Thursday, August 24, 2017

Music of my middle age: Cinderella (trying not to scream)

I grew up on Doug and the Slugs (Doug on Wikipedia). Along with a few other bands and songs that will be featured here, one of my swim coaches loved this band and played their cassette tapes repeatedly while we swam.  I am certain to feature more Doug and the Slugs songs here but this one is interesting because it is relatively recent (he died in 2004) and I think only exists on Youtube.

I have discussed this song before, focusing on the interesting choice of detail; the only concrete detail is green walls. A very quick Google search shows the phrase he used describing schools, maternity hospitals and spas.

We further know she lives alone and she has no place to go. The rest are merely evocative language and cliche. Let me pick out a few cliches:

  • Down in flames
  • Streets paved with gold
  • Half-full glass

Elsewhere are everyday icons, used by everyone and nearly cliches themselves:

  • Cinderella
  • broken mirror
  • broken heart
  • heart of stone

Bennett puts them together well and makes his own kind of tragic love song from them. I don't know if Bennett made any other kind of love song. One of my favorites that made it onto an album is Tropical Rainstorm.

Some questions: "Shattered dreams like Napoleon Bonaparte". I have listened to the line a few times and wonder if he uses the ending to a joke, "Blownaparte". Bonaparte's dreams were indeed shattered but not in a love song kind of way. I hope there is more to the choice than a rhyme with 'heart'.

Cinderella Trying not to Scream.
When we first met, there was a sound of music and the streets were all paved with gold.
Then fact and fiction began to collide and the love letters all turned cold.
One of us in denial, the other down in flames.
But who got busted, who gets dusted, it's the same old game.
She sits in the window of a haunted house where the walls are all painted green.
Cinderella, trying not to scream.
When you live a love without any glory, its a love you live in vain.
With so many lies and so many stories we live in a spiral of shame.
One of us a broken mirror, the other a broken heart.
Shattered dreams like Napoleon Bonaparte.
She sits in a window of a haunted house where the walls are all painted green.
Cinderella, trying not to scream.
She lives alone with her own expectations and the spaces in between. Cinderella trying not to scream.
All those lonely days and lonely nights that she slowly walks us home.
No one knows  she has nowhere to go and no one to call. No one to call.
When we first met, there was a sound of music and the streets were all paved with gold.
 Then truth and religion began to collide and the love letters all turned cold.
Some say the glass is half empty.  And others say half-full.  But she thinks the glass is pointless. I guess she always will.
She sits in a window of a haunted house where the walls are all painted green.
Cindrella, trying not to scream.
She lives alone with a heart of stone. Its the saddest thing I've ever seen.
Cinderella trying not to scream. X4



Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Stories of my youth: the disappointing elements of fantasy books.

I grew up reading Lord of the Rings, The Belgariad, and The Riddle Master of Hed. Riddle Master is probably the series I have most often reread. I just finished the first book an hour ago. I have reread it more than ten times. Beautiful writing but the hero, Morgon, seems more whiny with each reading.

All fantasy has wizards and magic and swords and royalty. Many such stories have ancient secretive races like elves and dwarves -or Earth Masters. I wanted in this post to dig into the other stuff common to these fantasy stories and focus on Riddle Master of Hed.

The things I note are:

  • wine
  • harps
  • approachable royalty
  • robes

In Lord of the Rings, I would add:

  • other boozes
  • tobacco
  • healing plants

I guess I would add in general:

  • capes
  • swords

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Wine and booze. Tim Powers' Drawing of the Dark made beer magical. But Tolkien had already done this with wine. Maybe he was making his story less fantastic and more historic. Note what the Founding Fathers of the USA drank!
The Huffington Post reports, “In 1787, two days before they signed off on the Constitution, the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention partied at a tavern. According to the bill preserved from the evening, they drank 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, eight of whiskey, 22 of porter, eight of hard cider, 12 of beer and seven bowls of alcoholic punch. That’s more than two bottles of fruit of the vine, plus a few shots and a lot of punch and beer, for every delegate.”
What I really want to get at here is my disappointment with booze. I was a nerdy kid; didn't smoke and wasn't even interested in alcohol. At age eighteen, I snuck into a bar. Not to drink, but to listen to the band playing that night (Doug and the Slugs, often featured here at Creativiti Project).
I finally became interested in alcohol and tried wine. It was okay and I could drink it out of politeness but none of the brands for sale listed medicinal or medical uses (for the latter, come to Korea where traditional liquors have remarkable claims of effects.)

I like beer now and have become something of a connoisseur. At least as far as my wallet allows. Rum and Coke is great. Gin and Tonic is refreshing and protects me from malaria. But none have the effects described of even house wine in Tolkien's stories.
Beer image from.

Morgon of Hed, in RMoH, is stubborn and frequently smashes a glass against a wall when he cannot do as he wishes. This makes more sense when you realize how often he is drinking wine. Maybe that description of drinking is accurate - though depressing. Morgon of Hed is a damn drunk?
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Everyone in the RMoH universe plays or loves to listen to the harp. In the first book, the two main characters both carry them. And they do so through difficult travel. I don't know how small a harp can be but even a small one would be annoying to drag around, I would guess.
Seventeen years ago, I decided I wanted to learn an instrument. I had played tuba and a few other brass instruments in high school but they were bulky and expensive. I didn't want to learn the piano due to its size. I didn't want any stringed instrument because I have a tin ear and would never be able to tune it. I was lucky to be able to take Danso lessons in Korea. The Danso is a small flute held forward and down rather than horizontally. I had a lot of fun learning it and still bust it out on occasion.
I can see professional musicians wanting a harp, but can;t imagine anyone else wanting to carry one around.
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I guess I don't have an actual problem with approachable royalty but it just seems weird.
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Robes. So many people in fantasy stories wear robes. I don't understand it. 'Nuff said.
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In addition to imagining myself drinking various fortifying alcohols, as a youth I also imagined myself smoking a pipe.  Maybe I would control the smoke with my mind or allow it transport my thoughts into other spheres... smoking is pretty nasty in real life.
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Aloe Vera is a great plant with medicinal properties. Touch-me-nots in Ontario have sap that relieves the itch of poison ivy. I am now done with my knowledge of medicinal plants.
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Capes. Capes look cool. You know, in the right situation, having a blanket hanging from your shoulders would be handy. I was very disappointed with the cape my mother made for me one Halloween as it barely reached down to my waist and everyone knows a good cape should reach the ground. My mother ruined Halloween that year! And capes forever after!
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In addition to learning an instrument, I have also learned swordfighting. This is another thing I am not disappointed with.
But glaives and bills and halberds have so many military uses. I don't understand why they aren't more common in fantasy stories.
Hafted weapons Image from.
Halberd image from.


Okay, reader(s). What do you see in fantasy that affected your childhood imagination but was ruined as you matured?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

TWIC: The fall of the house of Simpsons, library love

I was in my early twenties when the Simpsons started and it was nearly the best thing on TV. When I can, I still watch it but somehow it is not as good. It seemed to me that the writers had used up every single joke possible for a ten year old boy - as Bart has been now for 28 years. This video goes into loving detail about how the first eight seasons were magic and the following ones worse and worse. The explanation for how it failed is clear and has links to many episodes so it feels well researched but I had always just thought the show ran out of ways to fill 22 minutes and instead made three seven minute stories that often had no connection to each other. I always enjoy the Treehouse of Terror episodes which follow this format but it doesn't work as a routine thing.
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Canadian Author Melanie Mah loves to write in libraries. I sure don't blame her. ... Hmm. The interview only shows she writes in libraries, not that she loves it. I mean, she probably does, but now I have to worry about fact-checking at the CBC!
I write in a library. I am what some might call temperamental about temperature. So I usually don't wear skirts or sleeveless tops to the library. In my giant library bag, I'm usually carrying a couple of sweaters. Discomfort distracts me. I need to be comfortable while writing, so I don't wear anything tight or scratchy or anything that rides up too much with wear. Turns out, I'm temperamental about lots of things…
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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Baedari Bookseller's Alley in Incheon

I think this is a creativity-related post.Writers don't get far without readers so we need to encourage reading, right? Of course, I don't think authors make much money on sales of used books!

Let me argue this point a little. This post is creativity related in two ways. First, the area I will soon describe was once the main street of Incheon but is now a nearly forgotten backwater. The locals are trying to keep their community alive and also retain its soul. Some of their responses have been a little cutesy for my liking but I'm old.

Second, looking at the English language section of a used book store in korea is a great way to see forced connections between ideas. Books on Biblical subjects are next to one on traveling Ireland by mule-cart (these two concepts were in fact closely related), beautifully illustrated covers for Spanish and Vietnamese (they used a sort of European alphabet) are mistakenly stacked in this area because the text looked close enough, cooking is next science fiction, middle books in trilogies sit alone... Chaos in its third purest form!

Alright, I walked from Dowon station to Baedari Bookseller's Alley and saw this Wooden Knight on my way. There was also a sad robot. Closer to Dowon, I walked through 'Culture Street' with many artforms on display.

 As I wrote earlier, the neighbourhood is not what it used to be. The signs below tell locals to STOP the new improvements to the road that will destroy homes. This article from KoreaBizWire describes how a TV show had been set in the area and brought new life to it. For a little while, at least.

 There seems to be a lot to do in the vicinity.

 Cafe Oasia is in the middle of Bookseller's alley and there are several store on either side. This place seems more of a 'browse and choose books' than 'buy books the meter' as it seemed in Busan's used book store district.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Music of my youth, and a little more recent: Africa by Toto

I suspect it is just nostalgia that drives me but I am becoming more interested in music, and especially lyrics, these days. I hope to write about one song a week a while. I would not describe my musical taste as discriminating and many songs I am thinking about are obvious. Probably the others are banal. But they are my musical choices; make of them what you will.
A still from the video in the first link below.

Today's pick is in the obvious category: Toto's Africa. That site continuously plays that one video. I didn't expect books to play such a large part in the video.  Again, I've been thinking about music more lately, but this post on Salon convinced me to put fingers to keyboard.
[Verse 1]
I hear the drums echoing tonight
But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation
She's coming in 12:30 flight
The moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation
I stopped an old man along the way
Hoping to find some old forgotten words or ancient melodies
He turned to me as if to say "Hurry boy, It's waiting there for you"
[Chorus]
It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you
There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time to do the things we never have
[Verse 2]
The wild dogs cry out in the night
As they grow restless longing for some solitary company
I know that I must do what's right
As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti
I seek to cure what's deep inside, frightened of this thing that I've become

A later lyric changes "It's" to "She's" as in "She's waiting there for you".

Huh. I don't think it is the lyrics that sold me on this song. Most recently, it was this version, which is an acapella and a somewhat novelty take on the song. What do I remember from this song?

  • Hurry boy, it's waiting there for you.
  • Rain
  • Kilimanjaro.

The sense of a quest is entirely absent in my recollection. The drive to make a choice, to correct a wrong or personal demon is new to me as I read the lyrics.

There seems to be 'just enough' detail. A wannabe traveller like myself might want more detail and perhaps a more specific location than the second largest continent. I wonder if the song would do so well as "Tanzania" by Africa? ... Now checking that Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania... Anyway, the Serengeti is more than two hundred kilometers away so it would have to be a very clear day for the mountain to rise over it. Aside from that name, the atmospheric words are rain, wild dogs, drums and ancient.
I am  a socially awkward sort so this song has taught me more about 'wistfulness' than any other source.

So, ah, what is 'solitary company'? Romantic time? Are wild dogs all that romantic?

Time to enjoy this song again after finally paying proper attention to it.
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I plan to look at You're So Vain by Simon, Windy by Association, and The First Cut is the Deepest, probably by Cat Stevens. In less obvious, more personal territory, Cinderella by Doug and the Slugs.  I should add something from the J Geils Band and even the Nylons as well. Maybe a song from Ian Bell....


Monday, August 14, 2017

TWIC:bulwer, lytton, soviet children, fonts, art, podcasting, ideas

Via Kottke, the 2017 Bulwer -Lytton Fiction contest winners have been announced. Some of the Dishonorable mentions:

Follow either link for the winner.
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A different sort of winners - of The Hugos, can be found here.
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Also from Kottke, an archive of Soviet Children's books.
Why study Soviet children’s books? In the selections featured here, the user can see first-hand the mediation of Russia’s accelerated violent political, social and cultural evolution from 1917 to 1953. These conditions saw the proliferation of new styles and techniques in all the graphic arts: the diverse productivity of the Russian avant-garde, photomontage, experimental typography, and socialist realism. As was clear both from the rhetoric of the arbiters of Soviet culture – its writers and government officials – the illustration and look of Soviet children’s books was of tantamount importance as a vehicle for practical and concrete information in the new Soviet regime.
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Via Boingboing, Comic Parchment is a new font you can buy.
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A free Arabic font can be found here.
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I am paying more attention to art forms I didn't much care about a decade or two ago. Painting is one. Here is an article on Picasso's change in style as seen in self portraits.
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Despite my increased sensitivity to art, I don't really see this as art.
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In the course of writing a Science-fiction books, Rob Reid interviewed various thinkers for background information. Not all of those details made it into his book. But they did make it into his podcast.
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My handwriting is terrible. This might as well be magic.
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Another attempt to answer, "Where do ideas come from?"

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Gangwon Animals: Meles leucurus


I just finished working at an ESL/biology camp in central Gangwon Province, South Korea and will share a few animals sighted there over the next few weeks. Here are some Asian Badgers and they should be standing in front of their burrow. We have several minutes of game camera footage but I am not sure of the burrow is obvious in this still.

Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Order:Carnivora
Suborder:Caniformia
Family:Mustelidae
Subfamily:Mustelinae
Genus:Meles
Species:M. leucurus
The honey badger of "don't give a f---" fame belongs to a different sub-family:
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Clade:Synapsida
Class:Mammalia
Order:Carnivora
Suborder:Caniformia
Family:Mustelidae
Subfamily:Mellivorinae
[2]
Genus:Mellivora
Storr, 1780
Species:M. capensis
I remark on this only because it was a discussion topic at the camp.

The game cameras used are pretty cool: Moultrie.


Friday, August 11, 2017

TWIC: ideas, self-publishing, toronto library, crowded sky, 78s,

Where do you (or does N.K. Jemison) get your (her) ideas?
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Make a living as a self-published author. (10 tips)
I wake up at or around 5:00 AM every morning, without an alarm. Why would I need one? Even before my feet hit the floor, I’m excited to get started. I love what I do. My neighbors must wonder, Why is that man with the giant nose ALWAYS smiling?
This perfectly describes how I want to feel -and also my nose. When I am busy, I wake up already knowing what I will do that day. This feeling is both thrilling and exhausting. I think I need to find a balance between the two feelings. Usually, I feel neither thrilled nor all that tired.
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Toronto's science fiction library has a new head librarian (Check out the URL; I wonder what titles they were first thinking of to come up with that). I think it's cool that Toronto has a science fiction library even beyond that the head it changing. another reason to go home.
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I have in mind to try -some day- writing a story set in a 'crowded sky' as described on this blog. The blog post uses gas giants in the Goldilocks zone of a star to cram in many Earth-sized moons. They also place pairs of Earth-sized planets at the LaGrange points to eventually fit in 36 or more habitable planets. New Scientist offers a summary. Now, Scientific American offers news on how common - or in fact, not - moons are as observed around distant stars. This set of links in this post are mostly for my own reference, I guess.
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Another link not directly related to this blog's intended content: I often offer links to archives of public domain material and I am not sure if this qualifies but if it doesn't, I think it will soon. Archive dot org has 25,000 songs digitized from old 78 records. Kottke has a summary of what this means.
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Friday, August 4, 2017

Gangwon Animals: Steppe Rat Snake

Behold the beautiful Elaphe Dione:


This is an entirely non-venomous snake and I wonder if it is kept as a pet in Asia.
Found here.



Tuesday, August 1, 2017

TWIC: Leonardo, d&d, setting

I am using the spotty internet service at camp so although this link to Leonardo's notebooks digitized looks interesting, I cannot see them myself. As Boingboing points out, the notebooks are written in Leonardo's unique right-to-left style and in Italian.
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Escaping Prison with D & D. THe game itself requires creativity, but in prison it also requires creativity to acquire dice. Gambling is forbidden so dice are not allowed. Inmates use paper templates and origami to make their own and they even test them for randomness.
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Setting can be a character.  As a reader of science fiction and fantasy, I say of course but the best example I can think of is Tony Hillerman's series of books set on reservation land in the American south west. The location was a real but unobtrusive character. His daughter(? or wife?) continued the series and is a skilled writer but the descriptions of the setting seem more obtrusive to me.
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Monday, July 24, 2017

TWIC: at camp, Microsoft Word, grit, balance, planning

I start my This Week In Creativity roundups the day after the previous one is posted. So I am writing this on Tuesday the eighteenth. Between now and the time this is posted I will start work at an ESL and science camp. I really can't say if this will be a shorter post than usual or not.
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Encouraging grit and imagination in the classroom. This sounds like the perfect post for me. Actually the Sci-Am link starting this paragraph only describes the videos and idea.  The videos are at Imagination Institute and look to be a version of TED talks.
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Using Microsoft Word to write a book? Among book snobs, the idea is nearly revolutionary. The industry standard is probably Scrivener or the like. But Tallulah Lucy defends Word.

My trilogy is currently sitting at 316,078 words, which amounts to 732 Microsoft Word pages. It’s all in a single doc.
I’m not saying that to impress anyone (it still needs to be edited down!). Only because a few people I’ve chatted to seem to think that you need some fancy writing software to write anything of that length. I actually find Word really easy to use, and it’s all because a few years ago I figured out how to structure a document for a novel.
Here’s what I do, and hopefully it can help you too.
1. Navigation Pane
Under “View” on the main menu, check “Navigation Pane”. This is the key to the entire thing. The Navigation Pane allows you to view the document by headings, pages or by search results. The headings is the important thing, as you will be able to navigate directly to each heading by clicking on it.
2. Scrap yard and Marker
The first thing I type is Scrap Yard, the second is Marker. Both of these should be on their own lines and set to Heading 1. You will find Heading 1 under Styles on the Home tab of the main menu. Then they show up in the Navigation Pane. You want to start typing your novel above this.
3. Using headings to structure the novel
Something that I know I vastly underestimated when I started writing was how much time I’d spend skipping back to check stuff. Whether it’s a character name, a piece of dialogue or what the hell happened in That One Scene, I do it at least three times in every writing session.
Now for each section of a story that I write, I will use headings so that I can easily find that part again.
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I offer links to various archives and collections of public domain art and such in these posts. As they are public domain, one can snip and mix and match to make new art. For someone with my shaky hands, this is a better option than drawing new stuff. Anyway, the following archive is not public domain, I think, but is another example of barely restrained creativity; 25 or more years of Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine are in Archive dot org.
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Balancing work and life, and hustle


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And Sergio Pereira on a writing and life balance:
That said, there are moments when I need to breathe. This week, for example, I had one of those flustered, overwhelming feelings. You know, that feeling where you ask yourself what you are doing with your life. It bums you out and you start to think negatively about stuff, which makes matters even worse.
...
Mental health isn’t a joke. If you’re feeling down, it’s your brain telling you that something is wrong and you need to fix it. Burning out won’t impress anyone and does more damage than good in the long run. Learn to listen to the signs that your mind and body emit and respect that balance is needed. Trust me, sometimes delaying that piece of writing by a week or a month will be worth more than completing it right now.
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Should you plan your story ahead or not? Every attempt I have made to writing a book has stumbled to a halt roughly 80~90% in with no clear idea of how to wrap it up. This is true for stories that I had excellent plans for (plans until the end, of course) and for stories I made up from the start with no pre-planning.
The question of whether or not to plan, and how much planning to do, is a particularly weighty one when it comes to novel writing. Because novels are heavily reliant on structure, and because they are such a massive undertaking by any measure, outlining might seem both practical and necessary—a way to make the abyss of the blank page feel a little bit less … well, abyss-like.
But is outlining actually necessary? Of course not.
When it comes to writing a novel, the only thing that is necessary is actually, you know, writing it. How you get there is entirely up to you. But should you outline?
Though advice often comes in the form of absolutes (you must write every day; you must show, not tell; you must kill your darlings), I’m wary of them under any circumstances, and I think they’re especially useless when it comes to process. While not knowing how to proceed is a very common problem, the particular psychological hurdles of starting (let alone finishing) a project are individual. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution.
The tiny bit of wood carvin experience I have informs me that a fairly solid plan is necessary before starting. I can't just whittle your way into an interesting carving. I need a few pictures and diagrams and measurements before blade touches wood.
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John Grisham offers writing advice.
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Quantity eventually create quality.




Monday, July 17, 2017

TWIC: Worst muse, plot sex, magic, process, notebooks, brainstorming, distraction, cleese, school

The Worst Muse Twitter account isn't active these days, but there is lots of (terrible) advice there.
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Writing plot sex


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Help transcribe texts on magic for the Chicago Library. C'mon, what could go wrong?
“You don't need a Ph.D to transcribe,” Christopher Fletcher, coordinator of the project and a fellow of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, tells Smithsonian.com. “[The initiative] is a great way to allow the general public to engage with these materials in a way that they probably wouldn't have otherwise.”


The three manuscripts now available online reflect the varied and complex ways that magic fit into the broader religious landscape of a shifting and modernizing West. The 17th-century Book of Magical Charms contains instructions on a range of magical practices—“from speaking with spirits to cheating at dice,” according to the Transcribing Faith website—but also includes Latin prayers and litanies that align with mainstream religious practices. An untitled document known as the “commonplace book” explores strange and fantastical occurrences, along with religious and moral questions. Cases of Conscience Concerning Evil Spirits by Increase Mather, a Puritan minister and president of Harvard who presided over the Salem Witch Trials, expresses a righteous condemnation of witchcraft.
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The Real Creative Process Here are the five steps offered at the link. I snipped most of the explanations so if you want more, follow the link:
1 Preparation
Preparation involves forming a question about our project and immersing ourselves in the search for answers. We decide we want to create something and set out to learn how. It doesn’t just involve pre-work for the project itself; it encompasses everything we’ve ever done or felt.
2 Incubation
Our subconscious processes what we learned in the first stage and assembles it more easily and cleverly than our conscious mind ever could.
3 Illumination
This is the part everyone thinks happens automatically, and pretty much never does. Occasionally, after some Incubation (which could be weeks, months, or the amount of time it takes to have a shower), our muse will deliver a nice little package for us.
4 Verification
More often, though, verification is the part where we discover our ideas still need work. If we’re not careful to be very gentle with ourselves at this stage, it can feel like the creative equivalent of waking up hungover next to the person we brought home from the bar, who, in the cold morning, looks more like a melted candle than the thing we took to bed.
5 Elaboration
Elaboration is where we renew our commitment and run through steps 1-4 again and again until we end up with something we can love.
Although I’ve written the process as if it always goes in order, Csikszentmihalyi reminds us “that the five stages, in reality, are not exclusive but typically overlap and recur several times before the process is completed.
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More on Feynman and notebooks.
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A list of rules for brainstorming. These three stand out for me (follow the link for the rest and a video):
3. Build on the ideas of others
4. Stay focused on the topic
5. One conversation at a time
I think these specific rules work for a group brainstorming session but seem to step on the general rule against editing. Perhaps the video explains things.
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Being busy is killing our ability to think creatively. There is a quote within a quote below - the nested quote is in italics
Little good comes from being distracted yet we seem incapable of focusing our attention. Among many qualities that suffer, recent research shows creativity takes a hit when you’re constantly busy. Being able to switch between focus and daydreaming is an important skill that’s reduced by insufferable business.8 As Stanford’s Emma Seppälä writes:

The idea is to balance linear thinking—which requires intense focus—with creative thinking, which is borne out of idleness. Switching between the two modes seems to be the optimal way to do good, inventive work.
This reminds me of John Cleese saying that he needed 15 minutes to get into a project and any distraction, even a short one, required the same 15 minutes warm up.
Hmmm. I can't find that quote but naturally there is a lot of interesting Cleese has said. Here are a few places to look. One. Two. Three.
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I remember forty years ago we were about to put up panelling or wallpaper in a room and the evening before, dad brought out pencils and, well, stuff - it was forty years ago, the details are hazy - and we decorated the walls with our art before they were covered over and hidden.
The same thing was done on a larger scale at a school about to undergo renovations.

Their Facebook page with many images of the art.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

TWIC: Journaling, self-publishing, fantastic travel, online long reads, Garfield, writing advice, contest, sewing

First it's important to understand a huge body of scientific research shows that old fashioned journaling -- nothing fancier than dumping your thoughts onto the page -- can be hugely positive for mental health This suggests that basically any way you find to get your thoughts down on paper is probably going to help you calm your mind and get stuff done, though no specific studies have yet been done on bullet journaling (so this is al just informed speculation).
That being said, this more graphical form of journaling might provide unique benefits, several experts believe. Neuroscientist and author Daniel Levitin, for instance, suggests that one of the system's advantages is that it works like an external memory extension.
"The conscious mind can attend to about three things at once. Try to juggle any more than that and you're going to lose some brain power," he tells Davis. A bullet journal might be helping its fans get past that inherent mental limitation.
It might also help shut down a psychological phenomenon known as the Zeigarnik Effect, which states that it's easier to remember uncompleted tasks than completed ones. When an undone task keeps intruding into your thoughts, simply planning out when you'll complete it can help clear it out of your mind, research shows. That's why you often write a to-do list, feel better, and then simply lose it. It's also why bullet journals may be so soothing for some, according to psychologist EJ Masicampo.
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And from Quora, where I am spending way too much time: Is journaling a creative necessity?
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An editor's opinion on self-publishing
The Problem
The self-publishing industry includes very few quality barriers, an unfortunate shortcoming that leads to infamous works like E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey. And, because self-published authors are obliged to format, promote, and design both the covers and images for their own works, publishing becomes so cost-intensive that many quality authors simply can’t afford it. “Those authors work in a vacuum,” Logan says, “with very little outside support.”
In short, the self-published market has become so flooded with mediocre texts that most people have come to view all self-published texts as inferior.
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Travelogues, real vs fantastic.
If there’s one thing that reading these books so closely together drove home, it’s how fantastical travelogues emphasize the pleasures and wonders and marvels of the journey, while actual, real travelogues emphasize how annoying and awful travel can be. Real travelogues will include at least some ranting, while fantastical ones often emphasize the amazing and wonderful nature of the places visited.
This pattern may not be universal, but it does seem to hold when I think over things I’ve read in the past—from travel writings by Mary Wollstonecraft and Isabella Bird Bishop to fantastical stories of travel by authors like Jonathan Swift and Marco Polo’s Travels (significant portions of which it’s believed are retellings of others’ stories). There are exceptions, of course, like Peter Mayne’s jolly and amusing A Year in Marrakesh (discussed here), but I think the pattern overall holds… probably for good reason. Visiting a foreign place involves the actual discomfort and dislocation of travel; fantasy, the spectacle and splendor without the trouble.
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Design and reader follow through in online long reads. A long twitter thread on the attempts of website owners to promote their content at the expense of driving people away from reading their content.

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How Jim Davis got his start (I do not see a way to link to the specific comic. Look for July 6, 2017) (This image has been cropped greatly and shrunk slightly. To see more follow the link and search).

The What Should We Draw podcast looks fun, too.
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A list of 38 books to help you write. The first four:
  • On Writing by Stephen King (2012) – This is a definite favourite between writers as King gives a low-down on how the basics of writing actually work. I’m not a huge fan of the tone he uses in this one but I can’t deny this is gives any writer understanding of the basic skill set
  • Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne LaMott (1980) – This was another firm favourite and timeless classic, although I’ve never read it, a lot of the authors talking about this said how much it had helped them and opened their eyes.
  • Writing the Breakout Novel by Dondald Maass (2002)- Claimed to be brilliant, this book has made it pretty far up my list as Maass gives an all round guide for published and unpublished authors alike. 
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg (2005) – This combines Zen meditation with the form of writing as been nominated by several of our authors who also went on to nominate another of her books that we’ll come to later on.
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Murakami's advice for young writers
Remember that scene in Steven Spielberg’s film E.T. where E.T. assembles a transmitting device from the junk he pulls out of his garage? There’s an umbrella, a floor lamp, pots and pans, a record player─it’s been a long time since I saw the movie, so I can’t recall everything, but he manages to throw all those household items together in such a way that the contraption works well enough to communicate with his home planet thousands of light years away. I got a big kick out of that scene when I saw it in a movie theater, but it strikes me now that putting together a good novel is much the same thing. The key component is not the quality of the materials─what’s needed is magic. If that magic is present, the most basic daily matters and the plainest language can be turned into a device of surprising sophistication.
First and foremost, though, is what’s packed away in your garage. Magic can’t work if your garage is empty. You’ve got to stash away a lot of junk to use if and when E.T. comes calling!
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A new risk to air travel, time travel to 2037.
XPrize and ANA present a series of short stories "of the passengers from Flight 008, imagined by the world’s top science fiction storytellers, as they discover a future transformed by exponential technologies."
The book has stories from many top writers, but there is also a contest!
XPrize and ANA present a series of short stories "of the passengers from Flight 008, imagined by the world’s top science fiction storytellers, as they discover a future transformed by exponential technologies."
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Tyler Cowan's writing routine.
What’s your process for editing your own work?
I repeatedly edit it many times, at least ten. I just keep on doing it, until I can’t think of further improvements. I can’t say that is a process in any formal sense, simply a recognition that the “process” to date hasn’t worked very well and so it must continue. I don’t pretend this is efficient.
How do you finish out a day of writing? Do you have a process, or is it just that you know you’ve hit a natural stopping point?
I try to finish out early, so my mind is clear for reading, meetings, other kinds of decisions, whatever I need to do. I can’t write for anything close to a full day, it involves too much concentration.
How much of a day for you is spent in research versus writing, or are you doing both at the same time?
Both at the same time, but it depends what stage the project is at. In the earliest stages, the proportion of research is much higher. After a while, it simply ends up being a process of editing out mistakes and infelicities. Then I will go and restudy or reread the key materials I used.
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This plot needs work! Here is the work that needs to be done.
I realised, about 37,000 words in, that I was quickly loosing track of my characters and their goals were getting fuzzy. I didn’t know where the novel was going.

I wasn’t prepared to throw out the whole thing and start again, because I think I have some good work in there and I’m not prepared to give up those words. Not yet.

What did I do? I read.
Step One
I started with a revision of the Heroes Journey, the 12-step structure of mythical stories that just about every novel I can name adheres to. The official definition, from the link above, is:

The Hero’s Journey is a pattern of narrative identified by the American scholar Joseph Campbell that appears in drama, storytelling, myth, religious ritual, and psychological development. It describes the typical adventure of the archetype known as The Hero, the person who goes out and achieves great deeds on behalf of the group, tribe, or civilization.
I got out some colorful pencils and sketched it out for myself: [image removed - follow link to see it, and a whole lot more, including four more steps.]

80,000+ sewing patterns online. I don't sew but this might also be interesting to see how fashion and style has changed.
McCall's, Butterick, Simplicity. If you were into sewing, or simply spent time as a child rummaging through patterns with your mother at the fabric store, these names will bring on a wave of nostalgia. And now, thanks to a fantastic online collection of vintage sewing patterns, it's time to dust off your sewing machine.
The Vintage Patterns Wiki boasts more than 83,500 patterns that are at least 25 years old, which makes for a fascinating look back at fashion history. As a collaborative effort, the database is constantly being updated and organized, with any newly uploaded patterns dating prior to 1992. Just click on the cover and browse the list of pattern vendors who have the look.
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From Quora: How do I write a long blog article? As others noted, writing new material of whatever length is appropriate seems a better goal than 'long'.



Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Incheon Animals: Spider and Spiderwasp

This set of images are of an act of parasitism. I disturbed the process and I do not know if the spider recovered or died. Spider Wasps paralyze spiders and place a larva inside the spider, which then eats its way out of the spider.
I do not know the species of either the spider or the wasp. I will have English guides for Korean arachnids and wasps later this summer.
The images are not disturbing but the concept is so they are 'under the fold'.

TWIC: Seattle, comics, paddington, firefox, dreams

The art of Seattle. My friend M Heilman spent a fews days in Seattle and it seems she found the best art outside of the museum. Here are two of her images that I have shrunk greatly - follow the link for more and fullsize.


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Comics Writer Jason Arron
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Michael Bond, author of Paddington Bear stories, has passed away. I had some learning difficulties in elementary school and read Paddington with the therapist, Ruth Tinkiss, so many years ago.
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Is Firefox better than Chrome? Not all that creativity-related but consider it another PSA from Surprises Aplenty!
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Science and creative writing
Scientists may even beat creative writers at their own game due to a "killer work ethic" and the lack of a so-called publication angst, Irish writer and novelist Aifric Campbell wrote.
"It was the interdisciplinary challenge that intrigued me, but I’ll admit to being (skeptical) about the students’ writing potential. So I was delighted to be proved wrong: their writing is easily as good – and often better – than that of creative writing students I have taught elsewhere, including at the University of East Anglia. And my external assessors – also writers who teach and hold PhDs from UEA – agree," she said in an article posted on UK's The Guardian.
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A Distraction-free text editor.My favorite on the Mac is Ommwriter but the PC version has problems. An excerpt from the review:
Overview
Write!1 describes itself as a distraction-free text editor. It enters the market in an interesting way: the Mac offerings here are numerous, varied, and excellent. Offerings on Windows are fewer and further between, and in my experience of much lower quality. Distraction-free text editors outside the world of programming text editors barely exist at all on Linux, as far as I can tell.2 Write! is cross-platform, targeting all three of these. And that, as we’ll see, is the story of this particular app — for good and for ill.
The Good
First, the good: the app seems to perform relatively well. Text entry, even on a fairly large document, is smooth and quick. (I imported the text of this ~7200-word paper to test it and it didn’t stutter a bit.) Especially given the time I’m going to spend on the not-so-good below, I want to take a moment to applaud the developers for getting that right.
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Goldberg guide to writing Two of six points:
4. Remember that the blank page is nothing to be scared of. Remind yourself of this often. Every day, in fact. One day you might even believe it.
5. Write thousands of words of pretentious bilge. Fill a forest-worth of notebooks with future embarrassment. Fail again and again. At some point, fail better.
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Narrating dreams and other stories. A nearly five minute video that explains the problems and solutions to storytelling.
The reason other people's dreams are boring is because most people are bad at telling stories. This video from The School of Life offers suggestions on how to narrate your dreams (or tell any kind of story, factual or fictional) without boring your audience.
We naively assume that enthusiasm and authenticity can be enough...
This charming though ultimately lonely egocentricity can best be seen in children who are the worst storytellers... 
rules for successful storytelling
1 We must understand a story at least five times as well when its to be shared in company.
2 Keeping a story brief takes far more effort than letting it expand.
3 We need to simplify. The downfall of almost all anecdotes is an accumulation of incidental detail untethered to the logic of the story.
4 Factual events: dates, times, actions are always less interesting, though far easier to remember than feelings. Yet it is the feelings that invariably contain the kernel of what will intrique other people.

asdf

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

TWIC:the ending, british council,inspiration, prisoners of gravity, comedy, journals

Planning for the ending of the novel. Every one of my novels has stalled out approaching the ending. I can find my way through the story but bringing it all together is hugely difficult - for me, at least.
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British Council and creativity.

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Devil Girl From Mars was the movie that got Octavia Butler interested in writing.
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Add some curses to your books to protect them.
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Velekovsky's answer on Quora to What makes a writer great?

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More from Velikovsky: creativity training and a variety of his links.
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Is it easy to write a book?
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Inspiration? Inspirobot, the random inspiration saying generator.
I like this deepity:
This one is also fun:
Is this one funny or true?
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Prisoners of Gravity was a great show and here it is getting some credit.
...when it comes to sci-fi TV, Prisoners of Gravity has been seldom imitated and never duplicated. But Askwith says the internet is starting to pick up some of the slack.
“I think podcasts really seem to mirror the energy of Prisoners of Gravity, because they can, because they don’t have to go after a mass audience,” he says. “If our legacy has been anything, it’s not that we affected television, it may be that we affected podcasts.”
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Doing stand up comedy. I do it as an amateur for fun.
What I thought it was before I did it: You walk up, tell jokes for 10 minutes, then collect your free beer or $20.
What it actually is: You write 30 pages of jokes then meet with two other writers, who are also writing jokes (but different from yours). You’re all brutally honest with each other. You cut and trim. Some things don’t work. They point out logical inconsistencies. You end up with two pages.
Back to the drawing board. Repeat this process. Eventually you have 5 pages that will get you through a ten minute set. But, uh oh, one of your topical jokes appears in the media. More than one person can think of the same joke. “I had this joke first,” you think. But that doesn’t matter. You replace.
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Many famous creatives, writers, innovators and original thinkers of our generation keep journals— for many, it is a creative necessity, for others, a place for exploration, and for some an art form in and of itself.

But you don’t have to be creative, scientist or an innovator for this practice to be worthwhile.
Journaling helps you prioritize, clarify thinking, and accomplish your most important tasks, over urgent busy work.
Thinking in writing has this magical quality of clarifying your thoughts.
Tim Ferriss calls journaling the deloading phase in life. He explains, “I use it as a tool to clarify my thinking and goals, much as Kevin Kelly (one of my favorite humans) does. The paper is like a photography darkroom for my mind.”
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Monday, June 19, 2017

TWIC:random, gurkhas, lackey, the cure, travel writing, pacing,

I guess randomizing your life is a form of creativity. The results were interesting.
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And randomizing part of your travel plans.
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For my own reading. The origins of the terrifying Gurkhas.
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Mercedes Lackey is an incredibly prolific author and is getting tired of Quorans asking if she is a real person!
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Also, she is a plotter, not a pantser.
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And she is open to working with the dead.
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Snider has the cure! -jerk that I am, I removed it -and shrank the image. I now know the cure - you know where to find it.

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Quora and Writer's block: One. And Mercedes Lackey doesn't think Writer's Block is real.
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Tips for travel writing.
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Probably not purely travel related: hot keys for making PPTs.
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In some stories, you learn that every action has a reason or consequence. Virtually every choice is intended to drive the plot forward or teach us about characters. But for Miyazaki, of Ghibli Studios fame, it was important to have a pause, a rest in the action. I think I have embedded the tweet and quote; if it doesn't show up when I publish the post, I'll it later.

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Gary Gygax's FBI record.

Monday, June 12, 2017

TWIC: anatomy, money, schedules, self-loathing, secrets, note taking

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Emerging writers vs those who make $100,000 a year.
Finding #2: Indie Publishing is a Viable Pathway to Success
We wanted to know if there was any correlation between how an author was published and whether or not it got them to the 100k club. The results were pretty surprising to us. Of all 100kers none were purely traditionally published. To be fair, only about 5% of overall respondents were solely traditionally published (James Patterson did not take our survey), so traditionally published authors didn’t make up a big part of the surveyed audience, but none of them were in the 100K club.
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The New York Times tells us to schedule time to be creative.
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Internet headline writers hate themselves.
In many non-public industries, success is like hide-and-seek. Companies find an advantage—a secret sauce, like the Coca Cola formula or a Netflix algorithm—and guard its secrecy at all costs. But web journalism is a radically public business, where writers can see what headline tropes get retweets, which stories blow up on Facebook, and which companies finish the month with the most readers. This business isn't like hide-and-seek. It's like Sardines, the derivative game where one person hides (e.g., under the sink), everybody else tries to find and join them, and the last person who doesn't see the clump of people in the kitchen is the loser. That's web journalism. Ruthlessly maximizing audience means figuring out what's working—for you and for everybody like you—and doing it over and over.
Writers are caught between the commercial instinct to maximize attention to articles that they've spent lots of time writing and the aesthetic instinct to not hate every fiber of their very being after they write the headline and press the publish button.
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Hide secrets in your writing.

How to hide secrets in your story

The true aim of hiding secrets in your story is to give the reader autonomy – to give them reason and motivation to investigate your writing and engage with it on the deepest possible level; one where you’re no longer around to guide them. Because of this, there are actually a couple of ways to hide your secrets. 
Codes and ciphers
...Dan Brown’s Deception Point includes a series of letters and numbers on its last page, offering readers a code to solve. Using the book itself, the codes can be translated into individual letters, which can then be placed into a five-by-five square to reveal the message [redacted - follow the link if you really care] 
... 
References and clues
References and clues are a less direct way of engaging the reader, but can be incredibly satisfying in their own right. Books like The Eyre Affair and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen populate their stories with characters from famous works of literature.
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Context and hindsight
Context and hindsight are the most natural ways to seed secrets into your story. When, for example, the reader learns the true identity of Fight Club’s Tyler Durden, earlier scenes take on new meaning, and a second read-through renders familiar scenes in a different, transformational light.
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Secrets and lies
... 
The theory is a patchwork of throwaway moments, strange comments, and interlinked details, and it’s unclear whether it will ever be confirmed or denied in the books themselves. In a series built on myth and intrigue, it’s a tantalizing possibility – a treasure trail that invites fans to think back and interrogate scenes, even as they wonder how it could come to a head in the future. If the theory is true, it’s a masterclass in how to hide secrets in your story, and it never needs to be resolved to have value. There’s as much enjoyment in piecing together a behind-the-scenes story as there is in seeing a theory turn out to be right.
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Modern Busy Town.
Image shrunk greatly, to see full size, follow the link.
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One trait I kinda/sorta share with Gates and Branson. We take notes. At the link are five tips, from which I have removed the details from, leaving below only the titles:
1. Create your own system. ...
2. Write down your thoughts immediately.
3. Expound on your thoughts later.
4. Store your notebooks for future reference.
5. Review your archive regularly for patterns or associations. 
Semi-related: I have been rereading Kim and reading Bayonets to Lhasa as research for my steampunk novel set in Nepal. Mostly, I've been using my Kindle's highlight feature but I should be writing down my notes and remarking why I found them interesting.
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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

TWIC: formatting and publishing, carving tool, ninjas, atmosphere, scientific writing, editing,

A tutorial on formatting and publishing your e-book. THe tutorial uses screenshots and open and free software.
Resources:
Word Processor (MS Word, Open Office, Libre Office, etc...)
Google Docs
Calibre E-Book ManagerAn Epub Validator (There are many of these out there, but this one is free and was recommended by my original distributor)
Your Novel.
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My friend the Big Ho also offers some suggestions on e-publishing.
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Plotting, planning and cooking up, 24 ways. I tend to do something like the 'tentpole moments'
TENTPOLE MOMENTS
A story in your head may require certain keystone events to be part of the plot. “Betty-Sue must get sucked into the time portal outside Schenectady, because that’s why her ex-boyfriend Booboo begins to build a time machine in earnest which will accidentally unravel space-and-time.” You might have five, maybe ten of these. Write them down. These are the elements that, were they not included, the plot would fall down (like a tent without its poles). The narrative space between the tentpoles is uncharted territory.
BEGINNING, MIDDLE, END
Write three paragraphs, each detailing the rough three acts found in every story: the inciting incident and outcome of the beginning (Act I), the escalation and conflict in the middle (Act II), the climactic culmination of events and the ease-down denoument of the end (Act III). You can, if you want, choose the elemental changes-in-state you might find at the end of each act, too — the pivot point on which the story shifts. This document probably isn’t more than a page’s worth of wordsmithy. Simple and elegant.
A SERIES OF SEQUENCES
The saying goes that an average screenplay usually offers up eight or nine sequences (a sequence being a series of scenes that add together to form common narrative purpose, like, say, the Attack On The Death Star sequence from Star Wars or the Kevin James Makes Love To All The Animals In Order To Make The Audience Feel Shame sequence from Paul Blart, Zoo Abortion). So, chart the sequences that will go into your screenplay. If you’re writing prose, I don’t know how many sequences a novel should have — more than a film, probably (or alternately, each sequence is granted a greater conglomeration of scenes).
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Need a job? Have some unsavory skills that are somehow spectacular but discrete? Japan needs ninjas!
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Atmospheric Background Music. Many options: Vampire's Castle, Lonesome West, Weirder Things? They got it.
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I think I need a curved carving tool like this one.

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A few from Quora:
Scientific writing is hard, here are some guidelines. James Emmerson had great suggestions and explanations.
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Marketing or finding an audience for a storytelling blog.
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A confused question about editing and drafts, I think.
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Joe Rogan. I think he was on New Radio. Nowadays, I mostly know him as a moon-landing denier. Some people love his podcast. I am trying it out, listening to his interview with Dr Jordan Peterson.The same interview is on Youtube. Peterson is a U of T professor of psychology who also runs an online writing program where students write about their past, present and future. I haven't dug into any of this yet, but it looks interesting.
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Before you outline. Huh?