Category Archives: Miscellany

Florida Man, the renewable resource

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Everyone knows the jokes about Florida Man and Florida Woman, I’m guessing. It’s a crazy state down here. People may believe Carl Hiaasen simply conjures the outlandishly funny things in his books out of a twisted mind, but really, the inspiration for those things surrounds us here. Since we are not all Mr. Hiaasen, however, were some of us to write in our novels these things, people would scoff at how unlikely the events and the actions of the respective Florida duo were. Simply put: in Florida, it seems there is no event so outlandish that it could not be true. Case in point: “Pork Chop” buries boss in dirt with a front loader and then beats him into unconsciousness with a ladder.

Florida is tragicomedy gold. Ponce de Leon should have been looking for that instead of the fountain of youth.

How true is that fiction?

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“The trouble with fiction… is that it makes too much sense. Reality never makes sense.” – “John Rivers” in The Genius and the Goddess (Aldous Huxley)

Case in point: someone messaged me with a link to a news story about a man who decided to live like a sheep for awhile. He created prosthetic legs to strap on to his arms, wore a helmet, and actually wandered around with a herd of sheep in some pastoral setting near the Alps. And he did this after determining the logistics for living as an elephant were not workable. Really. Oh, and a shaman was apparently the one who broke the news to him that he should be a sheep instead of an elephant, although I think the shaman was being kind and polite, while thinking that a jackass might be a better fit.

That is a true story. If I were to encounter the relation of this story in the midst of a larger novel, it would probably rock me out of the overall story. This is not because I think it so odd as to be unbelievable that someone did it – obviously, people do many, many odd things, often without any particular reason at all – but it’s so absurd that unless the novel itself were a satire or absurdist fiction, I think it would be rather jarring – after all, in reality, just how many people have thought, on their own, that someone would live as a sheep for a bit. This is why they (the mysterious “they”) say truth is stranger than fiction. In fiction, it takes work to suspend disbelief and enmesh yourself into the world created by an author, regardless of whether or not that author has populated a world that we would recognize. Anything that appears, like “man lives as sheep” in the course of a regular storyline would cause me, as a reader, to stop, step back, and ask what was going on there, disrupting the flow of the narrative. This is even while intellectually knowing such a thing could be, and probably has, been done.

On writing

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If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write something worth reading or do things worth the writing.
Benjamin Franklin

Getting out of your own way

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I know, I know: updates are sporadic. However, this is the busy season at the ranch, with things to plant and tend, and beehive management to keep the girls in line.

One thing I have done, for this quarter (April through June) is make a goal: get a first draft completed on the first book of the series. I was thinking about this the other day in relation to the beekeeping things that were taking up chunks of my time. I’m perfectly willing to go all out and try to capture a swarm, for instance. Is it necessary that I catch them? No. I have a bunch of other hives that losing one swarm is not a huge deal. Does it reflect poorly on me if I’m not able to catch them, or make them stay if I do catch them? No. Am I self-conscious about having people see me all suited up, working with the bees? Not really. So, my challenge is to apply those things to my writing, instead of thinking everything I write sucks when I know the only person who really thinks that is me – others have read snippets and were positive about them.

That is the conundrum, my small, but faithful, group of readers: how to convince myself that the writing is a challenge just like working the bees is, or working the gardens is, and that even though writing is a very personal thing (to me), that voice/guard needs to be firmly but gently moved out of the way so I can get on with things that need to get out of my head and on the (figurative) paper.

On the waiting for tales

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George R. R. Martin apologizes to fans for the delay of his latest books.

I recall the furor when one of the previous books in George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series was delayed: people act as if books spring from the writer’s mind fully-formed, and flow out onto the page (or computer) perfectly, the first time, and are immediately ready to be printed and shipped.

That isn’t how it works.

Even if the writer has been thinking about the work for years, and has scenes clearly defined in their mind (ahem, me), it still takes the effort of getting it all down, properly, logically, and coherently. It takes effort to revise it to make it the best it can be. Then it takes more time for whoever the team is (agent, editor, writer, etc.) to get it finally prepped and released.

I understand the frustration of waiting for an author’s next book. But I also understand that something I can read in a couple of hours – or, in GRRM’s case, four to six hours – takes months or even years for the work to be written in the first place.

For myself, I prefer to stick with a general rule that a first draft should take three to four months, tops. This seems to me to be the best length to ensure a good product but also to avoid getting so sick of the thing that you might drop it and switch to some shiny new idea. While I may have been thinking of all these tales in my head for years, I do not believe spending those same years in actually writing them will improve them in any significant form, and may result in them never being done at all.

So where does this leave me, the writer who has not yet started writing anything? Finally realizing that like all the other things in my life that I do as a “job” (for which I get paid currently or not) this has to be treated the same way. I had decided Monday that Tuesday was going to be the start, but alas, wound up so sick on Tuesday and into Wednesday that I barely did anything at all on or for any of them.  I believe that most of that was due to even less sleep than my usual insomia allows over the past four days or so, as sleep deprivation can have an impact on a number of things, health-wise. I slept most of Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning, and today is a vast improvement over yesterday.

Since life requires that we remain flexible, I took it easy today, and I will reset the begin date to tomorrow. Thursday will be the day I finally decide that getting all this out of my head is better than dismissing it all as not worth the effort, because who wants to be haunted by all the things they might have done, that were in their power to do, based on an underlying fear that is likely unwarranted and may very well be a falsely and maliciously provided narrative by a hateful person from earlier in their life? I may decide to talk about that later, but for now, it’s time to kick those particular demons to the curb and get them out of the way.