Blogfest – top ten songs.

January 24, 2011

Blogosphere Index

Well, if I’m looking for somebody to feature on Blogosphere Monday, and I see a fun-sounding Blogfest scheduled for the right day… I’m gonna do the blogfest. That’s just kind of an obvious one by now. Even if it keeps me up until past my bedtime, sigh.

So, from Captain Ninja Alex – the Top Ten Songs Blogfest!

Now, trying to pick my top ten favorite songs at the moment, or of all time, is one of those impossible tasks, so I’m going to instead go for picking ten great songs where I can actually tell a little story about why I like them so much. Be warned, my taste in music does does skew a little to the right – as in the Country music, but I’m trying to not load the list too badly in that direction.

10. I never really knew what music to connect with the name ‘Billy Joel’ (aside from “Uptown Girl,” which seemed catchy but shallow,) until I caught myself humming “The Longest Time” after it had been playing at a Hamilton write-in and made a memo to look it up. From the Billy Joel Essential collection on Itunes, I found “The Downeaster Alexa.”

Again, the celtic melody and harmonies draw me into this number, but it’s the lyrics, and the story that they tell, that really make me love the song – the vivid way in which it portrays a fisherman’s life, and the stoic resolve with which the protagonist clings to what might be a vanishing trade.

“Tell my wife I am trawling Atlantis / And I still have my hands on the wheel.”

“I was a bayman, like my father was before / Can’t make a living as a bayman anymore.”

Read the rest of this entry »

SDMB Holiday Short Fiction Contest

December 25, 2010

Well, Christmas festivities are over. Thanks to my family for the candy and the gift cards.

Time to buckle down on writing/critiquing/editing, and even though I really have enough other things on my list, I’m going to participate in the third Straight Dope Message Board writing contest. I’ve really enjoyed participating in it each time before, and last time I basically got my Nanowrimo idea from the short fiction contest, so that certainly recommends trying again.

A few things about the format are similar – every writer gets the same three prompt words and a photo that they have to include in the finished story, and a time limit. On account of holiday schedules, they’re trying a new wrinkle in which not every participant has to fit into the same writing window – you send an email to a particular mailbox to signal that you’re ready to begin, and get an autoreply with your prompts. You then have two and a half days, (or 60 hours) to complete your entry and email it in.

To take best advantage of my available free time for the holidays, I’ll probably start around 8am tomorrow, so that I’ll have until 8pm on Tuesday, the evening before I go back to work. And I actually have a little secret weapon of a plot notion that I *might* work in, if it looks like it’ll fit with the prompt.

It’s nice to get a chance to go with little unplanned side treks like this in my writing when other commitments allow. The first SDMB contest, I ended up coming up with something that wasn’t exactly fanfic but somewhat close – it was a little spy story that was a spoof of the TV show ‘Chuck’, with Chuck’s character painted as a completely incompetent secret agent, and his long-suffering brother-in-law constantly covering for him. Last time, I ventured a bit further into original territory, coming up with a storyline of an angel on a mission who fell in love with a human girl and ran away with her, which got tweaked somewhat as the basis of “The Angel’s Charlie.”

I can’t wait to see where the paths less traveled take me this time.

Award acceptance speech.

September 13, 2010

First off, once again I’d like to thank Brittany for giving me these two awards!

The Versatile Blogger Award: Link back to the person who gave you the award (already did), share seven things about yourself, pass the award to up to fifteen bloggers who you think deserve it, and contact the people you’ve picked.

One Lovely Blog Award: Accept the award, post it on your blog with a link to the person who gave it to you with a link to them, pass it to up to fifteen other bloggers who are new to you, contact the people you’ve picked.

However, I have to say that I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about passing them along at first… not that I don’t want other bloggers to feel valued and appreciated, but that the whole deal seemed a bit like a benign version of chain letters or something, and I’ve never been a big fan of spreading chain letters.

Having spent a little while mulling over the question, I’ve decided that it’s not really the same thing. For one thing, these awards seem to be pretty honest as to what they’re about, while chain letters always tend to have the ridiculous claims about what has happened to various people around the world when they got the chain, which presumably can’t have been true when the chain started, and couldn’t have been added in later unless someone took liberties with copying the letter exactly as they received it. But never mind that.

Also, these awards don’t seem to be as bully-ish about chain letters about passing them on. And this is the sort of thing that Blogosphere networking is made of, isn’t it? So – I accept the awards, and I will be passing them along, but not just yet. For one thing, I’m not sure who to award yet, so I’ll take my time and hand them out one by one. 😉

And, for my seven things to share as a condition of Versatile Blogger:

  1. I love listening to country music.
  2. I have many stuffed animal friends.
  3. I collect PDAs and other electronic devices.
  4. I’ve lost over 100 pounds in the past three and a half years.
  5. I recently got a beginner driver’s licence for the second time.
  6. I go to the Toronto Buffy/Angel fan meetups when I can.
  7. I love Larry Niven’s Known Space/Ringworld books.

Quick mini-updates.

August 16, 2010

Hey, I’m feeling a bit drained – I’m going to driver education classes this weekend and next, so the time crunch seems to be tighter than usual at the moment. So, I’m just going to quickly run through a couple of other things that I’ve touched on recently for today’s post.

Critmo is well into the second week at this point, and I’m a little worried that participation seems to be lagging somewhat. I still have one excerpt to crit, and somebody else who I’m supposed to be critting is several days late posting her excerpt. Guess there’s not much more to do than keep soldiering on for now, and try to figure out some way to muddle through.

I’ve got more feedback swaps than I can keep up with at the moment – I’m trying to work my way through one Nanowrimo manuscript, an interesting alt-historical romance called ‘Duty’, and I’ve got another novel and a script sitting on my hard drive, and another scriptwriter who’s sent me a message saying that they’re interested in a swap, but I’ve put them off saying that I can’t commit to it yet after all. It’s fun stuff, though, when I can fit it into the day.

And some more playing around with ‘I write like…’

All of my JulNoWriMo words came out as: Dan Brown again. Sigh

The sentence ‘I hate Dan Brown’ bounces back without a result, and highlights the note: ‘For reliable results paste at least a few paragraphs (not tweets).’

The Preamble to the US Constitution is written like: H. P. Lovecraft

The first two sentences of the Declaration of Independence are written like: James Fenimore Cooper

The opening paragraph of Tale of two cities – is recognized as being written like Charles Dickens. That’s good, I suppose

Winston Churchill’s ‘We shall fight on the beaches’ speech could have been written by: James Joyce

The ‘Give me Liberty or Give me death’ speech is written like – William Shakespeare

A writing experiment…

July 23, 2010

And a bit of a mash-up for today, as well!

One of my favorite writing panels at Polaris was ‘Making Sentences’, with James Alan Gardner. James seemed to have a lot of ideas about how to hone your skill with the nitty-gritty workmanship of writing, as his panel title sort of implies, and one approach that he mentioned went along these lines:

Pick a passage that you like out of a favorite book, and try to change as many of the words as possible with alternates that fill the same grammatical role, to tell a story that you want to tell.

It’s sort of an extreme madlibs exercise, with a piece of writing that you like as the template, and among other elements the idea seems to be to dissect the original passage to learn as much as you can about how it works by getting your fingers dirty with what’s in there.

I’m going to try this with the opening to ‘So you want to be a wizard,’ by Diane Duane – a great opening page I’ve thought for many years. And I’m going to combine the exercise with a little experiment at

The IWL site, ‘I write like,’ is supposed to analyze your writing style and compare it to a database of possible writers to see who you’re most like. I’ve tried it with many of my own passages, and heard about some other people’s submissions, but my suspicion is that it’s a fairly superficial analysis that doesn’t really get close to the heart of what I’d call ‘style.’

I also want to stress that I am not endorsing or recommending anything that’s up for sale or giveaway on IWL, and have heard some uncomplimentary things about the ultimate aims of the people running it. Myself, I just think that the submission tool itself is kinda fun, and I’m not really interested in clicking on any other links there.

So I want to send in the original version by Diane Duane, and my ‘mad-libbed’ version of the same passage, and we’ll see if IWL thinks that the style is different.

So, first, here’s the original passage in the book:

Part of the problem, Nita thought as she tore desperately down Rose Avenue, is that I can’t keep my mouth shut.

She had been running for five minutes now, hopping fences, sliding sideways through hedges, but she was losing her wind. Some ways behind her she could hear Joanne and Glenda and the rest of them pounding along in pursuit, threatening to replace her latest, now-fading black eye. Well, Joanne would come up to her with that new bike, all chrome and siler and gearshift levers and speedometer/odometer and toe clips and water bottle, and ask what she thought of it. So Nita had told her. Actually, she had told Joanne wha she thought of *her*. The bike was all right. In fact, it had been almost exactly the one that Nita had wanted so much for her last birthday – the birthday when she got nothing but clothes.

Life can be really rotten sometimes, Nita thought. She wasn’t really so irritated about that at the moment, however. Running away from a beating was taking up most of her attention.

“Callahan,” came a yell from behind her. “I’m gonna pound you up and mail you home in bottles!”

I wonder how many bottles it’ll take, Nita thought without much humor. She couldn’t afford to laugh. With their bikes, they’d catch up to her pretty quickly. And then…

That comes out as being like: Dan Brown. (I wonder what Diane would think of that comparison?)

Okay, so here’s my attempt to try to change the words to make this into a different scene:

“All of the trouble,” Collin said as he flew quickly up Duke’s Corridor, “is that I won’t leave a take alone.”

He had been climbing for ninety seconds now, watching pings, threading carefully between yachts, and Juno was pushing her all. Two clicks below him Collin could see Zeus and Poseidon and the entirety of the fleet lifting up in formation, seeking to challenge his hard-won, tenuous temporary freedom. But Morgan had walked around the corner with that hard stare, all medals and crisp fabric and stunner/blaster and peaked cap and decorated sash, and demand what he was doing there. So Collin had told him. Really, Collin had told Morgan what he wanted to hear. Morgan had been suspicious. Actually, he had been nearly perfectly a match for Collin and deployed the guards around the perimeter – the perimeter that he nearly hadn’t broken through.

“Crime can get very tricky these days,” Collin mused. He wasn’t exactly so angry about this at the time, though. Flying away from the navy was eating up most of his fuel.

“Rayman,” sounded the hail from his radio. “We’re going to chase you down and blast you into molecules!”

“I know how many molecules we’ll make,” Collin thought without much interest. He couldn’t spare time to calculate. With those engines, they’d overhaul Juno in minutes. And so…

You may notice that I was bending the ‘always the same part of speech’ rule by the end – because I had the story that I wanted to tell, and was willing to bend the rules to get to it. And, drumroll please, IWL says that this passage could have been written by:

Dan Brown again.

Maybe there’s more to this than I thought. Hmm…

If any of my readers try this exercise, or play around with the IWL statistical writing tool, I’d love to hear about it!

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