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Robust McManlyPants on Average Display » writing

writing


Heavens. I can’t believe I let this sit for 10 months. A quick run-down of the things that have happened since my last update:

  • I won the 2012 Laine Cunningham Novel Award from The Blotter with my novel Perishables. It’s three connected stories about various experiences of a zombie apocalypse. In one of them, a vampire is at a meeting of his homeowners’ association when the dead rise. It’s a little silly and a little funny and a little serious and it has terrible recipes in it.
  • I published Perishables via Smashwords and Kindle and then decided to edit and publish the sequel, called Tooth & Nail. It’s built on a heavily edited NaNoWriMo I did some years ago about the same vampire.
  • I worked the partisan primary runoff election and my staff never mentioned the O’Keefe video. I’m sure they had seen it, but no one brought it up. I was intensely grateful.
  • I worked the general election in November. Jesus H. Christ on a platinum surfboard, what a day. I’ve never been so busy. It was busier than the partisan primary but the county gave me lots of staff and we all survived. There were partisan observers from both major parties in my precinct but they were very kind to me and to one another. Again, I’m sure lots of those people had seen the video but no one said anything. I was at least ten times as grateful because I had plenty more to think about that day. I also passed the election without any major run-ins with campaigners though I did have a couple of really amusing conversations with them.
  • I spent much of last autumn thinking about Tooth & Nail while I did a few promotional activities for Perishables: interviews on blogs and podcasts, for instance, and a few Google Hangouts with a group devoted to zombie fiction fandom. It was nice, after all the stupid bullshit of a year ago, to have a fictional world in which I could curl up and forget reality.
  • I ran my first 5K fun-run last October and my friend who is 6’7″ and ex-Army Airborne had trouble keeping up with me.
  • I spent November, December and January editing Tooth & Nail and dealing with my next-to-last class in the graduate certificate program I’ve been pursuing. I was kind of a stress ball.
  • I’ve spent the spring semester dealing with my last class and I still am kind of a stress ball.
  • I tried to play in two games of Call of Cthulhu at Dragon*Con last year, both of which were disastrous busts. I ended up running a one-shot for the Scourge of Nibelheim (aka “the Vampire group”) a few weeks ago. I enjoyed it but it ran too long and I didn’t get to include like half the stuff I came up with for it because I am just terrible at managing a game and remembering, you know, the poignant bits.
  • I had Shadowrun pretty much ruined for me, and for all my friends, by one really terrible game of it at Dragon*Con. Way to stay classy, totally-separate-and-self-isolating-and-aggressively-dickishly-insular Shadowrun Dragon*Con gaming track.
  • I ran my first timed 5K a few weeks ago and on a cloudy, rainy morning of running uphill at ~40F I clocked in at 25:13.6, 7th out of 46. I am extremely happy with that!
  • I’ve learned to love Twitter. Seriously, I used to say it was the diametric opposite of what I wanted the Internet to grow up to be but it is pretty great.
  • I gave a five-minute lightning talk at the opensource.com #cc10 get-together celebrating 10 years of Creative Commons:

  • I’m approximately two years behind on reading comics. I plan to catch up as soon as I finish this graduate certificate program next month.
  • I’ve been asked to contribute a short story to an anthology built around the theme of “invasion” and am currently mulling some ideas. I am super-excited!
  • I attended my twenty year high school reunion and survived it and even reconnected majorly with some really wonderful people I knew back in the day. Facebook and life in general have gotten a lot more entertaining as a result.
  • I’ve joined a queer softball league.
  • I’m going to be a guest at ConCarolinas in Charlotte the weekend of 5/31 through 6/2!
  • I want the word “marriage” and I want to win the Supreme Court cases, absolutely, but I am also a little bit afraid that the queer communities will be divided into “normals” and “freaks” if we win and that the Right will use our victory as an opportunity to draw a line between those of us who are already primed for idle conformity: relatively moneyed, adhering more closely to rigid gender roles and identities, white, middle-class, “safe”. It will be vital, if we win this, to remember that it still must be okay to be different. Difference is what has given us the culture we create and celebrate together and difference has given us the advantages we are afforded by outsider status in the larger culture around us. We must continue to value people who have different families, different identities, different relationships (or none at all), different goals, different priorities and different beliefs. We do not all have to settle down into quiet, monogamous, dom/sub, top/bottom dichotomies defined by doggy day care and dinner parties. We have to stay freaks somehow.
  • My house is ruled by my cats and sometimes I find that really frustrating but mostly I am thrilled beyond measure at their benevolent dictatorship.
  • I’ve been watching Star Trek: Deep Space 9 while at the gym and it is really fucking good.
  • Last year I skipped NaNoWriMo – what would have been my tenth – to focus on editing Tooth & Nail. This summer I’m doing My Own Private NaNo to work on the first draft of a science fiction novel, the setting for which was developed in a two-session game of Microscope played by Scourge of Nibelheim.
  • We tried Fiasco this year and it is so. Freaking. Fun.
  • I bought a new camera – an Olympus – and I loooooove it.

Is that everything? I think that’s everything. A year of blogging in a single post. Heavens, indeed.

This post is about some of what made 2011 so goddamned terrible and the things that have happened just today, out of nowhere, to heal over some of that.

In a lot of ways, 2011 was a big bag of suck.

Several years ago I wrote two short stories about zombies. One is about a vampire who’s at a meeting of his HOA when zombies attack and the other is about a woman who feels out of place in a tiny religious school when the dead rise. There were problems with each story and I had only done the first draft of either of them but I liked the concepts and I would occasionally get email from someone who had read them and wanted to know if there would be a third. Instead, last year I sold them to someone who wanted to include them in an anthology with a really clever connecting thematic thread only to have the publication of that anthology fall apart.

There was also the small matter of getting mugged, an event which still resonates in my daily life. Stupid, I know. There are people who get mugged all the time. There are people who live in places where muggings are just a fact of life. There are people who get mugged and instead of simply having a few things taken from them they are hurt or killed. I know, I need to stop throwing a pity party or firing up the inner mosh pit every time I think or talk about it, but it’s still there, still weird and freaky to think about, still making me jump out of my skin every time I’m surprised or caught off-guard or walk into Target and see someone of the same approximate morphology as any of my muggers. As noted in that post, a particular regret was that they had taken my last Russian money – a 500 ruble bill from my trip to Russia with KJ nearly twenty years ago. KJ sent me a card later in the year, around our birthdays, that contained a coin for fifty rubles. It is my new Russian money and I cherish it.

There were plenty of things to bitch about regarding last year. I could whinge about 2011 for hours but instead I will simply say that it was the worst year I’ve had since my cousin Chris died, which was the worst year I’d had since my sister Mona died, which was the worst year I’ve ever had. 2011 was #3 out of all 37 if ranked in descending order from worst to best, hands down, and I’m someone who dropped out of college three times, survived the tech bubble and spent a few years as a problem drinker.

There were two major good things that happened: I lost 100 pounds and I got an A in my first class in grad school. There were other good things that happened – excellent gaming experiences at Dragon*Con and my trip to Columbia, SC, to visit high school friends spring to mind – but the highs were few and far between. I just have to be honest about that. One of the things that wore me down more and more as the year went on was how much work it seemed to take to get anything good out of life. Losing weight was a tremendous amount of effort and I’m having to maintain that regimen of exercise and diet to maintain the weight loss even now, months after hitting my target weight and figuring out how to stay there. My grad school class took many hours of study and work, including one night when I essentially missed one of my closest friends’ housewarming party because MS Word used curly single-quotes and Firefox preserved them when pasting commands into a MySQL interface and I couldn’t figure out why my queries wouldn’t run and they were due the next day. I won a major victory at work but it took months of campaigning and cajoling and lining up all the pieces in exactly the right pattern to convince someone powerful of the thing I needed them to acknowledge. Every victory was exhausting last year and I had become convinced that the only joy in life is that which we make for ourselves; that tragedy is prone to walk in the door any fucking time it feels like it but that happiness was prey we must chase or abandon.

Today, though! Today has helped.

For one thing, I started work on the third of the zombie stories. It, combined with the other two, could make for a nifty little novella. The would-be editor of that anthology knows that I have withdrawn my stories to use for another project and I’m going to use them by combining the three into a work that I can release on Kindle. Why not, right? The only way to guarantee that I never sell a book to anyone else in my whole life is never to try.

Another great goodness is that I found a long-forgotten cache of ruble bills. Now I get to have the 50 ruble coin from KJ on my altar at home – the space where I put the things I really value – and carry a bill with me as well. Finding those bills was like winning the lottery. I teared up a little as soon as I realized what they were.

Last, when organizing some papers on my desk at home I randomly discovered the schedule from my gaming sessions at Dragon*Con. My major regret from Dragon*Con was that I hadn’t gotten the email addresses of any of the other players or of any of my DMs and I had wanted to thank the DMs for running great games. I went into Dragon*Con just terrified of gaming with strangers and had nothing but incredibly positive experiences. The schedule made it easy for me to track down the DMs on Facebook and lo, the best of them – the guy whose one-shot was so good that the next day I realized what I was planning to do during the next session even though I knew that session would never occur – has an old friend of mine from high school as one of our mutual friends. All of a sudden I had the chance to say thank you.

So, I did.

And now I’m grateful that it’s 2012; that there can be moments of unexpected good in life; that the construct of a calendrical year gives us the chance to compartmentalize the past and move on when we need it; that there is more Russian money in my house; that I can still make myself smile when a story idea occurs to me; and that I got to tell a DM he did a great job.

Ugh! I just realized I forgot to post a Hyaku last week. I was “ops” at work last week, and am again this week, which means that in addition to all the regular stuff I also have to answer the phones, deal with incoming tickets, handle copyright, blah blah blah, and I simply forgot. I’m much likelier to write it this week, out of embarrassment. Interesting side note: when you regularly use a Japanese word on your blog, you get a ton of spam out of nowhere.

In the meantime, I’m contemplating starting a new blog to summarize our ongoing D&D campaign from the perspective of my Thri-Kreen Ranger. It’s a lot of fun playing him – extremely low Charisma score so I play him as being extremely shy, socially awkward and halting in his speech. The Charisma penalty is largely the result of being an ant-man with a voice that sounds like a shrieky cricket on helium, but I have zero desire to force my friends to endure that. Instead, I play it as being the consequence of living among races that don’t use scent and antennae to augment verbal communications and the body language of which is all wrong. He’s got a Wisdom bonus, though, and he tends to be fairly thoughtful if a bit quick on the trigger when it comes time to fight, so I would enjoy writing down his perspective. Thri-Kreen don’t sleep, which leaves him lots of time to occupy his own self while everyone else stretches out and plays dead for eight hours. He finds sleep the creepiest and freakiest of all the things that make friends different from him.

If I do start it, that will mean that I have kind of a lot of writing projects going:

  • editing/rewriting my Machine of Death 2 submission
  • waiting to hear back from my two submissions for the anthology of zombie stories + post-apocalyptic recipes (I was rather proud of my recipes if I do say so myself)
  • contemplating a second Machine of Death 2 submission
  • writing a 100-word hyaku every week for this site
  • writing for Pink Kryptonite
  • debating what to write for NaNoWriMo in November (gay-teen-sleuth-adventure vs. sleazy-gay-real-estate-agent-noir)
  • collecting story ideas for a possible short-run (four or five sessions) game of Vampire: the Masquerade late this year or early next
  • collecting story ideas for a possible Call of Cthulhu one-shot this fall

That’s kind of a lot of writing to have floating around in my head even if I don’t exactly have to put pen to paper every day. It’s good, though, to have that much going on. I have an attention span best measured in microns, so having lots of possibilities makes it more likely I’ll act on one of them. I was considering trying to do Camp NaNoWriMo this summer, which would mean doing, effectively, two NaNos this year, but good grief. I have to walk and sleep and play videogames sometime.

Speaking of videogames, I have officially retitled Fallout: New Vegas, as I experience it, to Fallout: A Game About Hunting And Killing Legionnaires. I keep shooting fake Romans in the head with a modified Laser Rifle and it keeps not getting old. I’ve been doing this for months and there’s no end in sight.

FREE TO GOOD HOME: One metahound, two years old, gray and white, leash trained. All shots are up to date and local taxes are paid. Good with other dogs and assertive cats but made nervous by birds and sudden noises. Tends to split into ~seventy much smaller duplicates of itself when startled. Doppels possess a spectrum of personalities making it difficult to know which qualities convey. Training to reassemble on command is incomplete as of this listing. Always a conversation starter! Great table manners and knows the eight standard tricks and commands. Fixed, but that’s obviously somewhat moot.

GREAT WITH CHILDREN.

There are lots of jobs worse than mine. I should know. Once medicine got too good the Youth Council capped the age on paid work and still there weren’t enough jobs. Mine is to open filled positions. The wilds are picked pretty clean but there are a few weathered industrialists behind facelifts, under bandanas, bending backs, breaking laws. Rooting them out pays but this one’s my last.

I crest the hill and he’s waiting for me. “You’re no kid yourself,” he says, gun raised halfway.

“Just old enough to need a new job,” I reply. I’m careful to miss his glasses.

I’m completely stealing the idea of Ommatidia, as noted below. Instead of writing 101-word stories I’m going to write microfiction of 100 words. I’m going to call them hyakus, in part as a play on the sound of “haiku” as a similar name for a familiar defined form of very small written product and in part because “hyaku” is Japanese for “hundred” as used in counting.

I wrote one a few minutes ago and scheduled it for Friday AM. I plan to write them for as many Fridays as they seem interesting to do.

Totally unrelated to weight loss, I am sad to see the end of Brendan Adkins’ Ommatidia. In his absence, I’m contemplating stealing the idea, dialing it back and posting a 101-word story here every Friday or something. Due to the breaks in time between them, they would almost always be independent of one another.