel is worth it just for the access to Disney’s entire back catalog, plus Star Wars, MCU, and Pixar. No, I am not a shill; I just think it’s awesome.
You can get Tunerville on Amazon as an ebook (MOBI). The paperback is pending — there is no way I’m publishing it before I look at the proof. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can get the free app from Amazon and read it on your device.
Click on the cover below or visit the Buy Me! page or sidebar for a link.
Writers get stuck in creative ruts, just like any other artist. The best way to jump-start your brain is to do something new. You can experiment with form or a different point of view. You can try a new genre. Or you can make up a language!
So you know I’ve finished Book 2 in The Trilogy That No One Wants. The first book, Tunerville, is a contemporary fantasy that involves ghosts. I don’t want to spoil (just in case), but I’ve taken my character a little further than his backyard.
I mentioned in the marshmallow post (I need more of those) that I was creating a conlang. Did I confuse you? Do you have questions? I shall answer them.
What the hell’s a conlang?
Conlang is short for constructed language, one in which phonology, grammar, and vocabulary have been created rather than developing naturally.
Famous examples include auxiliary conlangs (auxlangs) like Esperanto and Lingua Franca Nova. Most people consider artistic languages (artlangs) created for fictional universes, such as Dothraki and Valryian (Game of Thrones), Klingon (Star Trek), and the various languages J. R. R. Tolkien created, around which he wrote The Lord of the Rings, as the typical conlang.
A priori languages aren’t based on any others. Most artistic languages fall under this category, as do auxlangs. A posteriori languages, like mine, are borrowed from or based on existing tongues.
How in hell do you do this?
I started with some typos from my music friends chat room that weirdly resembled Scottish Gaelic (no, really) and based the structure on Welsh. The latter has very little in the way of exceptions to its pronunciation and grammar rules, unlike English. I don’t speak it, but I looked into it before a trip to Wales, and it’s not that difficult.
The double-l in Welsh does not have an equivalent sound in English. It’s hissed a little bit — put your tongue on the roof of your mouth and say “L”. Similarly, a conlang that isn’t based on your native language can lack sounds common to yours or contain some yours doesn’t. If you decide that your fictional speakers aren’t human, it definitely will.
My conlang doesn’t have a name currently because I’m still trying to think up place names for its setting. All the phonemes are in place (unless I change them later), and I’ve left out a couple of letters, so it’s not a carbon copy of either Welsh or English. As for syntax, it’s still a bit iffy yet.
Writer Kristin Kieffer points out in this blog post (see Tip #2) that all the things you think about when worldbuilding will apply to your conlang. A future civilization that grows food exclusively via hydroponics probably wouldn’t have a word for plow. A culture who loves elaborate ritual will have long phrases and lots of modifiers.
David J. Peterson has a great book for conlangers called The Art of Language Invention. Another fantastic resource is Mark Rosenfelder’s The Language Construction Kit. I’ve dropped a companion web page below in links. Both are available at Amazon; the Kindle edition of Mark’s book is the full text.
There’s a program called Vulgar that will create a language for you; I’ve held off, but I might end up using it as an assist because making up root words and all their derivations is harrrrrrd.
Why in hell would you do this?
Tons of reasons. Creators of auxlangs generally intend them to be used by real-world speakers. For example, Esperanto was developed to facilitate international communication. Codes are also conlangs; they provide ways of shortening or encrypting language to obscure communication (cryptography), make it faster (shorthand) or make it understandable when speaking isn’t possible (semaphore). They also let people tell machines what to do (computer languages).
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Artlangs can lend depth to fictional worlds. For the television adaptation of Game of Thrones, David J. Peterson created the Dothraki and Valyrian languages off the basics in George R.R. Martin’s books.
And for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, they wanted the antagonists to have a full-blown language, so Klingon was developed by Marc Okrand from a few words James Doohan (Scotty) improvised during the original series. It’s comprehensive enough for Treknerds to actually speak it.
As with any kind of research or backstory, you’re better off using it judiciously rather than doing huge expository dumps and risking what I sometimes call the Jean Auel effect (bless her!). Her Earth’s Children series, which began with the Clan of the Cave Bear, had page upon page upon page of explanation of the food, clothing, toolmaking, etc. in the daily life of her prehistoric characters. I personally enjoyed it, but it can bog a story down.
Interestingly, Auel managed to come up with a highly developed sign language for her Neanderthal characters, which authenticated them according to the known research at the time of writing. Novelist Anthony Burgess and anthropologist Desmond Morris collaborated similarly for the largely non-verbal 1981 pre-historic film Quest for Fire.
While this performed splendidly for those works, some writers and critics don’t find a comprehensive conlang necessary for immersion in a fantasy world and claim it can even be distracting. Perhaps, but if you do decide to include it, it should have more consistency than just random gibberish. A smattering of words and phrases can be enough, although that doesn’t count as a true conlang.
Stephen King’s characters in The Dark Tower spoke a dual dialect known as Low Speech, Mid-World’s common tongue, and High Speech, a ritualized and formal language only used by gunslingers. While King didn’t take the trouble to create a whole language, the lexicon enhances the setting quite well. We know we’re not in Keystone Earth (our world) when people are talking both in the ka-tet’s present and Roland’s past.
High Speech also has an alphabet, in a font called Hoefler Text Ornaments Regular, which you can download. If I were to write “Hello my name is Elizabeth” in High Speech, it would look like this:
You don’t have to go this far, although I might because, while complicated, worldbuilding is also FUN.
Will my conlang become a full-blown, usable tongue? Eh, who knows? I’ve never done this before, so it’s a challenge. I’m proud of myself for getting this far. I even invented words for cardinal and ordinal numbers that actually build on themselves and make sense. If nothing else, it forces me to think about setting in a new way, an excellent writing exercise regardless.
If you’re interested in reading more about conlanging, here are a few links.
The Language Creation Society
Hi everyone! I’m sorry for neglecting you. I’ve been busy, people.
Since I seem to have priced myself out of this job market and I’m sick of it here anyway, I put my house up for sale. I’ll be moving soon and staying with family in their city until I either find a job there or elsewhere (preferably elsewhere).
In other news, I started working on a conlang for Book 2 (more on that in a future post). I applied for a Hollywood development program with Tunerville. They didn’t select me, sadly. Oh well, there are other opportunities, no doubt. I haven’t given up on this story, although I’m working on new ideas.
Remember the Invasion project I ditched at the beginning of NaNoWriMo last autumn? It’s still kicking, and I’ve decided to see if I can develop it into a screenplay. I’ve got a lot to learn, but that’s okay. Learning new things is good for your brain.
Speaking of new things, my online friends Charles Winthrop and his partner, whom I met through the now-defunct Consumerist website, have created a candy business called Winthrop’s Whimsies. It’s very small and just starting out, but let me tell you, these folks work hard to bring a little sweetness to your day.
This is reflected in the product. They make their candies to order, by hand. As you can see, these are REAL marshmallows, handmade, and don’t conform to the industrial mass-produced shape you’re probably used to. They’re a little irregular, a little special, and tasty as all-get-out.
Disclosure: I did receive a free package of handmade marshmallows in my flavor choice to check out, and I’m happily leaving a review.
My pick, Black Raspberry, arrived in a sturdy cardboard box with “Keep me cool; I contain marshmallows!” written on the shipping label and fortunately delivered late yesterday, before today’s projected excessive heat could roast them. I got distracted by other things and didn’t open the package until this morning.
Inside, I found a plastic-lined paper envelope, which I ripped into eagerly.
I selected a piece and shoved it into my gob. Oh mah gaw.
It plunged me into a cloud of pillowy sweetness and an explosion of fruity, raspberry flavor. These are really, really good, y’all. I had to stop myself from gobbling the whole package.
Other flavors Winthrop’s Whimsies offer include Popcorn, Apple, Coffee, and a nod to their home state of Kentucky, Bourbon flavor (non-alcoholic). I haven’t tried those yet but I’ve heard they’re pretty good. I think the Vanilla marshmallow would be really good melting in a cup of cocoa. I want that one next.
The candies are made with natural extracts, so if you’re allergic to anything, you’ll need to take that into consideration. I am not, which means I can indulge across the board.
Though Winthrop’s Whimsies is not officially open yet, you can get the marshmallows online. This is a small business, just getting off the ground, and it’s just two people at the moment, so the website may seem a little sparse. They’re working on gummies and other kinds of candies. Expect more deliciousness in future.
If you have questions, see their FAQ here.
I’ll be back soon to talk about my conlang. I’ve never done anything like this before. Thank goodness I saved my college linguistics and grammar texts. A lot goes into constructing a language; I have new respect for the folks who worked on Game of Thrones and Star Trek, and of course, the granddaddy of conlangs, J. R. R.Tolkien.
It’s not. It’s really not.
I’m sure you all know about the no more adult content rule at Tumblr by now, so I won’t reiterate it in all its problematic and misogynistic glory (no female-presenting nipples, folks).
If no one is reading my Tumblr feed, I think I might delete it. Let me know either here or on this *last* Tumblr post. It’ll be up for a bit and if I get no response, there’s no point in keeping it. Or I might leave it just to keep control of my name, but I won’t be posting there.
Despite my vow not to get political here, I might now and then, if it’s warranted.
Book 2 is almost done. It’s up to 70K + words. I’m a little stuck, mostly because of physics crap I have no idea what I’m talking about — cue fillers like CHECKTHIS and LOOKITUP. But I’m trying to finish before Christmas so I don’t have to write while traveling (ugh).
In the meantime, I’ve gone to see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (GO SEE IT OMG). I wrote some notes during the film but read some excellent reviews already, including the one I’ve linked (MILD SPOILERS), so I decided not to add to them. Instead, just listen to my words and go see it.
And please join me in obsessively re-watching this highly anticipated trailer for Avengers: Endgame (OMG OMG OMG OMG OMGGGGGG), in theaters April 26.
Word count: 53. Just did a little tweaking today. I was very busy.
- I had a job interview.
- Rumpledneckskin completely lost it and distracted everybody.
- I went to an advance screening of the zombie film Overlord at Alamo Drafthouse. It was loads of fun. Of course, it had me at punching Nazis, haha. Gore level: Medium to medium-high. Might be triggering to veterans.
The Orange Mussolini’s attempts at obstruction of justice have set off a massive, nation-wide protest tomorrow at 5 p.m. local time. If you’d like to participate, find the Nobody is Above the Law website powered by MoveOn.org and enter your zip code to find an event near you.
I was going to embed the trailer for Overlord, but it basically shows the whole movie, so nah. If you’re a horror fan just go see it when it opens on November 9.