Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Had a pretty good creative spurt

Today's count: 2233 words, just over eight pages.

Doesn't actually make up for the days I skipped for the holidays, but it does put me closer to my self-imposed January deadline.

If I have another day like this tomorrow, I will break 70,000 words for Heritage Fields. Heck, if I keep this up I will finish the first draft by the first week of January. But lets not get ahead of ourselves. CES is next week and that will likely cause all sorts of problems for my fiction writing schedule.

Massive editing will ensue immediately after I'm done. And the hardcore pitching follow shortly after.

Must not forget to register for the Liberty States Fiction Writers conference. That's in March (I think). If I don't have this book in good shape by then... well I just WILL! DANG IT!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sooooo close...

Hitting the road to Virginia tomorrow. Taking Mom down to see the Toomer family and their kids. I expect there will be many photos and videos taken over Christmas. Be prepared for an overload of cute that my nephews will supply.

Don't worry, Dave. I will be back in time for your wedding on Sunday.

If it was warmer, I'd be tempted to give Fredricksburg another look. It is along the way. But I don't think I will trouble Mom with such a pit stop.

Unfortunately I won't be able to pick another bottle of Tobacco Road Blues from Tomahawk Mill Vineyard. Chatham is like three hours away from Richmond. Maybe I will find some in the stores near Richmond, cross your fingers. Tobacco Road is a red blend I became fond of during my last trip to Virginia and I've only got one bottle left.

It will be nice to get away for a bit again and see them country folks in Virginia ;-)

I wonder if they'll let me do some baking while I'm down there... not that I need to eat any more desserts! But it will be Christmas after all.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

In the spirit of all the winter holidays...

Social networking lets us spend a ridiculous amount of time talking about the funny tricks our pets do or the shiny new MacGuffins that our lives revolve around.

Facebook, Twitter, blogging are all fun but these forums can grow into highly impersonal communications among friends and family. Therefore, I'm posing a challenge to everyone.

Go through your lists of friends, followers, buddies, etc. and send as many people as you can a quick personal greeting during the winter holidays that addresses them individually by name.

Don't tell yourself "I'll talk to that person some other time." Don't do that.

I'd like everyone to try going beyond the mass emails and the status updates. You don't have to write each person a 10-page letter demanding the $8.23 they borrowed in 1997 or reveal that you were really the one who broke Great Aunt Millie's chafing-dish. Just say something that takes a few moments of thought.

Doesn't matter if you tie it to a particular holiday or not, just send your greetings out by New Year's Eve.

I just think we all need a little more personal boosting this year and it starts by making good on these virtual connections we keep. Let's all start 2010 with more cheer in our day.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Another chapter, a new wrinkle

About to finish a new chapter and there is blood on the floor. I whacked a character I thought I might have kept around longer... but in the end I suppose it's all to feed the engine of drama.

And now I've put some characters who had been otherwise innocent in harms way.

Three cheers for a moral dilemma!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sometimes Christmas comes early

Had the opportunity tonight to see someone special I've not laid eyes on in far, far too long. We'd meet up more often if it were up to me, but that's wishing for too much. It was a good time though, wonderful to hear how things are.

It was nice how the conversation could shift from life working in the news media to family then wine and then comic books and superheroes. All the important things! I got a little hyper talking about superheroes but that is to be expected with me.

Yeah it was a good night, an early Christmas gift in a manner of speaking. It was good to have a reason to laugh good and hard again. I miss having such times, discussing such things, but then you have to get back to the grind of the day.

At one point I said: "I pretty much spend my time at work, go walk my Mom's dogs then come home to write some more." Never realized how blah that sounds until I said it out loud.

I know, that's been my own choice. I'm trying hard to get Heritage Fields finished by next month. Then I can celebrate.

But I think I will take some more breaks from my labors. I'm likely to burnout otherwise. Will hit up some opera in the coming months.

There's nothing else I want to see this season at the NYC Opera so I think it's time I went over to the big house: The Met!

Perhaps "Turandot" or "La Boheme". I think that will be a nice jump start to 2010. Perhaps Turandot will win out and give me the chance to hear Nessun Dorma live. Now THAT is something to get your blood rushing.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

As of today I have reached out to all the agents I met at the SFWA reception just prior to Thanksgiving. Just like any other form of networking and opportunity seeking, there are no guarantees.

It's not that easy to promote yourself, especially when your day job is to cut through the fluff!

I was reluctant to pitch Riding Ten Thunders since I want put time in editing it after I get Heritage Fields wrapped.

But I should not sit on a finished manuscript. That's just silly.

So here is my latest pitch:

"Riding Ten Thunders" is the first installment of a potential African-themed fantasy series about a war fought by boys over the remains of a fallen empire. Jagantha threatens the life of a kinsman in order to protect his brother when a feud erupts anew over a cache of ivory. His actions stir jealous spirits and gods eager to be worshipped again though some want to break the war cycle.

The story shares some similarities with “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Lord of the Flies”.


So yeah... that's the pitch I sent today.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Now we are in the doldrums between the holidays

The Thanksgiving turkey has been carved up and now we commence the march the year ending holidays.

Figure I will try to do something extra special with Mom for Christmas. There had been talk of going down to Virginia to visit Melody and her family but nothing has been finalized.

New Year's Eve poses yet another question. I don't want to spend a lot of cash running around. Last year's venture into Manhattan was a good time but mostly because of the groovy folks I was hanging with.

I dunno. I'll be in Vegas the week after. You can follow along my other blog for the play-by-play from the Consumer Electronics Show.

I know there is plenty going on for New Year's. I just have to plant my feet someplace and see what happens. :-)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving thanks . . .

I give thanks to my Mother for being strong yet remaining sweet through these difficult months. Ever the smiling one who believes absolutely in the goodness of others, I've learned kindness and patience through your example.

I give thanks to my Father. I shall carry your story forward and make sure the tales of South Eleventh Street, Newark are known far and wide. Someday I shall tell you how my own story turned out.

I give thanks to those whose names are etched in marble memorials, who sacrificed all for the sake of their families, neighbors and country.

I give thanks to my sisters, who at various stages in my life have been teachers and tormentors. ;-) That's what your big sisters are for. My love of fantasy and science fiction began with being read mythology as a small boy. Had I not been told of Perseus fighting the Medusa, Odysseus and the Cyclops I might never have found this road I now walk.

I give thanks to my nephews, who are the best audience a silly guy like me can have. Don't grow up too fast otherwise you will stop thinking I am cool. Remember... your uncle is a superhero who fights ninjas with a lightsaber.

I give thanks for dogs riding in cars with their heads out the window, catching the breeze. If ever there was a metaphor for happiness, that is it!

I give thanks to the guys who were not born as my brothers but have become my brothers in life. You looked out for me when I was at my lowest and helped me stand up straight again.

I give thanks to every teacher I ever had and teachers the world over. No child can grow and evolve without your guidance. Humanity is an engine of learning and we all have much more "homework" to do.

I give thanks Lt. Col. Wardle and SMSgt. Evans for giving me focus through high school and beyond. I am at my best when I remember the leadership skills you taught me.

I give thanks to George Taber and Don Wilson, who took a chance on guy who knew nothing about the news industry and gave me the chance to learn this craft.

I give thanks to Steve B. and Eric T. who created a playing field where imagination took shape (with creative use of plumbing supplies) beyond tabletop games and computer screens.

I give thanks to everyone whose ever drawn swords with some sad looking mime named Jaggereth Wren and waged war against the monsters of the abyss but especially my old crew, the Drehkindrah: "We kill our enemies, cut off their @#$! and put them in jars!"

I give thanks to my friends old and new (who have NO IDEA what the hell that last quote means). Do not let time and distance steal away the smiles we have shared.

I give thanks to J. R. R. Tolkien and George R. R. Martin. One day, gentlemen, my books will share shelf space with you.

I give thanks to Sean Bean and Peter Jackson for making me cry every time I watch Boromir make his stand at Amon Hen.

I give thanks to everyone I've ever loved and those who have loved me back. Caring for others is the greatest expression of who we are. I don't always get it right, made some big mistakes, but I endeavor to make you proud to have known me.

This holiday, may your table be plentiful with family and friends for it is the joy of togetherness that feeds our souls.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sometimes you stumble into opportunity

A chance conversation about writing got my brain working the other day. I've been so focused on the labor of the craft lately I was ignoring the business of it.

At the last minute I came across the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association annual reception and signed up. I met a agents, editors and other writers at Planet Hollywood last night. Exchanged information and promised to send my work over. No guarantees but meeting in-person can improve your chances of at least getting a solid read by an agent or editor.

Time to get edits done on Riding Ten Thunders and wrap up Heritage Fields then do some serious pitching!

Friday, November 20, 2009

I like spooky looking things


On my way home from a tech demo at Hammerstein Ballroom , I caught this view of the Empire State Building.
My camera doesn't quite capture the absolute eerie effect of the skyscraper shining through the shroud of misty clouds... but it made me think of otherworldy fog and gargoyles swooping across the night sky.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The importance of knowing each other's stories

Rushia led an exciting and dynamic life, but it's a deeper loss that I don't know more of it. She was my great-aunt, sister to my father's mother. But my Dad had a bad habit of not sharing a lot of such details. So as a kid I simply called her "Aunt Rushia" having no clue exactly how this nice lady was my aunt.

Growing up, our extended family would gather at Rushia and her husband Levy's house for parties and BBQs. When you're a kid running around with your cousins, you don't pay too much attention to what the grownups are saying. You don't know how important it will be later to know the places they have walked, the times they have seen. But I do remember Rushia's sassy sense of humor, her sense of style and sharp words when crossed.

I've got some bits and pieces, things gleaned from the recording of father. I will ask my mother to share more. But it is deeply troubling to me that I did not start asking questions of the past until after Rushia was not able to share her own story.

In her time, she looked after my father and his siblings after their own mother passed. She made lifelong friends who she continued to pal around with until time itself made it too difficult for her.

Rushia's a major fixture of the family that grew up on Tyler Street in Newark. She saw their hard times and joys. The fact that she outlived three of those Tyler Street "kids" gives a hint of her own history.

I never captured Rushia's story, rather mad I took too long to think of it. These past years she wasn't able to engage in much conversation. You have to act when you have the opportunity, don't wait till later. Trouble is, the younger you are, the less likely you are to ask questions and listen.

Speaking to the elder generation can make people uncomfortable. We want to embrace our own youth so badly and talking with our forerunners can shakeup our sense of personal immortality.

So here is my request, my challenge to you all, especially those who have started families of your own: Keep all of your stories alive. Every skinned knee and every birthday candle. Keep a journal. Write a blog. Pour every recollection of these times you are living into the minds of those who shall follow you.

Turn even the small things you love, such as the perfection of peanut butter slathered on a slice of a Granny Smith apple paired with a glass of Riesling, into memories for the "youngins" running around now. Share some knee-slapping stories other people can tell about you.

We have the tools to communicate, share and understand each other better these days. But we still have to take time to tell our tales... and to listen.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The infamous "C" word

COMPROMISE (what did you think I was gonna say?)

A lot of people despise compromise. It can make your skin crawl if you see compromise as surrender.

I was listening to a radio show on my drive home the other night and the topic was about people who refuse to compromise in relationships.

One of the callers said she was married with three kids with a husband who refuses to compromise and the regret in her voice made me sad. She sounded strong, yet very frustrated from dealing with it. She warned others to get out while they can.

Now there are many things one can rattle off that you should not compromise about: Never let anyone abuse you. Not ever. No hitting, no insults. None of it. That's a given.

However you both have to play by the same rules.

If you demand something, don't be surprised if you get treated the same way back.

Some folks are hard pressed to say they are sorry. A guy I used to work with several years ago had a girlfriend who said the following to him: "Once you realize I'm always right, everything will be fine." She wasn't kidding. They eventually parted ways.

I think people confuse this with being confident. You can debate, argue, etc. but if someone digs in and refuses to budge, you are no longer having a conversation.

Even if you become equally uncompromising, it will likely be met with a shrug and a perfunctory "Fine, whatever" in response.

I can list a few personal rules I am not willing to budge from: No cigarettes or illegal drugs of any kind, etc. But that's not the same as someone stomping their foot and saying "Do what I say, or else!" I could list a number of ultimatums I have stared down over the years and they always came with a heavy amount of hypocrisy.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Alas, the Comfort Food holiday feast...

Seems like there is way too much happening this holiday season with other parties and whatnot. So I guess there will be no Comfort Food feast at The Dojo.

There's not much you can do when everyone's calendar is so crowded. But I will still be in the kitchen cooking and baking. This year I am going to make a few pies and maybe get around to that homemade, high octane eggnog. The rum and whiskey are still in the cupboard. Or perhaps there will be some mulled wine.

And of course there are my favs to make from scratch: double-peanut butter brownies, chocolate morsel cookies, and lets not forget about the creme brulee torch!

So no, there shall be no slowly roasting meats awaiting my carving knife. No dollops of stuffing, candied yams or cranberry sauce to pile high on your plates.

Gentlemen and ladies, there shall be no such gathering this year with refreshing beverages being uncorked and Belgian waffles the morning after.

But I sure as heck will taunt you with photos!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I should be quarantined

Not that I have frequent visitors at The Dojo. But yeah, I feel like I tried swallowing an iron pine comb. Looks like I will have to keep my big mouth shut as my throat heals.

I have a broad assortment of meds, I was raised by a pharmacist you know.

This does make it hard to work on the book. Coherency can be a struggle when medicated. Nonetheless, I shall forge ahead.

Speaking of books, I gave a look at a few bestselling chic lit books on the market, knowing I am NOT the intended audience but wanting to see the style of writing that grabs editors' attention.

That was very silly of me.

I am writing for a totally different market and must not let myself be distracted by trends involving a different demographic of reader. So it really doesn't matter that angsty-vampire romances are hot. That's not my audience.

However, Heritage Fields must have broad appeal or no one will want to publish it. So there is something to be learned about attracting readers.

I will get as many pages done as possible tonight before I pass out.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Last day in New Orleans

I've seen much more of the city this time around than my first experience many years ago. The narrow nearness of the French Quarter caught my attention upon my arrival. This part of town has its own close intimacy. The blocks are small, easy to traverse. Go tromping along a midtown Manhattan block and you'll see the difference.

The tour through the city took us to parts left unrepaired from Hurricane Katrina, areas that are far from the tourist candy land of the French Quarter. Grass has grown over the vacant lots where houses once stood. I took some photos, shot some video. Yes, it's been some four years since Katrina struck and the effects are still quite present and in many cases permanent.

I was surprised by St. Charles Ave. Mardi Gras beads draped on tree branches as well as on the trolley car cables that bisect traffic on the street. At one end of St. Charles you have Tulane University and LSU followed by million dollar pillared manses built in the Romanesque and Victorian styles. As you approach the business district though, large apartment buildings emerge on plots where more mansions once stood.

There is much more to say, but I think I can sum up my visit this way: New Orleans is a collision of culture, history and people perched on the cusp of the gulf. Old southern tradition, youthful libertines, the salt of the earth working to build a better tomorrow for themselves and the visitors drawn from around the world. New Orleans is many things, but I'm just a visitor passing through. I'm tempted to make a romantic analogy about the city holding hidden charm like the simple wonder of music in Preservation Hall with its stripped down walls and ceiling fans. But that would imply I know what the heck I am talking about.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Getting ready to fly

In about 12 hours I will be in New Orleans. It's supposed to be pretty warm though there's going to be scattered storms when I arrive and again Friday afternoon. That's when I will be on a bus tour of the city. Awesome timing, JP.

It will be hot and humid the first two days and I packed appropriately. Then the temps are supposed to drop like 20 degrees for Saturday. At least I won't be sweating bullets on Halloween.

I decided to skip the evening riverboat. It was becoming a very tour-heavy schedule and the weather might not cooperate Friday night.

I will see parts of the city still suffering from Hurricane Katrina. Some of the proceeds from the tour go to relief efforts. I had misgivings about taking such a tour, concerned it would be inappropriate and voyeuristic. But would it be better to simply stay in the French Quarter the entire time and act like the rest of the city is not hurting?

I expect plenty of revelry over the weekend, I'm staying one block from Bourbon Street. It's a good thing I was eating salad these past few days because I'm sure I will do some damage at the local restaurants. Maybe I'll return with some new recipe ideas.

This trip is a writing retreat for me, I won't be tromping around The Quarter the entire time. Might do a little bit of blogging, but you may have to wait to hear about this trip after I return.

That's it for now, got some last minute things to attend to.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Writers conference in March!

Going to register for the Liberty States Fiction Writers conference

http://www.libertystatesfictionwriters.com/lsf-writers-conference/

I will have Heritage Fields done and polished by then. First draft is drawing closer to completion with November as my deadline (REALLY). I'm writing short to make the story move. It's the best way to kill my bad habit of padding the page. So at most the first draft will be 80,000 words.

I write more dialogue these days with just a bit of tagging to keep the blocking straight. It's like writing a screenplay or rather thinking about one.

Anyway, finishing Heritage Fields in November will give me plenty of time to revise and rewrite, put together my pitch for the editors and agents at the conference.

With this one done, I may go back to start the rewrites of Riding Ten Thunders. I think I set that one aside long enough and can approach it with brand new eyes.

Having an objective, something definitive to work toward, keeps things going. And next week's trip to New Orleans should give me some new energy. Maybe I will catch a ghost on camera or record an EVP. I'm guessing there will plenty of vampires for me to trip over while in town.

It's been a long time since my first visit to New Orleans (only been once before) and that city has been through a lot since those days. I'll try to blog while I'm down there.

Maybe I shouldn't be a vampire this Halloween, I am sure it is overplayed down there. Maybe I could go as Baron Samedi... hmmm. Time to crack open my books on Vodou!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pepper is doing just fine

She seems to be back to her old tricks which means reminding Paulie that she's the boss.

A month ago she seemed to be at the end of the road. But after her surgery, she is back to business.


No special tricks, no hilarious moments. Just a couple of dogs being out f or the day.


And of course Paulie deserves some screen time too...


Monday, September 21, 2009

The toast... :-)

Almost forgot! Here was my toast to Mr. & Mrs. Hasani Davis. This is how I wrote it, though it came out a little different when I spoke (nerves and such):

I have known Hasani for many years and he is the sort of man who immediately welcomes you into his company. Set him in a room full of strangers and he brightens each new face with cheer, draws out thundering laughter that echoes for hours and before he leaves he has embraced you as a brother. Afterwards, if Hasani sees a friend in need, he reacts without hesitation.

These are qualities we must all applaud.

Hasani, today you are the hero who has found his lady fair, you are a king who has married his queen. And such a queen you have found.

Banke, your husband speaks of you at every opportunity with praise and pride. You are a gracious, fine, strong woman who has brought Hasani joy without measure. You bring healing with your heart as well as with your hands.

And these are qualities we must all applaud. Now let us all raise our glasses.

Hasani & Banke, together you shall render mountains into level green fields, straighten every road and each morning the sky shall shine bright blue for you have arrived at your garden of joy. Cheers!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

You never know when you need that tuxedo in the closet...

It's been a lovely weekend first with the birth of my newest nephew Jaiden (insert three more middle names I cannot spell at the moment) and participating in Banke & Hasani's wedding.



Jaiden, son of my sister Melody and her husband Joseph, I look forward to seeing you soon. Eight pounds, geeez you're a little linebacker! I will learn to spell all your names, little man... but you can expect to get a special nickname from me just like your big brothers, Joshua (Round Brown) and Justin (Cujo).

And the weddings! Both the Friday and Saturday ceremonies were beautiful and grand, filled with song and jubilation.
On Friday, I do not jest or make light when I say it was an honor to lay down on the floor and support my friend Hasani as he asked his bride's family for her hand to the resounding music of talking drums.


Those of you who have friended me on Facebook can see all the video and photos there. (It's kinda hard to tell but this is Hasani on the floor begging for the hand of his bride).

The richness of the love filling the hall was incredible. I admit to being caught in awe. And again in the Saturday wedding, I felt proud to have the chance to do one of the readings and to later offer a toast to the happy couple.

So I was very glad I had my tuxedo on hand and ready. It's not everyday it gets put to such worthy, memorable use!

Many blessings to my sister Melody, Joseph and their boys and to Hasani and Banke, you have arrived together at your garden of joy.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hoping for a Spooky autumn...

Just requested the last week of October for time off. It's a nice lead up to Halloween that Saturday. I want to see the scariest, most haunted, "Ghost Hunters would never go there" destinations.

I will grab my flashlight, a digital recorder and go exploring to see what goes bumpity-bump in the night...

Any suggestions on places to poke my nose around are welcome. I want places with some hardcore hauntings attached to them, places that have some history. I know of several but I'm open to hearing about more.

Time to start planning a costume for the big day. You will NEVER see me dressed as an M&M, that's for sure. I take this time of year very seriously. Halloween is the pinnacle event of the year!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pleasant weekend, time for some fresh thinking


The latest party was fun and now I am wondering about doing a Winter holiday "comfort food" party. Like a warm-up to Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. We shall see.

Missed this month's Liberty States Fiction Writers meeting. I REALLY wanted to go and get feedback on new parts of Heritage Fields but I just could not make the time with the preparations for Saturday's party.

Why throw parties? Cuz you can. And sometimes you just want to share what you've got with good folks.

This has been a rough year for everyone. Lots of challenges and changes to address. The landscape remains uncertain.

I throw parties because we all can use a small victory.

WARNING, I am about to go off on a tangent: 

Here's the thing. Many of our issues today were created by lack of foresight and I believe we can and will make tomorrow better. I'm not going to voice specific political opinions here because that's something I do by voting. A few years back, a former girlfriend took issue with me not sharing an opinion on a non-political topic. It's not that I lacked an opinion, I just don't think I'm supposed to tell other people what to think. Of course when you don't speak up, it means you never get your own opinion respected. Anyway...

For the most part, Americans don't have to literally struggle like frontiersmen or cavemen to live. There are no dinosaurs chasing us, no robots with laser beam-eyes from the future marching across the land... We do have threats to contend with, MOSTLY from other human beings. A lot of it has to do with money and policy. Last time I checked, we created BOTH the money and the policies that we live by. Go, us!

Aliens didn't swoop in and cause our financial mayhem, that was collective foolishness. Sorcery and magic are not behind the venomous bickering we hear in the streets or in the news. Yup, that's us again.

Seriously, what would a caveman say about our economic troubles and political/socio squabbling?

"Unga munga! Me am fighting saber tooth tiger for me dinner, climbed in volcano to get fire and rescued little cave boy stuck in T-Rex jaws. WTF is your excuse?"

We have become the victims of our own creations and we need rethink our day-to-day lives. There are more hard choices ahead and I don't pretend to have answers for the world.

Me, I am militant about keeping debt off my shoulders at all times. It ain't always fun saying no to things I might want but it meant I could pay for the surgery that got Pepper back on her feet.

Sure, I could have bought myself a wide screen TV or some other gadget, but by not doing that I was able to help save one of the family dogs six months after Dad died. Small victory.

That's why I throw quick parties. We need to collect our small victories and remind ourselves we can make things right.

We have to individually decide what that means in order to make something positive happen.

But even I need some fresh thinking.


GOING OFF ON ANOTHER TANGENT

So I had another dream where essentially I'm being admonished for various bits of foolishness. The cast was made up of the usual players (friends, former girlfriend, former girlfriend's family... I was kinda hoping for Papa Smurf), who are projections of the self rather than the actual third parties. Or at least one's own interpretation of said people, which again is a type of self dialogue.

I suppose I need to change certain outlooks stuck in my head, that stuff does the soul no good.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Insomnia is FUN!

Did a rewrite on chapt. 1 of Heritage Fields, clarifying certain scenes. Added more to some later chapters.

word count: 53,744

Pepper wanted to chase Paulie yesterday but I reined her in. She has a follow up visit with a vet later today.

Will try to catch some sleep... or watch The Big O on TV.

"Go, Big O! It's Showtime!"

o_0

Friday, September 4, 2009

Tone, texture, pacing

Just got finished watching "Aliens" for millionth time. The movie never gets old to me. It's been 23 years since it was made and it remains as a stellar example of storytelling in the speculative fiction genre.

Granted, James Cameron adapted a lot of context from the novel "Starship Troopers" to give the movie a whole new feel compared with its also praiseworthy predecessor. But there are touches of talent you find in the movie you just don't see with many directors these days.

The movie evokes certain emotions in spite of the absurdity of the setting. An alien infested planet with a nuclear reactor on the verge of blowing up...and the primary means of escape crashes in a fiery heap.

In lesser, unimaginative hands this would end up turning into the typical Saturday night monster flick sparse in originality and design.

The difference is Cameron took the time to layer the tone and texture while being mindful of pacing. There is a moment when Ripley is painstakingly arming herself for battle with the same care one might give to dressing for a party.

You don't see that kind of presentation these days. Most directors rush to blow something up or give you the blood spray. The audience says "cool", keeps feeding the studio money and then another crappy movie gets made.

Art can be entertaining. Character development and story need not be boring. For example, "Aliens" is about the character of Ripley reclaiming everything she lost in the aftermath of "Alien". It goes beyond payback, she gets back an emotional quality absent at the start of the movie. And while she has this epiphany, you have marines shooting the hell out of alien critters all around her.

I suppose that is my lesson learned for the day.

Heritage Fields word count: 53,309

Working as fast as I can to finish this and pitch to an agent (thanks Danielle for the contact).

Gave the first few chapters to someone I trust for opinions and edits.

So if you happen to read this, Miss: "Chop, chop!";-) Need that feedback. 

I got deadlines and I'm horrible at editing my own work.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Spooky the Skullhead Boy Returns!!! :-)

Not really.

But I did just write a passage in Heritage Fields that actually scared my own pants off. Which is kind of silly since I know what is happening but I allowed myself a moment of ignorance...

Gave myself the shivers!

Word count: 53,087

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Oh, the shenanigans

I am so proud of me. I have managed to work a joke of mine from high school into the latest chapter of the book.
Here's a hint for those three or four people who might remember:

"Hey, girl. You ever play 'Highway'?"

I will just leave it at that for now


Oh yeah, I'm up to 52,000 words

P.S. Mom told me a story today about a man in her old neighborhood getting hit in the head with a hand-crank from a car thrown by another fella. And then there was the priest who pulled a gun on somebody (unrelated incident).

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Family photo project

Have hooked up scanner to laptop at Mom's. Putting old prints in electronic form for her digital frame and my own archives.

Exciting news about the Game of Thrones TV adaptation

Just catching up on all this. Casting has been underway. Sean Bean as Eddard Stark is AWESOME. He was cast last month. Others that have been named so far include Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister.

This will be on HBO, produced as a pilot with the option for a series. Production is to commence in October.

Maybe by then we'll have an update on the next book in the series. I know how tough it is to write, but seriously, this book series started in 1996. I love the books, but I am getting older and my eyes are getting tired...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Is the latest book too moody?

There is such a thing as trying too hard. I gotta wonder if I am making Heritage Fields (I'll explain the name change) too melodramatic.

So it turned out there is an actual Heritage House bed & breakfast. Rather than set myself up for trouble later, I decided to go with a temporary name change for the book. May come up with something else later but Heritage Fields is how I will refer to this story from here on out.

Broke 50,000 words today. An eagle-eyed reader might say "hang on, you had more than that earlier in the year."

True, I did. And then I went back and tore apart stuff that didn't work. It's a leaner, meaner story now.

GRRRRRR

Friday, August 21, 2009

Where I'm at now

I am up to 46,000 words on Heritage House and will probably wrap it at 90,000.

It's non-linear, this tale I am working on. All will be explained when it's done.

Reworking the outline because the flow is getting a bit confusing.

In the meantime, next week is Super Tuesday at my local Wine Country store, 25 percent off ALL wine.

BACK UP THE TRUCK, CUZ I'M GOING SHOPPIN'!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Grown folks should not have tantrums

I was on the fence about speaking on that terrible massacre at that gym in Pennsylvania because the monster who caused all the grief is getting way too much media attention. When will the cameras focus on the innocent folks who were lost?

The story is a work in cowardice: somebody using madness as an excuse to do grievous, mortal harm to others. Then he shoots himself to escape judgement.

He left behind blog entries and videos boohooing his life and how crap isn't fair.

Gosh, REALLY?

The maniac complained about not having a girlfriend in 20 years and how he thought he was a great catch (his matching couches did not impress me).

Obsessively needy behavior creeps people out, even on a subconscious level. His own internal issues likely put roadblocks in the way.

Truth is, your problems are not for other people to fix. I learned that after hours of therapy. ;-)

I admit, I've done my share of grumbling and boohooing. A couple of years ago I was hitting the bottle so hard my doctor said something about my liver.

I used to think there was some order in the universe, a clear path you just had to find and everything would sort itself out. HA! There are no guarantees other than the ones you enforce.

Rather than lash out at others about stuff that bothers you, stop, look in the mirror and say "I'm JP Ruth and I fight depression." Admit what's really wrong while understanding there are millions of folks out there facing far more challenging issues: substance addiction, chronic ailments and impairments, financial fallout...

Making simple confessions to yourself won't change anything externally but you won't be hiding behind other people for stuff you need to fix.

From what I recall about this guy in PA, he laid some blame on his mother for how things went in his life. Parents shape the early years of a child but then you grow up and have to make your own decisions. You can choose to be 180 degrees different if you do not like what you see. You have to work at it. And if it doesn't seem to be enough, WORK HARDER.

That may be it. This guy in PA kept acting like he had it all and he deserved to have something given to him in return. Wrong.

A while back I wrote a blog about the "Broken Hunter". In short, the Broken Hunter does just enough work to scrape by and assumes he's fulfilled his manly duties. The Broken Hunter refuses to see he actually comes up short in many ways: "Look, I caught a mangy muskrat for dinner. I think it had fleas. Bring forth wine and women for the grand feast!"

It's the ego. If you believe you deserve something or someone "above your pay grade" but don't get what you want... grown folks should not have tantrums.

It also reminds of guys who are proud of being assholes to their women and say "because I'm a man, I deserve to be catered to."

Whatever. A penis is not a scepter.

If you want a shot at something special, you have to go make something special happen. I've had special in the past and it does not take care of itself. You have to dig in with both hands or you lose it.

Clicking your heels together three times and making a wish only works on the Sci-Fi Channel (I refuse to acknowledge their new branding).

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

a week to clear the head, write and maybe see some sights

So I am off this week and rather than make elaborate travel plans, I am just going to take care of some things I need to.

I have a lot of "junk" roaming through my old noggin: Foolish things, wishful stuff, etc. that I need to step back an reassess the worth of.

After I get my oil changed today, I may start zipping around in the Little Shizzle (my car) taking day trips.

Yeah, I am still doing work at the old house too. That has to get done immediately. The place needs to be ready to show soon.

If you folks don't hear from me directly, I'm not ignoring anyone. I just need to take care of my business.

But for now, it's time for breakfast and the next chapter of Heritage House.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Getting closer....

At Mom's at the moment. Bit by bit we are getting the house cleared out. Still have to haggle with Mom over certain items being removed but today felt like real progress.

Going to miss "The Tempest" tonight. Only eight more shows left. Tomorrow there is rain in the forecast. Might have to try going during the week if possible.

Must go get some dinner. Thinking Red Lobster for some cheddar biscuits. Mmm biscuits.

When I get back to my place, definitely opening a bottle of some red. I need it tonight.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A new week, new chapters

Got a new chapter done on Heritage House in a hurry this week. I admit I was in a funk for a while.

I need to stop forcing myself to work linearly. If this story comes to me out of sequence at odd angles, so be it. Getting finished is the goal, not adhering to a predefined order. I know the overall story, so it's OK if my writing skips around.

Anyways...

I have actually requested a week of vacation for myself. Week after next. Spur of the moment decision. No idea of I will do anything special.

In the meantime, think I will catch "The Tempest" on Saturday. Finally looks like I will have time AND the weather is cooperating.

Think I will open a bottle of vino tonight. I am a wee bit overstocked. In fact... I could throw a little wine tasting party if I wanted...

hmmm...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad

Hey Dad,

So this is the first one with you gone. No, I'm not going to get all weepy. But, it is your birthday.

Lot's been happening. The house is getting painted. They reached my old room today. Three pink walls and one blue. And that was before the painters got in there.

The room was totally pink when we moved in, but you finally got out a can of blue paint and did make that one wall more fitting for a boy.

You never got around to painting the other three walls. Not in the 26 years since we moved in. The painters have just a base coat down, but the room will finally have its makeover.

Seeing that first coating on that lone blue wall... things really have changed.

And yeah, that means the paintings I did on that wall are vanishing too. I remember the hours spent sketching and then painting those characters and you never gave me grief about marking up the wall.

I was always sketching and scribbling, but you never told me to stop. You did say no to me going to that cartooning school. You just wanted to make sure I could feed myself when I grew up.

We'll put the house on the market after the work is done. Mom will likely move to Virginia. She'll get to see the Josh and Justin all the time.

Not sure what we'll do with Pepper and Paulie. They're older dogs, not easy to get them into new homes. Pepper is still the boss and Paulie runs around like crazy. But he gets tired after a while and finds a nice corner to flop down.

There's a lot to get done yet and I get tired too. You always had that do-it-yourself mentality... unfortunately you didn't always finish everything you started. Like painting my bedroom. Or fixing the plumbing. Or restoring your old cars.

You don't have to worry about those things now. I've got it covered. Happy birthday.

P.S. Mom just found the mess you left under the bed. Guess who gets to clean it up.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Noah would pray for a bigger boat...

So here is the new prologue to get folks into the story. Still fiddling with it but I am jumping to the later chapters right now:

 

Noah would pray for a bigger boat in that storm. Yet dry as summer linen, Thania pushed her way inside her supervisor’s pinkish stucco-molded house.

              “How did you–You drove through this?” Kalvin asked, rain from the open doorway spraying his paunchy cheeks. Outside, the street frothed into a river churned by the windy downpour.

              “Where’s your car? Did you ride here on the back of a manatee?” brow wrinkling as he asked. She belonged 200 miles away on Merritt Island marking up mathematical models on a whiteboard, not leaning on his doorbell at 2 a.m. in Coral Gables.

              “Looks as bad as Hurricane Ezekiel out there. Hey, wipe your feet before you stain the floor. C’mon, it’s Hawaiian koa!”

              Her shoes tapped along the hardwood floors in clear notes, not even a drop of rain squeaked beneath her soles. Thunder pounded against the roof in bellowing displeasure.

              “How do you sleep, Kal?” she asked, turning around to face him. Furrows of worry too deep for a twenty-two year-old woman hardened upon her brow. She combed back her long bronze ripples of hair to unleash a gaze cruelly cold for her warm green eyes.

              “Sleep? Not likely after you called,” he said, taking a slow look at her. “When you said, ‘I come with the thunder’, I hoped it was a proposition.”

              “Step outside and see if the storm can give you a rise. Your conscience apparently doesn’t get it up for you.”

              She marched into the darkened sunroom; splashes of lightning limned her in bright blue as she passed the window. Eighteen months since their first meeting, she stood taller than he remembered with her arms crossed in anticipation.

              “I’m always up,” he said, unsure what to make of her. She couldn’t know, could she? It was far too soon. “I’ve got salt and vinegar in my veins.”

              The black pantsuit hewed trimly to her figure. She had abandoned her cardigans and sneakers that night. Hair swayed down her back in a flowing torrent rather than pinned up. Was she wearing contacts? She watched each breath he took. Her eyes focused like blue-green opals brightly awake and uncompromising. No pretty words perched on her lips.

              “I know the fractals are tedious, but we can’t afford any mistakes,” he said, her steady stare peeled the cheer from his skin. “Launching rockets is child’s play compared to this. I’m mildly impressed with your work so far. Mildly. But let’s see what the morning brings.”

              “Do your toes curl in excitement when Wincott hisses softly in your ear?”

              “Whoa, where’s this coming from?”

              “What did he promise after you pulled the tail from his mouth?”

              “You’re stressed. I get it. Ease down, okay? I can ask Jimenez to cover–”

              “It’s harvest time, right? Taking the next bus up to Hapsburg?”

              “We can’t work with you like this. Babbling nonsense.”

              “You don’t need a math wiz. You need a damn saint to forgive you.”

              “Is that so?” He walked slowly to a side table beneath the window. The keys to the top drawer seemed to fly to his fingers as he spoke over his shoulder. He reached inside. “Let’s talk this out. Have a drink?”

              “Don’t handle me, Kal. I hate being handled.”

              “I suppose you do. We all chafe against our collars.”

              He spun around from the drawer, firing a pistol four times.

              She blinked before the slugs almost gouged her skin.

              Almost.

              The bullets flared white-hot then imploded harmlessly into shadowed wisps.

              “I’ve seen the Man with Two Boxes,” she said, languidly drawing her own long-barreled revolver on him. “He showed me what’s inside. Care for a look?”

              Kalvin fired a fusillade, pale fists gripping the pistol.

              The bullets burst around her in a smoky halo. Thania thumbed back the revolver’s hammer. She aimed and then whispered.

              “Avaritia.”

              The shot exploded through his rain-washed cheek.

             

             


Monday, July 13, 2009

Police say wife strangled Gatti with a purse - pressofAtlanticCity.com : Top Sports Headlines

This is just an accusation at this time. We let courts decide innocence or guilt

Police say wife strangled Gatti with a purse - pressofAtlanticCity.com : Top Sports Headlines

Posted using ShareThis

I'm not out to comment on the death itself, but do have something to say about the tension between the two.

Some say you are supposed to fight in relationships, work through your troubles. OK but when you resort to pushing or anything physical... when you say insulting things at each other... I will follow-up later and flesh out my thoughts on this.

Cont'd.

And I'm back...

From an admittedly limited point of view of this case, we see points of disrespect going on in this situation. Arguments over the clothes the wife wore, the reports of mutual jealousy, hitting, etc. ... there was a lot happening over personality and attitude.

Some folks can be intense in their emotions, good and bad. But that's no excuse. Some people say they are "just being honest/blunt." Still no excuse.

In my experience, people who say "I'm just being honest" are actually looking to justify saying something rude and even misguided. You can get your message across without being flippant or demeaning. Be firm, but don't start insulting each other.

And if being firm doesn't work, maybe it's because the person just isn't listening to you anymore. That is a whole other problem.

They have yet to reveal all the details on this case. More will come out in time.

But let me say this: When you get rude with your partner, it can start an escalation that over time is hard to recover from. Battle lines get drawn and each side will be waiting for the next salvo to be fired.

I've faced a fair share of insults. Even had someone scream "Don't you know who I am?" in my face after I stuck up for myself (without getting nasty). I didn't want to get into an "arms race" with insults. But I admit that later some time later, I did let myself become belligerent. Really, where does that end up? It never turns out pretty.

Friday, July 10, 2009

getting out the scalpel

This prologue I came up with... I tightened it up, did severel rewrites... and realized it just doesn't belong in this story.

Writing something fresh and new now.... let's see how this works instead.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

You know it's summer when the fireflies are out

However, I have not seen that many fireflies this year...

Granted, I am at this keyboard most nights. But on those occasions I poke my head out it is nice to spy lime-green flickers hovering above the grass.

Spent a good hour on the phone with mom tonight, discussing ways to structure her next steps. Perhaps I should write a different book...

Concerning my writing, I am circling back around to take a fresh look at what the heck Heritage House is supposed to be. There are too many "interesting" scenes and moment, but not enough cohesion to this story.

So what to do? Pare down the tale and make it simpler. You have to clear back some of the excess and get at the real story beneath it all. I know you are supposed to rewrite when you are finished. But in this case, I am spinning off in too many directions.

I may attempt to take some time off from work to regroup on this project.

Then again, I have that bad habit of not taking vacation time that I am due.

A buddy of mine said the other day that nothing seemed to excite me and to certain extent he was right.

I do need that jolt to get the blood flowing again. And NO, I won't be baking brownies. I can't make dessert every time I need a pick-me-up. Snacks are not the answer.

What I need is to get the damn book finished and stop whining about it.

And then... and then I will have something worth blogging about.

Monday, June 29, 2009

You learn a lot when you clean out a house

A few years ago it came time to clear out a house in Carlisle, Pa. that had belonged to one of my aunt's. Doing much the same at my parents' house now.

It is quite easy to accumulate things over the years. A lot of it is stuff that needs to be hauled away, but now and then you find items that should be preserved.

Came across some photos my dad had stashed away. Photos of him and some friends having a night out at the original Birdland jazz club in Manhattan. My mother never saw the photos either. It's funny how we can squirrel away pieces of personal history. I'd liked to have heard stories about that place.

Don't know what else will turn up as we get the place emptied, the experience though is helping with my work on Heritage House I think.

Friday, June 26, 2009

In her own words



My mom has a mountain of gripping and amusing stories she loves to share. Most of the best stuff will remain private, something for my nephews to see someday. She would drop a heavy pot on my head if I ever let some of the really juicy gossip get out.

There is so much that she has seen that I am eager to know more about. This clip is rather silly, she has a habit of laughing at herself midway through her stories. It may be hard to catch what she means, but to sum up... she is talking about some fellows who used to enjoy their moonshine.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My first week at 36

Seven days have passed since my birthday (I should be allowed to celebrate for the whole month).

Have my bones been creaking a little more than usual? Nah. Are those more grey hairs on my head? Course not!

Am I taking a broader assessment of life as I know it? You bet.

Things I'm doing differently these days include drinking more veggie juice each morning and taking my vitamins. And I'm recording conversations with my mother when I drop by the house.

Speaking of houses, I may try buying one. I've got about six months left on my current lease. I have the means to get into something modest, no palatial mansion...yet. But there are a number of considerations to make before I take the real estate plunge. Stay tuned.


On the literary front...

In speaking with a couple of authors last night in Manhattan, I was heartened by some of the things they told me. While it is true that the digital age has made the media and publishing landscape a scary place, it's evolving and not dying.

Bookstores may not like this, but it's OK if e-books grow in popularity. No, it's not the same as picking up that paperback and reading poolside. However, e-books can put long-form writing in front of the short-attention-span masses. Textbooks for example are rapidly appearing in e-book form. As long as the content gets read and there is a clear business model, lets not quibble about the format.

Then again, I was a little shocked to hear about a couple of kids getting a book deal about... well I'll let you figure this one out. Must literature really be reduced to this?

Twitterature: 19 Year-Olds Score Twitter Book Deal

As for me and my writing, I've hauled myself back into the saddle working on Heritage House. I've had a number of "late night pizza" evenings where I nosh on a slice of pepperoni while working on the story. Not the best thing for my waistline but it keeps me focused. I'm amused at the "bromance" that I see emerging on the page. That was not part of the original plan, but what story ever comes out exactly the way you imagine?

I may put the revised first chapter up in URBIS for critiques. We'll see. I am getting caught up in rewrites again when I should be moving forward. Heritage House is happening in odd spurts. I have a few disjointed passages that pop into my head out of sequence from where I am at. Maybe after a sip of wine it will all start to flow in a more natural order.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I was born on Father's Day...

Today, I'm 36.

Had a fun gathering this past Saturday at my place. The sweet & sour chicken was devoured. The gumbo made folks jump out of their seats. Double peanut butter brownies, chocolate chunk cookies, and I got out the torch to top it all off with some creme brulee.

I have many thanks to offer to all who made it over Saturday. Now I have so much wine, I need to throw another party to enjoy it all!

And now we come to today. Last night I went to a panel discussion on business journalism at Columbia University's j-school. Very informative session. I truly appreciated all the thoughts raised by the speakers. I had to hurry back to catch the train home afterwards, otherwise that would have been two birthday's in a row I spent standing alone in Penn Station at the stroke of midnight.

Who I am today is far different from anything I conceived when I was 18. Truth is, I didn't really know much about the world back then. I didn't really grasp all that I would be called upon to do. Didn't even have a vague idea.

I spent many years being naive about everything from love, to careers, and fiscal responsibility. I've had a lot of catching up to do.

So I was born on a Sunday, June 17, Father's Day. Every few years my birthday falls again on that holiday.

It goes without saying that this year is quite different from all my birthdays prior.

My father and I, we didn't talk so much until the last few years. Not for any particular reason. It's how things were. In some ways, he didn't think we needed to talk until I pushed.

To all the fathers out there, here is my birthday request: Speak to your sons, every single day. Impart to them all your knowledge and experience, especially the embarrassing mistakes and obstacles you have faced. Only by learning how to overcome and even avoid these challenges can they themselves grow into men.

After work today I will drop by and see my mom. We'll probably act like a couple of 12 yr. old kids, put on party hats and sing "Happy Birthday." And I'm good with that.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The suddenness of an ending

I am startled, maybe even shook by the death of David Carradine. I am at the tale end of that generation who grew up with the image of the lanky man on TV portraying a monk from the East walking through the Old West.

Actor David Carradine found dead in Bangkok

But this is not about any scripted episode of a TV show or a scene from a movie and I'm just a fan. Can't claim to know what the man himself was like. No idea what angels or devils were perched on his shoulders. So I can't say anything that relates specifically to him. Maybe in the time ahead there will be a clearer picture. [UPDATE: New reports indicate Carradine's death may have been accidental. Rather than take down or alter the focus of the post, I am going to leave the rest in place. It is terribly unfortunate that this has happened, accident or not.]

The news today brings me back to another recent loss from the entertainment industry.

Making Sense of the Lucy Gordon Tragedy

The families will wrestle with a kind of loss that you can't really answer even with notes left behind.

Some might say "Just 'cowboy up' when life knocks you down." But first, the person has to admit to themselves that something is not right. You can't fix anything unless you take that serious look and say "Houston, we have a problem."

Everyone has reasons to get angry, sad, outraged. I don't think there is a person on the planet who has not been put off or been wronged in some fashion.

Likewise... any of us can be the source of another person's animosity.

I admit I've fought with depression and sought counseling, lots of people have. I can also say have said and done some selfish, crappy things towards other people. Confronting such issues makes the difference.

There is a saying, not my own, a philosophy really: "I am who I am through those around me." That's a paraphrase of the Ubuntu philosophy. The notion is that we are enriched by the well-being of those around us and we share in the hurt when they are downtrodden.

I'd like to tweak that saying just a bit: "I am who I am through the people around me...or lack thereof."

My point is that you cannot forget about the people you don't see. I'm not saying you have to run around hugging everyone or make peace with someone out to do you harm. But rather, think about people you have lost touch with or otherwise dismissed. You may have strong reasons for it or simply time and distance took over. Then again, consider what your day will be like without ever hearing from or seeing that person. Consider what it will be like to have them gone forever.

You can't make the decision for other people to keep fighting for themselves when life gets them down. They have to do their own heavy lifting. But, you can remind them why they are important to have around and part of your day.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Not gonna "Mayke it happen"...

The deadline is here and I didn't hit 60,000 words. The easy excuse is to say I have a lot on my plate. But I don't deal in excuses anymore. Didn't commit myself to writing every day as I should have. So I am out of the running and won't get my chance to get a pro looking over my book proposal.

What to do now? Get back in there and finish Heritage House as quickly as I can. It means I will have to chase agents on my own but hey...I've been here before.

Meanwhile, my vanilla beans are settling in the sugar for the next round of creme brulee. Should be ready just in time. Must remember to refill the torch.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Retraining our eyes

After straining to see my computer screen for a couple of weeks, I dropped by the eye doctor. Although I somehow ended up ordering reading glasses, I was told my eyes had not worsened but the converging muscles had weakened in my right eye.

I have exercises I must do daily to get both eyes to work in tandem again. Focusing is not the problem. Somehow I started to use only my left eye to look at things and was suppressing the images in my right eye. There is nothing wrong with my right eye, I just wasn't working both my peepers equally.

So now I have this set of reading glasses that I've paid for but will not need if I get my eyes to do their job. In fact, I am afraid that using these reading glasses will hinder the effort to correct this problem.

My point is we're all retraining ourselves now that our socioeconomic world has changed. In some cases it may be best to pick up those "reading glasses" to get by. But when possible, work as hard as you can to straighten things out. Hold off on tapping your reserve cash. I know retailers hate hearing such talk, but now is not the time to keep up appearances.

Anyway...

I made more headway on Heritage House but let myself get so far behind that I won't make the May deadline unless I just ramble to fill the page. Definitely need to get back into a solid routine. Maybe I will work more consistently with less eye strain but I won't use that as an excuse.

I need to rethink a few things in the story but I have my outline down. I know how the story ends. I just have to see how the little pieces along the way fit into place.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Twelve years and counting...

Today is my 12th anniversary in the news world. I started as an intern with what was then called Business News New Jersey, now known as NJBIZ. Back then the "Interweb" was a sketchy landscape that the masses were still learning how to leverage.

Now the Web is a primary medium for sharing information and news for personal and professional purposes. With more content being squeezed into digital connections and accessed on a wide array of platforms, people have the option of constantly being plugged in.

Whether you are toting around an iPhone, a BlackBerry, or netbook, you can tap into news in microseconds anywhere you can get a wireless signal.

And more content is on the way. In a few weeks, analog TV signals will be shut off, pushing all broadcasts to the digital format. Movies are increasingly being shot in digital and transmitted over data connections to theaters. It will take several years but 35mm film will go away and the latest Hollywood releases will all be digital.

Perhaps in another 12 years we will stream everything over the Web including live nightly news broadcasts rather than use our current TV feeds. Maybe it will be in 3D. Perhaps social media will play a prominent role with news anchors responding to comments from the public during their reports. Who knows?

Media is exploring a new layer of this digital frontier and I am eager to see what is over the next ridge.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Days to come

May 13 marks my 12th year as a reporter with NJBIZ.

June 17, my birthday, is coming up fast. It falls on a Wednesday this year and I have to decide whether I should hold my party the weekend before or after the actual day. Food and refreshments will be provided by me off course. Don't know what my menu will be but there will be plenty of dessert.

I had something more profound to say about life, the universe and everything, but I suppose it can wait.

P.S.: The tentative menu for the b-day party shall include guacamole, a selection of wine, some chocolate, double peanut butter brownies and maybe some creme brulee. The main course dishes are pending.

I'm in one of my moods. I need to bake.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I need to take my vitamins

Maybe it's the weather. Maybe it's my diet. Maybe it's the economy. I'm feeling rundown and not very alert. Not sick, just wiped out.

I seem to always get this way right about this part of the year. It's unsettling. Are moods tied to a season? I would expect to feel this way during the winter, but it's springtime now.

Might be my body telling me to go exercise more or something. But that's a hard sell when your natural inclination is to be sprawled out on the couch.

I need to set off an atom bomb of energy but I am NOT looking to grab those energy drinks or pop pills.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I'm still here

In case my reading in the video is not too clear, here's that poem:

I hid it in my pouch
And ran down the white steps
Leaping past Gabrielle who
Given the chance
Would beat after me:

Infidel Infidel
Bring it back

I slipped into the garden
And hid in the lush grass
Snaking around Michael who
Given the chance
Would beat after me:

Infidel Infidel
Bring it back

I tiptoed into pandemonium
And scurried into a cave
getting behind the Devil who
Given the chance
Would smile sharply at me:

Brother Brother
Let me borrow that

For all their divinity
And all their grace
None of the archangels knew
I had stolen God's name.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Heritage House Chapter one

What follows is the full first chapter of the latest endeavor. I am several chapters in at this point, working hard to make the May 31 deadline for the Liberty States Fiction Writers challenge. 60,000 wds or else...

Heritage House Chapt. 1

I decided to repost the chapter as separate link. It was consuming the entire blog page.

One caveat to any readers: When I am writing to flesh out content, please don't point out typos. This is raw copy and I so don't care at this stage. I am working for speed and character development. I do my copy edits AFTER I know where my characters are going and the story is more complete.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Getting back in the saddle...

It's long been time for me to get back to business with determination. I've been on the job but I must crank up the work on Heritage House. If I have any hope of meeting the May 31 deadline for the Liberty States Writers challenge, I must become a writing hermit again.

Five new pages a day, every day. Totally doable.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Honoring my father

I have a lot of "thank you" notes to send out to everyone who shared their time, comfort and care with me and my family today and for all the days we have been working through this.

It's still hard for me to fathom not having another talk with my father, another round of argument and rebuttal. We could be at adverse odds over the simplest things sometimes.

What follows is an excerpt from the reflection I wrote and read aloud at his funeral:

"Sidney Herman Ruth and I are alike in a lot of ways. We are both strong-willed, determined men who at times should have just listened to my mother, the peacemaker.

I had the pleasure of talking with my father at length about a year ago, asking him questions for about two to three hours about things we had not discussed before: Where he grew up, what life was like when he was younger...

He described to me Newark during an era when horse-drawn wagons delivered fruits and vegetables to the neighborhood.

But my favorite story is how my parents met. They first saw each other at a bus station in Newark. By my father's telling, my mother started asking their mutual friends about him. But according to my mother's version of the tale, HE was the one asking about her.

It doesn't matter in the end who chased whom. Through my parents came me, my sisters and their grandchildren after.

Rutger, Justin, Joshua: I charge you to look after each other with the same love and intensity as my father and his siblings looked after each other. I, Joao-Pierre, son of Sidney and Anita, will hold you to your word as he would."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

We smiled, we locked horns, we were family


When you are both hard-headed men, it is easy to find ways to be at odds with each other. We talked more in these last years. Got to understand each other better I hope.

My apologies if I am still babbling. Settling the last of the arrangements for my father.

It's helped for me to focus on these tasks, working to create a plan where there was no plan. More challenges are ahead even after the funeral.

I need to sit down and write my reflections for Saturday. I have plenty to say and I promise it will be well worth listening to.
So there is my dad with my nephews Joshua and Justin, October 2008.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The passing of my father

My father's journey in this life has come to an end.

We were all planning to visit him today. He had been making progress. I am trying to remember now that last conversation we had. The words, those final shared words.

I was supposed to see him again today.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A new writing workshop

Spring is almost here, all snow aside, and Rutgers is hosting another round of writing workshops.

These things are helpful for giving feedback and a kick in the pants in case you get off your writing schedule. AND this time there is a science fiction and fantasy workshop led by the groovy instructor I had for a previous short fiction workshop.

I have to see how this might fit into my schedule.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snapshot update

Heritage House
Rewrites on first five chapters. I like the current treatment of the story better than when I first got rolling on this, better than my original concept.

The trouble with writing is you have to say NO to all the variations and divergent ways you might tell a story and focus on the one tale you are telling. The reader can try and guess and wonder but the writer has to sit down and decide what is really happening.

The plan is still to finish Heritage House at about 22 chapters by end of May. Still very doable.

Riding Ten Thunders: No nibbles yet.

Family: Things are still complicated but my Dad is making small improvements. My Mother is still pretty anxious.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

family and friends

My father is recovering slowly and now comes the hard part. Lots of things must change to help him adapt.

I'm reminded of something said to me a long time back by someone I used to be close to. Something about the importance of family loyalty.

As I see it, it's a never a simple thing sticking by your family. They frequently don't listen to you and vice versa. We all want to help each other but we individually believe we have the right answers. And this family loyalty gets tested according to life's schedule, not your own. So you do what you can, hopefully find the right path through the challenges.

After checking up on my Dad and looking in on my Mom yesterday, I went out for a little bit to see some folks at the Fifth Anniversary party for NJYP. Saw lots of faces I'd come to know over the past few years.

On the wall last night they posted the names of friends people said they made through the organization since it got started.

That same someone I used to be close to was at the top of the list. It was alphabetical and when your first name starts with "A", you are guaranteed top billing. She was always something of a rock star. ;-)

These days she and I scarcely cross paths. It's how things go, especially given my past foolishness. It's funny though that I only became aware of NJYP through her.

My own name popped up farther down the list of friends. I guess all the cooking I've done at barbecues help folks remember my name.

What I take from all this is an understanding that we choose how we keep folks in our personal space or not. Thanks to social networking, we have many tools for seeking friends and even relatives you have not heard from in years. My $5 says someone is scheduling their family reunion completely through Facebook right now.

But phone calls and getting out to see folks remains very important. With my Dad being in the hospital, his brothers and sisters have come out a lot to see him, keeping him focused. It's the being there in the now, that's how you help each other.

I am who I am through the people around me, to paraphrase the Ubuntu philosophy.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

And so we wait...

My father went in for surgery this evening and it's been quite a while. It's kinda hard getting info out of the hospital staff while things are in flux.

So we wait...

Heritage House

Heritage House page one

So here is the first page of the latest book project. Still shooting to finish the first draft by spring. Liberty States Fiction Writers has a challenge for its members to finish a new book by the end of May. That works pretty closely with my original timetable.

Heritage House page one

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Making changes... please pardon the rambling

Not sure if I am so in love with the layout of this blog anymore. I don't think it is all that easy on the eyes. Don't freak out of this space changes soon.

My father's next major surgery is tentatively set for tomorrow.

I was sad to see that Muse in Morristown had closed apparently some time ago. It was a nice place though I had not been by there in quite some time.

Heritage House is taking on a nice, easy to get into mass market feel... which is starting to irritate me. I am willing to bet good money I could post the first page or so of the manuscript on here and it would be more openly received compared with Riding Ten Thunders. Hey if it gets me published, what does it matter? Right?

Then why do I get so mad about it? Maybe my expectations have been too high for RTT.

You see while I enjoy that fantasy and science fiction genres, I loathe the overused tropes that plague many books. My favorite authors in this field are George R. R. Martin and Charles de Lint.

Martin allows his characters' petty desires take precedence over the ominous plot that typically weigh down fantasy books. And he makes the story of those petty desires far more interesting than finding magic swords or unicorns.

De Lint has a wonderful knack for making the ordinary seem extraordinary and vice versa. He works with subtle touches of language that don't ham fist a story into your face. No gimmicks. Sometimes his critics say he is a little lacking on substance.

I say De Lint's writing is like savoring a piece of fine chocolate. If you are in a rush to fill your belly, go ahead and eat a Snickers bar. But for those willing to pace themselves and absorb each hint of flavor, let that piece of Godiva chocolate melt slowly on your tongue.

I don't want my stories to be Snickers bars... I want the reader to indulge for a long while...

Monday, February 16, 2009

New Era of Journalism, 101

Social Media and Journalism

So last month I attended a panel discussion on the way social media (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc.) have changed the way the public approaches news. The panelists offered varied and distinct views on the way such things can be leverage by people working in the business. I got to hang out for a bit with Shirley Brady from BusinessWeek.com and Andy Carvin with NPR after the panel was over.

The link above will take you to a recording of the discussion. I suggest you download it to playback later, the acoustics are kinda rough. It runs pretty long, just under an hour and a half, but is pretty good stuff. As one my colleagues put it, "If you still want to be working in the news business in the next few years, you should listen to this discussion."

My apologies if there are any hard to hear portions. If anyone needs something clarified, let me know and I will help make sense of it.

Social Media and Journalism

Helpful sessions

Saturday and Sunday were very helpful for my writing. The Liberty States Fiction Writers workshop was great. I took an excerpt of Riding Ten Thunders with me and got some very useful feedback. Likewise for Sunday's writers circle with NJYP where I shared the first page of Heritage House.

more to come

I fed my dad today

He had more of an appetite and was more vocal today compared with prior days when he barely had the voice to speak. My mother and I could talk with him much more, though there was still that fogginess, a clouding of his understanding at times. When he was able to focus, just for moments at a time, my father was back.

"Want some more soup?" I asked him lightly. "You know I usually get paid top dollar for this level of service."

He didn't laugh at my joke but played along quietly. "It's good service," he said.

Before I start turning into the weepy son, let's be honest. My father and I have our deep core differences. And, I am ashamed to admit, there were times I would fly into a seething rage at the mere insinuation that I might be like him. Pretty childish of me.

I've done a lot of internal work addressing such things and learned to accept there are places where he and I will never reach common ground.

I suppose it's my mother's compassion that kicks in when I know someone needs help. During our visit Saturday, my mom decided to give Valentine's Day cards to the other patients in the same unit as my father. On that day while I tried with little success to get my dad to eat, she went bed-to-bed talking patiently to each person finding out who they were, how they were feeling. My mother has always been good at getting to know people she has just met.

"I have I got some stories to tell," she said when we left the hospital Saturday, her head filled with what she learned from the other people in that room.

I suppose we all have the story of ourselves we want others to hear and remember. For the past year or so, my father has had a rather troubled countenance to him. As his health issues increased, you could see him grow increasingly worried and unsettled.

Sorting through his papers this weekend I came across his driver's license issued just last year. The look on his face in that photo reflected both concern about the future and memories of the easier days that he missed.

Underneath it all I suppose my father is looking for reassurance, some comfort that tomorrow offers fresh hope.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A weekend of hearts and pens

I am reluctant to go into great detail about my father out of respect for his privacy. I can be quite candid about my own life but I do not have the right to pore over every detail of this difficult, life-changing time. He has a major procedure scheduled for Friday. We will see how it goes and hope for better days.

The rest of the coming weekend should be both busy and perhaps even enjoyable...I hope.

There are two different writers groups meeting this weekend. Liberty States Fiction Writers meets Saturday in Edison and there will be roundtable critiques of excerpts and query letters.

You are allowed to bring five pages of your manuscript. The best thing to do is bring the first five pages of whatever you are working on since you have to hook the audience at the jump. The question is, do I bring the first five pages of Riding Ten Thunders OR do I bring the first five pages of Heritage House?

One is finished and being pitched to agents. The other is still very much in flux. I wonder if I can bring BOTH and get half as many comments on each...

Then on Sunday, another group of writers is having a luncheon arranged through New Jersey Young Professionals. We are to bring anonymous work for critiquing, offering up writing outside of our comfort zone.

The question is, do I slip in my fiction writing at this group? I am a journalist by trade, fiction writing is what I do after hours. But I have been working on fiction for a while and it's not exactly "outside my comfort zone". I could try some poetry instead, that is something I do rarely. If I planned my week better, I might have drafted an opening scene for the screenplay I've been pondering.

Regardless of all this, I am prepping to make creme brulee again tonight. I use Alton Brown's recipe. Personally I think the vanilla sugar is the key to making the dish great. There are some out there who say to use vanilla extract in the crafting but I say BAH on that. I could go out and buy vanilla sugar already in a bottle but I say NAY to that too.

No, I make vanilla sugar the hard way! Seal two cups of sugar in a jug for two weeks with a split vanilla bean and its scraped out pulp mixed in. Vanilla sugar is a key ingredient for creme brulee especially for the topping. Gonna share some with my mom but I am sure I will have plenty leftover in the end. If you are interested in trying some, I will probably make it again for my next birthday (June 17) ...along with my double peanut butter brownies.

Monday, February 9, 2009

This week so far...

Dad's back in hospital... it's complicated.

Another query is in the mail for RTT.

Meanwhile, Heritage House is turning into something dynamite I think (when I am writing). Different style story. I need to catch up though on my writing schedule for this. June will be here faster than I realize.

Kicking around yet another story idea but it may be more feasible as a screenplay. I will draft out a rough outline tonight perhaps.

I am tempted to bake some brownies BUT I am about to whip up some creme brulee in a few days. Just waiting for the vanilla sugar to finish flavoring (it takes a good week or two to get it right). I don't want to overload on dessert.

chapter five

RIDING TEN THUNDERS Chapter Five

And here is where I close my virtual notebook. Sharing time is now over ;-)

I changed my mind....

Riding Ten Thunders Chapter Four

Had a lot on my mind this weekend, most unrelated to writing and I must admit to being off schedule with Heritage House. My father's health keeps going up and down.

Anyway, Chapter Four of Riding Ten Thunders is above. I will past Chapter Five later. THAT is where I am gonna stop posting.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Riding Ten Thunders Chapter Three

Okay, one more chapter and I am leaving this alone. RIDING TEN THUNDERS: CHAPTER THREE

This is the direction the story took from the endpoint of the piece that appeared at Reflection's Edge oh so long ago.

Anyway, back to Heritage House!!!!

Flame and Bone

When I was made from fire
Poured into the tender vessel of caution
That keeps my smoke from rising
Quickly did I discover that apart from crisp drizzles or falling snow
The world chilled my touched
Walking the narrow cornered gap between girders and cut stone
One learns to tuck his shoulders in or risk
Jostling a neighbor passing by rapt with want
For a clear path without the distraction
Of another man's boiling eyes
The tip of a finger
That oldest of all weapons
Grown deadlier and pristine in its invention
Gathers a mote of a cinder on its bare flesh
And turns pondering how best to scratch the impious itch
Prying open the tender seam
Where the oil of thought dews
Offering a new wick to ignite
Squirming alive as a salamander of mischief
That yearns for a taste of air it is so ready to devour
The steam of breath betrays me
Before the glint of orange spreads
In popping bright waves
Eroding the fibers feeding it
Leaving naught but ash
As my shell of quietude falls away