Saturday, January 31, 2004

Random Weekend Post: You know, with the internet and rapid communications working the way they are, I'm forced to wonder whether turn around times will continue to be as long as they are when you submit a story to a magazine or market.

Granted, I have no desire for them to become instantaneous, but I wonder how long Asimov's and Analog can go on holding on to a story for a few months before sending back a no-thank you letter.

Although, I have to say that the editors probably feel these long turn around times do other editors a favor--it's another two months that they don't have to see whatever garbage some seventeen year old kid with all the ambition but none of the willingness to listen to anybody shoots off to every market they can think of, the way I did when I was seventeen.

At Seventeen, I lacked something that has greatly hindered my ability to write since--self-doubt. I wince when I go back over some of those stories my editor (Who I usually called Mom) would desperately try to help me improve, and I would fight tooth and nail about why my wording was perfect and unchangeable, and she just didn't understand the genre well enough.

So Stanley, and Gardner, and the rest of ya . . . If you have to keep a hold of some of our stories for a couple of months, so as to allow that only three or four editors have to put up with my garbage a year instead of twelve or thirteen, or even the 52 poor things who'd have to see it if rejects all came back as fast as Gordon Van Gelder sends them--I guess I understand.

But it still doesn't make waiting any easier.

Friday, January 30, 2004

In Iraq News: To absolutely no one's suprise, it's been discovered that the people who supported Saddam were in business with him and Clinton is claiming credit (or at least hinting that he might deserve credit) for the WMD's.

And for the life of me, I can't find any links about the latter. I heard him say it on the radio today with my own two ears, but can't find it online for myself.

Any help here?

What's the Big (Mac) Deal?: Just in case you don't understand why people are obsessing about McDonald's, as if somehow the Fast Food giant is the worst thing in the world, and needs to be the basis of Michael Moore-esque polemic films and vilified by everybody and their puppy, just remember this:

You remember how I posted that true success comes when you find something that people enjoy, and they reward you for it, and everybody benefits?

Some people don't believe that. In fact, the believe the opposite. That the only way to really, really succeed in the world is to either:

A. Be really mean, nasty and hurtful to nice people.

B. Sell out to the people who do A.

Hence, if McDonald's is successful, someone else must be suffering in order to allow for that.

Here's my advice for all people who believe this: Stop trying to blame problems on the people who know how to overcome them. Instead, maybe look to them as examples.

Or even better, stop trying to do anything at all. If you succeed at it, you'll only bring more suffering into the world, and we wouldn't want that, would we?

Monday, January 26, 2004

Hey! I think I just got that hot girl's phone number: When a prop is oh, so much more.

Worst Excuse for an Actual Movie: The Razzie noms are in, and I'm pleased with how well (or how poorly, depending on your point of view) The Cat in the Hat did.

Not even a whiff of Elf. I may actually have to see it.

Stupid Fights of Married People: I've decided on a good litmus test for how to tell whether the fight you're having with your spouse is stupid, and this is it:

If you would laugh if you heard your neighbors were fighting about it, it's probably a stupid topic to fight about.

Let me give you a for instance.

On Saturday night, my wife needed to make a cake for church on Sunday. She set the oven to preheat, while I took the girls to bed. However, the girls were bound and determined that only Mommy could put them to sleep.

So we switched. Marci put the girls to bed, and I made the cake. The next morning she decorated it and took it to church.

"How'd they like the cake?" I asked her, afterwards.

"They all liked it. A couple people asked for the recipe," she said.

"Did you tell them I made it?"

She laughed. "No. But I told them you helped."

"But I made it."

"I made it. You helped, and I really appreciate it."

And so ensued an argument about the semantics of what constitutes having "made" a cake.

And I think, "If I heard the neighbors were arguing like this, about this, I'd laugh my head off. This is a really stupid argument. I mean, everybody knows that whoever put the ingredients in made the cake."

So can somebody email my wife and tell her she's being stupid?

What is Disney?: After my last post, I decided to Googlism Disney. Some of the results?

disney is the next antichrist
disney is almost attractive
disney is first on the least newsworthy list
disney is for nazis
disney is going to americanized
disney is unfortunately allowed to chip away at our free will
disney is the master of mind control
disney is homogenising

Disney's Big Backer: No, it's not my brother Ryan, who's held shares in Disney since we were kids. It's Alwaleed bin Talal, the fifth largest person in the world, who scores them a couple of bucks when they need it.

They hope it won't just help the company, but that it will help international relations.

Disney will save us all.

Fixed!: A hearty thanks to Steve at Blogspot, for fixing the bug that's been forcing everybody to reload the page whenever they want to see past the side bar. My counter is very sad, though, that it will be slowing down by half.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

The Scenario: In that same vein, I'd like to present a little scenario about how to get what you want, as told by Harvey Mackay, in his excellent book, Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty.

You're an author. And on a book tour, you happen to do an appearance together with Larry King. And Larry King offers you a ride in his limo to the airport.

You know that the people who would read your books watch Larry King. You know this is a phenomenal opportunity. What do you do?

Do you start trying to convince Larry how wonderful your book is, and how great you are? Do you tell your wittiest anecdotes, hoping Larry will find you entertaining, and say, "Maybe I should have this guy on?"

I'll tell you, Harvey Mackay's answer is spot on, and when I heard it you could have knocked me over with a feather, it was so obvious, but so far from my mind. If you've guessed it, you'll go far in life. If you haven't, learn it. It will take you farther than your current mindset.

You immediately start thinking of everything you can do for Larry King.

Whatever it is. Rack your brain. Think about him. In this case, you're an author, and you're on a book tour. So is he. But you've been in the business longer--this is only his second book. You give him all the info you can about how to increase sales. Tricks he may not know about. Maybe wisdom on how to handle the rigors of a book tour. Whatever.

The trick is, at that moment, don't think about yourself. At any moment, don't think about yourself.

This is why it's sincerely worth it to you to be interested in helping other people. Because it really will come back around to you.

It's the secret behind successful negotiation, the secret behind successful job interviewing, and the secret behind starting a successful business.

Think about what you can do to help them. Then things will flow right on back to you.

(And you notice, that after all these years, Mackay's book is still in print. Trump's, which I've never read, is not. I do own both books, though. Got Trump's for a quarter at a library book sale. How's that for negotiation?)

(Oh, and you've probably seen Mackay once or twice. Especially if you ever watch Larry King.)

The Apprentice: They reran this week's episode of The Apprentice tonight. Still the best (well, the only) reality show I've ever sat through.

The challenge in this episode was supposed to be about Negotiation. Trump's book, as you may recall, is called The Art of the Deal. He pointed how much he saved on his private jet, because he knew how to negotiate and where to buy.

He then sent each team out to save as much money as they could on ten items, through shrewd negotiation.

However, it ended up pretty much turning into a bargain hunting match rather than a lesson in negotiation. Why? Because the secret to negotiation is leverage, and they didn't see any leverage. The men haggled a little, and the women groveled, but there wasn't any real negotiation.

And it only took me about five minutes to spot where their leverage could have come from.

The cameras.

If either team would have walked in to those shops saying, "Hey, we're on this reality show that's being produced for NBC by Donald Trump, and we'll put a shot of you in front of this fine store shaking hands with us, if you'll give us a hundred bucks off this golf club, what do you say?" they'd have had people giving them deals right and left. They'd have gotten things free.

Even if they couldn't guarantee the shot would make it on TV, one of the items was an instamatic camera. They could have said, "Even though I can't control the final edit of the show, I've got a website. And if you let me take a picture and give me a business card, I'll scan them both in to my computer, and at every appearance I do, every interview I do, everywhere I go, I'm going to tell people about this website. And anybody who goes to it is going to see you, and they're going to remember you from on TV and when they need a golf club, they're going to come here, because they saw it on NBC, on Donald Trump's TV show, this is the place to buy golf clubs."

I'd have whooped both of those teams.

Sixth Sense is Sitemeter?: Lynn, from Reflections in d minor, confessed where her own sixth sense comes from, athough she says it can sometimes be unreliable, too.

The "sixth sense" is Sitemeter. Scroll all the way to the bottom of my page and click on the little multi-colored button then click on "Referrals". You'll see a list of my last 100 referrals. That is, the sites where my last 100 visitors found my site. Visits from bookmarks show up as "unknown."

I don't like Technorati very well. It sometimes takes several days for links to show up there.

After you sign up for Sitemeter you should put the code for the button at the very bottom of your page so it will be the last thing to load. That way it won't prevent the rest of your page from loading when Sitemeter is having a bad day, which happens once in a while.

The Doc on Writing: I have just added Self Editing for Fiction Writers to the list of books that every writer should have, no matter what. I've actually managed to take something I wrote more than half a decade ago that was halting and poor, and make it workable by applying the checklists in the back of each chapter.

I wish there was some way to grind up everything it teaches and stick it in my brain so I could write that way to begin with.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Linking Blogs: I just discovered that more than a month ago I was linked to in a fun blog called Reflections in d minor.

How in the world do bloggers figure this stuff out so fast? I've tried Technorati, the only blog link tracking site that I know of. But it seems bloggers possess some kind of sixth sense for knowing they've been linked to.

Or maybe bloggers are just a self-serving bunch whose sites are only read by the people who's sites they read, so that they can all convince themselves they're being read by the masses.

I sure hope not. And I'm sure the two other people who read this blog do, too.

I found out about Reflections on plain old ordinary Google.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The ESP Game: Go try out the ESP game.

All they ask for is a username and password to register.

(But you knew I was going to say this, right?)

The Doc on Money: As an example of how a person can make money, I offer this gem: Shorting Stocks. This is a way to make money, that, if it profits, doesn't require a penny of your own cash.

Basically, it's a way to make money even when a market, or a company, is doing poorly.

Do I think it's a great way to invest? It's okay. The low cash risk is good, but I don't like the one-time-only profit factor. If I buy a stock, and it goes down tomorrow, it may go back up day after tomorrow. And, with the general trend of the market being what it is, a year or two from now it probably will have gone up. So I'm a big believer in long-term investing.

And you would probably need to have enough money invested with your broker that he feels secure you could cover any losses. But essentially, it's a way to make money without putting any of your own money on the table up front.

TV: I lamented earlier that there wasn't enough good TV anymore. As if to punish me, the only two network shows I watch have now been placed against each other.

The first is Smallville, the Superman-as-a-teenager show that's done its best to thwart the traditional Superman mythology as much as it can, but which still manages to be an interesting show. Ironically, it seems to be becoming more and more like Roswell, another Sci-fi show with pretty much the same premise, only it was four aliens who came to Earth instead of just one. But Smallville seems to cribbing it's lastest plot twist from the Roswell coffers . . . Rather then being sent to Earth merely to survive the explosion, Kal-El was sent to rule as king over the weak little humans. So he's left in conflict between his love for the humans and the demands of his now-dead father. I liked it on Roswell, though, so why hate it in Smallville?

The other is The Apprentice. I've never watched a single episode of network "Reality TV." All the shows have the same basic premise as game shows--will you come put yourself at risk of public humiliation in exchange for the chance at cash and prizes? Like puppets, people jump.

(The lottery is the same way. It's a reverse tax (a tax on the poor) that no one argues against because they have the chance at cash and prizes.)

But along comes The Apprentice. A show that, at its best, has the potential to teach me some stuff that may actually help me in the real world. The best thing about it is the lesson that it teaches about figuring out what you want and doing it. In the first episode, the Donald gave each team $250, told them to build lemonade stands, and whoever came back with the most money won.

A good lesson to put on Prime Time TV--all you have to do to make money is put the money you got in a place where it will come back to you. Rather than send it to the guys who do the infomercials that will come on after the clock strikes 12.

I hope it continues to fulfill its promise.

And may more nights of television create conflict in which to watch, rather than whether to bother to watch at all.

Critters: My short story, "Beautiful Hands," is up for critique this week at Critters. If you're a member, give it a read and shoot me your thoughts. I appreciate it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Writing By Machine: There's a short story by Roald Dahl, the children's book writer called "The Great Automatic Grammatizator." It was written for grown-ups, and is about a writer for the literary magazines who is approached by a man who has developed a machine that perfectly creates the types of stories found in the popular magazines. They tell him they'll pay him for his name if he'll let them attach it to stories cranked out by the machine. The writer declines, but the machine stories become so popular that no regular writers can sell any more.

I was thinking of that when I downloaded a couple of "story helper" software programs this morning, because, as usual, I couldn't think of what to write. It was as good a stalling tactic as any.

One was just all around bad, and the other was good, in that it taught lots of terminology, but I'm sort of on the side of Algis Budrys, who feels such terminology is more valuable to critics than it is to writers.

All in all, I was not surprised to be really disappointed. I'm not even going to bother linking to the programs. Which makes this post pointless.

But what do you expect? This really is just another stalling tactic, after all. Why should it go any better than this morning's?

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Speeding Insurance:You just knew this would happen sometime, didn't you?

Update: I've always felt that crimes where the only punishment is a fine aren't really illegal; they're just randomly taxed.

Isn't Technology Wonderful? Got a new VCR at Wal-Mart last night, since my old one had just about had it. And then I figured out how to program my Dish Network so it will tell my VCR when to record. Just like TIVO. I was so excited, I searched through the next three days of programming to find something to tell it to tape.

And found nothing.

I wish the technology of good programming would keep up with the technology of recording said programming.

Shoe: Another Shoe comic on writing.

Mailbag: Jesse Walker, author of the review of the new Georges Melies DVD that I discussed earlier wrote in to clarify my misreading of his review:

You make a perfectly reasonable point about the way the director combined his effects with stories. He did a number of pure trick films as well, of course, but you're right that he was an important innovator when it came to putting those special effects into a storytelling context.

You misread me, though, when you say I think he was "trying to imitate the more mainstream filmmakers." What I wrote was that on those occasions when he stopped doing the sorts of films that made him great and started imitating the more mainstream filmmakers, he did his worst work. I don't think was true of the majority of his films (or, at least, of the majority of the films I've seen).

Friday, January 16, 2004

Net Carbs: Okay, left something out about net carbs. Apparently, the Atkins diet also allows you to subtract one gram of carbs for every gram of fiber. Hence the term "net carbs." It's like a math equation.

And that makes a little bit of sense to me. There isn't an actual 1 to 1 ratio between fiber and carb consumption like that, but it will mean that people eat more fiber, and that the actual number of carbs being eaten is larger than reported, and therefore closer to being healthy.

Why I Have No Faith In the Judiciary: Okay, so this guy's got a boring job, right? And so he tries to make it interesting by doing stupid stuff. When he gets hurt, he sues the company.

What does the Judge say?

"We agree that, under these circumstances, horseplay of the type that occurred here is a foreseeable incident of one's employment on the atoll," wrote Judge Barry Silverman.

Couldn't he have just, you know, read a book?

And does something being forseeable mean it's allowable? I work with money. Lots of people want to take the money. Does the fact that it's forseeable mean I don't get to prosecute if they take it?

Year in Pictures: From MSNBC.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Spyware: Somebody's having problems with memory and asked me to what to do about Spyware, and pop-ups and that kind of nonsense.

Here's some useful stuff:

First, if what you're seeing is something that looks like a regular Windows window with a message in it (it usually says "Messenger Service" at the top) go here or here for instructions on how to stop it without a firewall. Unfortunately, it looks like a firewall is the only way to stop it in Windows 98.

As for spyware, adware, and other "malware" this site has a pretty good list of different kinds of it, and where it comes from. It's in everything from the obvious stuff (Kazaa, games like "Osama, Yo Mama, dialers) to the not-so-obvious (Net2Phone software).

However, that list is pretty big and unwieldly. This site is one of the best sites for info that I found. Not only does it contain a searchable database, but it also contains an online spyware scan. If it finds spyware or adware on your system (It found Cydoor on mine, which I probably got from Kazaa) it also gives you details on how to remove it (like this).

Now, spyware isn't always the reason for poor system performance. In fact, even hardware can cause performance problems if it's faulty.

But if you've got a list of the processes that are running, (the ones that show up when you hit crtl-alt-del on newer windows programs, or the "performance monitor" on older ones, you can go to a list like this one, and see what the program is that's using up all your memory. (For me, it's always DadTray.exe, which fortunately it says I can disable at will.) Just about every entry links to their software, but it's still good info.

Hope that helps!

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Well Preserved: Tim, anxious for the good attention he gets from me linking to him, sent this link he knew I couldn't pass up.

I can't believe they even did the change.

The Doc on Diet: This shows how ridiculous the whole low-carb obsession is. For those of you who think this is new and innovative, In-N-Out has been doing it for years. They call it "Protein Style."

(There's a whole group of insider stuff you can get at In-N-Out. 4x4's, Protein Style, Animal Style, and so on. But that's another post.)

If you can look at that burger and think it's going to lose you any kind of weight, you're out of your gourd.

The other silly thing that's popping up on everything is the idea of "Net Carbs." What the heck is a "Net Carb?"

It's a carb that effects your blood sugar level. There are certain types of carbs--usually sugar alcohol--that don't seem to have an effect on your blood sugar. Great if you're diabetic, not so great if you're trying to lose weight. The carbs don't disappear if you don't burn them--they get stored, just like any other carb. Granted, if your blood sugar levels are lower, your body will naturally store less fat. However, if you don't burn those calories, they still go somewhere.

But the whole low carb idea is just bad nutrition. Carbs are essential to good nutrition. Carbs are what fuel your brain.

The fact is, everything you eat is one of four things--a carb, a protein, a fat, or fiber. Your body needs all four. If you eat more calories in them than you burn, you're going to gain weight. If you eat less of them than you burn, you're going to lose weight. Your body is capable of burning about 1-2 pounds of fat a week, so just eat 500-1000 calories a day less than you burn, and you'll lose weight from fat.

Eat more, and whether it's carbs, protein, or fat, you're going to gain weight.

And if you're not eating the carbs while you pig out on the protein, you're going to be light-headed AND gain weight.

In Reruns: Came across this list of the most widely anthologized Sci-Fi short stories.

1 Bradbury, Ray - The Sound of Thunder

2 Asimov, Isaac - Nightfall
Wells, H. G. - The Star

3 Ellison, Harlan - "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman
Aldiss, Brian W. - But Who Can Replace a Man?

4 Clarke, Arthur C. - The Nine Billion Names of God
Clarke, Arthur C. - The Sentinel of Eternity
Simak, Clifford D. - Desertion

5 Bradbury, Ray - There Will Come Soft Rains
Godwin, Tom - The Cold Equations

6 Clarke, Arthur C. - The Star

7 Ballard, J. G. - Billenium
Keyes, Daniel - Flowers for Algernon
Leinster, Murray - First Contact

8 Wells, H. G. - The Man Who Could Work Miracles

9 Bixby, Jerome - It's a Good Life
del Rey, Lester - Helen O'Loy
Ellison, Harlan - I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream

10 Blish, James - Common Time
Brown, Fredric - "Arena"
Clarke, Arthur C. - History Lesson
Merril, Judith - That Only a Mother
van Vogt, A. E. - The Monster

I do get to feel that warm, fuzzy feeling that I've read nearly every story on the list, and all but a couple of them are on a bookshelf not three feet from me as I sit typing this.

It's also interesting that despite the belief that "Nightfall" is the most widely anthologized short story, "The Sound of Thunder" beat it, and an old HG Wells story ties it. One with the same title as the better known Arthur C Clarke story that's in the number 6 position.

But I think if textbooks were included in this list, "The Sound of Thunder" would beat everything, hands down.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

100000: The counter on my Simple Magik website is nearing one hundred thousand.

If I had a nickel . . .

Billy or Isn't He? So they've reopened the Billy the Kid investigation, and now they want to reopen his grave?

(Thanks to Becky for the tip.)

Melies the Storyteller: Tim made me aware of a new DVD coming out featuring the works of Georges Melies. One of the few nonfiction pieces I've written was a piece on the history of special effects in the studio. This review, coming by way of the Reason blog, is good, but misses the main contribution Melies made.

The difference between him and the other guys was that he was finding a way to incorporate the effects into the story. The effects weren't just eye candy, they were vital plot elements. The story depended on them.

A lot of folks had done effects films--Thomas Edison himself had shot a really cute one involving Santa Claus--or story films, but there had been little overlap.

Melies wasn't, as this review suggests, trying to imitate the more mainstream filmmakers. He was trying to pull the effects into the mainstream. And I think he succeeded wonderfully.

And the effects, of course, are why he bolted his camera to the floor. This was before Robert Zemekis developed the Vistaglide camera, which could flawlessly recreate its own movements for effects shots. Back then, the camera had to be stone rigid in order to make the stop motion stuff and the jump cuts look as good as possible.

Melies was a darn fine magician. But he was also a delightful storyteller.

2003 Survey Retraction: Somebody with more brains than me pointed out that my weight loss happened in 2002, not 2003, before Emma was born.

Yes, the person with more brains than me is my wife.

How To Read Criticism: I participate in Critters, an online writers group run by Andrew Burt, a big SFWA guy who does a lot to try to bring up fledgling writers and get them published. It's basically just a bunch of people who send in their stories and then everybody critiques whatever manuscripts they want that week. Sometimes it can really feel like the blind leading the blind, though, so I thought I'd post a quick summary of how to read amateur criticism.

First, anything that the critiquer (or "critter") says, when they are speaking as a reader, is the truth, whether you like it or not. For example, if somebody says, "I found your manuscript boring," there is no way you can dispute that. It is the truth. You can rant, rave, get offended, be hurt, argue that it was non-stop action from start to finish, but it still remains a fact that the reader found your manuscript boring.

Note that I did not say this means your manuscript is boring. It may not be. But at least one reader thought it was.

This also applies for judgments the critter makes as a reader, no matter how strongly worded or holier-than-thou they sound. If he had said, for example, "Your manuscript is boring," or "Your characters are thin," just mentally turn those statements down one dial point, and realize that what he's saying is, "I thought your characters were boring," or "I thought your characters were thin." You can't argue with it--it's how he felt as he read it, and it's real.

So deal.

This goes for anything. If they mixed up whose wife a character was supposed to be, or if they couldn't make sense of that paragraph that 10 other people thought was lovely, or whatever--you can't argue with it. Because you're not arguing about whose wife the character really is, or whether the paragraph is really lovely or not; you're arguing about their experience as a reader, and they know what their experience was better than you do.

Again, this does not mean you have to change the paragraph or include a clearer explanation of whose wife the woman is.

What it does mean is that whatever the reader is saying isn't wrong. It's the truth. It's the experience they had as they read your story.

Second, anything they suggest as a writer, you can feel free to take with a grain of salt. If they say, "You should put a twist ending in this story," feel free to disregard that. They don't know anything more about what kind of ending your story should have than you do. You came up with the story, you know your goals and objectives for the story better than they do.

Again, tone the criticism down a notch. What's this person trying to say? In this case, it's really something like, "I found your story predictable." So again, his diagnosis is legitimate, but his prescription may or may not work for you.

Grammar, however, is a two-edged sword. A lot of the grammar advice you get on critters is wonderful, and should be taken letter-for-letter. In fact, most of it's that good. However, a couple of critters, I hate to admit, seem to grammar check like Microsoft Word. So be careful. Not even all grammar advice is good.

And especially beware of people who make up "rules" for writing. "Every story must have a try-fail cycle," or "Stories must have a twist ending," or "Stories must NOT have a twist ending," or whatever. There are no rules for writing. For every story that follows their supposed "rules," a thousand stories break them.

Sometimes these people really, really believe these rules. In most cases, you can ignore them if this is the case. The rule probably doesn't apply to your story, they just have a distorted sense of the rule's importance.

However, other times their "rule" is their way of telling you something they saw as a reader. If they say, "Every story must have a try-fail cycle," maybe what they're trying to say is that it seemed like every character got what they wanted whenever they tried it--that your story lacked suspense.

So even though the "rule" might be nonsense, the criticism may still be legitimate.

Finally, if anybody claims to know what type of manuscript "Editors" are looking for, go ahead and laugh deep and loud.

You get these all the time. "This story is in the first person, and Editors don't really like the first person," or "This story has a downbeat ending. Editors want upbeat endings."

The silliness of this is obvious. We've all read stories in the first person in magazines. We've all read stories with downbeat endings in magazines. We've all read stories that violate every one of their rules in magazines.

The fact is that editors are looking for one thing: Good Stories. You can write an omniscient viewpoint story with a downbeat ending that's told in the present tense and violates all the "rules" everybody says editors have, and still sell it, if it's a good story.

And that's your ultimate goal, when you do your rewrite.

You know what your goal was when you wrote the story, what you wanted the story to be. The critters have come back and told you what it was you actually did. Now your job is to go back and make it into the story you meant it to be. Or, if you've changed your mind about something, make it into the story you now know it can become.

You now know what scenes worked for people and which ones didn't. You know what characters you thought were really cool get under people's skin.

So you can go back and modify your story, concentrating at every point on trying to get the reader to want to read the next line.

And see the world as only you can provide it to them. In a story that's uniquely you.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Good Eats: Thanks to Monica, not only for linking to me, but for pointing out that the wonderful Alton Brown has a blog. And it's as good as I'd hope it would be. Both Monica and Alton will be getting into the linkage to the right just as soon as I have a minute to gather together all the fun stuff I've got to share.

So go read it. And then go wash your hands.

Comedy Sportz: Next time you're looking for something to do in a major city on the weekend, I highly recommend seeing if there's a local branch of Comedy Sportz, a fun improv comedy show that runs all over the country. And, unlike other shows, it's different every night, so you can take lots of people there when they come to visit, and still not get bored yourself at having to sit through the same show over and over.

But it's just plain fun to go to. Marci and I went for the anniversary last night, and had a blast again. We go to the LA show a couple times a year.

And you don't have to worry--it's all good, clean, funny stuff. Your stuffy grandmother won't think it's risque, and your trendy friends won't think it's lame. Just go and have fun.

I can't recommend it highly enough.

Disney Tells Talent TTFN: Disney is set to close its Florida animation studio. Was it a move to get back at Roy? Did his knowledge that it was coming play a part in Roy's resignation? Why my obsession with Disney?

Disney is a good company that was founded on business principles I believe in--that if you create something incredible for people, they'll reward you financially for it and you still get to feel good about yourself.

They're still doing it. The Lion King, which was made just under ten years ago, is still in the top 10 highest grossing films of all time (although Return of the King will probably bump it pretty soon). Disney's California Adventure is starting to find it's real target audience--families with small children (There are lots of play places and things for littler kids, something Disneyland used to have, but has abandoned for decades now.) If you count the Pixar stuff, Disney put a new film in the top ten films of all time just last year.

But Pixar really is the issue isn't it? Because those boys keep cranking out hit after hit while films like Atlantis and Brother Bear keep getting lukewarm receptions. Why? Have people somehow given up on Disney?

Yeah, right. Because last year, even though everybody in the world thought that a movie called Pirates of the Caribbean sounded like a bad idea, and were hesitant to see it, the fact that it was good drew them out in droves. It made more money than the Sixth Sense, Home Alone, and Shrek, all of which were considered smash run away successes.

So where's the problem? I'll just say this--it's not the animators. The animators are cranking out some beautiful stuff. For all anybody can gripe about recent Disney films, the animation is still incredible, and they still continue to raise the bar all the time.

So it's too bad that some of the most talented people at Disney are being let go because Disney won't scope top writing talent for their features. The writing team behind Brother Bear are those fine folks who brought you The Extreme Adventures of Super Dave and The Battle for the Planet of Cheese.

The guys that wrote Pirates are Ted Ellioit and Terry Rossio, the team behind the excellent WordPlay website for screenwriters. Granted, a large degree of the credit for the success of Pirates has to go to Johnny Depp's performance and Orlando Bloom's eyes, but those two boys also got it going on.

(And yeah, I know they got the writing credit on Godzilla, but trust me, if the script they wrote had been the script that got filmed, you'd be sitting through Godzilla 4 at the theatres right now.)

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

If You Didn't Get Twenty For Christmas: If you haven't yet picked a calendar out for this year, here's a Sci-fi themed one you can download from the website at the end of the universe. It features Golden Age pulp mag covers and author birthdays.

And you can use it to figure out what day it is.

But thanks for being there when you were: The Magic Times has folded. I'm going to miss it.

I hope the TV Magic Guide doesn't go next.

And everybody should check out the Live Magic Guide. Support your local magician!

When Lincoln Was Up For Re-election: I hate to turn this into the "Guess what? updated again" page (especially because I know I disagree with so much of what he believes) but this one is spot on again.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

For those of you who think my holiday blogging has been slow, neither Home Star Runner or Dave Barry have updated thier sites at all. At least I posted once to brag and once to ruminate on writing. They didn't even do that.

2003 Survey Thingie:

1. What did you do in 2003 that you'd never done before?
Got an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest
Lost 50 pounds
Got sister-in-laws
Became Elder's Quorum President
Became multi-unit manager
Traveled for Business

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next
I kept half of mine from last year, and have three for this year.
1. Write every day
2. Exercise every day
3. Read scripture every day

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No, although one lost an unborn baby

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes, on Christmas day. He'd been given two weeks to live three months ago.

5. What countries did you visit?
Countries? My goodness, none.

6. What would you like to have in 2004 that you lacked in 2003?
Been professionally published.

7. What date from 2003 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
The day I found out my daughter had a life-threatening tumor in her leg.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Losing 50 pounds.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Gaining 30 of those back.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

11. What was the best thing you bought?
This laptop

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Emma's. She's the sweetest little girl in the whole world, despite all the nonsense the doctors and us put her through.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Howard Dean.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Loma Linda Medical Center

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The wardrobe makeovers my wife and I gave each other for Christmas.

16. What song will always remind you of 2003?
Beer for my Horses. I'm not big into country, but I didn't hear much music this year.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Same
ii. thinner or fatter? Thinner, by 20 pounds
iii. richer or poorer? Richer, in monthly income, poorer, in how much debt I have

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Reading and replying to long surveys.

20. How did you spend your holiday?
Christmas: At home, with my girls and my brother-in-law
New Years: At home, with my girls, and with everybody sick.

21. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?
My stores.

22. Did you fall in love in 2003?
I was still firmly fallen the entire year.

23. How many one-night stands?
Does it count as a one-night stand if you're married to her?

24. What was your favorite TV program?
Probably Good Eats on the food network. Also discovered What Not To Wear and Trading Spaces.

No, wait--I just remembered MythBusters. Man, that's good TV. The fact that those guys get paid to do that show--they're my new heros.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Yes. Thoroughly.

26. What was the best book you read?
Bonds That Make Us Free by Terry C Warner

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I haven't had much time for music this year.

28. What did you want and get?
A wardrobe makeover

29. What did you want and not get?

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
Return of the King. Second place? Bruce Almighty

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I honestly don't remember. My brothers all pretty much ignored it, the kids and I hung out at home.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
If I'd have stayed on the diet/exercise program and/or written every day.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2003?
Done and over with, thank heavens. Welcome to 2004 fashion concept.

34. What kept you sane?
My wife and girls

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I preferred Eowyn over Arwen. Jamie Lee Curtis, who I've never cared for at all, managed to make me laugh in Freaky Friday, so I finally brought myself to like her (The fact that she had the class to deliver the Crypt Keeper line shows she's got class). The girl from Pirates was cute. But to go so far as to say I "fancied" anybody would be a bit of a stretch.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
The movement to pretend Sept 11th never happened, and that the world would leave us alone if we would just leave them alone.

37. Who did you miss?
My friend Jarrod, who I never see any more. Jarrod Shields is God.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
My new boss. That's not just kissing up (I'm sure she'll never see this). She just rocks.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2003:
If you want it, do it. Keep doing it until it happens. There's no such thing as failure--just not having reached your goal yet. You can't fail, only stop. As long as you haven't stopped trying, you haven't failed.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
"Every town, has its ups and downs.
Sometimes ups, outnumber the downs,
but not in Nottingham.
I'm inclined to believe,
if we weren't so down,
we'd up and leave.
We'd up and fly if we had wings for flyin'.
Can't you see the tear we're cryin'?
Can't there be some happiness for me?
Not in Nottingham."

(Things did get better. Just like in the movie.)

Friday, January 02, 2004

Don't Doubt Me: For those of you who were doubtful about my assertion that controversy will not discourage a network from airing a show--I point to the Michael Jackson special tonight. On CBS, the network that supposedly wanted to avoid controversy by not airing their Reagan bio.