It's the little details

I've said this before, and I'm sure I'll say it again: To help your reader believe the fantastic, make sure they recognize the mundane. It's an easy (lazy) hand-wave to excuse inconsistencies in fantasy by saying "this isn't the real world" when so much of the book mirrors the real world. Rarely do we create something newly whole. More often, we take what's familiar and twist and turn it until the picture looks different.

Why? Because if everything was new, the plot would get stuck in the mud of explanation. And in the end, you would resort to comparisons to the things we recognize and the reader simply associates the new thing as the old thing and all your creative effort is a waste. Don't reinvent the wheel. It's round and it works. Reinvent the people and their history and their religions and their culture.

For this reason, I love going to historical events/museums and the like, so I can pick up on the minor details I had assumed were X but proved to be Y1. That is why I would go to a place like Old Sturbridge Village twice in ten days2. For that same reason, while trying to find things Good Ken might find interesting on his vacation, I recommended the mansions in Newport, RI.

The mansions are were the captains of industry gathered near the end of the 19th century for "summer homes" so they could exult in no taxes and exploitative employment practices. (That's not always true, but when you see where the Vanderbilt's "cottage" the Breakers, you'll want to beat them with sticks.3) Having already listened to the main audio tours, I dove into the "aside" tour items, little things they include as extras in various rooms. How did the servants live. What were the obligations of the family's children to society, etc etc. And I took notes. So many notes! So many ideas that I want to incorporate. The way the houses were built, where the placed what rooms and the importance of those rooms and their placement. What servants wore. What the art was painted on4, and so on. They even had mini-bath tubs designed for masturbatory purposes. Ingenious!

Perhaps the thing I like most about including these little details is when someone responds, "That's awesome. Wouldn't it have been cool if we had had those in real life?" And then I can say, "We did!"

1 The basic lesson I've learned is that people weren't stupid. They were quite innovative. They were simply innovative with the tools and technology available to them at the time. Eliminate stainless steel, electricity, and microprocessors and a lot of our ingenuity would start to look much the same.

2 For free! Old Sturbridge Village gives you free entrance back to the site within ten days and any new guests get a 25% discount. That's hot!

3 All these places have a lot of gold leaf. There is one room that Vanderbilts...built that the preservation society thought was silver leaf. But that didn't explain why the silver wasn't tarnishing. So they brought in a portable x-ray machine and discovered the patterns were actually platinum leaf. Do you know how expensive platinum was in 1897?!?! And they used it to decocrate their walls!!!!

4 We all hear about oil on canvas. So a tour guide was stuttering while pointing out a painting. "Oil on...oil...oil..." and I'm thinking, Canvas, woman! Say canvas! This painting was particularly interesting because it looked like the artist had painted the entire canvas black before starting. While that is a practice, in this case it didn't seem to serve the subject matter. The black was showing through and inhibiting the portrait of the family member. "Oil on ebony." WHAT WHAT? On ebony? HOW AWESOME!!!!


I will admit that I'm not a fan of collaboration. But I realized today that it's not a matter of not being a fan of collaboration, it's just that collaboration has never been presented to me in a fashion that I particularly cared for. But then I got linked to a video of Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing Nirvana's Lithium at a show in Seattle. And from there I got linked to hitRECord. Holy balls! This is genius!

Now I will say that I have not yet registered for this site (but I will) or participated (but I will). I will also admit to having a huge man-crush on JGL. He's one of my favorite actors. I will go see a movie if he's in it because I trust the quality of his work (he owes me big for GI Joe). But take a look at this video and tell me that doesn't make your creativity bone tingle. It tingles right down in the coccyx.

August Wilson

If your education was anything like mine, the only plays you were exposed to in high school were the Shakespeare you read in English class (Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, maybe King Leer or Macbeth) and whatever your school performed for the yearly musical (Guys and Dolls again?). Maybe around senior year you got yourself a Death of a Salesman and/or Glass Menagerie. Once you got to college you picked those two up, some more Shakespeare, maybe Our Town or Die Fledermaus.

You know what, they're all good plays and there is a reason they are timeless (well, aside from that last which is technically an opera). But I will admit that I went through all of high school and all of college (earning a theatre degree!) and I never read a play written by a black playwright.

A couple years ago I saw Fences by August Wilson and was blown away. I mean, blown. away. I went from the Huntington all the way to North Station without speaking (and really, me anywhere not speaking is a bit of a big deal) because I was still reeling from the play's impact.

It is one of ten plays Wilson wrote, each representing a different decade in the 20th century and he African experience of that decade. Fences is set in the fifties after Jackie Robinson and World War II where America is beginning to integrate but hasn't yet reached the civil rights movement.

I wish I had read/scene this play in college. Hell, I wish I had scene/read it in high school. It was the single most powerful bit of theatre I have ever been exposed to and I think I would have approached my college experience entirely different if I had scene it first.

If you are in the New York area or will be traveling there, there is a play written by a black playwright while she was in residence at the Huntington. It's called Stickfly and I saw it when it ran in Boston. It's about black families on Nantucket island. It has some hard hitting dialogue and doesn't just sing a "I'm so persecuted" song. It challenges all its characters and is finely done. Give it a try if you have the opportunity.

Cover Cover Cover

I love me some covers. Until I have an actual published book to pimp in the Inkwell, I put up those books that I have finished a first draft on. But to be put up, they must have a cover. We will not have text about books that do not accompany covers!

It's not a rule. I just love covers.

So after wading through some severe Obama hate by googling guns and bibles, I managed to find a picture I could repurpose for my own design. I present to you, the placeholder cover for JEHOVAH'S HITLIST1.

1 That whole section will be rebuilt into something a marketing professional would approve of once I have something to market. For now that stuff is there to designate that area as a place to learn about the work I am finishing (unlike the Queue, which may have something with some or no word count for years on end--which it does).

Ink Failure

Up until 2006, you could look at me while at work and never know that I had a tattoo. Of course, at that time, I had eight tattoos. The only one that was ever visible was the one on the back of my neck and only then if I wore a shirt without a collar. It was at that point that I got a tattoo on each of my forearms.

This quote comes from a discussion on a role playing forum (Karl in response to a post by Bavix that was in turn a response to a post by Al Beddow). This statement pretty much defines my first 30 years of life. Of course, there are nuances to the statement that no one ever considers. There are plenty of ways to drop a hammer, not all of them nice for the person doing the dropping.

This one is an adaptation from a painting. I don't remember the artist. I'm told it's actually a poet who also painted scenes inspired by his poetry. In this case it was a gorgeous painting of a lion that I could not afford to buy. The righteous must be bold like a lion was written at the bottom. A modified the simile and here it is on my left arm.

The writing looks kind of odd on its own, so I decided to frame each saying. I had the below done in 2007. I lost my job the following year and decided that I would have the right arm finished once I had a full time job again.

The problem I'm running into now is finding a decent artist! I think the above knotwork is only okay. Certainly the artist who did my earlier work (Spider from Dreamcatcher in Columbia, MO) is far superior. My next design includes fire and it's shocking just how few artists can actually draw fire that doesn't look cartoony. The need for skill is exacerbated by the general attitude of tattoo businesses. They aren't businesses, they're artists who aren't good at doing anything else. Store hours are dependent on whether they feel like working when they wake up that morning/afternoon. 3/4 of them will try and cheat you. And unless you're a hot chick, they will approach you about a possible business transaction only if they feel like it. If there's a conversation about the crackwhore one of them fucked last night, you might be in for a long wait.

I have 11 total tattoos now and I'm about to get my 12th. It's hard enough coping with the not so subtle derision for being an office worker who gets tattoos (I started this before it was popular, assholes).  If you don't have sleeves, neck work, and a piercing through some non-standard body element, you're just a poser. Fine, I'll cope with that. I just want my tattoo. But when you try to rack up the bill because you think you're rebelling against the establishment, it insults me. Poor girls ahead of me were going to be charged $300 for lettering. FOR LETTERING! Are you crazy? I can see starting at $100. They come back at $50. You guys end up somewhere in between. But $300? For "Friendship"? You're out of your damn mind.

I really want a new tattoo, but the only artist I still trust is 1400 miles west of here. :(