Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: November, 2010

Progress from the Fourth Week

I passed 50k on Wednesday, just before Thanksgiving.  Fifteen minutes before Thanksgiving Day, in fact.  That was pretty cool.  But does this mean that I can stop?  No way.  My story isn’t finished.  I’m going to keep writing until the bitter end.  Today, I’m going to attempt to finish the section I’ve titled “Main Course” and make a sizable dent on “Side Dishes”.  I really need to get to the section called “Dessert” by Tuesday.

Currently, I am in the middle of the chapter where I’m going to put the zero-g jello scene.  This is also where the cyborg attempts to kiss my main character, she tries to bean him with the jello, and the space pirates show up.  It’s going to be epic.

Meanwhile, here are some excerpts from stuff I’ve written the past week:

From Part Ve:

The tailor then brightened. “What about Brutus? I mean, with the toga and everything, he looks like he could play the part of that backstabbing traitor in that ancient play called Julius Caesar.”

“Julius Caesar?” This time it was Annette frowning. “I’ve never heard of a play called that.”

“It’s by Shakespeare,” I supplied.

“Oh! Right. I know Shakespeare. He’s the one who wrote Beowulf, right?”

I shook my head. “I think you’ve gotten your ancient literature mixed up, Annette.”

“If you say so. Ancient literature wasn’t my strongest subject in school. All I remember about it is that our class got to act out a tragedy and I got to pretend to stab somebody with a fake laser-sword.”

From Part VIc:

As I tried to shake myself from my sudden collision with the vat, I saw Vyne and Mot in the vat of wax. Mot was screaming as the cyborg finally pulled him out. From their waists down, they dripped with the green wax. In the next moment, the secretary android with a couple of other security robots burst into the room with wax extraction equipment in their arms.

“The emergency crew has been contacted,” intoned the android. “Please lie down and stay calm. They are on their way.”

“Calm? Calm?” yelled Mot. “I nearly became a candidate for Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum on Alpha Regulus!”

From Part VIIb:

The server widened her eyes as she observed the blue rodent flip the nearest menu, which happened to be George’s, to one of the pages and point to one of the items listed.    The jerboa squeaked again.

“It’s the second coming of Mukmuk!” the girl exclaimed.  And she promptly fainted.

“Holy marmot!” exclaimed Vik as he grabbed the holographic recorder that he had placed next to him to film the entire thing.  “This is awesome!”

“Is she all right?” asked Annette.  She looked up and waved her arms.  “Hey you over there!  I think we might need a medic!”

From Part VIIc:

“Have you guys checked the message boards last night when the Old Minoan episode aired in most of the Beta Quadrant?  They loved what they call the “pancake scene”.  There are fan sites springing up nearly overnight for Euphie’s pet.  He’s pretty much the star now.  He’s even got fangirls, from the looks of it.”

The jerboa, sitting at my elbow, nibbling on a bit of Minoan waffle and studying a data pad that had a puzzle on it, briefly looked up and chirped.

“This is ridiculous,” said Mot with a snarl.  “A rodent has fangirls and I don’t?”

“Well, you do have a fan site,” said George.  “And some fangirls.”

“Yes!”

“But the fangirls are trying to petition for you to go to Gamma Cygnus for the jello wrestling championships.”

“Dammit!”

You can read more here.

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Highlights of My Thanksgiving Day in List Form

1. My advisor attempted to secretly spike everyone’s drink with bourbon.

2. A prof complained about having to work outside the home and do housework.  Her husband sighed and padded off to the kitchen to do dishes.

3. “Mile high club?” exclaimed a father in outrage when he overheard a game his daughter was playing.  “How do you know what that is?”

4. A dog growled ferociously under the kids’ table. He had part of the turkey.

5. “Due to high expectations, they all took Valium.”

6. A guest explained about the free “Relaxation” DVD: “They play this for people with Alzheimer’s.”

7. An old man glanced at the bowl containing the plum pudding. “So, is this the chamber pot?”

8. “The whole reason it’s soaking in cognac is so I can light it on fire.”

9. A hunk of goat cheese “mysteriously” found its way into the mashed potatoes.

10. After the cake was put in the oven, the second page of the recipe was found.

Progress from the Third Week

For those of you just tuning in, I’m currently participating in Nanowrimo or National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. In a concentrated burst of crazed writing, I managed to reach 40,000 words yesterday at an afternoon write-in. At the moment, I’m not sure anything is making sense. However, I have finally introduced the double agent character into the story. It’s not very obvious at the moment who he or she is.

The main characters of the story, a documentary team doing a show on food, have reached a space station near a black hole. They’ve timed it to coincide with a festival celebrating the ancient musical genre of techno. Needless to say, there are also some pretty psychedelic comestibles also present at said festival.

Here are some excerpts from the latest chapters:

From Part IVd:

“Oh, I don’t know about that. It may be because the creature has been engineered to be a genius, not because of any deficient brain power on your part. Weren’t you considered a chess prodigy while you were growing up on your homeworld?”

“That fact,” I said, “was supposed to have been expurgated from my records.”

“Expurgation doesn’t stop me when I’m trying to do research,” he replied. “Maybe we could play a game against each other some time. I’ll have you know that I’m pretty good at chess, too.”

“I would be too easy of an opponent for you. But if you’re so sure about your game prowess, why don’t you try playing against genius gerbil yourself?”

“No thanks. I’d rather keep today on the up and up by contemplating ways to wrangle you into dinner rather than getting beaten by a rodent in 3D chess.”

From Part Va:

“Sir,” I said, addressing the chef who was giving me the evil eye, “My involvement in the kitchen will be quite minimal. All I will be doing will be installing some holographic recorders so that we can get some scenes of you and your assistants working in your element.”

The chef did not seem particularly swayed by my explanation. “Art cannot be made with the eye of some authority looking over my shoulder! In the end, it will be the idiotic public who will be scrutinizing the way of the artist. And does the public know anything about art? No! They’re all ignorant about art!”

The lieutenant gave the chef a stony expression. “There are already security cameras in the kitchens so that people are already scrutinizing you and your assistants. The holographic recorders will not be any different.”

“It’s an invasion of privacy!” The chef’s voice, which was already at a loud decibel, rose even higher in outrage at this latest piece of knowledge. “Artists need privacy to create art!”

“Your art ends up being eaten by the public.”

From Part Vb:

That was the simplified explanation that Jardin gave to Mot while they had been talking about the drink. A more complicated and complete picture would have to be explained by a physical chemist.

However, the potency could not explain the men’s change in behavior. According to all the reports about Agoutain wine consumption, drinkers were said to become mellow and more sociable. Relaxed. They weren’t supposed to be unusually energetic. The first sign we got that something had seriously gone wrong was when Kameel abruptly decided to leave the table and pursue an attractive woman on the dance floor. Then Jardin suggested that they go out dancing with the rest of the revelers and Mot had readily agreed. From what Mot had told us during our last crew meeting, he hated dancing. And singing. And that no one, no matter how adamant or high up in the GBC chain of command, was going to coerce him into doing any of these stunts.

But here was Mot, dancing on a table with a light fixture on his head. Vik, of course, kept filming as he kept remarking to me in my ear comm, “This is awesome! Think of the ratings!”

You can read more here.

Progress from the Second Week

I reached “midway” point, that is 25k words, yesterday afternoon.  The story itself is going like molasses.  Probably because I’ve realized that I had planned for more plot than would fit in fifty thousand words.  Oh well.

The story also has developed an unexpected running gag which I’ve called “name the gerbil.”  In an earlier chapter, my main character had managed to acquire a genetically engineered blue gerbil from a contest she didn’t even know she had been entered in.  So far, the main character has resisted naming the gerbil although the other characters have been particularly helpful in suggesting Bob, Balthazar the Terrible, Blueberry, and Killer.

Onward to more ridiculousness.  Here are some excerpts from some of the more recent writing:

From Part IIIc:

“Not everything is a conspiracy, Mr. Zero,” Mot told George. “As far as we know, this is a perfectly innocent gift from the Antarians. What I can’t really figure out is, what is this thing in the middle? It looks like a fruit cake.”

“God, I hate fruit cakes,” Annette replied. “I had a particularly traumatic experience with one when I was a kid.”

“Did you get hit in the head with it?” I couldn’t help ask.

Annette looked at me wide-eyed. “Yes. Of course. How did you know?”

“Because I got hit in the head with one when I was five.”

“Me, too,” said Commander Tautu.

I exchanged meaningful glances with the other women in the room. Fruit cake was a menace.





From Part IIIe:

After carving a hole in the ice boar, the minister took off his gloves and then reached into the chest of the creature to pull out its heart which steamed and dripped blood. The minister was grinning in triumph and holding it up for the holographic projection before directing it toward Mot. “You have the honor of the first bite, Mr. Mot.”

If Mot was green before, he was now positively flashing the color as he looked from the freshly torn heart to the minister’s expectant face. He pointed to himself and then to the heart. The minister nodded encouragingly. He looked briefly at Annette who simply shrugged and mouthed, “Do you want to cause an intergalactic incident?”

Mot visibly swallowed before taking the heart from the minister’s hand. He stared at the heart for a long moment before he closed his eyes and put the organ to his face and took a bite, smearing blood all over his lips and cheeks.

The minister and the other Antarian hunters yelled in approval. Quickly, Mot gave the heart back to the Minister of Defense who took the second bite of the heart with relish.





From Part IVb:

“Can’t handle the capsaicin?” Vyne inquired neutrally, still not looking at me.

“Not when it’s been shoved down my throat,” I retorted.  “What about you?”

He shrugged.  “Most things don’t bother me.  I have nanobots that help neutralize anything harmful that I might inadvertently ingest.  And speaking of ingestion of harmful substances, you might not want to drink too much of that water.”

“What?  What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s heavy water.”

“Holy f—,” I capped the bottle hastily and stuck it back on the ledge near the monitor where I found it.  “The damn thing’s not even labeled.  And why the hell is there heavy water in here anyway?  I would have been guzzling the stuff non-stop to get the spices out of my mouth—enough that the crew would be one less holographic projectionist before the next episode.”

“Mrs. G’pin put the bottles here thinking that we might need a drink while we’re working.  She mentioned that the heavy water was great for growing the engineered heavy watermelons that seem to thrive on this planet.”

“Heavy watermelons?”

The cyborg finally looked up from his data pad with an indulgent look on his face.  As if he thought I was an idiot.  My hands itched to wipe the smirk off his face, but practically, if I tried to do that, I would break every bone in my hand.

Follow along here for more culinary sci-fi insanity.

A Pep Talk for Writer’s Block

Here’s an impromptu pep talk I wrote to one of my nanobuddies who was panicking about writer’s block.  If you’re not a microbiology major but you are participating in Nanowrimo, just substitute all the blathering about bacteria and Bunsen burners with exploding microwaves. (Everyone owns a microwave, right?)

* * *

Hi there,

Okay, take a deep breath and slowly let it out.  Relax.  While Nanowrimo is known for its high velocity writing, getting stressed out about it may make the writer’s block worse.  Most of November is still ahead of us so there is plenty of time to catch up.  Just remember that this month is for getting those words out for an initial draft.  It isn’t about beautiful or interesting writing or even about plots making sense.  All of this can be fixed later.

If the ideas are eluding you, check out some of the forums under NaNo Tips & Strategies and pick up dares and random idea generators.  Introduce a new character into your story.  Write about events that may be happening elsewhere in your setting.  Have a character pick up a book and describe the story in the book.  Or use a prompt and somehow incorporate it into the story line.

There isn’t exactly one way to write, either.  If you’re getting stalled on one particular point in the story, then jump to a future scene in the story that may be more exciting.  Or go back and explain about the past of a character in a flashback that might reveal more about his or her motivations and personality.  Try out Write or Die or timed writing sprints.  If you have any write-ins near your location, drop on by and try that out.  Sometimes physically having other writers around who understand the obstacles can spur productivity.

Even my advisor and labmates gave me tips for getting those words down for the novel: include my dissertation or stories about mishaps that have happened in lab.  And while none of this would fit into my novel at all, they do have the right idea.  If you can think of nothing but lab and schoolwork–use that to your advantage.  Maybe your characters inadvertently find themselves in a lab or have encountered a talkative scientist.  Then write about bacteria and petri dishes and Bunsen burners going out of control and it will all count towards completing your novel.

Sure, there are days where you might feel that you simply can’t write anything let alone even touch a keyboard–and it is okay to take a day or two off to recharge your brain.  But if you are sitting at your computer or in front of your notebook ready to write but you find your mind blank, just look around you and find the first object that you see.  It might be a desk or a lamp or last night’s leftover pizza you forgot to put in the fridge.  Write that down and make a sentence.  Continue describing it.  Maybe this may go somewhere, maybe it won’t.  But keep writing one word after another and they will soon add up.  Prime the pump with something easy and simple and soon you’ll get going again.

Whatever works for you, just keep at it!  Good luck!

Thirty

I really don’t feel any different today than I did yesterday.

Most people my age have turned into Respectable and Responsible Adults.  They have spouses, kids, mortgages, work, and PTA meetings.  Heck, there are a lot of people who are younger than I am who might be considered more grown-up than me.  While I grumble like the cranky old person whenever I encounter college kiddies–let alone high schoolers–I don’t feel like I can relate to people who are my age, either.  There are some days when I think this is a Good Thing.  And then there are other days when I wonder how the heck my life veered off track into Supposed Loserdom.

I honestly do not know where my life’s trajectory will take me.  I mean, sure, there are these short term goals like eventually finishing school–but after that, who knows.  But whatever it is, will it ever involve turning me into the Traditional Adult?  My inner self tells me, I sincerely hope not.  But if I’m not a Traditional Adult, what am I anyway?

At the moment, I’m pretty ambivalent about turning thirty.  There’s this fear that since I haven’t done a variety of things in my twenties, I will end up never doing them.  Then again, I also feel that I can officially call myself a Cranky Old Person and do whatever damn thing I want without much care about what others will think of me.

Geez, thirty.  It’s not so much getting old as not getting anything accomplished or fulfilling imaginary expectations.  I feel like I’ve contributed nothing to society and that my entire life up til now has consisted of nothing but silly tasks that go nowhere.

Nine, Sort Of

Traditionally, today is when I ponder my blogiversary.  Except this blog isn’t the same as it used to be.  Earlier this year, when Blogger decided to discontinue FTP service, I decided to move the blog to WordPress and rename it.  And at the same time, I combined my Nanowrimo blog with my main blog so that now, an even larger percentage of my posts are writing oriented.  I have also decided not to fiddle with the template and just use one that has already been provided by WordPress.  I figured that a default template would lend my blog even more anonymity.  I do not try to court attention.  I do not care if no one reads this blog.  And if there are visitors, I hope they stay because of the writing and not because I have some snazzy graphics.

I guess I’ve been around on the blogosphere for a while–although not as long as some–and my audience is still around in the single digits, if at all.  And yes, there are still days where there are absolutely no visitors.  The no visitors bit doesn’t bother me much, but one would think that after all of these years keeping a blog with a somewhat regular posting schedule, I would have built up some sort of a readership even without any effort.  But no.  Recently I’ve been thinking that maybe it’s just my style.  Online, I try to call things as I see it.  Sometimes I read back over what I had posted and think, “Man, I was cranky.”  But I’m not so much of a goody-goody that I ever delete anything.  That sort of attitude probably antagonizes people.  Oh well.  I don’t really care for networking with people who want fake happy personas anyway.  Networking fiends annoy me just on principle.

So, the blog.  There is some effort involved in keeping it not dead, of course, but that usually involves posts of the tl;dr variety.  I actually don’t have much to say about that, except that it is probably one of the reasons why this blog is one of unread millions.  And will probably continue to be so.

Progress from the First Week

So the first week of Nanowrimo has come and gone.  I’m keeping up with my word count although I have to point out that for me generally, the first week starts out a bit slow because I’m still feeling out my story line and characters.  This year, I’m letting dares dictate where my story is going and I’m keeping a running tally of all of them that get used here.  This is also the first year that I’m really paying attention to regional word count totals.  Yeah, I guess I should have paid attention before since I’m the municipal liaison, but our region had never been involved in word wars until this year.  Hopefully this bit of friendly competition will keep everyone writing throughout the month.

As for how my story is going so far, um, here are some excerpts.  You can judge for yourself.

From Part IIb:

“That sounds like a paranoid conspiracy theory,” Mot replied dismissively. “It was confirmed by no less than three independent labs with the initial analysis that my ancestor died of food poisoning, particularly by a piece of Gardan goat cheese that went rancid during the dessert course. It was ruled and proved to be an accident.”

George crossed his arms against his chest. “Humph.”

“Never mind about that,” said Vik. “It’s old history no matter what the case. So is that what we’re going to do? Travel around the Delta Quadrant making a documentary about food? Isn’t that going to be kind of boring? There’s only so many ways you can make a holographic projection about cheese. It just sits there.”

“And everyone knows what it smells like,” George added. “It’s not like adding the other sensory aspects of the experience is going to suddenly gain the GBC a new audience. Unless you’re aiming for the geriatric crowd.”

“Are you sure old people can even smell anything in the first place?” said Annette.

“My grandmother can still detect a gas leak within a thousand paces,” I said.

From Part IId:

I waved a hand toward his garishly colored bags. “So it looks like you did some last minute shopping.”

“Cheese,” he replied easily. “Specifically, gouda made from the milk of North Krakenese dairy cows. It’s a delicacy around these parts. They say that it gets better the older it is.”

“Oh? And how old is the cheese that you have now?”

“Well, it’s actually only two months old. But I was hoping to age it myself. I have this arrangement with the captain of The Bacchus to install a special aging compartment on the outside of the ship. Once the hyperdrive goes into action, we’ll have instantly aged cheese!” He punctuated the last word with a movement of his hand that made his shopping bags rustle. “And considering the itinerary that Nigel Mot has planned for us, I will have the opportunity to obtain some much coveted Rillan cheddar. Do you know how much of a delicacy two hundred year old Rillan cheddar is for connoisseurs of fromage? How about two thousand after a bit of faster than light travel?”

Fantastic. I was stuck with a cyborg who was also a cheese fanatic.

From Part IIIa:

“I didn’t know you had a pet!”

“I didn’t either. It arrived unannounced with the rest of my belongings.”

“It looks like one of those animals that I’ve only seen in texts during grade school.” He snapped his fingers. “Ah, I remember. A gerbil, right? Have you already given it a name?”

“Er, no.”

“You should totally call him Bob.”

I had flashbacks to my former co-worker who had fainted on the job. “Bob?”

“Yeah, Bob. It has a certain ring to it. Bob the gerbil.”

The jerboa peeked out from the pocket again and actually stuck its tongue out at Vik.

“See, it even likes the name.”

“I don’t think so, Vik,” I replied. “I am not calling it Bob.”

Vik’s expression fell. But only for a moment. When the door to the lift opened again on the bridge deck, he was smiling again. “Well, if you’re not going to call him Bob, I’m going to call him Bob.”

If you want to follow along the literary train wreck, I’m posting as I go here.

Person-Shaped Distractions

I’m a bit of a loner and I do not deliberately seek attention.  My philosophy is that attention should only be sought for worthy reasons.  Not because you just want everyone to look at you.  As a result, I have very little patience with people who force themselves on other people in order to get attention–whether that attention is good or bad.

On the Tuesday night Nanowrimo write-in at the local bagel shop, everything was going fine until some nutty dude stormed in ranting about various political topics and being creepy.  He claimed he was a law student, married (if so, why was he chatting up undergrads?) and the son of a senator.  Whether or not he was lying is a moot point because he was generally being a pain.  He was a distraction and he knew it.

A lot of writers talk about distractions.  Like reading something else, playing video games, cleaning the house.  But those sorts of distractions, you can control by shifting your focus.  If you get distracted by those kinds of things, you have no one to blame except yourself.  If the distractions are out of your control–like earthquakes–well, then I suppose you can try to make the best of it.

But what about distractions that are a mix of the two–especially distractions that come in the form of other people?  Everyone has their own way of dealing with this sort of stuff.  Most people are far more personable than I am and will leave other people feeling that they left of their own accord.  I, however, can be extremely aloof and not particularly receptive.  I’m a rather non-confrontational person so my first line of defense would be to ignore the distraction.  If that doesn’t work, I tell said distraction that I am working and do not have time for whatever he is peddling.  At this point, pretty much everyone leaves me alone.

But what if even that doesn’t work?  Well thankfully it has never come to that, but if it does–well, there may be some ass-kicking involved.

Dream Wimp

Last night, I dreamed I was watching a sitcom.  I woke up from the dream (or thought I woke up from the dream) thinking that it was actually pretty good and that if I were in charge of making a sitcom, I would add those elements to it.

But as I was lying in bed, thinking about this, I heard someone moaning my name.  I turned and saw some guy dressed in white pajamas with a towel covering his head creeping up to my bed.  He leaned closer.  At this point, I wondered if I was still dreaming.  I tried to move, but I was completely paralyzed.  I was actually aware that part of me was still half asleep and my brain had yet to hand my motor control back to me.

“How was India?” he asked.

What? I’ve never been to India.

“How was the fish?”

But I had chicken for dinner.

And then he lifted up his leg as if he was about to climb into bed.  That’s when I got really mad.  If it was a dream, he’d soon go away, but if he wasn’t–there was the matter of how the hell he got into my apartment in the first place.  At that moment, I totally intended to kick his ass.

I woke up yelling and pummeling empty air.