Dog Ear
Moon Scout (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 09 February 2017 00:00

as engaged in one of my more relaxing hobbies, astronomy, the other night. While waiting for Orion to come up (so I could look under his belt – I’m a nasty man) I swung the barrel on the moon. Always a favorite place to see things, and I really wanted to try out my new eyepieces.

Okay, so I know there are astronomers with big trench-mortar tubes that can see that golf ball  Alan Shepard whacked. Very good. But with my new eyepiece giving me a CLEAR view at 120x (a big improvement), I can see things pretty well lunar-wise. With serendipitous luck, I swung onto the moon and nailed my favorite place of all, the round Sea of Crisis.

A year or so back, I was looking at the moon and thinking of an old story I’d written and considered a rewrite. Imagine a younger moon (three billion years younger) with silvery plants and glass-smooth stony seas and steampunk pursuit all the way across its visible face, from its Southwest to the Northeast. And what better place to end than the Sea of Crisis, so remarkably named for this sort of thing.

So I was picturing a lonely sea, with hard-to-find access that would allow the hero and heroine to hide. But how to get in there? Yet as I sat on my stool examining the actual landscape, I could see the world as it would be in my story. It centers on the so-called Second Empire, the First having come apart in some sort of high-tech calamity that left this small world cratered. I’ve only hinted at this. So far, outside of a section of standing fuse-stone bridge (the likes of which are impossible for this new empire to understand), there is little about the calamity that crashed that first civilization. In the final section, I wanted to give some sort of proof, to confirm what I’d hinted at. And looking down my focal length, I had my answer.

I could clearly see the way they’d approach from (from the left). The Sea of Crisis is along the top of the picture, a nice ringed “sea” with zillions of hidyholes. And the approach?

You see that rough area that speckles the “sea” – perhaps it’s a reed field hundreds of miles across. And the crater at the sea-side tip – I can easily envision a ruined port city, melted and silent since the fall of the First Empire. Gliding through this on their little runner-boat, our heroes discover a crude channel of sorts that runs through the impenetrable growth. Pushing onwards, they reach the low ridge that rings Crisis. Could there be a passage through, some sort of old ramp-step system the ancients employed? I haven’t figured the full details yet, but just looking at it in the middle of the night, I got a sense of lost ruins, of the perfect place to slip a boat into, and the undiscovered sea beyond.

H.G. Wells noted that while writing War of the Worlds, he bicycled about south-eastern England, looking for “people and places suitable for destruction”. And that’s what I’ve found here – a lonely landscape of hissing reeds and slagged cities, a haunting places for my heroes to hide.

Until they are found.

And that’s another story.


Last Updated on Friday, 10 February 2017 23:08
A charm (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 02 February 2017 00:00

eah, third time.

Was relaxing on my vacation. Woke up and thought, I just finished that Orion Nebula book. Need to knock out a review before I forget too much.

What could be nicer, more "writery" than to sit in a side bedroom looking at rain and sea and write a wonderful review? I just needed a tweed jacket and I'd be set. The cat even curled up on my lap.

So, wrote out a brilliant first two paragraphs, describing the first time I'd seen the nebula with my scope. What was that big orange star called? Like bug-juice something-r-other? Yeah, Michael Keaton even made a movie about it. But how is it spelled? Thankfully with the internet that's right at your fingertips. Typed in Orion and got a couple of pages that denoted Betelgeuse, yeah, just like that.

Except I'd used the same window I was accessing my site on. When I back-arrowed to it, the page was still in place but the text was gone.


So I sat down and rewrote it. This isn't a bad thing, I comforted myself with. Often coding or writing is better on the second draft. You're a writer. You can beat these things.

So, finally, all finished. Went to save it off and the categories seemed funky. Clicked save, went back to the Article Manager. Nothing there. I could actually type Orion in the search window and see my late article referenced but Joomla had lost it. I looked high and low, but it would seem that simply returning to the page via back-arrow didn't mean I was actually all hooked up to the website. And all that newer, better writing? Gone.


I really didn't want to do this a third time. Instead, I wrote a letter to a friend, walked around for a bit, played with the cat (who, frankly, didn't want to be played with). Finally I sat down. Like eating a plate of cold porridge, I struggled through the third rewrite (saving every paragraph off and getting out into the Manager to make sure it was there). Finally, carefully, painstakingly, I got it in and set for it's Sunday debut (next Sunday, in fact). It was done. Whew.

And that's writing, real writing. Not comfy chairs and warm cats and easy prose. It's writing something over and over until you are sick of it, drafts and revisions and rewrites. And it's the self-pressure to keep pushing, even when a wet walk on the beach looks a lot nicer by comparison. But that's what it takes to get your copy out, a full-field effort.

Watch for it Sunday.


Last Updated on Thursday, 02 February 2017 12:01
Quiet (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 26 January 2017 00:00

eaders and their writers (or is that the other way round?) share two things in common.

First off, they create imaginary places peopled by characters. As a work is written and as it is read, these phantomtastical realms slowly form. Interestingly, they are different for different people. I’m sure that the image a writer holds while creating a moment is different from what the reader experiences in the read. And that’s fine. Really, as long as point and plot are met, who cares if the hero looks like Brad Pitt, Ricardo Montalban or that boy you dated in high school? Whatever works.

The second thing in common is the respect that others give us our quiet zone as we interact with our books.

Ha ha ha ha ha.

Yeah, right.

Here where I work, we have a fine breakroom. And since all my yuppie coworkers are generally eating at fern bars or grimly refueling at their desks, it’s generally mine. So, either with my writing laptop or my current novel, I’ve got a quiet place to hang out, to eat my lunch and enjoy places beyond those which I inhabit.

Unless someone shows up.

Then, suddenly, it’s not so quiet. A person writing or reading is apparently a soul crying out for companionship, a bookworm nerd needing rescue. Reading or writing, whatever, it’s silent contemplation and hence fair game. These folks will generally sit half-a-room away and ask questions about my focus in carrying voices, an echoing half-bellow, derivations of “Whatcha reading?” or “whatcha writing?” Man, why ask? At this moment, I’m so deep it’s a painful rip to come back into the real world.

It’s that collective thing, that grouping instinct that humans have. Sometimes my wife and I will be in the corner of an empty restaurant, just enjoying quiet companionship, and a family with god-knows-how-many DNA-launches come in, to settle with all their toys and iPhones and noise and confusion in the table right next to us. Or driving in the quiet night, only to have a car passed suddenly gravitate to mine, loosely clinging to me, a captive moon. People group. People bunch. And so if there are two people sitting in a break room, especially with the tentative social connectivity work affords, the one beached in reality is going to bother the one swimming in the cool depths of the imagination. They are going to want to talk about media that has nothing to do with our current focus, something on Netflix, in theaters, perhaps the latest StarWars knockoff.

They think, possibly at some deeper level, that they are saving us from ourselves, that we pine for contact and conversation and sulk in our lonely worlds. But no, quite the opposite. We’re the ones with rich and amazing lives, places new and stunning and full – we aren’t the ones seeking human contact; they are. And so they latch onto us with the coils of social nicety and convention.

When this happens, don’t fight it. Don’t divide your time between your story and them. Accept it – once they are pests, they will remain pests (for to grow silent, for them, is to admit their own slide into the uncomfortable realm of silence). Don’t ruin your art by multitasking it into stuttering low-bandwidth awareness. Just close the book. Shut down the word processor. If you must, sigh. And focus on their little stunted world.

After all, you can always return to Camelot once they leave.

Just resolve to find a new place to lunch. A more secluded, private place.


Fate (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 19 January 2017 00:00

've mentioned before the sad story of my professional literary arch. If you don't recall it, let's do it again. It's a tale near and dear to my heart.

Anyway, had an agent who placed Fire and Bronze with a publisher. Everything was going great. Had the final proofs in. Looking on their site, they were already putting out information about my book, billing me as their "rising star of historic fiction". Wonderful! My agent noted that they wanted more historical fiction from me and so I started putting together Wenamon, a project I had a real interest in. It was a gem of a historic tale, one that would be wonderful and funny and sad and exciting, all in one go. Plowed into that, and even had an idea of a series bubbling in my head. A quarter of the novel was prepped, I forwarded it to the agent to send over for a first review by the publishers, and I was getting photos from friends of my book apprearing on store shelves. Exciting times.

But I didn't hear back about Wenamon. And I didn't seem to be getting royalties. So I posted my agent. Posted him again. Finally called.

Found out the publisher - it was a small house - had died in a traffic accident on the way to his synagogue. And the publishing house was going bankrupt. An all the titles were being sold off. And I was out in the cold.

Horrible, yes, but I'd still archived my goal - still made it to the shelves (for free, dammit).

The reason I recount this tale is that I was having lunch with an old friend the other day, a musician who drifted down to Mexico and took up with various bands there, traveling about, playing small gigs, trying to find a place for himself in the world. He told me (and, B, forgive me if I tell this wrong) that he suffered pretty much the same fate. His band had contacted a record company down there to happily find that the record company was aware of them and interested in them. Happy days! My friend was on the way! He was going to be a ROCK STAR!!!!!

And then there was some sort of currency hemorrhage, one of those artificial things governments sometimes do. The economy went south - poof - and the label went bankrupt. And there my friend stood with a handful of cooling dreams and not a peso from the deal.

He's still in music (and I'm still in writing) maneuvering around on the edges, doing it for a little money and for the love of it. Because that's what artists do. Sure, only one in a hundred artists ever make anything like a living at this. The world is fell of people selling paintings in coffee houses, busking at curbside, self-publishing books and flogging YouTubes. It's what we do. If you are an artist and you gauge yourself by anything other than the pleasure it brings you, you are actually a merchant, trying to take raw material and convert it to money. That's not to say that artists don't seek success, money and fame in their efforts. No, not at all - I'd love the limos, the signings, the movie deals and the groupies. But wishing is one thing, producing is another. And that's what we do - we keep the creative spirit alive and keep our vision high, trying to combine personal and societal success.

Keep at it. If only for the sake of "it"!


Last Updated on Monday, 02 January 2017 09:31

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