Category Archives: The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster

No Progress

I have no good excuses; at this point, I’m about one full NaNoWriMo ((That is to say, about 50,000 words)) behind in Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster.  As always when I start to fall dangerously behind in a project like this, I begin to wonder if it’s even worth continuing.  But, then, as I start poking around in the lives of Jenny, Hector, Hank, and Fred (not to mention Doctor Nefario, Hastur, and Cthulhu, of course), I find that I’m drawn in all over again.

I just don’t think I’m going to have this draft completed by the end of August.  I hope I can have it done by the end of September; I’ll have to recalculate my daily word quota.  I’d like to have October project free so I can review The Return of Deacon Dread and get ready to write that sequel for NaNoWriMo this year.

We shall see.  Wish me luck.

Good Progress

Last night I tracked down some MP3’s of Zooey Deschanel — one of my favorite actresses — singing some old tunes.  I’ve decided that I really like her voice, especially when on the track where she teamed up with Leon Redbone to sing, "Baby, It’s Cold Outside", which is one of my favorite songs.  Tonight I listened to those and then I tracked down a station on Live365 that plays that kind of crooner music, with artists like Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, and Artie Shaw.

What, I can’t like pre-war balladeers?  Sheesh.

Anyway, the music seemed to help me find my writing groove tonight.   I’ve written nearly 1,300 words so far, a great number given how things have gone over the past couple of months.  Mostly it was a scene with Hector, whose head I’ve managed to get into really well.  And why not?  Hector was the angry nerd I was so often in college myself (and if you don’t think "angry nerd" is just as much a stereotype as "teen rebel", you just haven’t been paying attention).  Gems from this evening’s writing session include passages like:

Asking pretty girls out on dates was no worse than getting a root canal; the anticipation was the worst, though sometimes the Novocaine shots were pretty bad, and then the sweating and pain afterwards could be a killer as well.  Oh, and sometimes there was facial numbness afterward as well.

…as well as a description of Hector’s emotional state that invokes fractal geometries.

I know this isn’t my best, but I think the analogy is, at least, accurate.

Some progress

641 words on Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster tonight.  It came down to a choice between writing and drilling holes in the cement slab.  I chose writing.  I can drill holes in slab anytime.

Novel Progress

Well, I’m only about 28,000 words behind where I wanted to be at this point in The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster.  I can whip that out in a couple of days, no problem.

State of the Underpope

The Underpope’s Physical State:  First off, Jennifer and I went and re-upped for Weight Watchers.  Losing weight has always been a challenge for me (as opposed to the cakewalk that it is for everyone else in the world, I’m sure), and I’ve never had much success using rewards to act as incentives for myself; I’d always end up buying the toy I wanted for myself anyway, long before I reached the goal weight I’d set.

This time I decided to go a simpler route, using something that I know would really get me going: books.  Every five pounds, I get a new book.  For my first five-pound loss, I promised myself The Complete Stephen King Universe; and for my first ten-pound loss, Soon I Will Be Invincible, because everyone needs a novel about supervillains and their difficult lives.  As of last week, I’d lost 4.8 pounds; not enough for that first five-pound reward.  This week, I lost six pounds, for a total of ten, so I ended up rewarding myself with both the first two books.  Woo hoo!  Of course, I’ve got a huge pile of shame, and I won’t be able to get to these books for awhile, but what the heck.  Next will be either The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont (I’ve been wanting this one for awhile), or Interworld, by Neil Gaiman, because, hell, it’s Neil Gaiman.  But it isn’t published yet, and may not be published by the time I lose another five pounds.

Of course, there’s the video iPod that I get when I break 200 pounds; and the motorcycle I get when I reach my goal weight (whatever that ends up being).

My jeans are getting baggy again, which they hadn’t been for a few weeks, and this is good but also annoying and a setback on my road toward a more polished, professional image.  Even my new slacks (flat-front and not pleated, thanks to all who chimed in on that point) are drooping in the seat a little now.  Honestly, I didn’t expect to lose this much weight this quickly.  I suspect that the process will slow down quite a bit in weeks to come so that it’s not so much a financial burden.

My lungs continue to give me grief.  My pulmonologist gave me samples of Prevacid, on the theory that somtimes gastric reflux can trigger asthma (I wouldn’t have thought so, but it’s common enough so that my doctor has a box full of samples of the stuff, just in case).  I think it might be helping, now that I’ve been taking it for a couple of weeks.

My headaches have returned.  I thought I was done with them years ago.  I need to go back and start reviewing what I did under the neurologist’s guidance: guided mediations, that sort of thing.  I think it’s an allergy thing.

The Underpope’s Creative State.  I am still stalled on The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster, partially because I think I’m overwhelmed by the sheer size of the manuscript and how much work needs to be done on it.  My goal is to reach 91,200 words by August 31.  It was going to be 90,000 words, but I miscalculated.  To that end, I set up a public Google spreadsheet to track my progress; you’re welcome to take a look at it, and call me on my progress if I don’t make it.

I used to have four short stories on my site: "Little Fluffy Wiggletoes", "LTM", "writing down some", and "Joe’s Salvation".  I took them down because I’m no longer thrilled with their quality and I’m not sure I want them representing my writing ability.  Well, "Little Fluffy Wiggletoes" was pretty good.  Plus, the stories were getting very little traffic, according to SiteMeter; except for "Little Fluffy Wiggletoes", which was getting hits from Google searches for young girls and sex.  I’m not comfortable with visitors like that visiting my site.  I may put it back up; I’m not sure.

Two recent rejections, which means only one sale this year.  At the moment, I only have three active submissions.  Tomorrow or the day after I’ll put out a couple more, to reach my goal of five active submissions at all times, but at the moment Daikaijuzine needs to take precedence; it’s just about time for my quarterly "Oh crap, the next issue’s supposed to be up in two days!!!" panic.  Fortunately we’re still a two-bit webzine.  I have dreams for Daikaijuzine, though, involving a print version and maybe even a publishing house way in the future, but such projects would require a touch more discipline.

Hm.  And that’s it for today.

Writing Update

I know this is going to frustrate some of you.

Even though I’m not finished with the current crap draft of The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster, I feel that I’m ready to get moving on the first major draft.  I know where the plot’s headed, and I have my "outline draft" that I wrote in November 2005.

So I’m looking for beta readers to give me serious critiques on this rewrite as I start it.  Please let me know if you’d like to join in by commenting on this entry or by dropping me  an email.

Wheezing and Writing

Okay, so, I thought I was over this cold that I picked up in Ireland. Naturally, I’m not. I still have a hard time breathing out (because that’s what asthma does; it doesn’t really inhibit your ability to inhale, unless it’s REALLY bad, but it will mess with your ability to exhale big time), and I’m coughing a lot. And because my body has decided to include costal chondritis in along with everything else, after a few days of this sort of thing my ribcage starts to hurt something awful. I can sort of relieve the pain by pressing my fingers into my belly, just below my ribcage, and kind of pressing up, behind my ribs, but the relief is temporary, and that probably isn’t the healthiest of remedies. So, it’s up to the cortisone and the Advil now.

But I’m still feeling creative. I did a bunch of work on the Daikaiju Webzine website today, while waiting for server upgrades (again) at work. I left work early to go to the doctor (who looked and listened and said, “Yep, your lungs are tweaked”), and then came home to watch some Doctor Who and do some writing. While Jennifer went to a knitting group, I went off to Borders with my cheap laptop, and while I was there, I managed to finish off the next revision of Chapter Two of The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster.  I’ve discovered that what really works to stimulate my creativity is being with a cheap laptop (no Internet or games to distract me), close to a ready supply of coffee. At home, there are far too many distractions; cats, Internet, movies, wives, games, and so on.

One thing I do sometimes when I’m feeling sick is to buy things. The act of spending money doesn’t actually make me feel better, but if I buy a new book or CD or movie, at least I can be distracted from my lungs for a little while. Tonight I bought Jennifer a copy of the soundtrack to Children of Eden (it was her birthday a couple of weeks ago, while we were Ireland), and I bought myself this CD:

Western Film Themes

It appealed to me for some reason. I’ve been looking for some film music that would inspire me while writing The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster, and I realized that this is exactly the CD for it. I mean, the story is, when you get right down to it, a cowboy story. Fred’s a lawman. Jenny and the others are the townsfolk. Doctor Nefario is the black-hatted villain. See? It works. Just like a cowboy movie.

Except that it takes place in the 21st century. And, you know… It has monsters from outer space.

Definitely a cowboy story, right?

Well, maybe not. And maybe the asthma has interfered with my ability to write coherently. So I’m just going to sign off and head out now.

Fred Again Lives

I’m starting the process of revising Fred, Again (including giving it a new title).  If you’re interested in reading the new chapters as I post them to the Fred, Again blog, let me know.  They’ll be in a password-protected area of my website, and access will be limited.

Over. Done. Damn.

As you can probably imagine, National Novel Writing Month took up most of my free time during November. I finished this year’s project Fred, Again, just a few minutes before midnight on November 30th, and the novel itself clocked in at about 73,000 words. I’m awfully proud of this one; I enjoyed writing it, and those who’ve read it on-line all tell that it’s pretty good, even if the strands of loose plot threads looks like a next of snakes and the characters act inconsistently and sometimes downright bizarre. In spite of those problems, though, I honestly think that Fred, Again has very strong potential. I like all the characters, I like the story, I like the plot, and so on.

So my experience this year with NaNoWriMo has been different than in past years. In past years, I’ve always ended the month with a sense of relief: relief that I no longer had to deal with the thing, that I could finally put it down and forget about it. This year, though, it was with both relief and, surprisingly, deep sadness that I typed “THE END” on the very last page. The story’s done, the characters have all had their say, and things are all wrapped up (well, as wrapped up as a NaNoWriMo project can be, I suppose). But over the past couple of days, I’ve frequently found myself wanting to open up my Fred, Again file and start writing some more. Then I remember: oh, yeah. It’s done. Damn. And I’ve already promised myself to set it aside for at least a month to sort of let it gel before I start revising in January.

But this reinforces to me that my decision to refocus my creative energies away from dark horror toward comedic stuff was the right one. In 2001, my NaNoWriMo project was Unfallen, a novelization of a role-playing game that I had run a year or so earlier. I had fun writing it, but when November 30th hit, I validated my 50,000 words and put the thing aside, never to see the light of day again.

My 2003 project was The Road to Gilead, another one that I had fun writing but once I hit 50,039 words I was unable to write any more. I’ve taken it out often to start working on it again, but I was never able to churn out more than a couple thousand additional words. Again, that one has decent characters as a good plot, but I could never focus on it. That one’s currently languishing, and probably won’t be taken out again until I’m able to take it less seriously.

Last year I wrote The Outer Darkness. It was based on a setting that some friends of mine and I developed for a role-playing game that we were creating. It’s a strong setting with a lot of potential, but I surprised myself by not feeling at all invested in the novel. I wrote 46,000 words of drivel, and then used the remaining 4,000 words to summarize the rest of the plot so that I could get it out of the way. I was going to write a number of novels that take place in that universe, but I can’t seem to come up with any plots that really excite me.

Writing Fred, Again was a totally different experience. See my comments above re: excitement, sorrow, and so on.

So. I’ll probably be setting aside my Terassic Universe ideas for now, because I’m still taking all of them way too seriously. The Mollyverse, though, can easily be re-envisioned. Although some of the stories there are pretty dark, I think that the overall tone of the work is pretty goofy. I have ideas for new rewrites of “Burying Uncle Albert” and “The Winds of Patwin County”, plus ideas for a couple of new stories. I still want to finish that project, because I’ve worked with some of those characters for over twenty years, and the whole thing is pretty fun.

Other news in Richard’s world.

Uh.

Actually, there isn’t much. Work’s still going well. I’m in the midst of developing a plan for migrating our on-line campus to the next version of Moodle, and that’s going pretty well. I’ve learned from previous heartaches, and I’ve developed an entirely new way of documenting our source code modifications, based on the official format for documenting modifications to the PHP-BB project. I enjoy my co-workers, and it’s just, overall, a good place.

With November over, my website has a new theme featuring Emperor Norton. This is going to be my “default” theme, for those times of the year when there’s no special holiday or event theme (like Halloween, Christmas, or NaNoWriMo) in effect. The Christmas theme will activate on the 17th, I think; honestly, I can’t recall exactly.

And that’s it for now. I have no political observations to make beyond my amusement by the slogan I’ve seen which reads, “God has chosen the Republican Party; why don’t you?” If any human activity shows the depths of depravity and inhumanity and sheer un-Christian behavior that people can demonstrate to each other, it surely is politics, and I can’t imagine God — who, through Jesus, once said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” — immersing Himself in it.

Hm, that was more of a religious observation, wasn’t it?

At the moment, now, I’m listening to a filk song about Godzilla. This is giving me ideas for a new novel. There’s something that’s just incredibly cool about giant radioactive monsters rising up out of the sea and rampaging through major cities, isn’t there? I bet I could write a romantic comedy featuring such critters.

Off I go now.

Writing Update #whatever part 2.3

I’ve been updating my LiveJournal account regularly with what’s going on with my writing, but I haven’t been updating over here, and I know that there are people who read this blog but not my LiveJournal. So to help clarify things for my LiveJournal readers, my blog readers, and me, here is what’s going on lately with my writing.

  1. First of all, my NaNoWriMo novel, Fred, Again, is going along very well. Out of 50,000 words, I’ve written about 38,000. Only 12,000 to read the official NaNoWriMo target, and possibly 10,000 or so after that to reach the end of that story. I’m considering what I’m writing right now to be the rough draft for an actual novel, and it’s the first time I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo where I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the novel all the way through, without getting fed up with the story and the plot and so on. More on that in a bit
  2. And speaking of NaNoWriMo, there was an article in yesterday’s Vacaville Reporter about local participants in NaNoWriMo, featuring humble ol’ me. There’s even a picture of me. I’ve written to the reporter and asked if I could use the photograph on my person website, and was told to “go for it”, since it would be considered fair use and the photographer in question has no qualms with it. Check out the article here.
  3. A couple of weeks ago I sold my short story, “Who Remembers Molly”, to The Harrow. This is a pretty significant milestone for me, because it’s the first “serious” story I’ve sold, and the first of my “Mollyverse” stories. On the other hand, the timing is a bit ironic, since I’m on the cusp of changing my writing focus entirely. Again, more on this in a bit.
  4. Yesterday, I also received an e-mail from the editor of an upcoming anthology focusing on retellings of urban legends, asking if I would consider offering them “Who Remembers Molly”. Naturally, I said “Yes!” after first clarifying all the contract issues with the editor and with The Harrow. You know, I’d never thought I’d have to face that kind of quandary. It was frustrating in its way, but also really, really cool. And this makes my fourth acceptance this year, which makes five overall, which, to me, means my writing career is really starting to take off.
  5. Oh, I also got a rejection from Flesh & Blood for my story “Indications”. No hard feelings on this one, of course; the style wasn’t a match for the magazine. And in light of the four milestones above, this one rejection just pales in importance to me.

This is my fourth year doing NaNoWriMo; I did it the first time in 2001, skipped 2002, and then I’ve been doing it ever since. Each year, I’ve reached 50,000 words. I’m told that there’s a “second week hump” which is part of the process; during the second week of NaNoWriMo, apparently most participants lose their drive, their energy, their love of the project, and find that writing is much more of a chore than ever. I honestly can’t say I’ve ever experienced this. Sure I have my lulls, but I’ve never had a problem just charging on through. I hadn’t even heard of the “second week hump” until 2004, when everyone I knew was talking about how awful it was, and I found I couldn’t relate.

That isn’t to say I was enjoying everything every step of the way. I remember really enjoying writing Unfallen, my 2001 project; however, The Road to Gilead was rarely much fun, and last year’s The Outer Darkness was mostly just misery. I take out Unfallen and The Road to Gilead every few months or so, renew my resolve to sit down and finish them and make them publishable, write a few hundred words, them thrust them back into a drawer for another few months. The Outer Darkness, I think, will languish permanently in a forgotten corner of my hard drive, never to know the touch of a red pen. I liked the characters and the setting and the plot, but not enough to ever want to revisit them again.

This year’s project, Fred, Again, though, is different. I started at midnight on November first, with no idea of what I was going to write, who the characters were going to be, or what the plot was going to be. I had a title, though; I’d put out a call to all my friends on LiveJournal and in the real world asking for title suggestions, and said that the person whose suggestion I liked the most would get to be killed in the manner of their choosing. I got so many great suggestions, though, that choosing just one was impossible. I chose Fred, Again as the title, and killed off that friend in the first chapter and made her an important plot point. For each subsequent chapter, I’ve been using one of the title suggestions, and killing off the person who suggested the title in that chapter in a manner they choose. Actually, it’s been great fun, and apparently my friends have enjoyed their virtual deaths, even the one who got tossed into a wood chipper.

I have weird friends. Go figure. I love them.

Anyway, I love writing Fred, Again, and I would even if I didn’t get to kill of people I know while writing it. I can’t wait to finish it, and then to start revising it. Rationally, I know that the thing to do is to finish it and then set it aside until NaNoEdMo, but there’s a part of me that’s just quivering with the need to finish and revise. And this leads me to a bit of a quandary.

See, Fred, Again, while containing elements of horror, is primarily a work of comedic fiction, and apparently a pretty funny one. And several people have told me that my humor and comedy fiction are actually much better than my serious horror. However, the serious horror is what I’ve considered my “real” writing. On the other hand, I really am enjoying writing Fred, Again, and the process of writing it has sparked ideas for other novels in the same vein and even for comic fantasy stories, and I’m finding that I’m much more eager to write those — kind of chomping at the bit, really — than, say, complete the second draft of “Hollow”, a horror story which I think has potential but which has felt more like an albatross in many ways than a creative gem.

God help me, I wonder if I’m destined to write comic fantasy and horror? Are novels like Fred, Again and stories like “An Interrupted Nap” going to be my forte rather than hard core works like The Road to Gilead or “Hollow”?

I still have fun with my “Mollyverse” stories, though, like “Burying Uncle Albert” and “The Winds of Patwin County”, though I think they could be… funnier.

Funnier.

There, I said it.

I’ve been taking this writing thing far more seriously over the past year (well, actually, sixteen months) than I have over the rest of my life, and it’s been paying off in terms of acceptances and editorial interest. I suppose a shift in writing focus was inevitable.

So, I suppose, break out the funny hats and the clown feet. After Fred, Again, Cthulhu has a date with the Capulets and the Montagues.