Miscellaneous

Upcoming Events

Posted Friday, January 6, 2017 at 12:37 pm | Make a Rebuttal |

My 2017 convention schedule is firming up, so I’m sharing my schedule in case anyone is interested in meeting up and chatting about gaming, writing, or even credit card security (my other specialty).

So far I don’t have any out of state convention trips scheduled. If you’re a convention organizer I’d love to hear from you. I love going to conventions, running games, speaking on panels, and generally hanging out with mind kind of people!

Books, Miscellaneous

Writing by the Numbers

Posted Monday, January 2, 2017 at 6:22 pm | Make a Rebuttal |

Last night I was on the phone with a writing buddy and he shared with me how he had written 6,000 words that day, to finish up a 10,000 word chapter. I’d also been assigned a chapter in the same book, so I thought it would be interesting to share with you my writing habits by comparison.

Right off the bat I’ll say I’m in awe of anyone who can write 6,000 words a day. Even if I had all day to write with absolutely no distractions I’m pretty sure I couldn’t pull that off. I am much more of a plodder. But you know what? After years of struggling with writing and the self-doubt inherent with any solo creative field, I’ve finally found a repeatable process that works for me. I’ve learned to put my faith in the process to produce results, even if–like the tortoise in the fable–other writers zip past me and produce far more words.

When I write, I get the best results by taking a three stage approach.

Stage 1: Just get something coherent on the page. Don’t worry about sounding perfect, don’t worry overly much about formatting, and (for game writing) don’t worry about character or creature stats. The most difficult part of writing for me is simply defeating the blank page. Knowing I can revise my way out of the ugliest of first drafts (because I’ve done it before) gives me the freedom from self-criticism I need to just move forward and get the job done.

1st draft stats: 9,412 words

Stage 2: Revise. This stage is all about fleshing out the rough draft. Here’s where I fill out areas needing more explanation, make sentences sound better, pay more attention to the style guide and generally fill in the giant gaps I’d told myself I’d fix later while writing the first draft. By the end of this draft, I have a pretty decent manuscript.

2nd draft stats: 14,199 words*

Stage 3: Polish. For me, this is where the magic happens. In this final proofing run I catch the mistakes I missed or created in stage 2, fill in anything I left for the end, and make sure I’ve followed the document style guide. It’s also where I focus on writing craft. Here, I tighten up sentences, polish grammar, and generally try to sound better. Recently, to make a tight deadline I tried combining steps 2 and 3 into a single pass, telling myself I’d polish as I went. While it was acceptable, my editor noticed the difference and I’ve learned my lesson. Take the time to polish and do it in a pass distinct from the revision stage.

3rd draft stats: 14,174 words; 707 minutes

Did you know MS Word can tell you how many minutes you’ve had the document open? Unfortunately it can’t tell whether the document is your focus or if it’s merely open in the background, or even if you left it open overnight. For that reason, I’m only reporting the minutes I spent on the polishing stage. Up to that point I didn’t take care to close the document as soon as I was done. In the earlier drafts I left it open overnight more than once.

To be honest though, I’m shocked I spent nearly 12 hours just on the polishing phase. Given that writing is still a moonlighting gig for me, I need to be more self-aware of my writing speed at each phase so I can do a better job of budgeting my time. All I can say with absolute certainty is I didn’t write 6,000 words in day, like my friend.

 

*Yes, I overshot my target word count by more than 4,000 words. I’d already been told the book would probably need more than what was assigned, but if not I figured they could be carved out and used elsewhere.

 

 

Current Events

Creating Greatness

Posted Thursday, November 10, 2016 at 9:18 am | Comments Off on Creating Greatness |

In 2008 half the population embraced “Hope and Change” because both were in short supply. In the eight years that followed, hope withered and not all the change was for the better. With this year’s presidential election, half the population embraced the opposing party’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” apparently blind to the irony that both slogans spoke to the same thing.

It’s past time we faced some difficult truths. The political machine desperately needs you to keep overlooking how they’re incapable of producing the kind of greatness our country needs. They get away with it because our culture clings to the notion of the president improving things for us as a way of avoiding our own responsibility. Greatness isn’t a commodity packaged and shipped from the White House. It’s something you and I create in our communities.

The “Greatest Generation” was thrust into the position by world events, but their greatness came from rising to the occasion. We can be this century’s Greatest Generation. You and I can each work hard, be charitable, create jobs (or at least be entrepreneurial), practice our faith, help our community, oppose injustice, keep learning, and treat others civilly and fairly.

The country has a short memory, but as recently as this past August a part of our country rose to true greatness. Remember? In the aftermath of a deadly flood in Louisiana which destroyed or damaged more than 20,000 homes and businesses, neighbor helped neighbor in a massive rescue operation while the government struggled to respond. They did so without expectation of reward and without regard to race, age, sex, education, or income. Even after the rescue, with thousands of people left homeless, neighbors who had almost nothing gave to those even less fortunate with regret that they couldn’t do more.

That, my friends, is what makes America great and it can’t come from Washington.

Books, Miscellaneous

Scrivener re-revisited

Posted Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 12:17 pm | Comments Off on Scrivener re-revisited |

If you read my post from last week about giving Scrivener another try, then first I congratulate you on being possibly the only person in the world still reading this blog.

Now that I’ve been using the software for week or two I really look back and wonder what the big deal was. This is not hard. Different? Yes. Hard? Not really. Granted, in the 9 months since I first tried it the software went through a version update. Maybe the UI was tweaked to make it more intuitive?

Looking back, I think my biggest mistake was seeing those training videos and thinking to myself “Version 1.0? Well that’s not the version I have now. I don’t want to watch a training video with out of date information. Where are the videos for the version I’m using?” (There weren’t any.) Now that I’m older and wiser, my advice is just watch the stinkin’ video already. It makes everything click.

In my other post I mentioned what a tightwad I am. I’m not qualified to tell you whether or not you’ll get $40 value from Scrivener. That’s an individual judgement. However, now that I’ve worked with the software for a while I do see the value. My advice: take advantage of their 30 day trial. That’s a generous 30 days of actual use, not a ticking clock. If you only use it once a week, your trial runs out in 30 weeks.

 

Movies and TV

Limitless reviewed

Posted Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 5:26 pm | Comments Off on Limitless reviewed |

I know I’m late to the game, but the movie Limitless bubbled to the top of my Netflix disc queue and I finally got a chance to watch it. (Confession time: the disc came sometime back in December and sat unwatched for two months.) The basic premise is that a loser gets access to a secret, designer drug that lets a person “use 100% of the brain instead of the usual 20%.” On the drug, he knocks out a brilliant novel then goes on to play the stock market and broker a multimillion dollar merger. Plus, complications.

For the most part, I really dug it. It was a fun concept, and most of the movie kept you wondering what trajectory this guy’s life was going to take. However, the ending was another matter. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, now is the time to stop reading. Go rent it, watch it, and come back. It’s okay. I’ll wait.

limitless poster

 

Okay if you’re still with me, I’m assuming it’s because you’ve seen the movie or you have no intention of watching it and don’t mind the ending being spoiled. Here goes.

Like I said, for the most part I really enjoyed it, but the ending just annoyed the crap out of me. It was like someone waved a magic wand and told us to forget everything we’d learned about how things were supposed to work up until that point.

Item #1: Did everyone just conveniently forget the blonde woman he’d screwed and who was subsequently found dead? Okay, yeah, the doorman wasn’t able to pick him out of a lineup and maybe he wouldn’t face charges. But considering he’d blacked out and could barely remember the last 18 hours, is he really that confident that he didn’t kill her? It’s true that his stalker demonstrated a habit for stabbiness, but what was his motivation? Was it an elaborate ploy to set him up for murder? That whole plot line just seemed like a heavy-handed way to get the lawyer in a position to take his jacket to steal the drugs he couldn’t have known where there.

Item #2: Mr. McStabby the stalker. A) Maybe he should have started with a note or a phone call saying, “Hey buddy, I know you don’t know me, but I have a business proposition for you. I’ll buy you a really awesome burger at this joint down the street if you hear me out.” Maybe it would have worked and maybe not, but the whole stalker act was clearly getting nowhere. B) He stabs two guys in Central Park and ends up in the middle of an ice skating rink with blood on his hands and a knife somewhere nearby. How does he not end up arrested at that point? Maybe the girlfriend should have stayed behind and talked to the cops. C) So after killing two people (three if we include the blonde) in his hunt for these drugs, now that the boss is dead he just lets Bradly Cooper keep the whole stash they recover from the lawyer? Really?

Item #3: I’ll admit, it was a neat moment when he stills DeNiro that he’s been off the drugs for months but they rewired his brain so that he didn’t need them any more. BUT. It flies in the face of the other 9/10ths of the movie. The whole time we’re not just told, but we’re shown how dangerous the drug is. How the people who quit taking it look like the faces of meth before eventually dying of organ failure or brain tumors or something. Without some additional explanation, this ending flips the bird at the entire movie’s world building. Maybe the labs he was funding found a way to safely taper off or maybe they found a compound that “rewired” the neural pathways, but whatever baloney excuse we could come up with was still better than the hand wave we got from the actual movie.

Item 4: This one harkens back to number one. As a happily married guy, I’ll admit the infidelity bothered me. Bradly Cooper happily screws his away across the movie with multiple anonymous sex partners, all the while supposedly still hung up on his girlfriend. Okay, the sense of power that comes with the drug is seductive, yada yada, I get that. But he never shows remorse. If you don’t have the morals to feel bad about cheating on your girlfriend then you’re not a nice guy and I sure wouldn’t vote for you. Which brings me to…

Item 5: Now that you’re super-smart without the help of drugs and you’ve already made your $40 million, what do you do next? If you’re the protagonist though, you run for office. He was earlier told that he’s so smart that he clearly has what it takes to run for senate, and later “who knows?” Now at the end we see that he’s doing just that. Clearly what this country needs is a super smart guy to tell everyone else what to do, and he’s the guy for the job. Except, considering he just made $40 million in a matter of months, any sort of political office would be a step down for him. He wants to make a difference? Great! I’d like to think if I were super smart and incredibly wealthy, I’d find a way to make a difference that absolutely didn’t involve politics. I’d set up foundations to deal with homelessness or hunger. What you wouldn’t catch me doing is wasting days debating a pork-laden transportation bill or a farm bill in which 90% has nothing to do with farming. I humbly submit that anyone as smart as (ostensibly) the protagonist would know to stay way far, far away from political office.

So that’s my take on Limitless. For the most part I really did enjoy the movie so I hope you don’t take my nitpicks the wrong way. It had a lot of great things going for it. Unfortunately, for me the last 20 minutes undermined some of the great work it had already established..

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