Why I have not done what I said I would do

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I know I promised backstories for several more characters in this supposed novel, but I realized that I wanted some of my characters to do different things than I had initially thought they would do.  Also, I didn't really like some of the characters.  They wouldn't do what I wanted them to do, or say the things I wanted them to say.  If this sounds insane, well, I can only say you're right.  I have found writing stories and now a novel to be a much stranger experience than I ever would have thought.  It turns out there are a lot of people living in my head.  The only control over them I have, it seems, is where the story goes, and who gets to be in it, and trying to get them somewhere towards the goal I have in mind.  It's like being a casting director or something, only much more disconcerting.  Anyway, uh.  More backstories coming, I hope.
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So a year or so ago, I was piloting a large automobile filled with a number of my friends from Southern to Northern California to attend the wedding of a friend of ours.  I don't know how it started, but somehow we got into a pun war based on the names of automobile makes and models.  Puns included such horrible things as "I think we all need to be Civic minded about this" and "Are you sure we can't come to an Accord on these terrible jokes" and "Volt the hell are you people joking about" and even stuff like "Miata kick some of you guys asses for these puns" and of course some real stretchers like "If you people want to go Carolla-ing I guess we can, but come on" and even worse, like "Ford-y love of God, please stop."

Anyway, eventually the car grew silent, since everybody had run out of terrible puns.  The car was silent for a minute, then two minutes, then three minutes.  Then I, like an idiot, assuming the pun war was over, looked to the west and observed some natural beauty.  "That's so gorgeous," I said.  "It looks like there is a blanket laid over the hills like on a sleeping baby."

The car remained silent again for another 15 seconds and then erupted.  "WHAT?!?!"  "What was that one supposed to be!?!?!?"

It took me a good 5 minutes to convince them all that I'd been genuine.

So you see, you must also master the pun dismount.  When one is done punning... one must actually, you know, say so.

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Tal was born in Manhattan to parents who lived in Connecticut but whose souls resided in Manhattan, especially on the maternal side. His mother held on to her labor for an hour past when he should have been born so that he could be born at Manhattan’s Lennox Hill Hospital, which nearly overlooks Central Park, instead of some other, non-Manhattan hospital.

His mother also named him “Talent,” from which you can infer that his father had almost nothing to do with Tal apart from conception and, of course, providing the money and a very great deal of it.

Tal’s never been specific about what his father does but it has something to do with high-end commercial real estate. His parents apparently own a 3-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side somewhere near Central Park, which his father lives in while he works.  The family actually resides in a Connecticut estate flanked by other estates owned by other very wealthy people who all vote Democrat but prefer Reublican taxation policy.
 

Since his birth, he notes, he has only been to New York City a few times, once with schoolmates on a trip to tear it up that didn’t actually tear much up.

He was sent to the finest boarding schools that New England had to offer, where he learned Latin, Greek, algebra, and the fine art of sneaking a lot of drugs and alcohol into the school.

Tal’s father gave up on him early, when he casually asked Tal’s opinion on whether derivatives should be regulated by the government, and Tal wondered just how you could pass a law that would change mathematics.

After graduating around the top-middle of his class without really trying, he declined offers to study business at Yale or political science at Harvard, deciding instead to study chemistry at Brown, crushing his mother’s dream of a President in their line. Still, she remained proud of him until he expressed a desire to move to a big city for further study, but instead of choosing Columbia or another school in Manhattan, he decided to pursue a doctorate in mathematics and chemistry at UC San Diego.

“San Diego!” his mother squawked.  “That is not a CITY, that is a BEACH!  That is a VACATION! It is a place you go to VISIT, not a place you get an education!"

“Mother,” he tried to soothe her. “It really is a city.  It’s one of the largest cities in the United States.”

She argued some more, but eventually wound down.  “I... I just... well, I know you young people will have your fancies. But at least it’s not Los Angeles,” she finally sighed.

He could have eased her heart by telling her that UC San Diego was actually located 15 miles north of San Diego, in a vastly rich beach town called La Jolla where the principal pursuits were shopping and golf, but he held that knowledge back, because it might have occasioned terribly painful parental visits that involved shopping and golf, neither of which held the slightest interest for him. 

Better to have her assume that the university was an outpost of some sort of horrifying California cow town that would make her shrivel up and die should she find herself there.

Occasionally he would call his mother with stories of visiting places in California named “Tulare” or “Bakersfield” or, when she was agitating for a visit and the heavy artillery was called for, he would regale her with tales of “Victorville,” which would cause her to shudder again and remain safely tucked away on the east coast.

As it turned out, Tal found himself unable to finish either of his degrees in mathematics and chemistry, but he stayed on in San Diego, living quite easily on the $4500 monthly allowance he received from his mother, who was terrified that any smaller amount of money would land him in some sort of Brooklyn-type garret or, worse, in Harlem.  She still hadn’t quite accepted that he wasn’t living in Manhattan, and Tal was certainly not about to inform her about the differences in rental values.

Bored, he found work as a clerk in slightly terrifying downtown hotel called The Pickwick, next to the Greyhound bus terminal. The salary was essentially useless, but he relished the contact with the sort of people he’d never known for the first 22 years of his life, people for whom renting a room for 35 dollars for a night and spending a few hours with a 75 dollar whore was living large. 

He learned, eventually, to fend off touches from the various grifters with a great story who just needed a free room for “just this one night.”  He learned that Mr. O’Hara really did not want Mrs. O’Hara to know about what Mr. O'Hara was doing, and to not cringe when the Mr O'Haras of the world talked about "brown sugar," no matter how much he wanted to and was embarrassed for the Mr. O'Haras of the world.

In short, he learned about life outside of the rich parts of Connecticut.  He learned that he never, ever, ever wanted to go back there. And he learned that while being rich does not make you a better person, being poor certainly doesn’t either; and that if you have a choice, you should go with rich, if for no other reason than that it gets you a little bit more courtesy from the police.

And eventually, he found his talent, and then he found us.

Backstory #1

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So who's reading this?  Nobody, that's who.  Therefore, I'm gonna do a thing.  I'm actually working on a novel.  Part of it involves some character backstory.  I've written it for several of my characters, and over the next week or so, I will post them.  We begin with Laura.

Laura was born in the early 80s to parents who’d been born too late to be hippies, who instilled in her a desperate desire to fulfill their dreams of hippie-dom.

When she was 13, she spent an entire spring saving her money to follow around the Grateful Dead for a summer (which dream her parents were happy to contribute cash and condoms to), but her dream was brought short by the death of Jerry Garcia. Instead, she bought herself a CD player and listened to jam bands.

Upon turning 18, she asked her parents for permission to continue to follow her summer dream again, but this time with Phish.  Her parents, a bit older and wiser now, said yes, but also insisted on fitting her with an IUD.

With her baby-sitting earnings she purchased five flowered skirts, eight peasant blouses, and four bead necklaces, which she wore in various combinations depending on how much she liked the folks who’d given her a ride this time.

Outside of Portland she fell in with two couples traveling in a small motor home who made their living by visiting flower markets near the next jam band show and creating flower garlands to sell to local Dead/Phish-heads. Captivated by her youth and naïveté, they took her in and let her sleep in their van. Both of the men in the couples occasionally considered attempting to take her into their beds, but were brought up short because she was just too innocent, and also of course because they did not wish to go to jail.

But her innocence couldn’t last forever, and at a show in Cincinnati and three weeks short of her eighteenth birthday, she met a young fellow who introduced himself as Sky Lovehouse. He plied her with marijuana, vodka, and a beard that was soft and only just a bit scratchy. She told him to wait outside the van while she disrobed, shivering, and covered herself with every leftover scrap of flower petals she could find inside the motor home, then called him inside, expecting love, romance, and tenderness amidst the petals.

To her dismay, he used his hands to de-flower her, then used other parts of himself to roughly deflower her, and left her alone with nothing but a stain on the carpet and a sense that somehow, things ought to have been better.

She cried herself to sleep, and upon waking up she stole a pack of cigarettes and half a pint of bourbon. She consumed them both while chucking all but one of her peasant blouses into a “peace bonfire,” and bummed a ride from the nearest cop to a fine steakhouse, where she spent most of the rest of her savings on a medium-rare ribeye. She then hitched rides back to San Diego where she took up a job as a waitress at a high-end burger restaurant and vowed never to have sex with any human being ever again.

Just Talkin'

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So, the main reason I'm not blathering here much is because I've taken my blather elsewhere.  And when it comes to longer blather, well, I'm trying to blather out an entire novel.  No, it's not any kind of NaNoBlahBlah thing, but... I have an idea, I'm gonna try to make it happen.  At the moment, I seem to be averaging about 500 words a night, at best, and then once the story is laid down there will be a long period of editing and fixing all the stupid parts and whatnot.

Also, I find writing dialog easy.  I enjoy reproducing the way people talk.  But I find dialog in prose difficult - stuff like when do you put in a "she said" or a "he whined."  I mean shouldn't the dialog just show who said what?  But of course that's tough, and when you get more than 8 or 9 lines in of quoted dialog it's easy to get lost.  For instance, imagine this conversation between a bus driver and a passenger:

"Good morning," said Bob, as he stepped onto the bus.
"Morning to you too, Bob," answered Mamie, as she said every morning.
"Seems like a good morning."
"It does, doesn't it?"
"Have you been watching these crazy debates?"
"Oh no, I just can't stand those Republicans."
"Ha!  I don't blame you, but I guess I feel like I ought to keep an eye on the other side just in case."
"That's a pretty good point, I hadn't thought of it like that!"
"Sometimes I feel like it doesn't make any difference anyway, though."
"I know what you mean."
"You know what, though?
"What?"
"No matter who wins, you and I will both be here on this bus tomorrow, right?"
"You are so right!"

So who said the last line?  You can count back and figure it out, but... that's not something you should have to do in a book.  Indeed, if you do have to, I submit to you that the author has screwed up.  When you're writing a screenplay, or even a regular play, it's a lot easier.

Anyway, the point is, I probably will continue to not be around here much.  But I wanted to write about the difficulties I'm having in writing.

dog blueprint
<electroboy> even soft rock is about boning
 <bitterpants> everything is about boning
<electroboy> tonight i celebrate my love for you = boning
<scottydont> meet you all the way, rosanna: meet you in bonertown
<electroboy> can't get enough of your love = really want to bone you again soon
 <Osomatic> "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" = I'd like to hold other parts of you as well
<scottydont> I keep forgettin' : I keep forgetting that you won't have sex with me anymore
<electroboy>you are my sunshine = i will be unhappy if i am no longer able to bone you
 <Ajax-> Wanna dress you up in my love: want to first undress you and then act as replacement clothing
<bitterpants> sanatarium: i'd like to bone you in a sanatarium
<Ajax-> Please Please Me = please "please me."
<Osomatic> Dust in the wind = We'll be dead soon, so we should get to boning
<bitterpants> Louie Louie: please sleep with me, louie.
 <electroboy> do you really want to hurt me = don't you really want to bone me
<scottydont> Africa: I want to bone you in Africa, or, I would like to bone people from Africa
<bitterpants> Good Morning Little Schoolgirl: yeah lets not go there mkay
<patientf1x> Pearl necklace = Let's just say I don't want to give you a jewelry
<Osomatic> Take on me = Take me in
<scottydont> Private Eyes - If you won't bone me, may I watch you bone other people?
<electroboy> girls just wanna have fun = girls just wanna get boned
<bitterpants> i know what boys like: it's boning.
<Osomatic> Turning Japanese = Since I can't bone you, I'll just take care of business myself
<patientf1x> Seventeen = Hello, my name's Chris Hansen, why don't you have a seat over there?
<electroboy> she bop = see above
<Osomatic> Hit me baby one more time = See you in a few years, boys
<scottydont> Manic Monday: Sunday is preferable to Monday, because that's boning day.
<patientf1x> Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto = Hello, vibrator.
<Osomatic> Whip It = Enjoy S&M!  ...well, actually, it's Devo, so really this song could have been about ANYTHING.
dog blueprint
I know, it's been a while. Shaddap.


INT. LIVING ROOM
NIBLET has just finished most of his dinner, followed by a fairly involved discussion of why Niblet isn't getting dessert despite eating much of his dinner. Niblet is doing his very best to hold it together to continue arguing his case before the Court of Dada.

NIBLET
But... I have Halloween candy!

DADA
I know, and eventually you'll get to eat it. You got some
before dinner tonight, didn't you?

NIBLET
(beginning to sob)
Yes, but...

DADA
Listen, kid. When I was growing up, we almost never had
dessert. Usually only on special occasions like Christmas or
Thanksgiving, or somebody's birthday. It was never something
I expected, only a very special treat.

NIBLET
(collapsing, hysterical, onto Dada)
I DON'T WANT MY LIFE TO BE LIKE YOURS!


It's true, my childhood was filled with horrors and abuse, what with not getting dessert all the time! I don't think I'll ever quite get over it. (In truth, it never even occurred to me. It'd be like feeling all pissed off and denied that I didn't get cake and presents EVERY DAY. It just wasn't any kind of thing.)

Old Made Not New, Just Yet

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The problems of the not-actually-very-rich: We rather suddenly inherited several generations of silver service pieces, coming down to me as the only child of an only child of a child of a small family whose patriarch did *just fine* during the Depression, and apparently used "those tough economic times" to pick up some deals.

Much of it is pure silver, in many cases, but it's also, like... you know... pure silver serving trays. Whee? We don't really want to try to impress our guests with silver serving dishes and fine china, so... uh... it's a bit unclear as to what to do with it all. Get it appraised, I suppose, and so I am not complaining, I am just not sure what to actually *do* with this stuff.

I can't imagine serving on it - nothing will suck the heat out of your food like silver can - pretty as it is, it's the heat-transferringist metal around, so if you want your guests to enjoy your food warm, instead of being impressed at how rich you are, you're way better off with plain ol' crockery.

I hope somebody wants this stuff, but... maybe it's better if it's just melted down for the silver. It might do a lot more good than what it's been doing sitting in my grandmother's cabinet for the past 30 years.
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As I mentioned on my Facebook a few weeks ago, I received a personal letter from one of my favorite authors, Terry Pratchett. It wasn't a very long letter, but it was long enough to be clear that he'd read what I wrote (which also wasn't over-long, merely one page), and responded in kind.

First, allow me to tell you that I am extraordinarily impressed with the UK's Royal Mail in getting the letter to him in the first place. Instead of addressing the letter to him c/o his publisher, I simply addressed it to him at the closest locality in England I knew of, and apparently it got to him, although as he noted in his reply, it had taken some time. So long that I had honestly forgotten I'd written in the first place.

Both of these facts - the casually terrible addressing and the fact that I forgot the letter almost the moment it was gone - bear witness to the fact that, while I certainly didn't mind and perhaps even hoped that he might read it, I had no reason to ever expect him to.

I wrote the letter because I had to, because something - just one sentence - resonated so deeply with me that it nearly made me get up and shout "Yes! Yes! THAT is how I felt!" I had to write about it, and who better to tell, even if he never saw it, than the very person who articulated my feelings? All the better since he's alive. Imagine if it had been Shakespeare, I would have had to write three letters. (Heaven, Hell, Luton.) (That's a little combined UK/Catholicism joke for ya there.) (Write for details.)

No, I'm not going to tell you much more about what I wrote, nor will I share with you all of how he responded. It is, as I said, personal. On both counts.

However, should you ever read something that you like, and it even occurs to you that you might wish to write to an author who has written something, be it a sentence, a paragraph, a trilogy... you might do well to let them know. They will appreciate it. And, judging by the last paragraph of Sir Pratchett's letter to me, they will very much appreciate that your appreciation is the only reason you're writing:

Thank you very much for taking the time to write to me, and especially writing to me not ending your letter with a request for a free book, a signed photograph, or a bookplate, but simply just to thank me. And that, sir, is why you are having one of the longest and most heartfelt replies to a letter that I have made for a very long time.


Will you hear back, as I did? I couldn't possibly say. But it's worth telling them anyway.

Untold power in my fingers

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Apparently I should shut the hell up about the Padres. Since my little paean to them they've lost 5 games in a row. So, uh, I take it back! They're terrible! They suck! Boo!

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