Tag Archives: Tim

Out of Excuses


Whitey and I, with some of our Journey friends, have taken up the challenge offered by Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells of Writing Excuses.

Writing Excuses, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is a podcast series, now in its 10th season, which encourages people who want to write to go for it. To celebrate their 10th season, the hosts are giving away a fiction writing master class. For free! All you need to do is listen to the podcasts and do the assignments. Whitey, Tim, a few other writers, and I are giving it a shot, planning to get together (starting today) to compare notes and provide mutual support and aid.

The first assignment was to come up with five story ideas. Here are my five:

  1.     From an interview or conversation you’ve had:
    Got this from a conversation with Whitey. He said there are tunnels running under the surface throughout Disney World. The people who work use them to get from place to place if they don’t want to be in character. Though this applies to anyone who interacts with the public, whether they’re a costumed character or not, I think. The employees believe they can speak freely in the tunnels (though of course they can all hear each other). What circumstances might make this interesting? If, for example the tunnels were all bugged and/or had video cameras? (Which I bet they do.) What secrets might be revealed, and why might it matter? Does Snow White have a stalker on the security team?
  2.  From research you’ve done (reading science news, military history, etc):
    The Taman Shud case in Australia: an unidentified man dies on a beach in Australia, apparently of poison. In a concealed pants pocket investigators find a scrap of paper with the words “Taman Shud” (meaning “ended” or “finished” in Persian) written on it. This was later linked to a copy of the Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayam  which had the same words missing (torn) from it, with an unlisted phone number listed in the back of the book. The holder of this number was a woman who may or may not have been named Teresa Powell. She told some story about a man, not, apparently the dead man. However, it was later found that her son had extremely rare genetic features in common with the murdered man. How to explain these events? What would it be like to be Teresa Powell or (more likely) her son, especially when detectives showed up? What would he or she do, once given this information.
  3. From observation (go for a walk!):
    (This walk happend at the Art Institute of Chicago). James Ensor; putting pictures together in grid form (e.g., The Temptation of St. Anthony); putting patches over controversial parts. Why did he put pictures together the way he chose to, and why did he cover parts of the finished image?
  4. From a piece of media (watch a movie):
    Peter Pan- what if Peter Pan was like the Dread Pirate Roberts? Really a series of people who only continue to be Peter Pan until they decide they really would like to grow up…and then, what if one incarnation was really a girl, using the Peter Pan disguise to escape the strictures of being female in her society? Does she ever decide to pass the torch and grow up? If so, how does she come to terms with being female?
  5. From a piece of music (with or without lyrics):
    Sin Wagon,” by the Dixie Chicks. I think the lyrics tell about a woman getting revenge on her cheating man by hitching a ride on the metaphorical Sin Wagon. It was really the title of the song that interested me most, though. What would an actual sin wagon be like? Are they buying sins, selling them, or a bit of both? If both, I can see how you might want to get rid of a sin, but who would ever want to acquire one?

Is anyone else out there in Internetland participating in this class? If you have a blog or other online space where you’re showing your work, I’d love to see it.

In the meantime, do any of the ideas above intrigue you? Any of them totally turn you off? Comments (of reasonable politeness) welcome below…

Million Word Party — Recap

I wish I had pictures of the singing and ice cream, but I was too busy singing, eating, drinking, mingling, and accepting congratulations to snap pictures.  A couple of days later, I was able to take pictures of the gifts and cards I received, so I’m sharing those.* These mementos were an unexpected perk of giving the party. Featured below are a few closeups of the handmade items.

Tim, knowing of my recent fondness for gnomes (I blame the Writing the Other workshop), made me a congratulatory sculpture, which now lives in my writing area.

Isn’t it fantastic?

In addition to sharing much-needed freezer space, Beth put Al to work. Using his arcane computer knowledge, he was able to offer advice on how to generate the next million words.

I knew the responsible party immediately

Whitey used leather working skills I didn’t even know he had to create this gorgeous journal cover, which he filled with Moleskine soft cover note books. I carry a notebook with me most of the time to note observations and ideas; this will replace what I’ve been using. For all you Doctor Who fans, the cover symbol is in Gallifreyan, the script of the Time Lords. It means create.

Learn to write Gallifreyan here!

I got other lovely gifts and cards as well. There’s Bird by Bird (by Anne Lamott) and a fabulous multicolored set of disposable fountain pens from Jack and Carol. There’s the wall hanging from Dick and Jill that proclaims “The Book was so much Better”.  There were thoughtful congratulatory cards from Sue and Ed and Kim, too.

Sis gave the gift of a venue. With all the traveling this summer, my house was in no shape to receive guests, so she generously offered hers and it was swell, from the living room that was transformed into singalong space through the kitchen which became the ice cream bar to the backyard patio with fire pit.

Cookie and Cookie Junior brought brownies and beverages and gave me the gift of time to actually attend the party by taking over serving and cleanup work in the kitchen. Joanne brought yummy homemade peanut butter cookies.

We all loved the comic Hindi song Kishin and Rita performed for us and the song-leading and instrumental gifts that Jack, Bill, Al and BK provided.

I haven’t yet mentioned several people who gifted me with their presence and good spirits: Camille, Cheryl, Katherine, Barry, Sabrina, Len, Carole, Pam, Cathy, and Kim. I have to admit, though that the attendees who astonished me the most were Bro and his lovely Bride, who came all the way from Houston without letting their intentions slip in any way.

If I forgot to mention anyone or to connect the right person with the right card/gift, I’m sorry. Please blame it on the overwhelm factor.

For those interested in the ice cream, here are the flavors we made for the party: caramel pecan, chocolate, coconut, lemon-orange gelato, peppermint, pineapple sorbet, strawberry yogurt, triple chocolate, vanilla, and vanilla yogurt.

We also created frozen (and other) drinks that required plenty of ice cream, including root beer floats, coffee or chocolate stout floats, piña coladas and grasshoppers.

A lovely time was had by all, or at least by me! Thanks again to all involved.

*Disclaimer: In no way did we expect the party to be a gift-giving occasion. BK and I were just delighted that people were willing to show up and celebrate.

Making Merry on April 23rd

Shakespeare insult mug – a study aid

Prithee, gentle readers, knowest ye the day that slips, like knave of hearts, into mine bosom on the 23rd of April? Why, ’tis naught but the day to maketh merry in the verbal vein of our dear bard, William!

In other words, April 23rd is “Talk Like Shakespeare Day.” I’m alternately thrilled and terrified when it rolls around. There’s no question it takes energy and commitment, but if you can pull it off, it’s highly entertaining. Here’s what usually happens: I’ll talk like Shakespeare when I first greet someone but then revert to my usual manner of speaking. If I’m met with a blank stare, my Shakespearean talk will peter out fast, but when my conversational partner is into it, we might trade Elizabethan banter for 15 minutes or so.

This year the festal day is especially fun because my writing peeps in The Journey are just getting back into Shakespeare Reader’s Theatre.

Here’s how that started: last summer, inspired by Joss Whedon’s film version of Much Ado About Nothing, Tim (aka NewMexicoKid) decided we needed to get together and read Shakespeare. We met a few times and read from The Winter’s Tale and the Henry trilogy (that would be Henry IV part 1, Henry IV part 2 and Henry V) and it was almost as much fun as riding bicycles. I got to play Falstaff! Never in my life could I have predicted that. I said at the time that all the Journey would have to do would be to start up on American musicals. Let me play Professor Harold Hill and my thespian dreams will be fulfilled.

Anyway, it’s once more into the breach, dear friends. Shakespeare Readers Theatre revives this Saturday. I can’t be at the first session, but we have another one coming up early in May, and I’ll be there with bells on. Or jester’s motley. Point is, I’ll be there. I start practicing for it on April 23. Here is a helpful site, if you want to play along.

Getting Things Done, one Pomodoro at a time

My writing space

I’ve been working on my productivity. Preliminary results are encouraging.

Usually, a goal like increased productivity or time management is someone’s New Year’s resolution. For me, it’s just an ongoing struggle.

I started on it (again) last summer when Tim  and I were talking about finding time to complete projects. He asked if I had a good, organized working space. Hm. Well, I kind of do. My working space is organized approximately once—maybe twice—a year, when I look around me and decide that I need to get organized. Again. Or I need to set goals. Again. Or I need to revise my goals in light of what has happened recently in my life. You get the drift.

Anyway, Tim thought it might be easier for me to get more done if I were more organized. Doubtless he is correct, and he has pointed out various tools to me at one time or another, but last summer, with what I had going on, his advice seemed even more timely than usual. I needed to clear the decks (and my mind) in order to get more writing and editing done.

So I tried a few things. Here’s what’s working for me right now. I realize we’re past January 1st, but there’s no rule that says you absolutely must use New Year’s day to improve yourself. Organization and productivity are two areas of my life that I continue to tweak as time allows—or when I get desperate, whichever comes first.

Book cover from David Allen’s website

One boon to my recent productivity/organizational uptick is David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. Here’s the thing: I’m certainly not his star pupil. The main thing I realized after implementing some of his methods is that I’m not as good at the everyday discipline of remaining organized as I ought to be.

Just as an example, I reorganized my filing system and bought all the requisite file folders and other foofaraw so that I could keep it up. I was really good about filing (or tossing) papers for a few weeks, but then I got more caught up in the cherry of the book (the “getting things done” part) that I let the ongoing cleanup and evaluation slide. Like so many other organizational tools, it was hard for me to keep implementing it the way the author/instigator intended.

But…I’ve actually accomplished numerous new tasks that had just been languishing in my wishful thinking pile, like attending conferences, participating in workshops, submitting short stories to paying markets, and starting this blog. So thanks, David Allen . If I start feeling stuck again, I know I need to revisit some of the strategies gleaned from your book.

Logo from Pomodoro website

Where Getting Things Done feels macro, my more recent productivity aid tends toward the micro. It’s all about the Pomodoros, baby. And I’m not talking about the delicious sauce.

I’d kind of heard about Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique sometime a while back (probably from Tim) but I didn’t explore it at all until just recently.

What I’ve done so far: I’ve started using a timer while engaged in a task. There’s more to it than what I’m about to describe, but the basic unit of this technique is what the author calls a “Pomodoro”. You set a kitchen timer (or the one on your smart phone, or whatever) for 25 minutes, and work your ass off on one task for that length of time. For those 25 minutes you don’t surf the internet, answer emails or phone calls, get more coffee, vacuum the cat, or succumb to any of the other myriad distractions that can keep you from doing what you need to do. When the timer goes off, you set it again, for 5 minutes. This is a break, and you can surrender to some manner of distraction for 5 minutes before setting your timer for another 25 minutes and returning to your previous task or moving on to a new one.

I’ve tried this technique for just above a week. For my main focus, revising my NaNoWriMo novel. it’s worked surprisingly well so far. I dreaded starting that task. I imagined the revision process stretching out for months, all the while in the back of my head I’d be thinking that I really ought to be farther along. Full disclosure: right now I’m just scanning my printout and marking up the crap that needs to be dumped, researched further, or rewritten. Judging by my progress so far, I should be done marking up the manuscript in another 22 Pomodoros, or early next week.

When I actually sit at my computer to actually rewrite those sections, I’ll need to find out how many Pomodoros it takes to rewrite, as opposed to just flagging boo-boos. But I’m looking forward to that part of the process. I think it makes it easier to face an enormous task when I have a realistic clue how long it might take me.

On a related topic, one of my goals has been to start submitting my fiction. Getting Things Done and the Pomodoro Technique have both helped me on that front.

Here’s a scoreboard update.
Year: 2014
Submissions: 2   Acceptances: 0   Rejections: 0