Monday, December 25, 2006

Winding Down...

We had eleven people over for Christmas dinner...and no unnecessary family drama. A nice, mellow day, all-in-all.

I'm thankful to God for this magnificent country I live in and for all the people who made it possible.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sunrise Through Branches

Lemons No Longer

In an earlier post, I recommended that you not consider buying the first iteration of Apple laptops with Intel processors (the Core Duos released a year or so ago).

Now, with several small updates to miscellaneous pieces and a new processor line (the Core 2 Duo), it appears that Apple has gotten their MacBook Pro act together. I would happily buy one and would think you'd be safe with it, as well.

One caution, I should add, though, is that I've heard from multiple different sources (sources with long Mac experience), that AppleCare is a must-have addition to your purchase. This is an extended warranty, which I usually shun, but laptops are more breakable than most electronics. In addition to getting a longer warranty, you will also apparently get better care during the regular warranty period.

As a relatively recent adopter of Mac--just approaching one year now--I can tell you that I'm still enjoying the experience and still recommend it as a platform for most computer users.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ty's Dream Girl (The End)

A story written in three very-short sections for a friend's newsletter.

The Beggining

The Middle

The End
His panic began to smother him now, his chest constricting painfully as his legs grew leaden. After a panicked glance over his shoulder and to his left and right, he began a frantic, broken stroke for his own shore. As poorly as his limbs served him, he quickly grew convinced that he would weary and drown long before he even reached water shallow enough to stand.

He tried to deny his insistent urge to look back, but his will only held for a few strokes. Slowing briefly, he turned onto his back, continued with a clumsy, inefficient stroke and craned his neck to see if he could still spot the floating hair. At first, there was nothing but his own turbulent wake, but then he caught a glimpse of something...something very clearly not long strands of hair.

What he saw, instead, was a wispy curl in the water, a living, purposeful curl, a curl that was there and then gone. In nearly the same instant, he sensed as much as saw a large, fast-moving shadow in the deeper water to his left. With a terrified, choked grunt, he rolled back into a breast stroke and began to swim for his life.

The breaths came tight and shallow, his panic threatening to smother him. The shadow was faster than he was, looming, it seemed, on all sides, and--he knew without being told--lethal.

Finally, when his efforts at swimming had degenerated to simple thrashing, his toes struck bottom. With great effort, he forced himself to his feet and slogged through the shallows until the water was only ankle-deep. Turning there, he watched the shadow moving toward him with evident strength and purpose. But then it was at the periphery of the unreachable shallows and turning with wave-making speed to parallel the shoreline.

As the small breaker rolled across his legs, he raised a hand to wipe the water from his eyes. But before his trembling fingers reached his face, he froze. The hand, dripping water and shaking, was an old man's hand. He stared with terrified wonder at it for a moment, turning it slowly for inspection.

Suddenly, a voice intruded, making him start in his tracks.

"Grandpa? You alright?"

Ty turned to face a familiar young boy--how old was he, anyway?--standing a few yards away on the sand. There was an awkward silence before, "You thinking about Gram?"

The boy's name was Aaron. Ty could remember that now. With a faint nod, he said, "I suppose I am."

Aaron stepped into the shallows and moved to his grandfather's side, where he stared out at the deeper water. "She loved this place, didn't she?"

Barely aware that tears were coursing down his face, Ty said, "We both did, Aaron."

There was a long moment of silence as they both stared out at the water. "Did you really meet her here when you were a kid?"

Ty put a wrinkled hand on his grandson's shoulder and pulled him close. "I sure did, Aaron. Indeed, I did."

"Will we still keep coming? Even without her?"

Ty looked out at the water again, the lake now forming a huge indistinct shadow. "We're not without her, Aaron. She's still here. And as long as I'm still upright, we'll keep coming."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Quick, Practical Writing Tips

Not sure who runs this site, or even how I originally got there, but I read many of the articles and found them thoughtful and useful. None of what I read was directed at fiction, but that doesn't matter at all; the ideas can easily be extended to any fiction you're working on.

50 Tools That Can Increase Your Writing Skills

Monday, December 11, 2006

Photo Talk About Writer's Block

Paul Butzi, one of a growing number of truly thoughtful photographers whose blogs I read routinely, has a post called 'Quantity is Quality' (you'll need to do a find for that heading). In it, he describes setting a goal for himself--early this year--of producing a mounted print a week.

While he hasn't quite lived up to the notion, he has produced much more than he did last year, and he has found, in the process, that more work (more consistent output) means better work. This idea touches very closely on the theme of the post I wrote earlier about writer's block. I mentioned there that forcing myself to produce, insisting that I put words, no matter how incompetent, to paper, made me a better writer. Not only did the word count improve, but the quality improved as well.

It was striking to see the theme repeated by a respect-worthy artist in an entirely different field.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Character is King -- And What That Means

More and more, as I read other writers--some published, some aspiring to be--and as I get more serious about my own writing, I come to realize that the activity in a story, the wars, car chases, fatal diseases and heroic last minute big-game victories, no matter how well presented, caries very little weight.

What matters is not what happens to a character. What matters is how that character responds to what happens to him.

I find, as I do my own writing, that I care most for the scenes that happen in the gaps, the scenes that allow a person to absorb and, with time for reflection, respond to the goings-on. At a certain point, the action stuff becomes almost a necessary evil, the noisy filler keeping readers listening until we reach the heart of a story.

It's a counterintuitive notion, really, that a character's somber reflections, a character's quiet redirection after explossive action in her life, is what matters. But when you really think about it, and you realize that you've seen every possible turn of physical events available to man--seen each of them done poorly and spectacularly--the only meaningful thing left to explore is how the character on stage right now will respond. It's the only real mystery, and the only rooting interest left to us.

More From My MotoFlex

Rolling down Imperial Highway--or somewhere thereabouts.
Not a single big-nasty-red-head in sight.

Cell Phone Sunset

My cell phone, a beat-up 2-year old motorola, occasionally makes for interesting impressionistic photos.

A Dopey Poem On Language Usage

I wrote this years ago and submitted it as filler to Writer's Digest. They rejected it with a form letter saying they had enough such material to last until the year 3021. For some reason, the poem has stuck in my head.

She said she'd been walking on egg-shells
I asked her, So why do you care?
If it's shells underfoot
Then the damage is done
And you needn't walk carefully there.

The point being, of course, that the phrase is--and sensibly so--walking on eggs.