06/14/17

Why I’m Not Going into Politics: Abortion

I’ve spent the last several months consuming news.  I prefer sites that offer links to primary sources, but I’m usually not too picky about who is writing the news.  I’ve even read some Fox News articles.  I cast a wide net and sift through all of the grit and opinionated sludge.  I look at what’s left and try to stay informed.  And what’s left has for the most part made me depressed and worried for the future of our country.

Not wanting to simply sit on the sidelines and let things go, I’ve considered running for some local office and stepping foot into public service.  It’s not a job that I particularly want, but maybe that’s a good thing, right?

There are a few reasons I wouldn’t do well in politics.  For one, I have integrity, so I’m never going to get elected to any serious position.  For another, I have some fairly controversial ideas about how to handle certain hot button topics.

Tonight, as a way of warming up my writing muscles, I’m going to talk about my thoughts on abortion.

I have a starting position and a secondary position, which I consider a sort of compromise.  I think the latter is more interesting and original, but let’s start with the first, because it’s the most palatable for most people.  If you do not agree with my primary position, please don’t click off.  Stick around and see if the compromise is more to your liking.  And if it isn’t, please leave me a comment as to why it is unfair or unworkable.

My starting position is that abortions should be legal and safe.  Much along the way conservatives think of gun control, outlawing abortions won’t make abortions go away.  We already experienced a time where young, scared women were dying in back alleys trying to rid themselves of an unwanted pregnancy.  We should not go back to that time.

There’s nothing particularly interesting about my starting position.  It’s a fairly standard liberal idea.  I don’t think of myself as particularly liberal, but on this subject, I think the left have it mostly right.

I don’t want to get too much into the arguments, because statistically, abortions are becoming less of a problem.  Unwanted teen pregnancies have been decreasing.  Americans are having less sex, in general.  I’ll say it again, Americans are having less sex.  Here’s another article specifically talking about teens and young people, and how pregnancies are down, and contraceptive use is up.

If you want to try and convince me that abortion is murder, you don’t have to.  I agree.  I just know that we have already experienced a time in our history where abortions were illegal, and they were still happening.  And in those cases, chances were good that there would be two victims: the unborn child and the mother.  Looking strictly at the numbers, there will be fewer deaths if abortions are safe and legal.

But let’s say that you or someone you know cannot be swayed to keep abortions safe and legal.  You or someone you know cannot be convinced to allow for the slaughter of unborn children.  I sympathize completely, and have an alternative solution.

My secondary position is this: make abortions illegal and abolish them, but force the fathers to get vasectomies when the pregnancies are unwanted.

Too often, the focus is on the mother when talking about abortions.  Well, let’s explore true justice.  If the woman is going to be forced to have her body irrevocably changed, make the man face some consequences, too.

This approach will have several positive side effects.  For starters, men will have that much more incentive to use protection and be considerate of their partners.  If the incentive is not enough and they produce unwanted children regardless, the child will become more precious to the father because it’s the only one they’re going to have.  Men that would be particularly prone to promiscuity and getting women pregnant won’t be able to do as much damage after they get snipped.

It takes two to tango, right?  Let’s take some of the focus off the women and put it on the men.  Both the mother and the father are equally responsible in the cases where the sex is consensual.  So let’s practice actual justice. (That link is slightly NSFW, by the way)

 

Anyway, that’s one of the reasons I wouldn’t be a very good politician.  There are other topics and other reasons.  Maybe I’ll write about those later.

For now, I need to get back to writing fiction.

02/8/17

I Don’t Like Labels

You have about 100 billion neurons in your brain.  There are enough variations in just your brain chemistry alone to guarantee that there has never been another individual like you, ever.  And there will never be someone identical you, either.  You are completely unique, shaped by the journey that has delivered you to where you are now.

In all of existence, there is only one you.

I think we forget this fact.  It’s easy to forget.  And, if I’m being a little cynical, I think we’re encouraged to forget.

There are constant dividers being thrown at us.  We’re all asked to give up our individuality, our humanity, and fold ourselves into boxes so that we can be labeled.  Male.  Female.  Straight.  Gay.  Rich.  Poor.  Republican.  Democrat.  Black.  White.  Hispanic.  Old.  Young.  Conservative.  Liberal.  Christian.  Atheist.  Buddhist.  Muslim.

This is the problem.  This is why we can’t have nice things.  This is why we’re so separated, and unable to appreciate each other.

I’m not talking about unfairly applying stereotypes.  That is one of the problems, certainly, but it’s not the worst one.  The worst problem is that if we are separated like this, we cannot connect and communicate in a real way.  We just stand on opposite sides of the divide, shouting at each other.

I’ve been away from my blog for weeks.  I’ve been reading the news, watching the problem get worse and worse.  It is depressing, and I have been depressed.  I haven’t been able to write.

We need to do better.  We need to find a way to communicate.  We need to find common ground, and build on it.

I am unhappy with most of Trump’s cabinet picks, but I’m willing to discuss their merits and have my opinion changed.  I’m worried about Sessions as Attorney General because of his past, but I’m willing to give him a chance.  I would feel even better about him if someone were to give me examples of some of the good things he’s done.

I’m worried about DeVos as Secretary of Education, but that’s mostly because the only things I know about her is that she doesn’t seem to be qualified, has never participated in public school, and some of her stances on school vouchers and for-profit schools might be a problem for kids in poor or struggling households.  I’m willing to have my mind changed, though.  If anyone knows anything about her that will make me feel better about the kind of job she’ll do in that position, I would really like to hear it.

I long to have a discussion with someone that is both informed and in favor of Trump’s choices.  I want to see the world from their perspective.  I want my views challenged.

I’m surrounded by people that, for the most part, share my opinions about matters political.  It doesn’t give me much comfort.  There are people out there that seem to approve of where Trump is trying to lead our country, and I have no way of identifying with those people.  I want to.  I want to understand.  Maybe they see something that I don’t see.

It could be a matter of being misinformed.  Perhaps people that are supporting Trump believe that crime is at an all-time high.  That’s not the information I have.  Perhaps I’m misinformed.  If I am misinformed, then I would like to be corrected by a credible source.

See, even as I’m writing this, I’m backing into one of those labels.  For Trump, or Against Trump.

I don’t want that.  If I am to have a label, I want it to be “For Humanity.” I want less discrimination, and more appreciation for the heart and soul of every human being out there.  I want us all to remember that you can’t tell what someone’s been through at a glance.  We all have a unique story to our lives.

And I like stories.

12/28/16

Unrelated Fiction: Sparring in the Tall Grass

Hello, friends.

It is almost the end of the year.  And thank God.  If this year goes much longer, we won’t have any celebrities left.

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, and remained in a foul mood the whole day.  I snapped at a couple of people online that didn’t need to be snapped at.  My work laptop stopped working, and I wound up having to go in to the office.  Once IT managed to get my laptop recovered to a restore point, I kept my head down and pushed through the rest of the day.  My primary focus was to say nothing I’d regret later.

I decided that tonight, I’d write some Unrelated Fiction using an old character that I used to love.  Some day, he will have his own book.  Tonight, I’ve resurrected him to spar in a fragment of a scene.

There isn’t much to it.  In my head, there is all of this backstory.  That’s not what these Unrelated Fiction posts are about.  It’s just fun stuff.  Today, I wanted to beat things with sticks.  So tonight, I resurrected an old character that is really good at doing just that, and I didn’t even use his name.  Hope you enjoy it!

One robed warrior attacked another. A heavy wooden staff hummed through the air. Twin wooden clubs met the staff in the air, beating it back with a loud crack. The warriors moved, their deadly dance obscured by the tall grass around them.

 

The warrior with the staff, the taller man, took advantage of his greater reach. He stepped forward, thrusting with the staff, forcing his opponent to give up ground.

 

“Focus, Aven,” the taller man said. A strange accent colored his words, softening the consonants and drawing out the vowels like a song.

 

Aven focused. The clubs in his hand moved, whistling harmony to the larger weapon’s melody. When wood struck wood, the clack and clatter sounded the percussion. Aven gave up ground, dancing back when he saw no other way.

 

“I can keep this up all day,” Aven said. Sweat ran down his cheeks, matting his hair, darkening his tan robes in spots on his chest and back.

 

The staff wielder did not respond to the quip. He pivoted, shifted his grip, stepped forward. Twisting at his waist, he drummed out three rapid attacks: high, high, low.

 

Aven responded. Clubs met staff to the left, to the right. He jumped, dodging the strike meant for his knees. For the first time since they’d started the bout, Aven’s opponent stood within reach. Aven extended, swinging to end the dance with one swift stroke.

 

The staff came up. It caught Aven in the chest, lifting him up. Aven’s clubs swept the air in front of the taller warrior’s face, missing by hairs. At the same time, the air rushed out of Aven’s lungs. He flew into the air and flipped over. Blue sky and soft clouds filled Aven’s vision. Then his back hit the ground. His vision blurred. Before he could move, the taller man’s staff pressed against his throat.

 

“Patience,” Aven’s teacher said. “Focus, and patience. You will learn. Or you will die.”

 

Aven dropped his clubs to the ground and raised his hands in surrender.

12/14/16

Some Unrelated Fiction

Happy Holidays!

This is the longest stretch I’ve gone without writing any posts.  I’d mentioned on Facebook that I’d be gone from social media for a while, and I didn’t lie.  I haven’t been on Facebook or Twitter at all.  I had not intended to also shut down my blog.  It’s just been a side-effect of withdrawing from everyone, to put myself back together.

The truth is, the election has thrown me for a loop.  My faith in humanity has been shaken.  I believed that when push came to shove, people would do the right thing.  But they didn’t.

Tonight, I don’t want to get into what I think of Trump, or the people he’s appointing, or his stance on climate change, or his conflicts of interest, or his Putin bromance.  I don’t want to talk about politics at all here.  I want to push forward, and do something productive.

I failed at NaNoWriMo.  I’ve been having difficulty finding the focus to write.  I’ve been a little bit depressed, and that’s been impacting my work, my music, and my writing.  The problem is I need to be writing something.  It helps me stay happy.  So for all these several weeks where I’ve sacrificed writing time in order to do other things, it’s just been making the problem worse.

A few days ago, I decided that I would try something different.  Instead of trying to write something large, I’d write things that were inconsequential.  I’d focus on painting scenes, and try to just have fun.

Below is the first attempt at this.  The scene is not part of any larger work.  It isn’t even really complete.  It features a protagonist named Victor that needs to keep walking.  It is not autobiographical, though I did use some imagery from my real life.

If you enjoy it, great!  If not, that’s okay, too.  For me, writing this scene was like taking aspirin for a headache.

 

     One more lap.
One more yard.
One more step.
Victor leaned forward, placing his foot on the path with care. He pulled his backpack up higher on his shoulders, bringing momentary relief to his aching lower back. Sweat beaded his forehead in spite of the chilly fog that surrounded him. His legs continued moving, slow pistons pushing the machine of his body around the circuit once again.
A digital choir chimed from his pants pocket. He pulled the bulky phone from his jeans, sliding the answer button with his thumb. He took another step.
“You don’t have to keep doing this,” a male voice said.
“Just a little bit further,” Victor said.
“You’re just going to make yourself sick,” the voice said. “It’s over. The project is done. Let it go.”
Victor shut the phone off and stuffed it back in his pocket. He realized that he’d taken several steps without tracking them. Good. If he could forget the steps, he could stop thinking of the ache in his legs, or the slow boil in his lungs. He could stop feeling the straps of his backpack, cutting deep into his shoulder. He could just keep going. Clear his mind to think.
He looked around. This part of his course took him around the edge a bank parking lot. Pale lines on empty concrete stretched away from him to the right. No cars in sight. Was it Sunday already?
There were cars, though. He could hear them, their engines roaring and their tires humming over pavement. The noise reached Victor’s ears from the left. He couldn’t see it through the fog, but he knew that a major highway ran just over there, stretching on towards the city. Sunday travelers on that road would be returning from camping. Or maybe gambling. The highway made both possible.
Victor found himself counting his steps again. Sensation needled its way up his legs, past his waist and into his gut. He felt the contents of his stomach rise up, threatening a hostile escape. Bile curdled his tongue. He swallowed it down. He kept going. He had to keep going.
Ahead of him, Victor could see bare tree branches as shadows in the pale fog. As he drew closer, he saw them as skeletal fingers pointing dark accusations, heavy in the cold morning.
He blinked and time slipped ahead, rushing past him without leaving seeds of memory. He’d reached the bend in his route. It had been a quarter of a mile since the phone call, and he didn’t have anything to show for it. At least he hadn’t stopped.
He needed to focus. He needed to think. That’s why he walked this course every day. To think. To clear the cobwebs of his mind. He walked this route, and he allowed the answers to come to him. He came this way when he needed inspiration.
Victor’s foot caught on the edge of a sidewalk. He tripped. He threw out his arms for balance. He tried to get a foot under him. Too slow. He tripped again. The backpack shifted. His weight went forward. He felt himself falling.
At the last moment, Victor caught himself. He got his feet beneath him and shuffled the weight back in place. The burning in his lungs increased, and his heart galloped.
He kept moving. If he stopped, something terrible would happen. Weariness kept him from remembering what exactly that would be. He just knew it would be terrible.

10/31/16

So Much for Blog-tober…

What the heck happened to October?

I cruised into October with a spring in my step and hope in my heart.  Then, almost immediately. I stumbled back into bed with pain in my throat and an infection in my sinuses.  All of my intentions to write a blog post every day went right out the window.

I’m recovered from being sick, but now it’s Halloween.  The month disappeared.  In less than an hour, NaNoWriMo starts.

I don’t know if I’m going to succeed this time.  I’m not going into this with a lot of hope.  I haven’t done much writing the last few weeks.  I haven’t done my preparatory blog writing.  I barely have a story idea.

But I’m doing this!  Bryanna is with me again this year.  We’ve already made introductions at the Yolo Nano kickoff party.  We’ve gone through the ritual seeding of the Plot Box.  In just a little bit, at the stroke of midnight, we’ll tear into our stories, creating terrible, merciless first drafts.

Fifty thousand words.  Thirty days.  Let’s see how this goes.

Free Cracked Accounts

09/28/16

Avoiding the Political Social Media

The political landscape is a cratered wasteland, with trenches dug so deep that they come close to the Earth’s molten core.  People are polarized, drawn to their respective camps out of mutual hatred for the opposition’s candidate.  The stink of fear and hyperbole dominate the air, overwhelming the usual scent of pumpkin spice that is common this time of year.

I’m trying to avoid adding my own voice to the tumult.  I’ve already made a couple of politically themed posts.  They’re decent posts, but I don’t think they changed anyone’s mind.  Most of the people that read my blog posts already share my perspective.

I like to use this blog as a writing warm up.  It loosens up my mind and my fingers and gets the words flowing.  The problem is that I’ve been watching the election so closely that all that ever comes to mind are politically themed posts.  For example, I’m tempted to talk about the debate right now.  I also feel an urge to talk about the false equivalence that is applied to Hillary and Donald in regards to their honesty.  The temptation is strong, when what I really should be doing is focusing on writing fiction.  My writing career isn’t going to go anywhere if I remain fixated on politics.

For over a month, I’ve been avoiding this blog the same way that I’ve been avoiding Facebook.  I’m going to continue to remain vacant from social media the same way those that govern avoid war zones.  However, October is coming.  My hope and dream is to turn October into Blog-tober again, which leads into NaNoWriMo.  If I can write a blog post every day for 31 days, I can probably write 1,700 words every day in November.  And I’ve got a really great idea for a NaNoWriMo story this year.

So, I guess this is a warning?

06/16/16

A Moderate View on Guns

I want to talk about guns again.  I’ve talked about them twice before.  The responses to those posts were mostly positive.  I feel a need to talk about them again.  It’s been several days since the shootings in Orlando, so you may be sick of this topic by now.  That’s okay.  I’m writing this for myself as much as I’m writing it for anyone else, to try and work through my emotions around this latest event.  If you want to skip this entry, I don’t blame you.

I don’t consider myself a Republican or a Democrat.  I lean more left than I did when I was younger.  My conservative friends and family probably see me as a liberal.  I’m certainly able to find lots of areas of agreement with my liberal friends.  But one area that I’ve always been more right leaning is guns.  I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea of taking away American’s guns, or infringing on the Second Amendment.

It is important to me that we avoid emotional responses on this issue.  Knee-jerk reactions are not usually powered by intellect and sweet wisdom.  That’s the kind of reaction that led to us fighting in Iraq.  It’s the kind of reaction that led to the Patriot Act, and Guantanamo Bay.  Smart people can get caught up in that kind of reaction, and then regret it later.

We are reeling from the worst mass shooting in American history.  Okay, well, it’s not actually the worst in history.  But it’s the worst in recent memory.  It was perpetrated by a man that had previously been under Federal suspicion.  He used an AR-15, bought legally.  He claimed alignment with ISIS.

There is so much right there.  Terrorism.  Assault rifles.  The ability to purchase a gun, even when on a No Fly list.

After recovering from the initial shock, we were inundated with second guessing.  Liberals cried out about the guns.  Conservatives clutched to their guns, saying it’s all about terrorism.  Both sides started fighting and name calling, and no actual communication took place, because it’s all emotions, grandstanding, and fear.

If someone had been armed in the club when the shooting began, would it have made a difference?  Conservatives say yes.  Liberals say no.

If he hadn’t been able to purchase the gun, the tragedy would have been avoided, right?  Maybe.  That seems to be the main argument for tighter gun restrictions.  But the Boston Marathon bombing didn’t involve a gun.  I don’t think Ted Kacynski used guns.  If Omar Mateen had been scoping out the club weeks before the attack, who’s to say that he wouldn’t have tried something that didn’t involve bullets?

My initial reaction, after the sadness for the loss of innocent lives, is to side with the conservatives.  But we’ve had so many mass shootings.  A call to make a change is not an emotional reaction.  It is the reasonable thing to do.

At the risk of upsetting the quasi-religious reverence given to the Second Amendment, let’s look at what it means to restrict guns in the US.  Already, you can’t just have any gun you want.  I’m not talking about nuclear missiles or weapons of mass destruction.  I’m talking about the kind of weapon you might think was used in Orlando.  To quote:

NFA weapons are weapons that are heavily restricted at a federal level by the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986. These include automatic firearms (such as machine guns), short-barreled shotguns, and short-barreled rifles. Some states and localities place additional restrictions on such weapons.

So, we know that there are already some restrictions on what constitutes a legal firearms.  That makes me think that the conversation about greater restrictions is going to go one of two ways.

  • Tighter restrictions on the kinds of guns people can purchase legally
  • Tighter restrictions on the kinds of people that can purchase guns

If we further restrict the types of guns people can own, we’re talking about eliminating semi-automatic weapons.  People could then legally own bolt action rifles and single-action revolvers, right?  Or will we go further?  It wouldn’t take much before it starts sounding a bit like what was done in Australia.  They broke out guns into several categories.  I think the AR-15 would be a Category D, which can only be owned by government officials.  Handguns are Category H, and in addition to having a justification for owning one (such as being a security guard), there’s a 6 month probationary period, as well as other restrictions.

I don’t think that’s going to go over very well in the red states.  It might be a hard pill to swallow in many of the blue ones, too.

Let’s shift back to restrictions on who can purchase a gun.  I don’t think anyone disagrees with the notion that suspected terrorists shouldn’t be able to buy guns.  But… how do we determine if someone is a suspected terrorist?  What criteria do we use?

We’re still struggling with racial biases and prejudices in our law enforcement and at different levels of our government.  One of our candidates for President speaks with alarming frequency in tones of racism.  How do we keep racism (and potentially fascism) from becoming a part of the process that determines if a person can own a gun or not?

Someone should ask Trump if an American citizen born and bred in the United States, that just happens to be a Muslim, should own a gun.  I wonder what his answer would be, and how he’d play it out against the backdrop of the Second Amendment.

This whole conversation about guns in the US is one of those issues that requires thought and care.  Unfortunately, it’s instead filled with name calling and rhetoric.

What do I think?  How would I change the system to make it better?

I’d start small.  I’d start with putting the restrictions on people, and I’d try to make the restrictions as reasonable as possible.  If you’re on a No Fly list, you can’t buy a gun.  Then I’d go a step further and make sure that there are provisions for getting off the No Fly list, so that innocent people finding themselves on such a list have a way of getting removed.

Maybe I’d also make the waiting period based on the results of the background check.  If you’ve been on a No Fly list, or you were recently the subject of a restraining order, or you had run into some other legal troubles, your waiting period is measured in months rather than days.  People can still get guns if they’re under some suspicion, but they can’t get them in a hurry and rush off to do mayhem.

I don’t think those are unreasonable changes.  It’s an incremental change that would have addressed the situation in Orlando.  Or at least, it would have meant that Omar Mateen would have had to use something other than a gun.

I think that’s the way that we’re going to make things better in the US.  It’s through incremental change, with conversation and compromise, rather than shouting and mule-headed grandstanding.

06/5/16

Writing Technique: The Word “Was”

Let’s talk about how to write.

My writing has really improved over the last few years.  Part of this improvement comes from writing more.  Another part comes from putting my ego aside long enough to listen to meaningful critique.  One of the things I’ve learned from critique is that I fall into the passive voice when I’m not paying attention.  Many writers do this, and the passive voice is fine once in a while.  But like any seasoning, too much ruins the broth.

Adverbs are in the same boat.  Adverbs are not your friend, and should be used with care and intention.  If you’re not paying attention when you use an adverb, you run the risk of telling something that you should be showing.

Most adverbs end in “ly” like quickly, loudly, and simply.  When scanning your writing, you can let your eye land on the words ending with “ly” and then start your surgery.  Similarly, many passive voiced sentences involve the word “was.” So, while editing The Repossessed Ghost, I spent a great deal of time rewriting sentences that involved that word.

Here is an example of a passively voiced sentence that involves “was”:

Rewriting sentences was how I planned on elevating my prose.

If I come across that sentence while editing one of my stories, I’ll rewrite it to something more like:

I planned on elevating my prose by rewriting the weak sentences.

Look how much stronger that sentence is!  The emphasis shifted from “was” to “planned.” It is easier to read, the message is clearer, and I even had room to sneak in an extra adjective.

My first draft of The Repossessed Ghost dripped with weak, passively voiced sentences.  It isn’t that surprising.  The main influence that set the tone for my book is Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, and he falls into the passive voice all the time.

Of course, not every passive-voiced sentence involves the word “was.”  Look at the last sentence of the previous paragraph.  The first half is passive.  It should be “Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files influenced and set the tone for my book.”  It’s sneaky, because it doesn’t involve the word “was” and it is part of a longer sentence.

So, as hard as I worked on The Repossessed Ghost, I know that it still isn’t perfect.  It’s stronger than the previous draft, with a greater emphasis on strong verbs.  However, sneaky sentences slipped past me, and now wait like active land mines.

But, beyond my own book, I have developed a sensitivity to the word “was.” I’ve spent so much time watching for it that it stands out in other people’s work.  It stands out in the audio books I listen to.  Every instance of the word “was” makes me sit up, pay attention, and listen for passivity.

I’m trying to back that off.  It isn’t a terrible word.  It’s sorely needed in some sentences.  I know that some of the sentences I rewrote in my book were not made better by eliminating “was.”  As I’m going through the beginning again, polishing and adding greater strength to the verbs, I’m trying to leave some of the sentences alone.

So, in summary, spending energy seeking and destroying the word “was” can help you reduce passively voiced sentences in your work.  But spending too much energy on something like that can make you crazy, and still allow you to miss your ultimate goal of good prose and a solid story.

You know, I never know how to end posts like these.  So I’ll just say, “Happy Birthday, Melissa!  I love you, and I hope your day has been extra special!”

(Edited.  When writing a post on writing, it’s embarrassing to include so many sloppy mistakes.)

06/1/16

My BayCon 2016 Wrap-Up

I go to 2 or 3 conventions each year, with one of them being WorldCon every year that I can afford it.  This year, Melissa and I chose to go to BayCon as one of the other conventions.  This was our first BayCon, and I went into it with some unrealistic expectations.

For starters, I thought it would be bigger.  I hadn’t heard anything about BayCon 2015, and I wasn’t aware of the three other cons going on at the same time.  I heard a rumor that there had been doubts about BayCon happening at all this year.  If I’d known all that from the beginning, it’s possible I would have given BayCon a pass.  Fortunately, I went, and I had a good time.

I did have my doubts at the beginning.  Melissa and I arrived a little bit early, and we hoped that would help get us through registration more quickly.  We’d preregistered, and I hoped it would be a straight forward affair.  Unfortunately, they had a rough start, with technical difficulties preventing them from getting registration going on time.

Melissa and I went up, badge-less, to attend the opening ceremonies.  There seemed to be some confusion about when the doors would open for that, so Melissa and I bailed on the opening ceremony.  We took a walk around the hotel and went to lunch instead.

Still badge-less, we went to our first panel.  It was Magic versus Religion.  It went in a direction I didn’t think was as interesting as it could have gone.  I took some notes.  Then, one of the panelists started talking about their own stories and their own characters, devolving far and away from the topic.  That went on for several minutes.  The moderator never reigned the individual in.  I looked at Melissa and saw that she was getting tired of the panelist’s droning too, so we quietly left.

So far, I’ve described a pretty terrible convention.  Fortunately, that is (almost) the last bad thing I have to say about BayCon.

Registration finally opened, and we made it through without too much fuss.  After that, we went on to a panel about Space Operas, which proved to be much more interesting and better organized.

Let’s take a moment and talk about the hotel.  For the most part, I liked it.  The air conditioning was a bit inconsistent, with some rooms freezing us, and others testing the strength and tenacity of our deodorant.  There were plenty of seats, and most of the rooms were easy to find.  There was one room, however, which didn’t seem to fit in regular three dimensional space.  It was ostensibly on the third floor, but it also seemed to be on the same floor as most of the other rooms, which were one flight of stairs up from the ground.

Food options were limited.  If I’d been willing to drive for food, we probably could have gone to a number of places.  I didn’t want to do that, though, so the only place Melissa and I could eat was the hotel.  Like the air conditioning, the service was erratic.  The food was also a bit overpriced for what it was.

I sure seem to be whining a lot in this post!  But really, Melissa and I had a good time, and some of the panels were really spectacular.  The best panel we attended all weekend, and maybe even the best one I’ve ever attended, took place that first evening.  Called “Believable Spaces,” it had only one panelist: M. Todd Gallowglas.  Since I meet with Michael regularly, and since I have an ego roughly the size of a small moon, I told Melissa, “I’m probably not going to take a lot of notes.” Boy was I wrong.  Michael ran that panel like he was teaching a college level course on creative writing.  And it worked.  I have to say… I’m really proud of him.

There were other panels throughout the weekend.  We attended them.  Some I enjoyed more than others, but I didn’t walk out of any of them as I had that first one.  A couple were purely for fun, like the Delphic Oracle run by Todd McAffrey, or The Mystery Panel, which wound up featuring a bunch of writers at the convention writing flash fiction head-to-head.

Melissa and I attended the after parties.  We did our best, but I think we’re getting old.  We didn’t stay out very late, but we had fun while we were out.

The best part of these conventions for me is just meeting people.  I enjoyed talking with Jim Doty and Todd McAffrey and Mark Gelineau.  I got to visit with Jennifer Carson and Juliette Wade for a little bit.  At the Convolution party, I talked Jason Warlock’s ear off about Convolutions of the past, and what I look forward to in a convention.  I also really enjoyed getting to sit down to breakfast with Lawrence Schoen and Anastasia Hunter.  There were many fantastic people at the convention, and I enjoyed getting to connect with them.

Melissa and I weren’t able to stay for the entire convention.  I had a performance on Memorial Day at the VA Hospital, so Melissa and I left BayCon Sunday evening, right after a delightful panel on linguistics, with Juliette Wade and Lawrence Schoen as the panelists.  They’re both fiercely intelligent people, and it was both entertaining and educational to listen to them riff off each other about how language works.

There’s more I could talk about, from the Variety Show on Saturday night, to what it was like being a “Galactic Sponsor” of BayCon.  I think I’ve probably said enough, though.

There were flaws, but we had a good time, and that’s all that matters.  Will we go to BayCon 2017?  Maybe.  All I can say for sure is that Melissa and I are going to WorldCon this year.  Any other conventions this year or next year are not on the radar, yet.

05/18/16

Where Writing Happens

I have two chapters left, and then the second draft is finished.  It has taken forever, but I feel like the story is much stronger for the work that I’ve put into it.  Before I get into it tonight, I want to talk a little bit about where I do my writing, and how it relates to advice that I want to take from Stephen King.

The book I’m reading/listening to these days is On Writing by Stephen King.  It is much more interesting than I expected.  Actually, I’m not sure what I expected.  I’m enjoying it, and I’m finding his advice reassuring.

One thing he talks about is the writing space.  He advises that you choose a place that has a door that you can close.  When you close the door, you not only shut the world out, but you shut yourself in so that you can focus on the world you’re creating.  You stay in that place, focused, until you reach your word count.

I would love to take this advice, but I don’t have anywhere like this.  I have some space in the garage, but I can’t really close the door.  It’s not really a quiet place that I can go to get away from the world.  The world wanders in.  The washing machine and dryer rumble a few feet away from my computer.  It’s dark.  Too hot in the summer.  Too cold in the winter.  There are insects.  The world is very much present in my garage.

I wind up getting most of my writing done when I leave my house and go to someplace like Starbucks or Panera.  The world is around me, but most people keep to themselves.  There are worlds of silence in crowds of strangers.  Sometimes the music is too loud.  Sometimes there are friendly folks brave enough to cross barriers in order to make conversations.  Most of the time, however, people pretend that other people don’t exist.  They sip their drinks, their faces illuminated by the various screens they’ve brought with them.  Invisible social shields cloak us all, creating islands of isolation.

Maybe someday, I’ll have my own office at home.  That would be nice.  For now, I’m doing what I can.  I go out.  I buy a decaf coffee, my rent for the evening.  And I block out all of the distractions.

Speaking of distractions… time to get to work!  I’ve got a story to finish!