Monday, September 3, 2007

I see dead people...and aliens

Argh! The SciFi Channel is running a Dead Like Me marathon today. Damn damn and damn. I've got a whole list of things to do today, I'm not supposed to be sitting around in my sweats watching this weird quirky little show. But, I love everything about Dead Like Me, from the theme song (and the grim reaper opening) to the each of the complex, quirky characters, to the intelligent story arcs and clever writing. I especially love the way the characters began to develop in the 2nd Season. I love the strange quirky soundtrack, especially Boom Boom Ba by Metisse. I can't even begin to express how much it irritates me that the show was canceled after only two seasons and I'm never going to know the answers to its mysteries, i.e. how did Rube die, why does Daisy have that sad little smile, and who exactly is Crystal? Argh! After I become Ultimate Emperor of the Universe I'm going to make it a law that all canceled shows must end with a really great wrap-up movie, a la Firefly and Serenity. Dammit! I just bought the HD version of Heroes yesterday, can't justify the purchase of both seasons of Dead Like Me for a couple of weeks. Argh!

(Update! Surfing around IMDB, I just discovered that the SciFi Channel is doing a Dead Like Me 2007 Movie! It appears that I may get my wish after all. See? See? This blog is changing the universe. Hah, take that, non believers.)

Right now, I should be in the shop planing and jointing roughcut birch planks for the display cabinets. If not that, then I should be writing. I may have mentioned somewhere that I have delusions of becoming a writer full time. To that end I've been working on a novel for a while now. I'm maybe 3/4 of the way through the first draft at this point and I've been at a standstill for going on a year. The problem is, or was, that the plot has become complex enough that it requires full time attention and up until now I just haven't been able to concentrate on it. Now that I'm retired from the military, and more importantly school is back in session and my son is gone most of the day, I really don't have an excuse - and if that wasn't motivation enough, my wife has made it pretty clear that I will not be spending the rest of my life puttering around in the wood shop.

The novel is a puzzle, a scifi locked-room murder-mystery told in the traditional mode (i.e. ahhh ha! The butler did it!). It is multi-view point. It explorers a new world. It will change your life. Because that's the kind of stuff I like to read. If that's not enough for you, it's also illustrated with a number of sketches, maps, and drawings - by me.

Here's a sample, try to contain yourselves. This was done using a Gateway CX2618 Convertible tablet and Art Rage 2.5. The creature is a large predator, the Greater Maul, and figures somewhat prominently in the story.


  1. Cool, Jim. Say, if you haven't worked out the plot plans there are several tools out there including setting up an Excel Spreadsheet (or another spreadheet program not made by the evil u$oft). there's a lot of advice on controlling plot issues all over the web. Most involve diagraming and outlining to some extent. Some writers do that, some don't. The best thing is to do what works for you. And, from what I've learned, those things may not work for the next novel. But as long as it gets you to the end (and through the rewrites and edits), that's what counts.

  2. Steve, no trouble with the plot. I have a complete outline, and I'm a pretty experienced writer (mostly technical works, but still the basic mechanics I have down). No, it's just finding the time and peace and quiet. Unfortunately, I'm the sort that must have peace and quiet to write, absolutely must have. And I tend to get very unpleasant when interrupted, which isn't fair to the people around me. It's like Heinlein said, writing good work if you can get it, but do it in private and wash your hands afterward.

  3. Oh yeah, finding the time and peace and quiet can be a problem. After many years of working in a cubicle (and without even the privacy a cubicle can grant, like where I'm at now, which is in an open room, no cubicle walls near me) I can focus in on what I need to. My wife misses me from all the work and council time, so I write at the dinning room table where we can see and hear each other. But when I'm composing I can tune everything else out. And while I could probably write more if I was shut off someplace, I find that parts of my brain need distration while the other parts get the writing work done.

  4. Steve, I admire the fact that you can write while at the dinning room table. I wish to hell I could. I find that I submerge myself in the world I'm creating and it's a jarring disconnect to be interrupted. Like I said, it makes me fairly unpleasant, unfortunately. I'm a rather grumpy, irritable person by nature (standard issue military type-A personality), and writing amplifies that trait for some reason. Also, I tend to be much more creative in the mornings, I find that I do my best work, writing, drawing, etc in the morning, and I tend to save editing and review for the evenings.

    I get the impression you do most of your writing in the evening?

    And I have no idea how you could have survived in a cubicle, I would have gone insane. No seriously. People who know me will back me up on this, I would have been one of those crazy gits you read about, you know, the kind that off'd 14 of his coworkers for chewing with their mouths open before the SWAT team took him out...

  5. Hey there! Didn't realize you were blogging, or I'd have visited earlier. I'm such a slacker.

    I love "Dead Like Me" too. It's on season pass, since we haven't caught all of the episodes yet. Glad to hear about the SciFi channel movie. Do you know if they got the original cast back?

    On the subject of your book, allow me to volunteer my services as a reader (if you need one - don't know if you've got that covered). Always happy to help out a fellow member of the goat locker, even if he did defect to the Weird Room.

  6. Hey, Janiece! Glad to have you here. Eventually I'll get around to publishing excerpts of the book here, for the express purposes of comment and critique. Your insights, Senior Chief, would be most welcome.

    And I've only been blogging for a couple of weeks, mostly since Scalzi's site crashed and burned. It's an exercise, i.e. it makes me write at least something every day.

  7. Gotcha. That whole "discipline" thing is such a bitch.

  8. Janiece, my understanding re DLM is that currently the SciFi Channel is planning a TV movie. Most of the cast is returning with two notable exceptions, Mandy Patinkin's Rube will be replaced with a new character ("more business orientated" ???) and Daisy Adair will remain as a character but be played by a new actress. Not sure I like the sound of that, but I'm willing to without judgment. Supposedly, if the movie gets high enough rating, there is an option to restart the series on SciFi. Keep you're fingers crossed.

  9. withhold. Withhold judgment. Not "without judgment".

    Can't feel my hands today. And without direct oversight from the brain they just type whatever the hell they want to. Stupid nerve damage.

  10. No trouble - I knew what you meant. It really sucks when we're not all young and springy like we used to be.

    I'm sorry to hear Mandy won't be back for the DLM movie. I really like him. I don't really care much for Daisy, so I'm cool either way on that.

  11. I didn't initially like Daisy either, but she kind of grew on me. Her story started to become complex and interesting, and a little sad. I thought it was developing in an interesting direction when the show tanked.

  12. Hey Jim,
    Just bounced here from Whateveresque to take a look around. Your book sounds really cool. I love genre-crossers, plus the drawings and maps! Sometime when you're in a library or bookstore, flip through a Barbara Hodgson book (like Hippolyte's Island). She uses drawings and maps, not to further the story, but to add atmosphere and verite'. It's a concept I've always loved.

    Best of luck in your writing! I know discipline can be a bitch.

  13. Welcome Anne, and thanks for the kind comments. I'll take a look for the Barbara Hodgson books. Sounds like what I have in mind with this novel, the drawings, sketches, map, etc are there to enhance the experience - but I am not writing a graphic novel. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from a character's journal, which includes sketches and descriptions of the world he has been exploring. This allows me to provide a back story and some fill without using the contrived conversation method - or the having a idiot that needs everything explained method. I'm a fairly decent artist, and I do the sketches to help me visualize characters and creatures - so they might as well be included in the book. Plus, those are the extras that I like in a novel, and I write what I like to read. So there you go. December, that's the goal, finish by December.

  14. I am so impressed with your art -- and your novel. I'm also a novelist, have one Print On Demand novel in print: Raven Dance, available on Amazon, and a fantasy novel set in the magical Pleistocene, "The Hunt," in its last edit stages before I go shipping it out this fall. I sold a couple of pro short pieces, one horror and one humor, in 2002 and 2003 but then got sick, had surgery, moved state to state a couple of times and basically got slowed up by circumstances again. Based on your blog, you'll sell your book. It's just a matter of finishing it and shipping it often enough someone buys it, something that can take years and years but is still well worth doing.

    I also draw for fun and used to for profit when I was a street artist in New Orleans. I am seriously impressed with the Greater Maul drawing. I'm slowly working my way from realism toward being able to draw the critters and scenes from my fiction. This is amazing.

    I've heard of tablets like the Wacom and thought about getting one sometime, but keep getting distracted by traditional art supplies, colored pencils, oils, pastels, watercolors, acrylics in about the way you do your woodshop. I'm reading your blog backwards catching up now, but mine is robertsloan2 at LiveJournal and http://robertsloan2.deviantart.com depending on whether I'm rarely, occasionally maundering about life on LJ or most often going on about art and a bit of writing stuff on DA. DA is fun, you can watermark your art when you post it and protect copyright, and it's a cool place to meet artists and writers.

    I had a blog here too but forgot my username and password so accessing it is a bit tricky. Nothing like the gaps of no Internet or no energy to get to the computer to start messing with that sort of thing. My usual blog now is the DeviantART one.

    Also, please check out http://www.sffmuse.com/forums -- it's a writing community I helped found in 2004, has its own flavor, stable membership, and a good chat. A friend of mine from SFFmuse linked me to your blog, and I like you a lot.

    I'm sure we will disagree on some things but I enjoy friends to disagree with as much as friends to agree with. So far I've just found sharp witty observations I agree with, so let the reading continue!

    I'm posting anonymously only for the convenience of not logging in on Google when I'm logged in on google on another page and annoyed at multiple login steps. I'll send you my email if you note me at DeviantART but not put it on a public post somewhere -- I suspect with how well you write, you get many, many readers.


    Robert A. Sloan

  15. Robert, thanks for the kind words.

    I used to use traditional art media, but nowadays I prefer electronic media. I use a Gateway cx2618, which functions both as a laptop and a tablet. Over the years I've gone through a number of laptops, but the cx2618 is the best. The battery life is exceptional, the only down side is that the 2618 is heavy, especially with the larger battery pack attached. I use a couple of different software packages, but for general sketching and color work I prefer Art Rage. Its not particularly sophisticated, but it is simple to use and works extremely well with the cx2618. The sketches of the Maul were intended to look as if they had been done in the field using chalk or colored pencils on good quality journal paper. I'm pretty happy with the result.

    I'll take a look at your blogs and the writer's site just as soon as I get some time, probably Monday. I'm a little busy this weekend. Thanks again, glad you're enjoying Stonekettle Station.

  16. Wow. You did succeed in making it look like it was sketched in the field with chalk or colored pencils -- it's great.

    Hehehe, when I get to that point I probably will just do them in conte crayon or colored pencils on a journal... but then, I've never tried a tablet where the tool is pen shaped either. It's very powerful! Thanks for the tip about Art Rage.


  17. Robert, I should mention that I have no idea how well Art Rage works with a mouse, trackball, touchpad, or other similar pointing device on a traditional desktop or laptop. I use a tablet and pen. I'm left handed, and I have nerve damage in that hand and arm which limits fine control, especially with a mouse. I find I can get very good control with the pen, so that's what I use.

    One of the major advantages of Art Rage/Tablet combo is that I can switch tools and media very easily, and have total control over things like nib size and shape - and still get exactly the same or better results than I used to with ink, chalk, and paint - and I can do it anywhere, especially places you can't use traditional media, like an airplane. I don't travel nearly as much as I used to, but I still like having the option.


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