Monday, March 24, 2014

Goal Slide Into the Box

I've completed my story, "The Figurine in the Box."  I've sent it copies to some people for review and comment, but I already know I'm going to make at least one major overhaul.  I'm going to edit it down about half of the 15,000 words it is now.

If you don't already have a copy and would like to read it please leave me a comment with an address to send it.

I think it is a good story.  It pretty much did what I intended it to when I started out.  My inspiration was listening to The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft.  I wondered why Lovecraft's gods always had to be so ugly.  Of course they are alien and un-understandable, but why does that always have to equal ugly, hideous and frightening.  Can't something be beautiful, desirable and utterly frightening?

Bradbury explored this same question in "Something Wicked This Way Comes."  Bradbury didn't make it incomprehensible though.  Also, I think it took it in a different direction than where it went for me.

It took much longer than I had anticipated to finish it, and there is still a long way to go in editing it before I can submit it.  I needed to finish it, and it was a good exercise.  Now, it may be an equally useful exercise to edit this smaller story before I try to tackle editing Hidden Temple to the Lost Gods.

This is why I am not completely disheartened by my progress toward this year's writing goal.  My steps are different and smaller, but still headed in the right direction.

Get Hidden Temple to the Lost Gods published by the end of the year.


  1. ProNoFiMo in January
  2. NaNoEdMo in March
  3. Research publishing in April
  4. Send it out to publishers starting end of April.
I'm going to have to add some steps:
  1. Write "The Figurine in the Box" - DONE
  2. Edit "The Figurine in the Box" - MARCH
  3. Submit "The Figurine in the Box" for publication - APRIL
  4. ProNoFiMo (Prop Novel Finishing Month) - MAY
  5. NaNoEdMo - JUNE
  6. Research publishing - JULY
  7. Send it out to publishers - AUGUST to DECEMBER
And where does that leave you, dear Illini6 reader?  I've promised Mondays as writing day.  Mondays are the day to come here and see a new post.  If I am seriously dedicating myself to these steps what will there be for readers of this blog to read?

I could write more jokes.

I could report on my progress.

I could be completely ambitious and write stories or chapters just to be read here on this blog, from a story that will only appear on the blog.

Something tells me the last option is the preferred one, but only if I can pull it off.  There is the gist, the crux, can I pull it off?  I say I can, but I must offer one caveat, it will be simple and unpolished.

I will promise this, I will never again publish anything on this blog for which there is no ending which can be posted here.  I have posted parts of stories that had no ends.  I've posted parts of stories for which there was an end, but I had no intention of posting the ending here.  That won't ever happen again.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day everybody!

I've tried in fits and starts to have a tradition of writing and posting a St. Patrick's Day joke each year.

This is my record so far:
2010  (actually in 2011)
2012:  missed

This is my attempt for 2014:

We've all heard that St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland, but did you know that the snakes themselves have always wanted to go back.

The snakes felt they got a raw deal and were unfairly discriminated against, victims of species profiling.  After several years of exile they decided to get together and figure out how to return to their beloved homeland.

They rented a conference room at a Ramada in Chicago and held a huge convention.  All day long the met and discussed.  Imagine if you will a huge conference room filled with snakes, green as the emerald isle itself, all hissing in a thick Irish brogue.

By the end of the conference they had worked themselves into quite a lather, every one of them spitting mad at the one man who had done them all wrong.  Every one of those snakes was ready to strike, all except one, Sean O'Shea.

Sean sat quietly curled up on a beautiful box he had brought with him.  Eventually all the other snakes turned to look at him in confusion.

"Why is it, Sean O'Shea that yer not angry at Patrick, the man who drove us out?  Don't you love Ireland?"

"Aye, I love Ireland same as you all.  I love the land, the green, the people, but most of all I love the music.  I've always loved the music, the jigs, the reels, the hornpipes, the ballads, and the laments.

"I've always loved the fiddle, the uileann pipes, the flute, the concertina and the badhrans.  All me life I've wanted to play in an Irish band.

"One fine spring day I was making me way through the glen when I spied a wee little man.  Quick as a wink I coiled round him, cuz I knew right then, he was a leprechaun.

"I got yeh, leprechaun, sez I.  Now yeh got to give me yer crock o' gold.

"'Oh, ya got me sure and fast.' Sez he.  'You must be the quickest and smartest snake in all of Ireland.'

"'I am.' Sez I, 'I'm Sean O'Shea.'

"'Ah, Sean O'Shea, you say?' sez he, 'Not THE Sean O'Shea, the snake who wants to play in an Irish band?'

"'The same,' sez I.

"'Well,' sez he, 'I think I might have somethin' even more to yer likin' than me wee crock o' gold.  How would you like a magic concertina?'

"What use have such as I with no hands, for any concertina?' sez I.

"'Ah, this is a magical concertina.  This concertina plays all by itself.  It needs no hands, just a guiding soul to give it the tune.  If you release me I'll tell you where it is.'

"Now, I'm no fool.  I made that leprechaun tell me where to find this magical instrument before I released me coils.  As soon as I did he disappeared.

"I followed his instructions and true enough there in the valley I found just what he had sent me after.  The case itself was amazing, airtight, water tight, indestructible, with brass hinges and clasps.  The interior was lined with the finest velvet and silks.

"Nestled in that case me befell on the most beautiful sight I could ever imagine.  The magical concertina was inlaid with gold and silver.  The buttons were gem stones and pearls.

"As beautiful as it was, and try as I might I could not get that instrument to play one single note, not a single chord.  After trying  everything I could think of, in frustration I sought out that leprechaun.

"I found him, back in that glen I had caught him before.  None the wiser, I caught him again, wrapped me coils round him and squeezed.

"'Ah Sean, how are you enjoying yer concertina?' sez he.

"'I'm not.  It won't play.'

"'Won't play?  Ach, where's me head?  If it weren't attached I'd lose it sure.  Of course it won't play.  You need to know the magic word.'

"'Magic word?  What is the magic word?  Tell me quick.'

"Now, I suspected that leprechaun meant to cheat me.  I taut he had kept that bit about the magic word from me on purpose all along, but I taut I was smarter and with me coils wrapped round his wee body I threatened to squeeze out the breath of life if he didn't tell me.

"He told me that there was only one man in the whole of the world who knew the magic word to make the concertina play, but he alas was no longer in Ireland.  The man with the magic word had immigrated to America, and if I wanted the magic word I would have to follow him there.

"Well, me friends I packed up all me belongin's and set off to find him.  I floated across the wide Atlantic Ocean on the watertight case.  I've been looking fer the man with the magic word ever since.  So, my friends you ask me why I'm not angry at Saint Patrick, the answer is simple.  St. Patrick didn't drive me out of Ireland.  I left on me own accordion."

Monday, March 10, 2014

Pens, Polls and Goals

Energel and Piccadilly 
In my last poll I asked how you like your literature served, hot or cold, er no.  I asked, "How do you consume written material?":

  1. Dead Trees (paper)
  2. Magically (electronic devices)
  3. Other
Three responded with dead trees and one responded, "Other."  I have no idea what other they meant, perhaps smoke signals, carved in stone perhaps by a bird ala the Flintstones), or maybe fiery letters writ by the Hand of God.

Our next poll is along a similar vein:

What writing instrument do you prefer?

I ask this because I've recently become interested and in the possession of fountain pens.  It all began on a warm summer evening.  I had been selected to mentor in Tanzania through a charitable foundation at work called Abbott Fund.  I thought it would be prudent to bring an analog, non-electronic (there are analog electronic systems, don't forget) system to record thoughts and such.

I had tried to keep a journal when I was deployed to Afghanistan with disastrous results.  It was 2003 when we were alerted and back then flash drives did not come cheap.  I killed several, including the "huge" 500 MB one I was keeping my journal on.

I started researching notebooks and pens.  I ended up taking a Pentel Energel as my primary pen and a Piccadilly 5.5" x 8.5" notebook (see image above).  The Pentel was a great pen and I ran it out of ink.  I ended up with my backup, a Pilot G2.  I did not like that one as much.

As I was looking into pens I realized I wanted a quality pen.  I also wanted one that was nice to write with.  I started seeing that fountain pens are making something of a come back, and thought I wanted to try them when I got back.

Image courtesy of
I like the idea of fountain pens, like watches they are collectible little machines that, when high quality can last several lifetimes.  Unlike watches they can be a bit cheaper.  It's also more common for people to have more than one pen, while watches are less so.

Image courtesy of eBay
I have three fountain pens now. The first is a Pilot Varsity.  It's a disposable and possibly my favorite.  The second one I got I haven't used yet, because I didn't realize it didn't come with ink.  It's a Bauer.

Image courtesy of
The one I got for Christmas from Mrs. Prop is the most expensive and potentially the nicest.  It is a Lamy AL-Star.  I've been  having trouble with that one.  I'm either not writing with it correctly, I haven't loaded the ink properly, or it's broken somehow.

I'd like to review my writing goals.  This is my third consecutive Monday-ish posting.  Hooray for that.  I have not done any editing of Hidden Temple to the Lost Gods however.

I may have a valid reason though.  I have been working diligently on a "short" story called "Figurine in the Box."  It's a Lovecraftian cosmic horror story.  I started it last month and have shown some of it to some coworkers.  I feel obliged to finish it so I have not shown an unfinished piece that will never be completed.
Inspiration for my figurine

I put quotes around "short" because it has been expanding and threatening to become a novella.  This is mostly a function of the fact that I'm enjoying writing it.  It is close to 15,000 words right now and will probably end up just over 16,000.  This is before any pruning and editing though.

There is some value in this story though.  It is in the same genre as Hidden Temple so I'm in the right mood.  I've been writing it in a similar way as I wrote Hidden Temple.  I think I may have hit on a comfortable way to work the long form.  Finally,and second only to the fact that I must finish a story I shared with some one is, I think I have a market for it that will pay fairly well (as far as these things go).

I'm going to try to submit "Figurine in the Box" to Lovecraft eZine.  I will keep my dear readers abreast of how it goes.  Wish me luck.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Princess Evaluation

Yesterday one of my daughters pointed out a video about the Disney Princesses.  As I was watching the video some ideas struck me.  I wrote them down and then had a conversation with my oldest.  I'd like to share my evaluation for two reasons, I find the discussion interesting, and because I think it is something to think about while developing characters in my own writing.
Snow White - slipped a roofie, okay I'll give you that.  Rescued by a man, I'll give you that

Cinderella - small feet, saved by a man.  I'll give you that too.

Belle - Stockholm Syndrome - yeah that always bothered me too.  In fact if you really think about it, it was bestiality as well.  Pretty sick that one.

Jasmine - tricked by a cheat?  Was his intention to cheat her?  No.  In fact he fell in love with her and that's what made him do the crazy, stupid, misguided stuff he did.  He was trying to give her what he thought she wanted.  In the end they both grew together, seeing each other's values and the shah, her father started to  become more liberal because of her, not because of him.  Didn't he change the law because it was her better judgement over his own that was right?

Ariel - gave up a special talent.  Yes she did and it was after she had seen Eric.  What you are glossing over is that she wanted to go on land long before she ever saw him.  She felt that was who she was.  There was something more than under the sea and living at home.  She wanted to branch out to the land.  Eric was only the final straw that made her seek desperate measures, but he alone would not have made her do it.  Did Eric drive the ship and kill the evil witch?  Sure, that's what guys like doing, what they feel comfortable doing, big grand physical gestures.  In the end didn't she save Eric from drowning?  Wasn't she the final hero?  Wasn't her father who finally saw her as a grown woman able to make her own choices the reason she could end up with the man SHE chose?

Also, let's get this straight.  There is a difference between "need" and "want."

They missed some.

Sleeping Beauty (Aurora) - slipped a roofie too (though I should point out that it was some crazy, jealous bitch who did the slipping in both these cases, not a man).  She would have been right for the video, but I guess it would have been redundant.

Mulan - I can see why they left her off.  Not only did she compete and beat men, she was even better when she revealed she was a woman.  This does not fit the stereotype at all.  Did she end up with a man?  Was there misogyny in that movie?  She was not actually a princess either.  Maybe that's why she can be so strong and independent.  Maybe Disney is really suggesting we do away with the monarchy?

Pocahontas - Didn't she save John Smith from the axe?  And in the end she married some other dude, a part not even in the movie.

Tiana - I'm not really sure what he message was here anyway.  She rescues him, but he rescues her from her workaholism, maybe.  What is that all about?  I don't know.  There was some bestiality in here too (why a sexy frog that looks like she has a bosom when frogs aren't even mammals - gah).  What I do know is that Naveen is a mess before she straightens him out; they fall in love, are married and happy as frogs; and in the end she gets what she always really wanted.  Was that a prince?  Was that even a man?  No it was a restaurant, and that's what she got.  Did he help her get it: yes.  Did she get a man to boot: yes.  Honestly, it was a good friend (an alligator) who helped finance her restaurant.  The restaurant was what she needed.  Did she need a man; no.  Did she want a man, sure, she'd take one if offered.  By the way, in the end he doesn't seem to be so much a prince as her partner in the business.

Rapunzel - In the Disney version he saves her, she saves him.  I think it's a wash, and a good one too.

Merida - Okay, I know there is some controversy about how they sexed her up, but aside from that does she even end up with a man?  I'm not really asking, just pointing out.

Giselle - You remember her, from Enchanted.  She ended up giving up all princessness to marry a single Dad in New York.  I do believe she rescued him as well.

Another interesting thing to look at would be the villains.  
SW = Evil Queen
C = Evil Step Mother
SB = Maleficent
LM = Evil "Queen"
B&B = Gaston
A = Jafar
P = John Rolfe
M = The Mongols (or the hunny buns)
P&F = Shadowman
T = Mother Gothel
B = NA
F = ?

The ones in red are Girl on Girl action, while the ones in Blue are women fighting men.  I want to note that I don't think this is trying to say all women are evil, but that they are powerful and dangerous.

Let's look to see who is the strong role model in each:
SW = Huntsman?
C = Fairy Godmother
SB = Flora, Fauna & Merryweather
LM = Sebatian?
B&B = NA
A = Genie?
P = Grandmother Willow
M = Mooshu?
P&F = Mom, Mama Odee
T = NA
B = NA?
F = ?

And what years were they?
1930s - 1
SW = 1937

1940s - 0
no Princesses for the 40s:  Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi were all 40s

1950s - 2
C = 1950
SB = 1959

1960s, 1970s - 0
nothin' (Disney low point)

1980s - 1
LM = 1989

1990s - 4
B&B = 1991
A = 1992
P = 1995
M = 1998

Double Aughts - 1
P&F = 2009

Tens - 3 so far
T = 2010
B = 2012
F = 2014

My daughter suggested that the older, more stereotyped ones should be revamped.  I don't see why they need to revamp anything.  Those movies are historical.  If they want to go forward with new and enlightened princesses and princes that's cool.  I think rather than revamp they should retire.  Have you ever heard of the movie, "Song of the South?"  It was a Disney live and animated movie, but it was racist so they don't show it anymore.  It's out of circulation.  They'll never take Snow White out of circulation because it was the first ever, but they can take Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty etc out if they're willing to lose the revenue in the name of progressive thinking.

My daughter also pointed out the very weak characterization in the earlier films.  I thought it was a good point about the characterization.  What was the name of the prince in Snow White; Cinderella; Sleeping Beauty?  Wasn't it Charming in all of them?  If not, then I don't know.

My bottom line is not that Disney is without faults; but that you can't just lump everything as misogyny or an attempt to subjugate women.  Women may WANT to get rescued.  Women may WANT a man.  Neither of these precludes women doing some rescuing of their own, choosing their man, being strong or being themselves.

In fact, I want a woman who is strong, herself and capable of rescuing me when I need it.  I also want a woman who would choose me, can be tender and can let me rescue her once in a while.  Luckily I got one and it makes me one of the happiest people I know, man or woman.

On Flowers of Mundelein I'm running a poll on which princess you like best.  Go there and vote on that and come back here.