Saturday, December 7, 2019

Riddle Master of Hed, and awful book covers

A discussion of the Riddle Master books at Tor caught my attention. I commented there and wanted to share it here:
I love Fantastic Beasts and the Riddle Master series. I have reread the latter books more than any others.
I do have some nitpicks – It drives me crazy to read, “Her face vague,” as a description of someone mysterious.
  • Kingfisher: “she…had vague gray eyes”
  • Forgotten beasts “His eyes were vague with struggling…”
  • “She stared vaguely…”
  • Riddle Master, regarding The Pig Woman, ” The vagueness dropped from her face like a mask, “
  • The Morgol of Herun, ” at the brief, vague touch of the gold eyes”
  • Morgon doing magic, ” for a moment his eyes were vague, “
  • etc
  • “…his eyes vague as though..”

During my third to maybe seventh rereads, I had trouble with Morgon’s tantrums. He would smash a bowl or something. For example,

“Morgon reached methodically for the sword Bere had been sketching by the fire, swung it in a wide, blazing half-circle, smashed it in a snap of blue sparks against the stone wall. It gave a deep, flawless, bell-like protest before he dropped it, and he said bitterly, hunched over his stinging hands, “You could answer my questions.””

Later, it bothered me how so many people loved Morgon and Deth and Yrth. Maybe I am slow but it took a few more reads for me to recall they were basically gods and perhaps people loved them because they had to, rather than from friendship or the like.

and yet, I love those books and the beautiful descriptions.

Anyway, I saw the books on sale at a used book store a week ago and they caused me to want to reread them again.


This series was part of what made me want to be a writer. I didn't have all those criticisms thirty five years ago. It was just a cool story with wonderful things happening. And then Morgon became so powerful and mysterious and I wanted to know more.

Still, those tantrums bother me. And how does someone have a vague face?


I learned about Good Show, Sir on the same day as reading on Tor about Riddle Master. They have one other connection.

Good Show, Sir is a blog that shares terrible SF/F book covers. And this is the Riddle Master cover I remember best:

I don't remember any such purple. Morgon seemed to dress modestly and though a prince, was a prince of a small land and so also did his own farming. Maybe I am looking for an excuse to reread it for the 20th (probably) time but I don't remember anyone dressed this way. (Image from)

It doesn't really match Good Show, Sir for weirdness, though. Here is the weirdest one I saw at GS,S:

Saturday, November 30, 2019

First and finish thoughts on Nanowrimo

Note: I wrote the first part of this entry for Quora.

First writing session- fantastic!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

LTCH Fast Animals

I am trying to find animals that I can make quickly so that I can make enough for residents to sand and paint.

'Quickly' means 'roughly' so there aren't many details. That's fine; that's what paint is for.

Still, I have not found any animal that I can carve quickly. Cut quickly was a saw, yes. But once the knife is used, the takes a long time.

Here are the animals before painting or sanding:

The giraffe necks took a lot of work, as did the legs. The bodies are very boxy.  They were cut from a 2" x 4" with the two pieces, neck and neck overlapping. I cut earlier pictures and will add them soon.

The fish is simple and mostly fun. The main challenge is quickly getting the fins and tail thin enough. A blocky tail just looks wrong.

The deer were fun and mostly done by keyhole saw and then coping saw.  There is a bit of story to their creation. I used this template.  I don't have an electric saw or room to place one if I did so I used a hand coping saw. I also don't have a vise. I used a clamp but since is pinched the wood at only a small spot, my sawing put too much pressure on the neck and snapped the first deer's neck. At work, I used a vise and since it grips the wood across a wide area, and the positioning was so much better, I was able to cut these deer very fast. Maybe twenty minutes for two. They don't have pleasing contours but still the basic shape is very obvious. And fast! 

The necks of the two giraffes went from recognizable to pleasing with a good sanding.

I work at two LTCHs (Long Term Care Home) and in one is a coworker who is both an excellent painter and painting teacher. One technique I learned from her, perhaps obvious to others, is to paint the lightest colour needed first and dry it. She uses a hair dryer but we waited overnight. So we somewhat sloppily painted one or two colours - fur brown and beige antlers for the deer - and the next day added other elements. For the giraffes, the plan was to paint them a light tan one day and the darker spots the next.

These aren't art grade carvings so it was silly for me to imagine the residents of the LTCHs would attempt art grade painting. They did attempt, and manage, fun grade painting. We all had a lot of fun

I will definitely make more deer, perhaps enough to try to sell the completed works, next year. Both LTCHs I work at have bazaars and the sale of products made by residents - as tree ornaments  perhaps - would go well.

And as my saw work improves, maybe I will try giraffes again. The iconic long neck is easy to identify so the finished work is not as confusing as dogs or cats might be - I probably wouldn't be able to carve -quickly or not - enough detail to allow people to recognize the difference. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

LTCH Crafts: looks fishy to me!

I am currently an activity aide at a Long Term Care Home (the 'LTCH' in the labels or tags for this post). I want to do creative work with my residents but many suffer forms of dementia and other challenges. I do not want to put sharp or heavy tools in their hands; not merely because they might use them on each other but, well, I have a big scar on the back of my own hand and my residents often have shakes or palsies of their own.

Another consideration here is my own limited ability - remember that scar on my hand? I can cut wood but not always in a straight line. 

So I thought for a long time on how wood working projects we could do. At my mother's home, I saw a big carved fish - very simply done, mostly a slab of 10" by 2" that, well, looks better than the ones below but clearly similar.

I was able to find some soft wood, cut out some big chunks and do most of the rest with a knife.

There was a discussion online about asking people to draw a bike from memory. Many people had trouble with the shapes and how they connected. Because I love cycling, I got all but the fine details right - and as not before about my ability, those fine details would be sloppy anyway. In this case, I think I conflated many different fish and how their lower fins fit and worked.
This one from   Government Fisheries, has four forward fins, almost like four arms on terrestrial verts.
Image result for largemouth bass
Some of my fish has two forward and two hind fins while others, to look less like legs, had two forward and one hind fin.

I am not too concerned as I wanted these shapes to be quickly made. This wasn't supposed to be my project but one for the residents that I assisted with.

Here is how the project progressed:

I work in a locked home area with the most confused residents. Most were happy to chat while I, a volunteer and one resident did the sanding. The sanding took an hour or a little more and we were all amazed at how soft the fish felt after the sanding. We could have left the project there and simply used the fish for tactile purposes!

Instead we painted a few of them. I am not much of a painter but a coworker is both a skilled painter and an excellent instructor in the painting process. Where I  painted the yellow fish carefully doing both colours at one sitting, she would have done the whole fish one colour, let it dry and then done the second, darker colour. Sounds simple but I didn't think to do it the first time.

These fish were simple and fun but took more time on my part in the basic shaping than I wanted. I need to get faster, get more of a production line approach going, or I will be wasting my time in prep.
Future plans:



Dec: Or ask residents - offer a choice of what they want to make.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

creativiti and greed

I can only call the scheme proposed by Quora to financially reward people for asking questions a remarkable way to study greed and creativity.
In the Quora Partner program, members make a little money based on how many people respond to their questions. More info here.
This should be a great way for creative people to make money simply by asking questions and learning stuff. And maybe this is happening.

Let's look at a question I like. What is the opposite word of cooking? I like it. Cooking is not only heating food so 'freezing' isn't the opposite. Fine. I answered the question: follow the link if you like. The thing is, the questioner also asked 148 other questions, all starting with, "What is the opposite word of ...?"
Here is a person who asked 21 questions about synonyms. Another person I cannot now find (perhaps s/he was banned or blocked) asked more than a thousand 'synonym' questions.

So there is a chance to make money pretty easily. All you have to do is ask questions. Ready? Go!

Huh, turns out thinking of good questions isn't easy. As Quora knows, it is also hard to police the questions they get. I have tried to ask useful, valuable (financially for me!) questions. I have asked a total of five, I think. And I have made $5.11! But that is American so that's something.

I love answering questions. How hard can it be to ask them? Turns out, pretty hard. But I want that money!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

A limit to my creativiti

At work in May I set as a craft, fan-making for June 11. Then I let it go, secure that the internet would teach me how to teach my residents how to make one.
And there were some good ideas but they required too much specific craft stuff or were too childish (Note: my 'resident's are residents of a Long Term Care Home, largely older than I am). I took some ideas and put them together into a pretty good practical creation, I think.

I had planned to use tongue depressors but it turned out at work we only had popsicle sticks, far too small to be useful. I did find a set of painter's plaques, maybe 14 cm by 24 cm, I guess. Wait, in cutting them to useful sizes, I know the short side was 16 cm. Anyway, I measured out 1.5 cm sections and cut them in a guillotine. This worked well. Then I took them plus some nuts and bolts I had bought to the maintenance room. 
There I amazed myself. I have used tools before but this time I picked up all the tools I needed, organized them and used them exactly as planned! Usually, I am trying to make a slot screwdriver work in a philips head. I drilled the plaques four at a time, then threaded the bolt through. I tightened the nut as far as I could then cut the excess with a hacksaw. Then, I smashed the cut end with a hammer, spreading the cut threads and making sure the nut could not come off. Genius, I say!

I found paper of close to the right size and meet my residents so we could make fans. Here is one.

You can see how the paper overlaps which is not ideal, but you can also see the fingers or plaque pieces of the fan.

So far, pretty good stuff. I planned ahead and thought about how things would fit together and I am mostly proud.

But then a resident asked how to add a string so she could hang the fan on her wall. I had given no thought to display at all. I hadn't thought about the fans as art. This was not tragic but it is pretty good example of my relative skill at figuring out the small picture but not the larger picture.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Atomic Rockets- an encyclopedia for science fiction writers

I recently learned of Atomic Rockets and it seems a great resource for planning space flight in stories in ways that make sense.

This site was mainly intended for science fiction authors who wanted a little scientific accuracy so they can write SF "the way God and Heinlein intended" (Arlan Andrews's Law). The technical term is Hard Science Fiction.
But anybody who is interested can play with the toys contained within, designing their own Planet Rangers Rocketships. It is assumed that the reader has enough knowledge to know the difference between a star and a planet, high school mathematics, and enough skill to use a pocket calculator. Computer spreadsheet and computer programming skills are a plus, spreadsheets in particular will make your life much easier.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Clouds in my sky

I look for creativity prompts everywhere and here might be the most traditional one there is, looking for shapes in the clouds.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Quora: favourite creativity texts

Brian Dean
Brian Dean, studied creativiti for 7 years and counting - some day I'll have it figured out
I have read creativity texts with the same question in mind. Thank you for asking this so I could gather my thoughts in answering it. I have moved to a different continent recently and lost some books so I really had to hunt for the names of a few. This might be the hardest I have worked to answer a Quora question! Only around 9 books in my list.
Find some relatively weird science fiction and fantasy books. I like Larry Niven - Wikipedia for this: his politics and descriptions of women might reasonably put some people off but his wild ideas about physics and big science open up literal new worlds. Again, the women in Ringworld are mostly there for sex but the Ringworld itself is an amazing invention. I would also add that his aliens are well thought out - again, better than some of the women.
More recently, Martha Wells’ Books of the Raksura Compendium describes a variety of fantasy creatures with remarkable vividness and careful thought. They are not human and only act mostly as humans would. The world they live in is also fantastical.
The Voynich manuscript has been solved, I think. It was a book written in code and found by chance that many have attempted to interpret or translate. Finally it has been and it is a description of various plants. Still, the images and mysterious text make me wonder what it might say. Ignore the real answer and skim through this book, making your own determinations of what it consists of! The Complete Manuscript 1 Page 57v:
Page 70v:
I found a book on symbolism in art. It was probably originally written in a foreign language and colourfully translated. There are dozens of such books but this one was great just for its example images. Those images fired up my imagination. I know so little about art that I hesitate to suggest one specific painter or artist. All university students looking to decorate their dorm rooms know or Dali and Escher but there might be others (joke. Of course there are). I just thought of one: Hieronymus Bosch. A book of his work or whatever genre or time period he was in would fire up your imagination as you look at the images and the explanations. Added before publishing: Found it!
From formal to not-that-formal research:
Csikszentmihalyi (spelling is only close) writes many respected books on the subject. His books on genius seem to be, “they have these qualities” rather than “Here is how to get these qualities” so it will inform you but not directly improve your creativity. Here is one: Creativity
I have read Thinkertoys and Cracking Creativity from "MICHAEL MICHALKO" (showing 1-8 of 8 books) and remember liking them.
de Bono’s Creativity Workout is a book I used a lot as a teacher to encourage creativity in my students. I really like this one but I am told that if you have already read de Bono, a lot of this book repeats previous work.
John Medina’s Brain Rules (Brain Rules: Brain development for parents, teachers and business leaders) offers a lot of well researched suggestions.
There are a lot of prompts for creative work out there in book form, from painting prompts to writing prompts and so on. These are often very artform dependent and so might not apply to people in other fields. As well, I have a book on woodcarving techniques and tools that helps me understand how to make things. I don’t always make the objects in the book but the suggestions allow me to make novel things. This means the book - basically recipes for making boxes and knick-knacks - inspires my creativity. Added before publishing: Found it!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Silvermint on Pantsers and Plotters

The two terms are Nanowrimo lingo. Silvermint in the process of discussing Game of Thrones, explains them well on Twitter:
It has to do with the behind-the-scenes process of plotters vs. pantsers. If you’re not familiar with the distinction, plotters create a fairly detailed outline before they commit a single word to the page. 
Pantsers discover the story as they write it, often treating the first draft like one big elaborate outline. Neither approach is ‘right’ - it’s just a way to characterize the writing process. But the two approaches do tend to have different advantages. 
Because they have the whole story in mind, it’s usually easier for plotters to deliver tighter stories and stick the landing when it comes to endings, but their characters can sometimes feel stiff, like they’re just plot devices.

Pantsers have an easier time writing realistic characters, because they generate the plot by asking themselves what this fully-realized person would do or think next in the dramatic situation the writer has dropped them in.

But because pantsers are making it up as they go along (hence the name: they’re flying by the seat of their pants), they’re prone to meandering plots and can struggle to bring everything together in a satisfying conclusion. 
That’s why a lot of writers plot their stories but pants their characters, and use the second draft to reconcile conflicts between the two.

Those are among the first seven tweets in a thread of thirty.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

TMIC: a grab-bag of goodies as an excuse for not posting recently

I like the spiders and so much more at Ketrina Draws a Lot.

This of course is a snipped image. To see the whole thing, follow the link.
I took an online course on creativity and we had to be in groups. I tried so hard to join the 'Creationists' team. That was the only time I tried to be a creationist. How many creationists are there in the US?
Curiosity should be boundless.
Writing is an expensive job.
Very slightly related: why a writer moved away from the big cities.
Pinker's 13 tips for writing.
The home that inspired Wuthering Heights.
I have been procrastinating a lot. I presume all wannabe writers say this. Here is a look at procrastination. I'll read it later.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Buckaroo Bonzai and awkward dialog

When I write dialog, I include a lot of "uh", "um" and such. It seems natural, especially when explaining something at length without preparation. It is definitely realistic.

This morning, I watched Buckaroo Banzai. I don't know if there was a budget problem but there is a lot of awkward movement, people taking a few steps then returning to where they started, then traveling in a new direction. I think the technical term is 'hitting their marks' or failing to. I found it pretty distracting.

I have read snide reports of how often characters overuse a line or phrase. I would hate for someone to count the "um"s in my current draft.

The words have to be real, reasonable for the person.  The characters don't have to sound like idiots, unable to complete a coherent thought. If someone is unsure, lacking confidence, "uh", is a good shorthand for that. There are reasons to use the word. Just not very many.

Friday, February 22, 2019

An interview with Lev Grossman

I struggled through the first Magicians book but began to really love the series. the lead character, Quentin, is not likeable in the first book but becomes a hero by the end.

Here is a recent interview with Grossman.
It’s still hard sometimes keeping a connection to the fictional worlds I’m trying to nurse into being — life intrudes a lot. But there’s a true thing people say about writing, which is that some people can’t not do it. They can’t help it. So even when I’m walking around, doing errands, getting the car fixed, taking the cat to the vet and so on I’m thinking through stories and characters and sometimes just individual sentences, turning them over in my head. It never stops. I can’t turn it off.
This is similar to other writers' descriptions. They write because they very nearly have to. I wish I had that.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

How to build a fantasy world?

This was a Quora questions I answered and I did some new Google searches so I felt I could/should post it here, too.
Brian Dean
Brian Dean, I want to be a writer - but I spend too much time writing about writing here!
What sort of building are you doing? As at least one other answerer did, I immediately thought of, a joke about megatons of rock and water and so on. Let’s put that aside. Do you already have one ‘complete’ in mind and now are wondering how to write about it, what stories fit in it, how to film a movie set there, what the local music would sound like? Or do you have a few ideas and want to get a better picture of this world before doing those things?
Let’s start at end of my last paragraph: You have some ideas but need to flesh them out. I cheat. The following are links to my blog where I offer links to various generators. I will share a few such direct links as well so you don’t have to visit my blog.
‘Generators’ in this case are tools that generate character names, maps, story titles, you name it. I like to use the name generators for secondary characters so I don’t have to waste time outside of the story inventing names for characters that might have three lines if they are lucky.
My blog with ‘generator’: creativiti project
One link there is to a ‘medieval city map generator: Medieval Fantasy City Generator
Another fantasy map generator: Generating fantasy maps
This link on my blog is to some pictures of drifting snow that looks to me like low relief maps: Today's creativiti on the ice
Okay. So now we have a solid set of ideas for this fantasy world. Writing about it in a story is not easy, but is traditional. It might be cool to have ten characters plus a few gossips or news sites report on it in Facebook, Twitter, even Quora and blogs. Kudos to you if you have establish a timeline and post on those sites for a few months and then collect the timestamped results, forming a coherent story only when they are put together. This would be like a conspiracy story but (semi) real or at least intended. If you were lucky, the comments others gave would add colour to your story. If you were interested in this angle but didn’t want to really post on Facebook, more generators are available. I searched for these in the process of answering your question so I cannot vouch for them. Also, they will probably end up on my blog as a new post - Win/win!
This one is for actual Facebook posts, I think: Create a Facebook Post — Free Online Facebook Post Maker — Crello
I wouldn’t be surprised if All effects - PhotoFunia had some useful templates.
Another creative solution would be to make a party with the goal of inventing a full history for your world. This is world building, not publishing: We Imagine a People – Alexander Jaffe – Medium It’s pretty cool so I will provide a lot of quotes. I fear I, and my friends, would not have the interest or endurance to do this whole project:
I’ve thrown a bunch of outlandish birthday parties, but I can’t even imagine having another after this one. Call it a Culture Jam. Dozens of people creating a fictional culture, from the dawn of man to the modern day, told through art crafted with increasingly complex art supplies. It’s kind of a party, and kind of a large-scale collaborative art project. Like life!
From his party invitation:
I have no idea what I’m doing, and I’m dragging you all along with me. We’ll be converting our house into a lo-fi laboratory of art, culture, and alternate history. The party will last all day, and guests will come and go as they please, though my favorite guests will hang around a lot.
The activities will be twofold: 1) party. 2) invent an alternate culture over the course of the day, by creating art from within that culture, building upon the days’ creations so far, using a parade of increasingly more advanced artistic tools….
arriving in the morning, you’ll help form a neolithic culture just beginning to express itself. You’ll craft creation myths to explain the world around you, using basic tools — charcoal cave paintings, crude carvings, storytelling, etc. As the day progresses, the house will accrue artifacts and change shape, as civilization develops in distinct eras. You’ll receive new tools to reinvigorate your work and help you tell the story of the society through the art of its people.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Today's creativiti on the ice

I thought the family and I were just going to walk on the ice and look around, get some exercise. We did that and found some rough and smooth patches so we could get some speed and then slide. My son also suggested an artwork challenge. We had three duels; son and I, wife and I, son and wife. None of us managed anything fantastic and I will not tell you whose art you are looking at, but we had fun.  The challenges were boat, helicopter and tree.

 To me, the way the snow drifted and hardened resembled topographic maps. There were low, dark spots with only a dusting of snow over the ice. There were also thicker, brighter areas of thicker snow. The thick areas were larger so they appeared to me to be mainland around lakes with islands. You are welcome to invert the concept so there is dark land surrounded by bright seas.