Saturday, May 30, 2015

Playlist: Songs For A Week In Which On 2 Of 5 Days You Clearly LOST And Now It's Cloudy On Saturday And Maybe Gonna Rain And So You Need To Build Up The Spirit To Face The Day And Maybe Go To A Museum Or Something

Let's say it was a rough week and on two of the five days you were just oh man I don't know I'll try again tomorrow.

And now it's Saturday morning and even at 6:53 a.m. it's so cloudy out that it's almost like the sun hasn't risen at all, and Sweetie said the high is supposed to be 59 degrees but your phone says 67 degrees, which doesn't even matter because either way, you're not going to the beach today, right? I mean it was Memorial Day a week ago and now you probably are going to have to wear a sweatshirt today.

Here is what I recommend.  Pour yourself a bowl of Cap'n Crunch Crunchberries.

Look at some funny stuff that will make you laugh, like the "Obvious Plant" Tumblr 

Remind yourself that late last night you finally beat that one level of Plants vs. Zombies 2 that had been bedeviling you for like three days

Check and see if any museums are open today and what they cost.  Remind yourself that there are indoor pools.  Put your Cap'n Crunch bowl in the sink.  Get up and move around.  

Don't say tomorrow's another day.  Say today's THE day.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

This is all the things Mr F can do with his life right now. (Life With Unicorns)

This is Mr F's "Want Board."  Mr F still doesn't talk much, and only when prompted to do so. So when he wants something, he resorts to creative ways of getting it.  Like bringing you a candy bar for him to open, or pointing your hand towards the computer, or getting his shoes on and trying to 'throw' your hand at the keys up on the shelf.

We used to have a program on our iPad to try to help with this, but that program never worked so well.  For one thing, it was really complicated for him to use -- you had to go through several screens to get to the thing he wanted. If he wanted Cheese Puffs, say, he would have to open the program, then tap "I Want" then "Something To Eat" then "Cheese Puffs."  That's a lot of work for a cheese puff that is in the cupboard right above where the iPad charges.  Plus, if Mr Bunches was using the iPad, the program was unavailable.

Also, the iPad broke when Mr Bunches got frustrated one day and tossed it on the ground.  He got a lecture, and we had to buy a new tablet that wouldn't support the program, which wasn't that good anyway and cost a LOT of money.  The program, called "Proloquo2Go" costs $249.99. 

(That's a side not about autism and other special-needs -isms: things marketed to parents of those kids are almost ALWAYS overpriced. I suspect it's because of the guilt parents feel. A teacher says "Get this Proloquo program and Mr F will learn to communicate," and then you see it's $250 bucks, and you think WOW! but then you think I have to get it or I'm a horrible parent who is going to hell."  Consider this site, which sells 'teethers' for autistic kids. Mr F likes to chew things, and we buy him teething toys to help with that.  That site's "cool" teethers cost $12.99 and up, including an AMAZING $15.99 for silicone bracelets.

Regular baby teething toys -- not marketed as being somehow "cool" and appropriate for special needs kids -- start at $2.96 on Amazon. And you can get a pack of 24 silicone bracelets with inspirational sayings for $6.25.)

So rather than shell out another $250 for a program that wouldn't work well and which wouldn't always be available, we started taking pictures of the things Mr F likes, or which we think he might like.  $15 at the Dollar Store and a couple of hours of printing and gluing later, we had the "I Want" board, featuring such activities as "Go For A Ride In The Big Car."

So far, it has not caught on very well with Mr F, who naturally prefers the old way of doing things.  But we're working on it.

One of the things we keep doing is expanding it; our next task is to take pictures of the playgrounds we take them to, so he can pick a playground if he wants to go play somewhere.  We've got to add "bubbles" to the pictures because sometimes he gets in the mood to have me blow soap bubbles for him -- like yesterday when he watched me do it and popped them for thirty minutes.

At first, I looked at the pictures we had and got sad, because as the headline said, Mr F's world was severely circumscribed by what pictures were available: if he couldn't find a picture to say it and couldn't find a way to pantomime it for us, he couldn't do it.  We take him for rides, for example, and we have several different routes we take, that go by the Capitol or through farms or just around the neighborhood.  Mr Bunches knows how to ask for a particular ride.  Mr F does not.  So he's just stuck with what we choose for him, until we figure out a way to label the rides in a way that he can use.

He's getting more creative at telling us he doesn't like something.  If we put a movie on the TV that he doesn't like, he'll try to turn the TV off, and if he can't do that, he'll go stand behind the TV so he doesn't have to see it (the TV is up against a wall, so that's a bit tricky, which is probably the point: we move quick to change it rather than risk him knocking over the TV.)

After a while, though, I felt less sad for him, because the more pictures we put up, the greater his horizons will be.  Most of us take for granted our ability to communicate what we want, or need.  It's really daunting to realize that Mr F (who gets easily frustrated and we suspect that this is part of it) can't communicate even 1/100th of the things he might want to do in a day.

Try this:

Picture everything you did yesterday.  Now imagine you are an 8-year-old.  What things would you have needed help with, and what things would you have had to ask someone to let you do or do for you?

Now imagine asking for them without using a single word.  How would you do it?

When I think of the sheer number of things Mr F seems to like doing or might want to try -- go play in the yard, go for a walk, get french fries at Dairy Queen instead of McDonald's, find a particular book, go to swim in the lake or the pool or the other pool on the far side of town... -- it seems an almost impossible task to take a representative picture of them all, but, then, it seems worse not to try.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

SEVEN? I have to think of SEVEN things?

Blagger and Spinner have only
hours to find their
missing equipment,
solve a murder, and
still keep the guests
from realizing
there’s a problem.
Click here for more.
Kate Ressman -- the author of Sugar and Spice, a scifi novel that sounds like China Mieville's best stuff, recently tagged me on her blog Bitter Suites  for a meme in which writers tell their reader(s?) seven things about their writing.

Given that I am in the midst of a publicity tour for my newest, hottest, best-est book ever (CODES), and have been writing about other people's great books and about how other people write scifi stories, it's both a good idea to focus on my writing and finally lets me get back to talking about myself, which is of course my favorite subject.

I'm not sure what the guidelines if any for these meme are, and it doesn't really matter because I never follow the guidelines anyway, so I will simply say the first seven things about how and when and why and etc I write that pop into my head, beginning with

This, for example, inspired me to
lobby for a law prohibiting
anyone from becoming a
'jewelry designer.'
I get inspiration from the weirdest things.  I've mentioned before that I wrote Codes after being inspired by a comment from Andrew Leon, but beyond that, I have had stories inspired by a quote from The Brothers Karamazov , by something author Rusty Carl said he ate for lunch one day (fish tacos), by a review of a book that said it was about a dysfunctional family which caused me to write my own novel about a dysfunctional family, by another thing Rusty Carl said, and by our middle kid, The Boy, saying what if you wrote a story about an astronaut drifting towards... well, I won't say what, that would spoil the surprise but it became this book.

I have way more ideas than I have time to write them.  I have ideas for stories about a human cannonball, about a guy wandering a post-apocalyptic earth, about two women who became pirates in another universe, about an accident at a factory that destroyed a town and left people haunted for years... and those are just the ones I'm planning on working on.  I haven't gone back to finish editing my epic Lesbian Zombies Are Taking Over The World!, I abandoned my plan to update The Odyssey as a steampunk adventure because I got bored with it (even though it was really good, it just wasn't for me), I haven't yet finished the third book in my Nick & Other Sexy Cop series even though it's like 9/10 written... I spend 20-60 minutes a day on writing, and at the pace I am going I will have to live to be 600 to write everything I want to write as of this moment.

I listen to different music depending on what I'm writing.  I've got a whole playlist just for Codes, which I use as I start on the sequel.  It includes songs like Bobby's Spacesuit

As well as more rock-and-roll things like After Hours, by We Are Scientists

to get a good mixture of weird-and-scifi, keeping my mood in that range that fits for Codes. But I listen to spookier music for horror stuff, and I tend towards The New Pornographers for my more literary stuff.  I even have a whole list of 'upbeat' music for when I write lighthearted things.

I am four stories away from completing a project where I wrote a story a day for a year.  I've also mentioned a few times here and there that since a year ago I have been working on a project I call "66,795 words," in which I wrote a story a day for a year, each one with one less word than the one before it.  The first story was 365 words, and actually was published by Yellow Mama back in June, 2014. (It was called No Souls Will Burn In The Sky Tonight).  Tonight I wrote story 5, called, simply, What.  You'll have to wait for the book to be published, one way or the other, to read them all (as well as the interludes, which are a combination memoir/blog/treatise on life, writing, and people. It's truly a phenomenal book) but if you check out the tab at the top of this page on where to find my writing, many of the stories listed there are part of this collection.

My ultimate goal is to one day write a mystery, but not just any mystery: I want to write a mystery in which the detective is also the killer, but he doesn't know it -- and the trick is that he can't have suffered from amnesia, a split personality, or been under the influence of drugs/alcohol when he did the killing.

I love reading my own writing.  I write the kinds of things I like to read, and so I tend to be my own favorite author.  I like to go back and re-read things I wrote years ago, and rediscover how much I liked them.  I tend to write pantser-style, making it up as I go along and ultimately ending up someplace I hadn't usually imagined when I started out, and because I write only a little at a time and hop from project to project, my writing always feel fresh to me.

Almost everything I write is about something I don't really understand.

Back in college I took a creative writing class, and the teacher talked about various quotes from various authors who supposedly said various things.  The quote, as I remember it, is we write the things we will never understand.  I've tried looking up who said that quote, or something close to it, and can't find anything.  But I always liked it, and it really applies to my writing.  Whether it's scientific advances impacting what it means to be human, as in Codes, or what the afterlife might look like, or even more abstract stuff, almost all my writing tends to focus in on areas that I like to think about, but which I either have an imperfect understanding of, or which cannot be understood by us at all.

I think that's the most interesting way to write -- spinning out problem after problem, idea after idea, in an effort to make sense of it all.  I rarely do, in the end, understand it -- but at least I get a good story out of it.

I got this! It's
No wait, that's for dentists...
Now I'm supposed to tag someone for this, so I will tag two people and let them accept or decline it.  Andrew Leon, author of (most recently) What Time Is The Tea Kettle? a quirky short entry into a world where cats can talk and objects can come alive and terrible things can happen despite all the quirk.  Read it! It's good.  Andrew blogs at StrangePegs where he mentioned Star Wars today so expect he'll have about a jillion visitors.

And I'll tag Bryan and Brandon at A Beer For The Shower.  They've been answering reader questions, in a frustratingly slow way.  HEY GUYS I REALLY NEED MY QUESTION ANSWERED BECAUSE I CAN'T START MY CAR UNTIL YOU TELL ME WHERE I LEFT MY KEYS. Hopefully they'll answer 7 questions about their writing. I don't know -- like me, they're almost painfull shy when it comes to talking about themselves.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Shameless Self Promotion: "The Thinking Man's Blade Runner," a short story based on the novel I wrote!


(you can also get a copy at the end of the story.
This story is set in the world of Codes, my new book available from Golden Fleece Press; there's a link to it over there on the left.

You can read it without having read Codes, but why WOULD you? Go buy Codes then while you wait for it to download, read this!

There are humans, and there are Codes, who are... human? Or not? What would you call a person who was born of a 28-day-old adult clone and had their personality implanted via computer program? Rick would call that person "Lila," and would be in love with her, maybe. Which is where the problem really begins...

The Thinking Man’s Blade Runner.

Uploading. 9%

The sound of explosions, behind him. He ignored them.

Monday, May 25, 2015

10 Minutes About: Splinter In The Mind's Eye

I finished Splinter In The Mind's Eye the other day.  It took longer than I'd thought it would because I'm reading several books at once these days.  I didn't do that for a long time.  For most of the past few years I had a few rules about reading, like I would only read one book at a time, and I wouldn't re-read old books, but I've slowly abandoned those and now I just read whatever I want.  So for the past few weeks I have been reading Splinter In The Mind's Eye, and also Faithful Place by Tana French (which is a murder mystery that Sweetie and I are reading together.  We formed our own book club, and are now on our third book that we're reading together and discussing with each other, a chapter at a time), and I started reading Perdido Street Station by China Mieville, but I only get digital books for 14 days at a time, and that one expired before I finished and couldn't be renewed.

Splinter In The Mind's Eye was about as good as I remembered it: a sort of slightly-advanced YA novel, not very deep or hard to read but fun in the way a Star Wars book should be.  I'd forgotten a lot of it, and I'd forgotten, too, how fun it can be re-reading an old old book and remembering all the parts that I'd once loved.  In this case, the underground tunnels with the Coway and the battle with the stormtroopers I hadn't remembered at all, and once I got to that part, there was a oh yeah that's right this is okay moment that I enjoyed.

One thing I was surprised by was how much of the book seemed to leak into the later Star Wars movies.  I suppose I shouldn't be, not just because why wouldn't Lucas filch from what was the first official Star Wars tie-in (or so I think it was?) but also because they're sort of tropes of that kind of glossy space opera scifi anyway: the primitive natives joining forces with the technologically advanced rebels, for example: There wasn't much difference between the Coway and the Ewoks, so far as I could tell, except that the latter lived in trees rather than underground.

There was more, though: [SPOILER ALERT!] like Luke slicing off Vader's arm in their battle at the end, or hints about Leia's abilities with the force, too.  Leia, in this one, picks up Luke's saber and begins battling Vader while Luke is trapped, and doesn't do terribly (although it's made clear Vader is just toying with her.)  There's even an older lady who knows about the Force and helps Luke get in touch with it a bit.  Okay, so Yoda was no lady but still.

Overall, what I found myself thinking was why Star Wars seems so expandable where other universes did not.  There's not an expanded universe of Frozen, for example, or E.T., or any number of other Really Big Deal movies.  Star Wars, with only a few other titans of pop culture, has for some reason lent itself to the kind of incredible expansive creativity that literally has spawned an entire universe.

And here's my answer: Star Wars really is a blank slate that people fill in.  If you go back to the original trilogy that this whole shebang was built on, they tell you squat.  I was trying to remember what I learned about the Star Wars universe in the movie itself, and there wasn't a whole lot: there's an Empire, and an academy, and there's Alderaan, and the Kessel Spice Run, and almost none of it is explained.

So we, the viewers, are free to make stuff up to fill in those gaps.  It's almost the exact opposite of something like Lord Of The Rings or His Dark Materials or Star Trek; they give you everything, and it's incredible and detailed and well thought out and all, but it's not the same as the way Star Wars felt like you could make it your own.  We didn't have a backstory for Han Solo, had only hints about how Luke and Leia got where they were, knew nothing about Vader or Kenobi or anyone.

Maybe that's why the later sequels were so panned? Not that they were as bad as people said (I liked them all, even Phantom) but because they were more detailed, any by filling in the cracks, they felt closed off and inaccessible?

That's ten minutes.  Consider that your take-home question.

PS: If you didn't come over here from there, check out my What If? post on Liz's Laws Of Gravity blog