Friday, January 15, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

The legendary John Fogerty is back with with new music. The sound of "Weeping in the Promised Land" isn't what one would expect from him, but I think is apropos of our times.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Michael Nesmith.

Now Playing: Gene Rains Lotus Land
Chicken Ranch Central

Thursday, January 14, 2021

The story, it is done

Last night I finished the long-overdue rewrite of "Where the Rubber Meets the Road," as short story I wrote more than a decade ago. I specifically wrote it for a Turkey City writers workshop in October of 2009, finishing the first draft a mere day before. Little did I know that my fiction writing would soon be completely upended by my work on the infamous Chicken Ranch book. Little did I know at the time that this would prove to be the last Turkey City I'd attend (I may do so again in the future, but in the intervening years I've attended not a one). Since 2009, I've completed only three pieces of short fiction--the super-short "Mother of Spirits," which appeared in the The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, "A Life Less Illustrated," which has been rejected hither and yon, and "It Gazes Back," a collaboration with Don Webb completed just a couple of weeks ago that has yet to find a home.

I wrapped the rewrite up with a thousand words last night, which is good production by my standards. The original draft was 9,000 words long, and after I chopped off the ending and stripped out several scenes in the rewrite, the final version clocked in at... 9,000 words. It seems old habits die hard. Everything I write tends to lock into a certain length, no matter how much I trim, and that does not seem to have changed. The interval between when I first wrote this story and now is a bit unnerving. I was starting to publish regularly up to 2009, and after that, my sales dropped off a cliff. Following the publication of the Chicken Ranch book, I honestly felt like I'd forgotten how to write fiction. I put in a strong push with Sailing Venus a couple of years ago and produced some good stuff, but when I hit a rough patch in the narrative, the wheels fell off. I'm hoping that with "It Gazes Back" and "Where the Rubber Meets the Road" that I've knocked the rust off and gotten back into the habit of writing. I'd like to think I've regained a rhythm, as the words are coming less sluggishly than they did a month ago. We shall see once I pull up Sailing Venus and attempt to get it back on track. I'm getting too old to wait around on "someday" to arrive. If I ever want to have a writing career that amounts to anything, I have to get that novel done, sooner rather than later.

But that's for tonight and the nights that follow. At the moment, I'm happy to bask in the freshly-minted story happily heading off to face various editors' slings and arrows. It'd been so long since I last looked at it that I'd forgotten much beyond the overall plot, and am happy to report that of the unfamiliar words I read, many of them are good. It's nice to get that affirmation, even if it's weirdly self-serving. And it allows me to do something I haven't done in a long time, share a writing excerpt:

As Lupe's eyes adjusted to the deepening shadow, she saw flits of movement in the cave mouth--bats circling just inside. A hawk swooped overhead, perching atop one of the dead hackberries. Movement around the sinkhole caught her eye. A raccoon ambled up here. A ringtail slipped through the rocks there. Several feral cats paced back and forth atop boulders near the cave entrance, heads up, tails curling.

The first bats came out in pairs and triplets, circling the sinkhole once, twice before disappearing over the trees. Suddenly, as if a hidden switch was flipped, they all came. A river of bats disgorged from the cave, their beating wings sounding like a torrential downpour. The feral cats leapt into the flight, snatching bats out of the air. The hawk swooped in, caught one in its talons and veered off. From the rocks along the edge of the cave, snakes struck, taking down bats with surgical efficiency.

None of it made a dent in their numbers. On and on the colony came, a million bats, two million. An impossible number, more than could possibly be contained in a hundred caves. A tornado of bats swirled out of the sinkhole, an undulating stream vanishing into the pink sky.

"Now I understand why you got those tattoos," Manny whispered at last. "Is it like you remembered?"

"No. Better."
For those of you with morbid curiosities, here are two blog entries I made back in 2009 that are directly related to this story. A time capsule, indeed:

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Happiness is Turkey City in the rear-view mirror

Now Playing: Martin Denny Forbidden Island
Chicken Ranch Central

Monday, January 11, 2021

Return to writing

I've not posted about writing much lately because, well, I haven't written much lately. After building up a good head of steam on the Venus book, I ran into a plot snarl and set it aside for a short break that's going on two years now. That's not writer's block, I hasten to add. That's me developing a psychological aversion to writing and coming up with excuses to avoid it. I'm sure other writers out there recognize the symptoms, if not the severity. Back in June, an author I admire suggested a short fiction collaboration. Of course, I accepted. They provided the opening to the story, and I, after some false starts and wobbly shaking off the rust motions, provided a middle section to which they carried across the finish line. The result was fine... but we were both underwhelmed with the result. Thus began on-again, off-again revisions which were finally completed at the end of December, resulting in a finished piece that's not only different from what we started with but, at least to my thinking, much more interesting.

The key thing here is that this collaboration broke me out of my self-imposed writing abstinence. It was only a day or so later that I turned my attention to a short story I'd written a decade before, that had been workshopped but then put aside. Alas, it too me several days to track down the workshop critiques, as they'd not been filed were I'd long thought them filed. But found them I did. Here are some thoughts on that story I'm currently revising:

It was run through the Turkey City writers workshop in 2009, just as I was getting consumed by the Chicken Ranch book. I thought I'd put it away as-is, but going through it I've found some significant post-Turkey City revisions. To the extent that the original draft does not exist on my computer anymore. I normally hang on to earlier drafts, so this is odd.

The revised version is significantly shorter than the original, which is good, considering I had about 10 pages of ending that was tacked on because I had no idea how to end it.

The story's more than a decade old, and although I remember the concept clearly, individual scenes and specific details are wholly new to me. As in, I have no memory of ever writing them. That's happened to me before, but it's still startling. What's more, significant passage have me going, "Damn, that's good. Where'd that come from?" Which is certainly better than the alternative. The fact that my detachment from the material makes these observations somewhat objective on my part is encouraging.

My earlier revisions stopped short of the problematic ending. So, no magic get out of plot jail free card for me.

Turkey City participants, in general, are very smart and much better at seeing what I'm trying to do with a story than I am.

My revisions are going very slowly, which corresponds with my overall writing speed in recent years. But part of it comes from my trying to address various valid critique points whilst tightening the narrative overall. I think the revisions significantly improve the efficiency of the narrative, even though the revision process is anything but efficient.

One nice thing about this story is that, apart from some very broad elements, it's not been done before. At least, not that I'm aware of. At my age, with only a dozen published story credits, it's become painfully apparent that I'm not the next Silverberg or Ellison. I've got to make what remaining stories I can wring out of this increasingly inefficient gray matter count.

I may be able to finish this one up with another couple evenings of work. I would be happy with that. Then it's off to F&SF. It feels like a F&SF story to me, and that's a market I've never even come close to selling to. A sale there would mark an excellent start to 2021 and my return to writing after too long a fallow period.

Now Playing: Les Baxter African Jazz
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, January 08, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Well, we had a run of 5 straight days where 2021 wasn't as awful as 2020, and then Wednesday happened. Now we've also got a cold front hitting Texas with winter freeze warnings and the potential for ice storms throughout the weekend. Joy. How about something fun as a distraction? Michael Nesmith, he of Monkees fame, had a long and interesting career after leaving that group. He's often credited with inventing the concept video (as opposed to the more common performance clips) which enabled the rise of MTV (which, trust me, used to actually play music videos). The song is "Rio" and the video is trippy and way ahead of its time. Or of its time. Whichever. The tropical vibes are certainly appreciated.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Conan & Basic Cable.

Now Playing: Robert Drasnin Voodoo III
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, December 25, 2020

Friday Night VIdeos

Friday Night Videos

It's just not the holiday season until we hear "Father Christmas." As Conan says, it's on of only two great Christmas songs.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... MST3K.

Now Playing: Dr. Demento Show December 1, 2001
Chicken Ranch Central

Monday, December 21, 2020

A Moment of Tiki: A Very Tiki Bob Christmas

I haven't been posting many "Tiki Build-Along" posts here in 2020 because much of my effort at chronicling my tiki bar build has gone into my YouTube series, "A Moment of Tiki." My latest episode, "A Very Tiki Bob Christmas," is linked below. This year I carved 13 Tiki Bob holiday ornaments, which the video documents. Of those, 10 went to various tikiphile friends, but I reseved three to give away. That's right--anyone with an inclination to do so may enter to win their very own Tiki Bob on three different platforms, as long as they get their entry in by 11:59 a.m. December 25, 2020:

Here's the Tiki Bob episode of "A Moment of Tiki":

So, you may be asking yourself by this point, "What's up with the Tiki Bob ornaments?" I'm glad you asked! Several years ago, The Wife and I were invited to a tiki Christmas party that had a white elephant-style ornament swap. Still being newcomers, I wanted to make a good impression and bring cool ornaments, but couldn't think of anything appropriate. It was The Wife, always the clever one, who suggested I carve some ornaments. I'd carved handles for the tiki mug display case in the Lagoon of Mystery, as well as the baseboards and chair rails, so it seemed like a good idea. Those ornaments, pictured below, were pretty crude but proved to be quite popular at the party.

The next year we were invited back, so I decided to make another pair of ornaments. This time I had a better handle on the process, and turned out the two pictured below. These proved even more popular and led to my conceiving the Tiki Bob ornaments to gift to our friends we can't cather with because of the ongoing COVID pandemic.

Needless to day, I'm a bit Tiki Bob'd out. But wouldn't you know it, even though I was ready to pack away my Dremel for the year, inspiration struck, and I found myself compelled to start putting this little fellow together. Wooden pufferfish Christmas (or Festivus, or Yule, or whatever) ornaments don't seem to be terribly common. I've still got to stain and seal him (I'm going with a dark wood finish) but I can see future versions in festive holiday colors. We shall see where this particular impetus takes me.

Now Playing: The Doctor Demento Show December 9, 2000
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, December 18, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Mystery Science Theatre 3000 may have gone off the air years ago, but that doesn't mean Joel, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot didn't leave us with that modern holiday classic, "A Patrick Swayze Christmas." Sing along if you want--you know you know the lyrics!

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton.

Now Playing: Various Artists Ultra Loungs: Christmas Cocktails
Chicken Ranch Central