Dog Ear
Open Office (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 05 October 2017 00:00

ll writers face impediments. Nothing kills a writing career like a wife (and, eventually, children). It’s hard to hold the edge when someone’s dumping a load into their diapers. Not that I’m blaming them – there are plenty of other distractions. In older days, there was absinthe in Parisian cafes, whisky in run-down gin joints. And now (sadly) the world is now full of very petty distractions. Computer games, streaming TV, Iphones; you name it, it’s out there. Even I have too many things – cycling, astronomy, model railroading, game design – to write my passions. The world is more demanding and distracting.

And then there are the thermonuclear disruptions.

I’ve lost a lot of writing time (lunch time, specifically) to jogging. There will be more on a followup piece about this but in a nutshell I hurt my leg in that ridiculous pursuit and suddenly got some lunch hours back. I had so much to catch up on, some little commissions to write. Checked my schedule and I had time between a staff meeting that ended at noon and a scrum-of-scrum (yes, as dirty as it sounds) at 1pm. An hour of me-time.

Except that staff ran an extra 15 minutes due to gasbagging and windbragging. Honestly, people should be forced to write their dialog – maybe then they’d realize how wandering and repetitive most of what they say is.

Went down to the break room, found my favorite seat, booted up my tinytop. Haven’t run this thing since for the last two weeks (when I left it running in Word and the battery died). So, double clicked on my document and Word came up. Or tried to. It kinda hung, letting me know that it was reconfiguring office and it would take a few minutes. Grind grind grind. Twenty minutes later, the reinstall failed. I told it to try again and it ground away.

Now, the point is, why did Micro$oft feel the need to change anything? My computer was happy. My product was happy. The only time I go online is to unload stories. It’s a fixed and steady state. Or should have been. But now something was wrong with the tool and I was burning juice and minutes fussing around, trying to get it to run.

In the end I had to ditch the whole writing session, frustrated that I’d wasted one of my only chances to be creative in the day for administrative nonsense. Worse, now I wasn’t sure if I could get this to ever run again. I’d loaded Micro$oft office as part of a long-ago work offer and didn’t have the download anymore.

Came back to the desk, slumped into my chair, and listened to Scrummy nonsense. And while stewing over my lost storytelling, I realized I did have a backup plan. Open Office. I’d installed it ages ago (before letting Micro$oft onto my machine). I’d gone to Office only because Open Office’s Excel clone uses a completely different form of VBA and all my GridSims games wouldn’t work on it. Still, I booted it up with OO and it fired right up. There was my work. There was my story, all clean and ready for writing.

I’m writing more now. Going to write today at lunch. And the good news is OO is there to provide a simple (and non-grinding) solution to the simple task of writing. Eventually I suppose it will be Word that finds its way into the unused folder. For now, I’m productive again. And that’s good enough.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 October 2017 07:39
Evil (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 28 September 2017 00:00

f you are talking fictional motivation, nothing works better, plot- and story-wise, than being evil.

Two sea-faring examples: First, Ahab. A white whale he was attacking to drain it’s blubber and oil scars him and chomps a leg off. And now he’s angry at it in typical blame-the-victim fashion. And that’s well enough – it’s a great story that he is so driven that he sails the Pequod beyond both known waters and profit margins in his pursuit of a fish. Of course, we know how well his little rage works out, with the sole survivor floating on a coffin.

And then Nemo, who is hinted (as I remember) as being a disfranchised Indian prince (and who is pissed that the colonial powers rule over Indian peons and not him instead). So he’s taken his evil genius and built a nuclear powered ram which he’s using to hole every flag-carrying warship he can find. But  he goes down in a maelstrom so perhaps if he could have created a nuclear engine maybe he could have whipped up a good weather radar (or even a working barometer) too. But, yes, before the Nautilus sank with all hands, he did have a  fun run, breaking frigate keels while moodily hammering away on his pipe organ.

Well, like these madmen, I’ve suffered my own backstory recently. Saved a corporation millions and got not so much as a by-your-leave for it. And the gaming of my evaluation. And the run-ins with toxic coworkers. And then there was the scare over a possible degenerative disease. And then my beloved furry friend passed away. And then that goddamn storm of the century, so strong that it stripped shingles off my roof and would have taken out Nemo and his sub, no problems.

And then, finally, I took a vacation.

At which time I grew back my chin beard.

It’s tight and clean and trimmed, all salt and pepper. But now I can look at myself in the mirror and be the evil Robert Raymond. No longer do I have to be good and fair and compassionate. I’ve got a backstory now. And I’m finding it fun to not be helpful, not beyond my job description. And I don’t need to agree to everything. I can do what I want. And that’s nice.

On my bike, I’ll toss my finger. When the work creature tries to backstab me, it goes straight to the director. I’m done with being good and nice and helpful. Now I’m standing on the bridge of my emotions, laughing manically into the storm of life that whips around me, damning the eyes of all those who task me. Lawfully good characters have to live within bounds; I do not. I can do what I want and let loose my cynical nature and snide comments. I’ve been the good guy too long – let’s try out anti-heroics for a change.

None will oppose me. All will fear me.

And yes, someday I’ll shave this off and become myself once again.

But not yet.

Moo ha ha ha!


Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 September 2017 18:45
Political (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 21 September 2017 22:50

s a writer, you run a big risk if you are going to make a political statement in your book. Since politics tend to come down to one side or another and they usually break down 50/50 (as the sides grab up all the undeclared that they can (and cantankerous people such as myself naturally gravitate to the underdogs)), you’ll pretty much piss off half your potential market. Of course, you could come off as the darling of your side but you’ll also be cast as a dickhead by everyone else.

I got this the other night – I was hunting around a local bookstore (a chain, not an independent) and saw a book titled “Great Political thoughts of” followed by my contextual belief system.  Curious, I opened it up and found it contained nothing but blank pages. Wah wah waaaaah, as the saxophone says.

I’ve read a couple of books that came out insultingly opposed to my views. And it’s not that they propose alternative ideas or show the errors in my ways. It’s that they set up the other side as straw men (meaning the opposing sorts have simplistic viewpoints that make them easy to hate) which really pisses me off. Saw this in Live Free or Die, in which the hero is a strong fellow standing against an alien invasion and he doesn’t care that part of the country might be obliterated since it contains people from the other political side. Michael Crichton did the same stunt in one of his novels, where the straw man is a sniveling coward who is eventually eaten by the indigenous people he ineptly champions. I mean, at least when Carl Hiaasen does it, his straw men are racist bigot tire-biters and low life city scum. After all, what’s not to hate?

So, yes, there is a danger in alienating readers. In this case, while looking at this blank book and its drool one-pony trick, there was only one thing I could do. I put it back on the shelf where I’d gotten it. Upside down. And backwards. Let’s see any passing people take an interest in the casual glance game that shelf-selling is all about.

So don’t piss me off.


Scared Shitless (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 13 September 2017 19:37

Scared Shitless (DOG EAR)

p until the 50s, heroes were never scared. When faced with a wave a Zulus or an airship unraveling beneath their boots, heroes would clench their lantern jaws (whatever that means), tighten their fingers around their bold-action rifles and think of England. But never, never ever were they scared.

In the 60s, Louis L’Amour would occasionally mention fear in his stories, but it was usually the secondary character chattering his teeth while the blunt hero would tell him it was natural to be frightened. Not that we’d witness the hero’s own fears, just that he would admit to them.

For me, being scared was last Sunday night when Irma came up the west coast of Florida. This super storm was churning its way north, its size spanning the state. No place was safe. The last report we had from the TV was that it’s Northwestern track up the Florida western coast had shifted and now it was closing with Orlando and ready to strike it with that deadly forward-right scythe that all hurricanes have. Then the winds rose outside, blasts that buffeted the house. The power went out, the router went down, and we were cut off in the darkness.

We followed through with our plan to huddle in the center hall of the house, all the doors closed. And what a long night that made as we tried to sleep while Irma tried to tear its way in. Wind came through the floorboards and I wondered if any moment would be my last. At one point I woke up from a haunted sleep to hear that “freight train” noise everyone always says they hear right before a tornado hits. Even the wife woke up and we both looked at the roof, listening to it thunder past.

And that’s terrifying. I remember sweat on my forehead, my heart pounding, my tongue dry. I waited for the boom and crash of a collapsing house but none came. Eventually 3pm rolled past as well as the worst of the storm. We went to the bedroom and collapsed, falling into deep sleeps that the storm couldn’t rouse us from until 8am. Outside of some shingle damage, a dropped section of fence (my neighbor’s concern) and two big chunks of branches I’ll need a chainsaw to cut clear, we’re okay.

But yes, that was scared. Not heroic-scared, but a U-boat crew getting depth-charged scared, the fear of blind helplessness.

I was going to say that nobody every touched on total fear like this. However, I can think of two examples in modern (realistic) literature where they do. Catch-22, with Yossarian as a terrified bombardier in World War Two, flying his ever-increasing mission count with white-knuckled panic. And then, there is Harry Flashman of the Flashman series, who openly admits to cowardice and dies those thousand deaths for our amusement. And yes, it comes across as funny but the main character does relate being scared, as scared as scared can be (and he knows this, having faced everything from Chinese Boxers to Apache warriors). So credit where credit is due – a least some writers still know how to relate to human emotion including the terror of death and the end of everything.

Hurricane Charlie made me write Indigo, a story where crows battle in the face of that storm. But Irma scared me so bad I just want to forget it. I never want to relive that experience again.

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 September 2017 21:56

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