Thursday, December 25, 2014

TWIC: An overview, Drawing Nancy and making pliers

Creativity is messy.  This is a good overview of the science of creativity but I'm most impressed with the profanity - not often seen at Scientific American.

Ivan Brunetti was hired to draw Nancy long after the original artist had passed away.  At Boingboing, he describes the experience and what he learned.
I don't know where Woodring got this, but it does make you wonder what context could possibly fit.
Make wooden pliers using only ten cuts to basswood. i wouldn't say they're all that functional, but they are that cool.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

TWIC: Make your own boardgames, sexy interior decorators, cool knife makers

I work with some of my higher level ESL children's classes to make boardgames to use with lower level students.  My main contribution is to bring a lot of small Postit notes of a  variety of colours.  These can be used to make a here-to-there game (like Snake and Ladders) or collection game (like Monopoly) with squares in different colours depending on the actions required on them.
Rick Marizzani offers suggestions and equipment to make a broad variety of such games.
Blank notecards. There are even greater possibilities from a deck of blank cards.  You can make your own custom Top Trumps deck (Top Trumps is known in the US as “What is that card game school boys play in England again?”). Or create an entire new game using a framework like Dvorak.Overflowing handfuls of dice is a powerful feeling. Like being an ancient deity that can roll the fate of an entire civilization! That is why there are so many dice here. They put a firm stamp on the tool box as made for games. But dice are useful beyond randomizers.  All these different colored dice can be used as game markers, and the pips as indicators to the strength or health of the die unit.  Like DiceWars in the real world.Play money and coins. Nothing abstract about this faux moolah. It feels great to have a stack of cash in hand as a meter of game success. And, more than chips or play money, plastic gold coins are the gold standard of game currency.  Gold coins can spin a theme towards pirates or fantasy. They have a presence and heft beyond their plastic patina.Poker chips. These need not be proxies for money in a game.  They make great counters, turn markers, or modifiers for other board pieces.
...BONUS INGREDIENT: D20 Something that was not at the Dollar Store that I would add to the ideal game design box is a set of polyhedral D&D dice. There is something magical about the shapes and colors.  When first encountered they are understood, yet completely from another world. Consider putting a full set of D20 type polyhedra in your gift kit. 
Via Boingboing
Added only a few hours later:
 Boingboing also describes one bloggers challenge to find new tools, toys and equipment at dollar stores for Dungeons and Dragons.  The Boingboing link is from today but it links to a post from 2013.  Here are about ten posts on the original site (about ten because three are in one post - probably three trips to a dollar store).
Boingboing also links to a site that teaches how to make video games.
The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness
The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness is a documentary which presents a year in the life of Studio Ghibli and its famed director, Hayao Miyazaki. The year in question was a particularly interesting one during which Miyazaki announced his retirement. 
The trailer for this documentary is available at the link above
Sci Am looks at how sexy various creative endeavors are:  Interior decoration, from the title, is not considered hot.  First: this is a topic for science?
According to evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller,creative displays in humans are analogous to the peacock’s tail: they serve the function of attracting mates by serving as indicators of mental fitness (cognitive functioning and personality).
Extending this argument, personality psychologist Gregory Feist made a key distinction between applied/technologicaldisplays of creativity (seen in modern domains of technology, science, and engineering), andornamental/aesthetic displays of creativity (seen in modern domains of art, music, and other aesthetic domains). According to Feist, ornamental/aesthetic forms of creativity– which play on our evolved perceptual functions and evoke strong emotions in the perceiver– were shaped primarily by sexual selection pressures and are therefore more likely to receive a sexual response than applied/technological forms of creativity.
At Kottke, a video of a knife maker and a link to watch axes and chisels being made.

The University of Guelph has a class on Japanese knife making, if anyone wants to learn.  Ah, that link is a little old - I thought the classes were a regular thing. YMMV.
The real patron saint of Journalism.  Writings by George Orwell.
Sometimes, too, he shows himself adept at the why-oh-why column now a Daily Mail staple. Why is handwriting so awful these days? Why are so many foreign words supplanting perfectly good English terms?
He had a gift for the arresting opening line. To wit: “Rudyard Kipling was the only popular English writer of this century who was not at the same time a thoroughly bad writer.” Or this: “There is one way of avoiding thoughts, and that is to think too deeply.” 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Draplin designing a logo

Aaron Draplin Takes On a Logo Design Challenge from on Vimeo.
Via Kottke.
Yet another professional who makes it look so very easy.  I could become a designer.
Among other things, I like that he gets into the nitty gritty - not just a logo in a PDF surrounded by white, but on a business card or as a watermark or T-shirt.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

TWIC: Bruce McCulloch, Buzz Feed and a lot of Boingboing

I watched Bruce McCulloch and the rest of the Kids in the Hall with my dad.  As a young adult, it was one of the few things we both enjoyed.  He now has a book out.  Bruce, not my dad.
Buzzfeed is looking for science reporters in the US.  I find it interesting to look at what professional writers are expected to do as opposed to what amateurs or laypeople think is required.
Responsibilities:Find stories that make people who don’t care about science sit up and take notice
Always be reporting: Strive to get exclusives, from places where no one else is looking
Pitch early and often -- and be willing to regularly spitball the other reporters’ ideas
Work quickly
Work on more than one story at a time
Methodically fact-check every draft
Understand basic statistics (or have a statistician on speed-dial)

Requirements:A proven track record and great clips of science reporting
Proven ability to turn complicated/subtle/contentious ideas into clear and lively prose
Must have specific beats that you’re not only interested in, but have a track record of covering well
Genuine enthusiasm for reporting, even when it’s annoying
A critical, skeptical eye for hype / baloney
Love for and excitement about the internet
CBC has been promoting the Hour Of Code,
When is the Hour of Code?
Anybody can host an Hour of Code anytime, but the grassroots campaign goal is for tens of millions of students to try an Hour of Code during December 8-14, 2014, in celebration of Computer Science Education Week. Is it one specific hour? No. You can do the Hour of Code anytime during this week. (And if you can't do it during that week, do it the week before or after).
Why computer science?
Every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science. It helps nurture problem-solving skills, logic and creativity. By starting early, students will have a foundation for success in any 21st-century career path. See more stats on
How do I participate in the Hour of Code?
Sign up to host an Hour of Code event here and start planning. You can organize an Hour of Code event at your school or in your community — like in an extracurricular club, non-profit or at work. Or, just try it yourself when Dec. 8 arrives.
Hugh Howey is famous for his self-published books.  Ah, I'm sure he's famous for the content of the books as well.  Many have described their awe at his skill.  Recently, he offered a video showing how he goes from a document to a paginated book.
 I’ve had a few requests for details about how I paginate my print books, so here goes. Below you’ll find a 50-minute video of me walking through my pagination routine. It’s not quite everything, but I show 95% of what’s involved for a few sample chapters. From there, it’s just a matter of repeating the steps throughout the book. Once you do a few of these, it comes very naturally. You’ll also find that the process speeds up with practice.
Work on the right thing.  Nikole Dieker describes a variety of creative project she worked on until one just felt right and comfortable to her.
I brought the same Nicole to every project, and every time I started a new project I was prepared to become a professional children’s theater director or project manager or indie musician or whatever it was.
And I’d say I was reasonably successful at many of these potential life paths. Hard work, persistence, and natural ability does get you pretty far.
But it was only when I ended up on the writing path—and I did “end up” there as a fluke, when I started looking for ways to make extra money between indie musician gigs—that I realized my work felt different than all of my previous jobs.
Dungeons and Dragons can protect your creativity and imagination.
The French Situationist author Annie Le Brun, in her 2008 book The Reality Overload: The Modern World's Assault on the Imaginal Realm, suggests that information technology is causing blight and desertification in the world of the imagination just as surely as pollution and global warming are causing blight and desertification in the physical world. We are gaining the ability to communicate and hoard information, but losing the ability to imagine.
literally cannot get my head around what it must be like to be a child or teenager now, raised in a completely digitized world -- where fantasy and long reverie have given way to the instant gratification of electronic media. There can be no innocence or imagination or wonderment in the world of Reddit, Pornhub and 4Chan 
I think the fear of electronics killing unstructured play and imagination is overblown, the newest form of "kids these days".  But maybe there's something to the value of collaborative imagination, where a group works together to visualize and understand the bizarre.
And, my son would love the URL for the post above: it ends, "/the-awesome-glory-that-is-dung.html"

Sunday, December 7, 2014

TWIC: Huronia, Ferguson, Alaska and beyond

Fellow Huronia creative Chrys Wiltshire recently offered two images (that was one, this is the other Larger size found at the link.).

Here is what I know about Werner Herzog.  He's a cranky but brilliant film maker.  Maria Popova of Brain Pickings has reviewed his recent book. Review, Amazon link.  From the review:
The bad films have taught me most about filmmaking. Seek out the negative definition. Sit in front of a film and ask yourself, “Given the chance, is this how I would do it?” It’s a never-ending educational experience, a way of discovering in which direction you need to take your own work and ideas.
I don't embed Tweets often.  This one was retweeted by .
Short Stories ExplainedMary Robinette KowalSaturday, January 24, 2015 from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM (CST)
Ferguson, MO
Class requirementsAn interest in writing and a willingness to learn are all you need to participate in this class. Bring your preferred writing tools, whether that's a laptop computer, notepad and pen, or a typewriter. If you don't have anything handy, paper and pens will be available.
FAQWhy do I need to register if it's free?It tells us how many chairs to set up. But if you don't know until the last minute, that's okay.We can do fiction or non-fiction stories? Really? Yes, with one caveat.  This workshop is focused on stories, not journalism or articles. So if you want to tell a story that is based on real life, (narrative non-fiction) the tools are the same as those for things that are made up.
In more personal news, I have bought Brick Flicks, a book on stop motion movie making with LEGO for my nephew for Christmas.  He's the 'Alaska' in the title of the blog post.  He saw this one I made for my students and was very excited with the idea.  Of course, now that I know such a book exists, I want it, too.

The C.B.T. is an English as a Second Language test my university students need to take.  Every year a few forget and it is so frustrating to total a student's scores and think, 'maximum of 80%.'

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Dongseo University professor directing a film needs a foreign actress

The (Korean) professor is making a film about five foreign teachers living their lives in Korea. I don't know much more about the project but the professor is at my university, so that's neat.
From the Koreabridge ad.

We are looking for a foregin actress who can act for our
feature length film project aimed for international film fests.
It is omnybus styled narrative along with five english teachers
with different background living their lives in S. Korea.
30,000 won will be paid at the end of production and will get
certain amount of share if any profit was made during distribution.
Here is director's website :
Director is currently a professor teaching film in Dongseo University in Busan.

Tim Powers interview

I'm a huge fan of, I think, 80% of his books.  The others are so-so.  But the ones I love, I really love and I like hearing about how he writes.  Fortunately, he was interviewed earlier this year.
“And you need to remember that first draft work is supposed to be pedestrian and lifeless and stupid, and so if you write thirty or forty pages of first draft and you read it and find that it is in fact pedestrian and lifeless and stupid, you’ve got to tell yourself, good, we’re right on track, this is how it’s supposed to be. This leads to a finished book, which will ideally be good. This is one of the necessary steps. Rewriting and revision will make it, we hope, lively and interesting and suspenseful.
“I’ve always thought people who claim to have writers’ block are snagged at that point when they see that it’s stupid and tepid and lifeless. And obviously a person who has writer’s block isn’t claiming that they’re incapable of writing a sentence or a paragraph. They’re lamenting that when they do write a paragraph it’s dumb. And I would want to tell them, keep going, good, it’s supposed to be dumb. You’ll touch it up, you’ll fix it, you’ll polish it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Nanowrimo 2014: Completed -kinda

On November 27, I crossed the magic number of 50,000 words (while writing my story, I would have written that as "fifty thousand" to get the credit for an extra word and also because I vaguely recall an elementary school teacher telling me that was the proper way to do it in prose).

The story isn't done.  It is just in the middle of the climax.  Right now, on a large island on Lake Baikal, Russian, British and Chinese forces are battling with muskets and steam powered engines that can fly over who will rule Asia.  And, what's that?  A scorned shaman is dancing for an audience of seals, imploring their help?  Will they bring in a new super weapon from the depths of the deepest lake in the world?  Really?  In the last chapter, a whole new group of characters, motivations and weapons are being introduced?  Ah, probably to build interest in the sequel.

The story has been fun to write and I hope I continue it this afternoon.  I am happy that the stress is off but the point of Nanowrimo is that this stress is often the only thing that gets one to write in the first place.  God knows my first story hasn't been touched in eleven months and three days.

Again, the story has been fun.  It starts off in the Himalayas with an expedition heading toward Tibet headed by a man named Oldwife.  Is that clever?  I have tried to use connections to historic events - like Younghusband's expedition to Tibet, but I am not sure if it is too heavyhanded or not.  Anyway, the story takes place around 1800 and Oldwife is an ex-naval officer who sailed with Cook.  His chief engineer is a man who studied watchmaking from the man who supplied Cook with his chronometer and apprenticed under Harrison, the famous clock-maker who made the first timepiece accurate enough to determine longitude at sea.  There is a man who basically invents scuba diving - a tuque-wearing Frenchman of course.  A female Korean martial artist, smiling, deadly Gurkhas, flamboyant, deadly Kazakhs, gruff, deadly Tashkentians and more.  I needed a few browser windows open to find names appropriate to each nationality as I went along.

I love the term 'plot bunny'.  You think of a few plot points and suddenly they've mated and you're overwhelmed in them.  Probably adding semi-sentient seals in the last chapter is an example of too many ideas without enough mortar of story holding them together.

A shovel that someone carried a long distance - not a special shovel, just an ordinary one, appears in the story and is used with intent to kill.  One could call it a traveling shovel of death, if one so chose.

My planning this time was minimal. I wanted something 'steampunk' and that meant a steam-powered giant dragonfly and more.  I also wanted Tibet or the Himalayas and I can't explain why although the area has always fascinated me.
From my notebook:
In my notebook, I see that I thought about the previous year's story - The Distancing Engine - on September 11.  I had written some notes about where the story was and how to move it forward.  I don't think I got beyond that point.

On Oct 9, I have the start of Nanowrimo prep - one thing that stands out is that I spelled 'Himalayas' correctly - recently I have caught myself using two 'i's and two 'a's instead of one and three respectively.  I then wanted the story to be about local areas rejecting imperial power.  Nepal did fairly well at that, compared to India - I'm sure the location helped.  I also wanted to include Tantric sex.  Maybe I could still add that in the revision.

Oct 28: some attempt at character sketches.  Discovery of 'Orion' as the religion that offers meditation training that turbo charges your brain.

I have just found a list of names.  Some of the names are from Cook's final expedition.  I took the surnames and given names and shifted them a little so they don't match the original.
I also have notes comparing the education of three individuals - Oldwife who received a Classical education - Greek and such, Kasher, who learned even older dead languages and Mi-suk, who studied Confucianism - the Classical of east Asia.

As with last year, everywhere are numbers. Nanowrimo drives home the message of record keeping and if the story was going slowly, I would stop many times in a day, write down the current and the most recent number, subtract one from the other and record the difference.

I consider myself to be fairly objective and numbers oriented.  In descriptions of battles and fights, I often found myself writing "The charged the final 50 meters to the enemy line." or "The landing field was a little more than ten kilometers away."  Is that kind of precision valuable?  when writing about gunfights, does it make the action more visual, more relatable or more obviously wrong?  I don't know how accurate a pistol made in the late 1700's is.

The leader of the main group is an ex-Naval officer - naturally Forrester and Hornblower figure in my mind as I write his exploits.  Forrester once described Hornblower as having a pair of rifled pistols that were accurate to fifty meters and that always seemed excessive to me. Forrester did not have Hornblower picking off individuals at that distance so the question might be moot, but, well, I clearly remember it.

There are a total of 17 pages of notes, including two mind maps.  I also used two sheets of A3 paper - that's the double A4 size - for maps and other notes.
Well, that 's over nine hundred words.  More than half a day's work at standard Nanowrimo pace.  Enough for now.  Time to exercise or do school work or any of the millions things I put off doing for the month.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A good day to Nanowrimo

I am currently at nearly 2,400 words for the day and am satisfied with the progress.  Now, I have to focus on how to end it all.  The story, I mean.

I found a fellow K-blogger's posts on his nanowrimo exploits from days-past.  Liminality 1, 2, 3, 4.

From the first link:
 ... ending that features lightsaber-wielding penguins in the catacombs beneath the Vatican.
Since then, I've always wanted some unlikely foes to do battle 'in the catacombs beneath the Vatican.' This year, I might have a story line fits - if any does.  My story could have proto-Nazis fighting steampunk-powered Victorians and Yetis, in the catacombs, beneath the Vatican.

All the action so far has taken place in Asia - Nepal and Lake Baikal, Russia, so having them travel another 6500 km, to an entirely new continent, seems a little unwieldy.  We'll see - soon, I hope.
I was curious about windows  open to internet sites.  I currently have 10 windows open, including the one i am typing in right now.  The two that responded, don't do research during the month, but perhaps after the month is down and during revision time.

Friday, November 14, 2014

milk carton plastic bricks and more on writing

From Boingboing:
Peter Brown grinds up plastic jugs and bottle caps in a blender, then melts them into bricks. He uses the bricks as stock to turn on his lathe. I want to make one just to admire it.

Also from Boingboing, Doctorow discusses story tellers in other media:
At least with stories, you know that if you tell a scary story, and it works, the audience will experience fear. But the emotional oomph of non-narrative art is much more mysterious, more of an art, really, and though it may be harder to systematize, when it gets in the groove, look out.

The bad sex in fiction award. Is it just me of do all authors have to turn off the awareness that their mothers might read their work before writing sex scenes?


Sci Am again on the connection between ADHD and creativity.
Of course, whether this is a positive thing or a negative thing depends on the context. The ability to control your attention is most certainly a valuable asset; difficulty inhibiting your inner mind can get in the way of paying attention to a boring classroom lecture or concentrating on a challenging problem. But the ability to keep your inner stream of fantasies, imagination, and daydreams on call can be immensely conducive to creativity. By automatically treating ADHD characteristics as a disability– as we so often do in an educational context– we are unnecessarily letting too many competent and creative kids fall through the cracks.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

In between the action scenes

Fred Clarke at Slacktivist has spent a decade dissecting the World's Worst Books - the Left Behind series.  I'd like him to speed up a little but I'm enjoying the critique.  In today's (probably Nov 12, I live on the other side of the world) post, he writes:
But anyway, we’ve finally reached the end of the Escape From the Jews subplot. That means we’re now just idling until the next big set piece begins. That’s the pattern in these books — a disconnected series of such set pieces, interspersed with long stretches of nothing in between. Jerry Jenkins usually fills that nothingness with airports, phone calls, prayer sessions and lots of unnatural conversation in which various characters, including Buck and Rayford, talk about how awesomely cool Buck and Rayford are.
Perhaps they need Elmore Leonard's advice:

I try to leave out the parts readers skip.
Perhaps you need to work on describing the indescribable - and for inarticulate writers like myself, that is a huge slice of the peoples,places,things,events,actions pie.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cambridge and Waterloo area, Ontario

The 100 notebooks project

Hemingway, Da Vinci, Currie, just a few among many, recorded their thoughts, arts and day-to-day musings in notebooks providing insight into their creative minds. The 100 Notebook Project explores the power and potential of the notebook as a medium for capturing creativity. Our local community is full of inspiring and imaginative people who have their own unique perspectives to share. 100 creative people will be selected and given a notebook to fill with their own thoughts, art and day-to-day explorations. Each of the completed notebooks forms the basis of the 100 Notebook Project Exhibition, a community event to celebrate these unique, creative works. Afterwards, the collection will become a circulating library further sharing the power of the notebook with the public. 

My only concern is that they notebooks will not be authentic enough: whoever makes them might well do rough copies on loose leaf, then make a good copy in the book.
Added a month later.  I like L'Engle's phrase "honest, unpublishable journal" and read in it support for my own criticism (from Brain Pickings).
“You want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you,” Madeleine L’Engle counseled in her advice to aspiring writers. W.H. Auden once described hisjournal as “a discipline for [his] laziness and lack of observation.”

Monday, November 10, 2014

Personal Nanowrimo News: it's gimmicks all the way down.

I would say a big part of Nanowrimo is gimmickry.  I don't precisely mean this in a bad way.  If the gimmicks can lead people to attempting something long and challenging, like writing 50,000 words in a month, then they've proven their value.  I have only written at that length due to Nanowrimo, so I do see the value.

On the other hand, during the recent talk by Chris Baty -just before November 1 - there is a link in a previous post - his interviewer showed off his 'writing cap' and his mascot dragon and the comment queue filled with people wanting to get their own.  Good, but off-topic.

The "write, don't think" meme of Nanowrimo gets to me a little, too.  When I completed my book in 2013, it was of a story I had day dreamed for years - it probably isn't particularly awesome to anyone else, but it was a recurring story I worked on in my head at great length.  When I wrote it out, I learned all the plot points I had skipped and how dream logic had made possible events that make sense in writing them down - But I had a story with many plot points ready to go.

This year, I started with only an idea, a gimmick or single premise.  One that grew through the first week but is now drying up.  I need another thousand words tonight and I will use a technique that worked last year.  I will jump forward in the narrative and hope that I can later fill in the gap between what I have now -mid Spring - and what I will soon work on - early summer.

I wonder how much 'real' authors rely on gimmicks.

Here is another example of gimmick writing - the new location:

The mountain I lugged my computer up is DongMae San and is in Saha Gu, Busan.  In this way, I was able to exercise my dog and get a good three hundred plus words in.  I will probably do it again, and maybe for my actual work as well. I could grade essays there.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Success - driven by luck or not?

Love and integrity made Welcome to Nightvale a success.  Random chance ruled whether this man's creations were successful (video).
The contrasting viewpoints hinge on the criteria for success.  Darius Kazemi (the latter link) measured his by internet hits and links - he completed 72 projects last year and looked for patterns in which ones became successful - he didn't find any.

Jeffrey Cranor, of Nightvale, judged success by how satisfied he was and considers some of his projects, which drew 9 people to view them, as being equally successful to others that drew millions.
It being Nanowrimo, an essential writing skill:
The answer is to step back, reverse the whole process, and start with the character arc. Jot down notes about those cool settings and scenes on a set of cards. What is the appeal of that setting to you – the emotional pull? This could give insights into the kind of character that would inhabit it. Then start working on the characters. Focus on one character only to begin with. This is your lead character. Forget the setting. What does the character NEED to develop, to grow? What is their journey?...Want proof? Go check out that show about the guy with the blue box. The stories aren’t really about his TARDIS or the neat places you can go in it. Are they?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Google Docs gets into the Nanowrimo spirit

The people running Google Docs have prepared some authors to write a story in honour of Nanowrimo.
Of course, every great story needs a great beginning, and that’s where we need your help! You’ll tell the authors how the story should begin, whether it’s with the classic “Once upon a time…” or something completely random like “Before he came to Tuberville, Roger Pickens had never seen a chicken.”
To participate, send us your opening line ideas until November 12th. Then, on November 18, you can tune in to view the winning prompt, and watch as the writers transform that sentence into a one-of-a-kind story, right in front of your eyes.
Notebooks would be good for Nano people (and basically all people), too.
As I struggled through my most recent bout of writer's block, a friend recommended I read THE ARTIST'S WAY by Julia Cameron. 
In THE ARTIST'S WAY, Julia Cameron suggested writing "Morning Pages" every day before doing anything else. This applies to everyone, not just writers. Your morning pages can be anything you want. They can be profound, or crappy. It doesn't matter. The point is to use them as a focal point before starting your day.
I can't begin to tell you how helpful my Morning Pages have been for me! Since I write from home, it's very easy to get distracted. When I write in my Morning Pages, my entire day becomes much more focused and productive. It's something you have to see to believe, so rather than try and convince you, I highly suggest you give it a try and see how it can effect your life.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Saying "no" and typing "the"

The podcast "We have concerns" is fantastic.  My only complaint is they laugh at their own jokes a little too much.  In October, they discussed how productive creative people know how to say "No" and how scary that is.
An article by Kevin Ashton proposes that saying “no” to things is vital to the creative process.  Anthony and Jeff wonder why they have such a hard time saying “no” and what that might mean about them.

My Nanowrimo story continues to grow at the required pace - and a little bit faster.  One extra goal I have this week is to type teh freakin' word 'the' correctly more consistently.  In one section of my story, I counted 11 instances of mistyping out of around 152 times.  I say around because I use the 'find' function on Chrome - it found 152 instances, but that might include 'them' and 'there'...  I don't recall ever spelling those words 'tehre' or 'tehm'.  I do write 'taht' and 'tahn' on occasion.

My synopsis and a review blurb by a noted published author:
A British expeditionary group, mostly in the area for research, excavates a proto-Buddhist temple whose origins go back much further than expected.

"In his Steampunk exploration of Nepal, Dean has written a tour-de-force, a stunning debut novel that will make him the new JK Rowling.  He has somehow managed to retain a YA rating while including gritty violence and religiously fueled horror and remarkable sex scenes that made me blush."  Predicted review by Cory Doctorow, Dec 12, 2014.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Alternatives to Nanowrimo

Wordpress is offering two blogging U courses.  Blogging 101 and photos 101. Hurry, the  4 week classes start Monday!
Photography 101 is a photo-a-day challenge combining a daily photo theme with shooting and photo editing tips on composition, lighting, cropping, and more. You’ll publish new posts, make new friends, and hone your photographer’s eye. It’s also a great way for photobloggers to participate in NaBloPoMo this November. Charge your camera batteries and get ready to shoot!
For three years, I’ve tried to start a blog. Before Blogging 101, I never built enough momentum. Now, thanks to the accountability of regular assignments – and thanks to receiving such wonderful, encouraging feedback – I’ve reached the critical mass I needed.
Practicing My (Gray)ScalesBlogging 101 is a month of bite-size blogging assignments that take you from “Blog?” to “Blog!” Assignments help you publish posts, customize your blog, and engage with the community. You’ll walk away with published posts and a handful of drafts, a theme that reflects your personality, a small (but growing!) audience, a grasp of blogging etiquette — and a bunch of new friends.
P.D. James has advice that seems a little counter to the Nanowrimo experience.  As part of her ten pieces of advice, she recommends

Never talk about a book before it is finished

Alright, back to Nanowrimo stuff.  Scrivener is offering an extended free trial - til Dec 7 - so your work isn't lost at the end of the normal month-long trial.  I'm an Ommwriter fanatic, but Scrivener offers all the resources you may need.

Fastpencil also offers a discount to nano people.  It seems to be a resource for finishing and formatting your book for publishing.

Friday, October 31, 2014

First words in 2014 Nanowrimo

I'm sitting at the kitchen table, it's about one AM on November first, and I've got some strong tea in front of me.  To be sure I'm awake I ate far too much chocolate so I may be shaking a little as I start typing.  Time to fire up Ommwriter.
Okay, 1745 words.  Time to go back to bed.
An excerpt:
" Oldham was still cruising, still relaxing and enjoying it.  Soon, he would have to fight the wind and look for signs of direction and strength.  Now though, he cruised.  This was his last chance to talk and he used it.
"I hope you'll be warm enough", he said and risked another glance at the new guy's, Kasher's cotton robes.  There were a lot of them but none were particularly thick.
"So do I", responded the man with a mild accent. "Sir Oldwife's representative stated that appropriate clothing would be provided.  "I've spent some time in the Thar Desert and the nights are cold there.  These clothes held up then."
Oldham smiled.  "You'll wish it were that warm where we are going.  I'm more concerned about the wind, I guess."  He took a last drink from the German, lidded beer stein and pushed it back into its clip.  Another glance at the instruments.
He pulled a wire and Kasher knew a flag was waving behind him.  A flag for Canneau to, uh, do something mechanical.  The heat in the cabin increased briefly and Kasher knew Canneau was loading the box with more of the strange coal."

The working title is Nepali Steampunk.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wheaton gets some ideas from Internet Archive, Snider get some of his in the Midwest.

Grant Snider shares his sketch book and discusses where he gets his ideas.
The text is barely legible. The drawings are often incomprehensible to anyone but myself. The rhymes are way too obvious (though this probably won’t change before the final published comic).
When I jot ideas in my sketchbook, what’s important is speed. I want to put an idea on paper before I have time to second guess it. Layout, proportions, drawing above a third-grade level - there will be many more hours to address these problems. 

Wil Wheaton shares in his joy at the vast array of material available at the Internet Archive that can be manipulated into new forms.  One thing that made me pause; after all his manipulations, does it really matter what the source material was?  He took some 1920's music and slowed it way down - from a few minutes to nearly an hour - I don't think I would have a clue what the source was after that.  Still, he is correct that there is a lot of inspiration and material to work with.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Azimov on new ideas

How do people get new ideas?  Amazing clarity in writing from the guy.  Some quotes from Azimov's discussion:
Consequently, the person who is most likely to get new ideas is a person of good background in the field of interest and one who is unconventional in his habits. (To be a crackpot is not, however, enough in itself.)
My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it. (The famous example of Kekule working out the structure of benzene in his sleep is well-known.)
The presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.
But how to persuade creative people to do so? First and foremost, there must be ease, relaxation, and a general sense of permissiveness. The world in general disapproves of creativity, and to be creative in public is particularly bad. Even to speculate in public is rather worrisome. The individuals must, therefore, have the feeling that the others won’t object.
If a single individual present is unsympathetic to the foolishness that would be bound to go on at such a session, the others would freeze. The unsympathetic individual may be a gold mine of information, but the harm he does will more than compensate for that. It seems necessary to me, then, that all people at a session be willing to sound foolish and listen to others sound foolish.
I do not think that cerebration sessions can be left unguided. There must be someone in charge who plays a role equivalent to that of a psychoanalyst. A psychoanalyst, as I understand it, by asking the right questions (and except for that interfering as little as possible), gets the patient himself to discuss his past life in such a way as to elicit new understanding of it in his own eyes.
In the same way, a session-arbiter will have to sit there, stirring up the animals, asking the shrewd question, making the necessary comment, bringing them gently back to the point. Since the arbiter will not know which question is shrewd, which comment necessary, and what the point is, his will not be an easy job.

Preparing for Nanowrimo

Nanowrimo founder Chris Baty and some people from Blurb talk about the event.  I think you can see the talk at the link. This link will work better.

One of the things they discussed was the traveling shovel of death.
People rushing to make their plots work sometimes run into the sort of difficulty that smashing a character in the head with a nondescript shovel can solve.
I am not going to tidy the stuff below up.  The very rough notes below are what I wrote while listening to the talk.

NANOWRIMO's Chris Baty talks about the event

The main Problem creating a work of art is "Not a lack of talent but a lack of a deadline".
"Let your creativity fly"
"Up to 10 New York Times bestsellers; including "Water for Elephants", "Night Circus"

Common objections
"I don't have the time, the talent, ..."
"Nobody has the time to write a novel, but everybody can find the time.  [working on nanowrimo]...Makes reading books more interesting."
"If you've got a million things to do, then 1,000,001 isn't that big a deal.  If you've got nothing to do, then one thing is a big investment."

nuts & bolts of doing Nanowrimo:
Writing totems, hats and dragons - toys or mascots to motivate you.  What can I carve?
Doug Tiffin  –  Get the beginning, middle and end in 30 days, not a finished novel. But be sure to get an ending.  Have gaps but include an end.
What is better, "Plotting v Pantsing"?
By the seat of your pants.  I don't know which is better.... find a middle ground.
Start out each day by planning what will happen in this one writing session.
I like having a set of story peaks or events so I can work at different locations in the story if the story stops in one area, I can continue in another area.

Avoid oily snacks - don't mess up the keyboard
Carrots or celery and coffee.
Writing challenge - you can't go to the bathroom until you write 1000 words.

best advice for 1st time participant:  "Know that you can do this.  There is a great distance between where the book is now and where it will be."

plot bunnies - Plot ideas can breed like rabbits until you have more idea than story.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Professional musician? Hope you got a day job.

Does creativity pay enough to live on?
  I don't know much about Iggy Pop but I do [EDITTED: too fast typing earlier. I'd written "I don admire..."  Crazy stuff.  Sorry]   admire his voice and know he's more than moderately famous and skilled at his work.  He needs to moonlight?
To keep skinny body and maverick soul together, Iggy’s become a DJ, a car-insurance pitchman and a fashion model. If he had to live off royalties, he said, he’d have to “tend bars between sets.” As I listened to his enthusiastic stoner Midwestern drawl, I thought: If Iggy Pop can’t make it, what message does that send to all the baby Iggys out there? In a society where worth is judged by price, for better or worse, what are you saying to someone when you won’t pay for the thing he’s crafted?
A few days before Iggy’s lecture, Australian novelist Richard Flanagan won the Booker Prize, the most prestigious in the literary world, for his Second World War story The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Just in time, it sounds like: Mr. Flanagan told reporters that he was making so little from his writing that he was thinking about packing it in and becoming a miner. (He comes from a small mining town in Tasmania.) The prize money of about $90,000 and the following sales bump will allow him to continue, but most of his colleagues aren’t so lucky: “Writing is a very hard life for so many writers,” he said.
The link above references a lecture by Mr Pop.  Here is a transcript.

[Added later (Oct 22)]: More on the subject:
People who graduate with a degree in the Arts generally have to deal with high debt and low prospects for earning a sustainable living as working artists.
That's the big takeaway from a new report from BFAMFAPhD, Artists Report Back: A National Study on the Lives of Arts Graduates and Working Artists [PDF]. The short version: “the fantasy of future earnings in the arts cannot justify the high cost of degrees.”
Way off topic:
Write or Die is software that offers a stick to encourage you to return to writing.  Actually, now it offers sticks (scary spider pictures) and carrots (cute puppies or the like) depending on your wriitng output.

I don't know how to use these new icons, but Google has made them freely available.

Friday, October 17, 2014

advice on drawing and lessons on movie making

On Quora: "Is my drawing worth selling?"  The top rated answer is sympathetic but honest - no, it is not.  The responder does give some interesting and apparently useful advice (Drawing is a skill I want to be good at, but haven't put the time into, and I have shaky hands - computers are a wonderful invention - so I qualified the above with 'apparently').
Here's two ideas for you to play with - the first one, just draw to copy it; the second one, get a photo of yourself and enlarge it to at least 8x10, and then cover one half of the photo with plain white paper, and then try to draw the opposite side of the face - the examples are below.  The first one has guideline in it to show you the proportions and layout of the face and facial features.  And in case you are wondering why to do this, it will help you see more clearly how the face appears and is drawn, and will give you good experience.   I do suggest a class, it's the best way to learn.
The examples are probably at the link above or definitely this one.
Every Frame a Painting is a tumblr of excerpts from movies explaining what makes them great.  I am not sure if the above link will show what I want it to, which is a dissection of a scene from Silence of the Lambs - I don't see individual post links.  Anyway, interesting stuff even for movie watchers, much less for makers.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Cicada Magazine wants stories

and they pay 25 cents a word (and it is time for me to learn how to get the green characters on my computer's keyboard.  The '4' key has $ as a shift and the 'cent' in green).
The stories should be about tricksters or thieves:

Cicada magazine, a cultural arts publication for young adults, is inviting writers to submit stories for a forthcoming issue on Tricksters and Thieves. This issue will include stories of pirates, hustlers, and charlatan gods; scrutinies of bewitchment, enchantment, deception, and other guiles of illusion; and inquests of the trickiness of the real self in a field of performances.
NorthWoods Literary Festival in Muskoka
Sixteen acclaimed, award-winning Canadian authors are bringing their talent to Bracebridge for the NorthWords Muskoka Literary Festival, Oct. 3 to 5. It’s an opportunity to meet the authors, learn about their books and inspiration, do some early Christmas shopping for book-lovers on your list, and get those burning questions about a writer’s life answered – all while savouring delicious meals catered by Bracebridge restaurants....Nipissing University provides the venue for the first two events on Friday, Oct. 3. Authors Michael Wuitchik and Anne Lazurko are joined by three literary agents and a publisher, to present a fiction workshop for aspiring writers. Over the afternoon, writers have the opportunity to book a pitch session with the agents to receive feedback on their current projects. An evening wine/beer and hors d’oeuvres reception follows, featuring Giller-nominated author, Anthony De Sa and best-selling author, Terry Fallis who will entertain with their unique brands of humour. Although Anthony’s newest novel, Kicking the Sky, addresses a dark period in the history of Toronto’s Portuguese community, he exudes warmth and humour. The immense wit of Terry Fallis, author of No Relation, matches De Sa and ensures a great time for all. Fallis’ newest book, No Relation, about the effects of being cursed with the name of a famous person like Ernest Hemingway or Marie Antoinette, is full of chuckles and laugh-out-loud moments.

Where should you live to create art? And Raiders in Black & White

If you can work from home, where should you move your home to?  Chang Mai, Thailand and Prague, Czech Republic are apparently the best places.
Alex Tabarrok of Marginal Revolution wonders about purchasing power parity as a criterium.

Steven Soderbergh, ah, adjusted the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark to better watch the staging or framing of the movie without distraction.  He removed all audio and added a music track and removed the colour.  The movie stands up and the framing explains all it needs to.
What Brainstorming can teach you: As I understand the blog post, being told to accept any idea, however crazy, removed only some of their mental blocks: studying the results displayed a big one they are accepted as elemental or as obvious as air.  Teachers were asked to offers ways to reduce traffic congestion from student drop-offs and pick-ups.
In this case, the impossible ideas have a common thread: rather than try to change traffic, they all seek to remove cars from the traffic congestion equation altogether. This produced an "ah-ha" for all involved and led our principal to favor strategies that would help her remove - rather than attempt to change - traffic.
science and design well-integrated.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Twine and CBC short story contest

Twine is, well, I'm still figuring it out myself, but it seems to be a way to make interactive fictions and at least text-based games similar to the old choose-your-own-adventure books of my childhood.  It seems pretty cool and I will be playing with it further.  What I've seen is pretty cool.  Twine 2.0 is now in beta, which I think means it is mostly ready to use. More info from the maker. Wikipedia has a stub on the subject.
Ah, Gamespot has more:
It allows you to link passages of text via links, which has led many people to compare games made with Twine to old Choose Your Own Adventure books. But Twine allows you to do things that those books never could. Games can keep track of decisions made and actions taken by players much earlier in the game--what type of weapon they selected, for instance, or whether or not they collected a particular key. With a bit of creativity on the part of the creator, games can have puzzles that players can't quickly "solve" by just trying each of a few options. Games can also include images and videos, and with a bit of extra know-how, you can also employ basic effects, such as flashing text, which can do a good deal to foster a particular mood in your game.
The CBC's short story contest, Canada Writes, is running now.  They are accepting stories of between 1200 and 1500 words until November 1.  Entry is limited to Canadians or residents of Canada and there is a $25 fee to enter the contest.  The CBC also has a word cloud of clickable tips for writing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Stephen King on Writing, Sci Am on mental disorders and creativity, and writing a book with evernote

Stephen King recounts being a school teacher.  Jessica Lahey interviewed him on how he taught:
Lahey: You extol the benefits of writing first drafts with the door closed, but students are often so focused on giving teachers what they want and afraid of making mistakes that they become paralyzed. How can teachers encourage kids to close the door and write without fear?
King: In a class situation, this is very, very hard. That fearlessness always comes when a kid is writing for himself, and almost never when doing directed writing for the grade (unless you get one of those rare fearless kids who’s totally confident). The best thing—maybe the only thing—is to tell the student that telling the truth is the most important thing, much more important than the grammar. I would say, “The truth is always eloquent.” To which they would respond, “Mr. King, what does eloquent mean?”
King: A lot of them didn’t care; they were just hacking out assignments. For those that are sensitive and insecure, you have to combine gentleness with firmness. It’s a tightrope, particularly with teenagers. Did I have students actually bust out crying? I did. I’d say, “This is just a step to get you to the next step.”Lahey: Of course, once they have something down on paper, they are going to have to open the door and invite the world to read what they have written. How did you cope with the editing process early in your writing career, and how did you teach your students to handle feedback?
Lahey: You warn writers not to “come lightly to the blank page.” How can teachers encourage kids to come the blank page with both gravity and enthusiasm?
King: It went best for me when I could communicate my own enthusiasm. I can remember teaching Dracula to sophomores and practically screaming, “Look at all the different voices in this book! Stoker’s a ventriloquist! I love that!” I don’t have much use for teachers who “perform,” like they’re onstage, but kids respond to enthusiasm. You can’t command a kid to have fun, but you can make the classroom a place that feels safe, where interesting things happen. I wanted every 50-minute class to feel like half an hour.

There's a lot more that I liked as an English teacher and as a writer.  I think "writing with the door closed" means absent outside concerns, perhaps even walled off from your personal editor.  Approaching a blank page with both serious intent and eagerness is an interesting way to look at it, too.
By the way, I am a teacher who performs like I'm onstage, so perhaps I need to mature up my game.
Scientific American on spectrum disorders and creativity:

They found that both real-world creative achievement and creative cognition (as rated by four independent judges) were significantly associated with two personality traits:psychoticism and hypomania. These findings remained even after taking into account prior academic achievement test scores.
Psychoticism is characterized by impulsivity, sensation-seeking, and proneness to psychosis. Many of the items on the psychoticism scale measure oddness of thought and behavior, such as “Other people seem to think my behavior is weird”, “My thoughts are strange and unpredictable”, and “My thoughts often don’t make sense to others.” In a clinical setting, extremely high levels of psychoticism may be cause for a diagnosis of mental illness, but this finding suggests that in the normally varying general population, there is an association between these characteristics and real-world creative achievement.
Creativity was also associated with hypomania, a mood state characterized by high energy levels, rapid mood fluctuations, and racing thoughts. Some items on the hypomania scale include “I am frequently in such high spirits that I can’t concentrate on any one thing for too long”, “I have such a wide range of interests that I often don’t know what to do next”, and “Sometimes ideas and insights come to me so fast that I cannot express them all”. Again, in a clinical setting, extreme levels of this trait may require rehabilitation. But this finding (and the findings of prior studies) suggests that in the general population hypomania is associated with creative achievement.
Neither creative cognition nor creative achievement were associated with depression ...
Interestingly, creative cognition was no longer associated with real-world creative achievement, psychoticism or hypomania when scoring the test using the method recommended in the testing manual.
I love Ommwriter, others like Scrivener, but Evernote?  Yes, a man wrote a book using nothing but Evernote.
One reason I used Evernote was because I kept all of my reporting notes and research in Evernote, and I wanted quick access to all that while I was writing.
It felt less clunky switching between screens in the same app than switching between Evernote and a slow-loading memory hog like Microsoft Word or the surprisingly lethargic Google Docs.
Another few reasons:
• Evernote constantly saves what you're working on and backs it up to the cloud.• I have Evernote on my phone and iPad, and it was nice to be able to pull up my draft and review it anytime anywhere.• Evernote note windows are sparse, and I like that for writing.• I've developed a "process" around turning reporting/research into writing in Evernote, and when you're doing work as open-ended as long form writing, it's nice to have some step-by-step tasks to do to ground you.