Operation: A Novel Diet

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Earlier last month I developed something of a strategy for plugging through my creative writing endeavors.  As of now, that largely consists of my seventh and most probable novel attempt to date: ‘Doubting Puppet’.  But, between my own lack of discipline, direction, and motive, I was running behind on my prose work.  As such, in a stroke of inspiration both brilliant and asinine, I created a “Diet” that demanded my attention as an aspiring author.  It came to me one night while I was trying to sleep (the darnedest and most frequent time for these things) and I started making rules/conditions, which I would then apply to my life a couple days later.

The basic premise: I can only eat as many calories one day as the number of words I wrote the day before.

Don’t misunderstand the intention of this idea.  I like food.  My goal is to eat food.  Therefore, calling this a “diet” isn’t completely accurate, but for now that’s its moniker.  The goal is to write more, at the cost of food.  And, with a few modifications along the way, it has worked.  My average prior to 02/16, when I started the diet, was roughly 400 words.  As you can see, it’s jumped tremendously.

02/14 – 857 words
02/15 – 232 words (+Editing in preparation)
02/16 – 1400 words approx. (Begin Operation)
02/17 – 1500 words approx.
02/18 – 1200 words approx.
02/19 – 187 words (Inhibited by work)
02/20 – 1,124 words
02/21 – 2,446 words
02/22 – 800 words
02/23 – 1,840 words
02/24 – 1,430 words
02/25 – 600 words approx (Inhibited by work)
02/26 – 650 words approx (Inhibited by work)
02/27 – 2,200 words approx.
02/28 – 750 words approx.
03/01 – 1,519 words
03/02 – (Forgot to record, but approximately 800 words)
03/03 – 2,250 words
03/04 – 1,124 words
03/05 – 0 words (Inhibited by work, birthday, and surprise friend)
03/06 – 0 words (Inhibited by work)

I went into the operation with a fully realized expectation that this was just a prototype.  As such, near the beginning I wasn’t as strict on myself.  I needed to leave room for the idea to adapt and flesh itself out.  Here are the conditions that have come out of that:

  1. If I work out for at least 30 minutes on one day, I may add 300 calories to my count for the next day.  This number does not change if I work out more than 30 minutes, yet I want a solid workout, so I am encouraged to not waste time in the gym.
  2. The calorie count doesn’t apply to a couple select drinks.  Water, Milk and Orange Juice (because screw the system, I love orange juice) do not subtract from the calorie count, while things like soda, energy drinks, and other high-sugar juices might.  This was established since the beginning.
  3. Regarding condiments.  Because you cannot accurately judge the calorie count of condiments (or say, a chopped pepper) these, in small amounts, will not detract from the calorie count.  If there are large sums of either of these, then use your best judgment.  I’m not going to break this down into a science, since the focus is supposed to be on writing more, not wasting time counting every little calorie.
  4. On a more complicated level, calorie counts may be stockpiled or ‘saved’ in a bank (I document these things).  Say I have a friend coming from out of town.  We’re probably going to be hanging out a lot and eating out a few times.  Not a whole lot of writing is likely to get done, and eating out means a lot of calories.  At the end of a day, if I have unspent calories on my quota, I may choose to put them into this bank for later use.  Also, as a contingency, the bank STARTS with a 1,000 calorie deposit at the beginning of the diet (this concept was added after a week of prototyping).  This is intended for emergencies when you aren’t able to get any writing done on any day.  From testing the diet personally, I’ve also determined that it is wise to dedicate all or at least half of the first day into the bank as well, since you’re almost certain to run into complications and it will provide extra buffering for later.
  5. As general principle, and for raw simplicity, the daily diet routine works on a strict 00:00-00:00 time standard.  That means my calorie count for the day starts at midnight and ends when midnight comes again.  Anything left over is put into the bank, and any words written after midnight transfer to the next day’s calorie count.

Because of a sudden spike in work hours and a rogue friend coming to visit without much warning, I have not gotten much writing done the last couple of days.  That’s okay.  That’s what the bank is for, even if I’m expecting to be bankrupt by the end of the day tomorrow.  Again, this is largely experimental and subject to further modification, but I do feel mildly brilliant for coming up with it.  Because I try to eat healthy, this has kept my diet regulated and has snuffed out overindulgence, while keeping me future oriented.  As with any commitment, it requires dedication.  The diet isn’t overly strict, so it doesn’t feel like there’s much backlash or negativity associated with it.  If anything, the program has made life a little more interesting and exciting.  Plus, if things go according to plan, Doubting Puppet will be done before long.  So that’s cool.

Thrice – Of Dust and Nations

“Of Dust and Nations” is my favorite song by rock band Thrice. The melody and riffs come together in a haunting but mesmerizing way, and only after you’re already drawn in do you realize that the poetry in their lyrics are the true appeal of the song, delivered with wonderful force by the lead singer.

“Step out from time, see the dust of nations.
Step out from time, hear the stars’ ovation.

Saturn will not sleep until the sand has made us clean.
Still we stack our stones and bury what we can.
But it all will be undone. Nothing built under this sun,
will ever stand before the endless march of sand.”

On Writing Excuses

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On Writing Excuses

“This is Writing Excuses.  Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.”

                I’d like to throw in my two cents on the web series Writing Excuses, something I only recently found and had an opportunity to go through.  Punchy and professional, the series is led by Brandon Sanderson (Epic Fantasy specialist) with his friends and fellow authors Dan Wells (Supernatural Thriller specialist), Howard Tayler (Science Fiction, Cartooning, and Humor specialist), and later added Mary Robinette Kowal (Short Fiction specialist).  Each of these authors has enough wealth of writing skill and experience to stand alone and shine out, but for the intentions of this post, I will be focusing on their joint creation: a fun and clean web series that tackles writing advice big, small, common, and extraordinary.

                An immediate appeal of the series comes from its length.  With each episode sitting at 15-20 minutes in length, it is perfect for commutes to and from work, activating your mind in the morning, or accompanying you during chores.  But from the beginning, the podcasters make sure to establish the intentions of the series.  While the things they discuss are quite helpful to any aspiring writer, what they wanted to focus on was helping those interested in genre fiction.  That being Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, and all of the variations and subsets in-between.

                Because of the diversity between the authors, they are able to cover a vast number of topics over the nine seasons that have been produced (currently developing season nine).

Creating anti-heroes.
Writing with the end of your story in mind.
How and where to get an agent
Things you should know about the young adult market
Why is the villain often the most interesting character?
The reasons you should go to conventions
Understanding and writing discriminations
Different ways of breaking into the market
How to pace your story
Debunking common errors in fantasy stories
Understanding artificial intelligence
Witty dialogue and how to practice
Refining your prose skills

And on, and on, and on.  Literally hundreds of similar topics.

                As a hopeful fantasy writer myself, this series has been nothing short of invaluable to me.  I do not doubt that it will remain an eternal reference that I will come back to time and again as I seek out publication and whatever lies beyond.

                The series has been nominated for awards several times and has won two Parsec’s and a Hugo.  On many episodes they’ll host a special guest star, they will always recommend a related audiobook that can be found on Audible (a sponsor of the cast), and they somehow manage to maintain a ‘Clean’ rating throughout the entire course of the series.  I am deeply thankful that I found this podcast and have gotten an opportunity to know these people, even if indirectly.  I am grateful for their transparencies and their willingness to sacrifice both time and comfort to talk about things that aren’t always easy for them.  My only regret is that I didn’t have the chance to brave these subjects with them earlier, and I hope to someday meet these authors and thank them in person.

                If you are an aspiring writer, or even if you just want to better understand the art of storytelling critique, I (naturally) recommend you start Writing Excuses.  You can download or stream every single episode for free from their website.  Of course, I also recommend any number of their professional works as well.  Since the start of this series I have been exploring their individual stories, and hope to wrap up Dan’s John Cleaver series within the next week.

http://www.writingexcuses.com/
(For past seasons, just go to the ‘Archives’ link on the left, or explore their large list of topics)

                As always, thank you for reading, God bless, and don’t eat crayons.  Peace.

 

Edwin’s Dilemma (Part II)

Blast.  I was late.  Oh well.

Edwin’s Dilemma – Part 2

 

                Something sharp in the air held Edwin on the edge of a sneeze.  It was right there, tickling so fiercely in his sinuses that his eyes could hardly hold open.  Whatever was in this witch’s hut was unnatural and probably disagreeable in the blood of man.  Exactly what Edwin sought.

                Edwin wanted poison.  A patented blend of vengeful irony and homicide, bottled up for his convenience.  The inner hut was small, and stacked with trappings and chemicals and herbs only half-assorted.  The local witch had history in and out of Kastern, but Edwin always avoided her as a tribute to his good judgment.  Whether reliable or not, she was a witch, and witches always caused trouble.

                Besides this one was looking at crazy from a mile past the horizon.

                “Here,” Edwin held up what looked like a weed, “How about this? Grind it down maybe? Do some of your voodoo magic and make a potion?”

                Pud the Witch glowered, “You mock.  You ignorant.  You stupid.”

                “I hungry.  I impatient.  And yes, I mock.  Get on with it.”

                Pud shook her head without reservation, her tangled mop of hair swaying like a curtain, “Not briarweed, too potent.  Cannot hide smell of urine.”

                “What?” Edwin gingerly sniffed the flora in his hand, “It doesn’t smell anything like that.  Is it supposed to?”

                “Potion most effective if I pee in it,” she turned away but Edwin caught a fraction of a grin on her lips, “Stronger that way.”

                Edwin spread his hands out in sudden astonishment, “Of course it is!  It’s your urine.  Why bother using any poison? Just hand me a vial of that and I could probably kill half the kingdom if I’m smart enough.”

                “I’ve tried.  Doesn’t work,” Pud pursed her lips.  Edwin didn’t want to think about the implications.

                “Alright, so how about this?” The fresh noble grabbed a pouch off the windowsill.

                “NO!” The witch screamed and scrambled.  Edwin didn’t know what to do before she slapped the pouch from his hands. “No no no.  Not unless you want victim to grow flowers from chest and tops of feet like mountain people.”

                “Why.  What conceivable purpose could something like that possibly serve?”

                She struck him on the skull with two fingers, “You stupid.  You ignorant of power in the flowers.  Come, follow me.”

                Edwin did so hesitantly, and while entertaining the idea of throwing this loon into his some-day dungeon where she could be insane and talk to the walls in peace.

                Pud guided Edwin to a row of shelves separate from the rest.  With one trembling hand she grabbed a sheepskin bag that wiggled with contents.  She dropped it in Edwin’s open palm and he felt something fluid inside, “One of Patty’s favorites.  Glistenberry oil.  Exactly eight drops for full effect.”

                “That makes literally no sense,” Edwin said.

                “Put into drink of victim and,” Pud ran her thumbnail along her throat, “out they go.”

                “What constitutes eight drops?  Why can’t I just put in as much as I want?”

                “Eight drops.”

                Edwin blinked and dropped the matter.  He reached wordlessly for his skin of money and drew out several gold coins, “How much?”

                Pud levelled her eyes at him, “Twice that.”

                “Nonsense,” Edwin rebelled, “I was already offering twice its worth.”

                “Ah, but you have so much.  Couldn’t hurt, hm?”

                Edwin glowered at the money sack.  Amateur mistake, Edwin.  Amateur mistake.  “Very well.”

                Paying the fine, Edwin grabbed his purchase and took his leave as fast as the hut door would open.  He couldn’t let more of this witch’s imbecility soak its way into his brain.

                Edwin found Bismark examining something off to the West and thought it might be the diving sun, but the day was too young.  They were near the King’s court, just on the outskirts of his hold.  Awnings hung around them in brilliant colors, with tit-for-tat merchants selling their wares in force.  Having his sinuses cleared, Edwin remembered his ailment did not come from the witch’s hut, but instead the King’s illness.  It was passed to him like a rich man’s curse.  The poison would work, eight drops or not.  The King would soon be dead.

                “Bismark,” Edwin held up the sheepskin sack, “I have our retribution.”

                “Your retribution,” Bismark said without turning, “Your preemptive, blind retribution.  Lord, you still don’t know if you’re actually dying or if your ailment even came from the King.”

                “Of course it did, don’t ask stupid questions.”  Edwin churned through the nasally drone of his throat.

                Bismark was strong and loyal, Edwin’s greatest friend since the days where they wore the street as their bed and home.  They butt heads on occasion, even more so now that Edwin had ascended into a life of riches and taken Bismark as his confidant.  Edwin wasn’t sure why that was.

                “Did you find our man?” Edwin asked.

                Sighing hard, Bismark finally met his eyes, “Sir Linton has an unsated desire to dispose of the King.  In the early years of his reign, it seems the good King made a decision that lead to longsuffering for Linton’s family.  In the midst of their poverty, his firstborn son passed away.  Now Linton stands in favor with the King as a head of foreign trade and disciplinary treatments.”

                Edwin lifted his eyes, “But still holds the grudge?”

                Bismark nodded.

                “Very good.”  Edwin handed over the pouch of poison, “Make sure that he gets more than eight drops into the King’s drink.”  Because screw that old hag and her rules.

                “I don’t like any of this.  But, if it really comes down to it, I hope you were right about the sickness.”  Bismark snatched the skin and pulled it into his coat.

                Edwin held impassivity, but only until Bismark strode off towards the King’s Palace, feet set on a mission.  As he watched his companion depart, Edwin ran Bismark’s words through his head, but he could not decipher if they had any real meaning or not.

                Before becoming a young noble, Edwin had no appreciation for things like recreational garden-tending.  It was a thing reserved for the elite.  A frivolous activity for the hands of those who didn’t know real work or hardship.  Even now Edwin didn’t understand how some of his peers could be so fascinated over something so trivial.  In his admittance though, the flora had started to catch his fancy.  Not as a personal activity, but aesthetically, for the beauty they provided Kastern.  He didn’t care much for beauty over the years.  Hard to appreciate something you’ve never really known.

                One leg swaying over the ledge, Edwin perched himself on the rim of a home, in a nook not easily noticed.  It was one of his favorite spots to sleep before his inheritance.  He spun an apple in one hand, taking arbitrary and infrequent bites from its soft body.  Feeling docile, his attention easily caught on the flowing people of the street below and the garden master’s shop that filled the sky with aroma.  Bismark would return before long.

                Indeed, no sooner than Edwin took down the last bite of the apple core did his confidant round the corner, his face shadowed by hood and discretion.  Edwin rolled his shoulders to loose a couple cracks in his spine and left the perch to meet Bismark.

                Eyes shifting around to assess if he’d been followed, Bismark finally sighed and removed the hood, “It is done.”

                Edwin didn’t allow himself to smile.  He was a nobleman now.  Even through complacence, he needed to be well-mannered, “Thank you, Bismark.  You have done me a great service.”

                “Have I?  I’m not so sure.”  Bismark said.

                “You did deliver the poison to Sir Linton, yes?”

                “I did.”

                “And you have faith in his ability to administer the poison?”

                “Unfortunately, I do.”

                Edwin frowned, “Then I don’t see the question.”

                Bismark stepped closer.  Only now could Edwin see the sweat on his forehead and the pale tone of his skin.  “What happened?” Edwin said in growing fear.

                “Do you have faith in what you’re doing?”

                Pausing for just a moment too long, Edwin swallowed, “The King has commited a crime.  The crime of murder.  Is it not my job to right this wrong?”

                “So you believe to the end that you are justice, here.”  Bismark nodded, “Then the poison was real?  Because I only gave Sir Linton half.”

                Edwin felt beads against his skin. “What did you do with the other half?”

                “I want to believe that you are a good person, Edwin,” Bismark smiled sickly, “You are my best friend and now my lord.  I have faith that you would not truly harm a man that has done such good.  So I’m going to find if your motives are true.  I drank the other half.”

 

End of Part II

“The Other Promise” – Kingdom Hearts

One of my favorite tracks from one of my favorite franchises. Purely instrumental, with a piano overlay that immediately pours into you a cocktail of mystery, wonder, and ominous foreboding. I could love the song alone just for that. Alas, the fates would determine that it becomes much more. A flute enters the fray, stirring your heart and the beginning of a transformation. The song quickly ascends as strings arise through the melody and more power starts flooding through each note.

Described in one line: I read this song as a powerful, but uncertain hope to a long and desperate battle.

P.S. Super pumped for the long-awaited third installment to the primary series. Bring it.

A Note on the Grammys

This post does not belong to me. I found it through a chain of facebook links and the original author is one Matt Gilman, an individual that I do not know.  As a rule of thumb, I typically steer clear of the Grammy’s or anything associated with them, but I found this a satisfying and worthwhile read.  Enjoy.
– – – – –
OK…(sigh)…#theGrammys

I feel like I can’t stay silent on this one. I’ve read so many posts in the last 24 hours in favor of and in opposition to last night’s ceremony. So what’s one more opinion huh?

Firstly, as a musician myself, the Grammys always intrigue me. I honestly don’t listen to secular music very often. In my line of work I’m surrounded by so much music all the time so when I’m in the car or at home I often opt to enjoy the peace and quiet while I can get it. But I’m always curious to know what’s “in” these days.

Oh, and just to set some of your minds at ease, this is not going to be an “anti secular music” post. So let your guards down a little. To be honest, there are some secular artists that I really enjoy…(gasp!). I have even been known to some as a (dare I say it?) Belieber! Yes….I do enjoy the Biebs. Do I endorse his lifestyle? Absolutely not…especially after this last week. But did I go see his most recent movie on opening night with my whole extended family, of whom one member carried a Justin Bieber action figure (ahem…..Taylor Christian)? Absolutely YES!!! And I liked it!!!!

I like One Direction. Let’s face it! They’re good! Justin Timberlake is an incredible performer. Miley Cyrus, as hurt and confused and misguided as she may be, has a great voice. Let’s get old school….I enjoy a good “N’sync Vs. Backstreet Boys” debate (N’sync….duh).

My point is I don’t think the general concept of secular music is bad or evil. If I wrote a song about a chair it would definitely be considered secular. Is it evil? No…it’s a chair people. But it is secular nonetheless.

But what I’ve noticed trending in these last few years as I’ve watched the Grammys is a competition between certain artists (not all of them) to see who can push the envelope the most. Who can create the most headlines? Who’s risqué outfit is going to cause the most controversy (Beyonce)? How far can we cross the line on sexual preference (Macklemore “Same Love”)? How many obscenities can I fit into my song that won’t be bleeped out on national television? And I can’t help but think that they know exactly what they’re doing. There is a HUGE agenda being pushed right now by the leaders of the music industry. And it is getting more and more perverse, in some cases demonic, and just downright gross. Let’s recognize this. Let’s not be naive about it.

And these are the ones that our children, the future of our nation, are listening to. These are the songs that our kids will come home from school singing.

Music will shape the minds of the next generation…for the better OR for the worse.

Why?

Because, as human beings, we were created by God to have an emotional response to music. It’s in us. It’s in our DNA. Whether or not you can sing, or whether or not you can play an instrument, you cannot deny the effect that music has on the human heart. Our emotions dictate our morals. Our morals dictate our convictions. Our convictions dictate how we learn, teach, parent, instruct, how we look at politics, etc. I think for everyone, there has been a song or multiple songs that you’ve heard at some point in your life that have “Wowed” you…maybe it was the lyrics, or the melody, or the instrumentation, or the beat. Music has the power to dictate our emotions. Some music really makes me happy. Some can help me relax. Some music can make me cry. There are so many ways music can affect us. It can be our greatest asset, or our greatest downfall depending on how we use it.

Again, I have nothing against the general concept of secular music. Some of it is just plain fun to listen to. And I think that is ok. But let’s use some common sense. Let’s be careful what we are feeding our spirits on. Look at the lyrics of some of the songs that are the most popular right now. Songs that slide in under the radar because they have a “good beat”.

Now, let’s get to the reason for my rant.

This is so personal to me. Not just because I’m a musician myself, though that’s a part of it, but because playing music and singing is the number one way that I connect with Jesus. All throughout scripture, old and new testaments, there are accounts of the faithful singing their praises, lamenting in song, rejoicing with loud clanging cymbals, angelic choirs, the saints gathered around the throne singing songs, thousands of musicians and singers in David’s tabernacle, the Heavenly throne room scene described in Revelation 4 is filled with antiphonal songs or chants between four living creatures and 24 elders that worship God night and day without rest….the list goes on and on.

GOD IS MUSICAL!!! And guess what…we were created in His image…which means WE ARE MUSICAL!!!!!

Music is so precious to Him. And as a worship leader it is so precious to me as well. Not only because I connect with Him on a deeper level through song, but because I’ve seen first hand, almost on a daily basis, how a song can change a life. I’ve seen people with hard hearts break under the conviction of the Holy Spirit while listening TO A SONG. I’ve seen kids who have grown up feeling worthless and devalued their whole lives living in pain and shame and feeling condemned come to the knowledge of who they are before the Lord while hearing the lyrics TO A SONG. I’ve seen people with real physical ailments completely healed because of the power of the Holy Spirit that rested on them THROUGH A SONG.

I met a woman once who willingly gave herself to prostitution for years and years. She eventually heard about Jesus and chose to give her life to Him. But she told me that even after that moment she still could never forget the shame of her past because of what she had done. But one day she heard my song “Every Captive Free” and she said “the shame lifted off her shoulders like a heavy weight.” And it never came back. I don’t say that to “toot my own horn”. I only mention that story because through it I got to experience first hand the power of what singing the Word of God can do. It’s amazing. It’s life giving.

IT’S HEART CHANGING!

And so much of what God intended in the creativity and musicality of human beings has been taken and turned into something completely opposite of what it was intended to be. It has been made wicked and perverse. And I can’t help but think that it pains His heart.

I write this not to condemn anyone who has listened to those aforementioned artists, or those who will. But rather, I write it as an invitation to rethink and ponder what we are feeding our spirits on. What we allow into our hearts will directly affect our daily lives and how we connect to and relate to God Himself.

These are my honest thoughts after seeing the Grammys last night. Undoubtedly, a lot of you may disagree. And that’s ok. Feel free to post your own thoughts if you’d like. But please let’s refrain from personal attacks or explicit language. It is possible to disagree in a godly manner.

Thanks for reading…..
Blessings!