Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New Site

Please visit my new site: Acid-Free Paper

Remember to change your bookmarks to the new URL. Thanks!


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Address Change

This is my last post to this blog. Say hello to my new site for Acid-Free Paper. It looks and feels the same in just about every respect except for the commenting system and the URL, which now includes a hyphen in the name.

Please update your links to the new site.

(You can find out why I made the change here and here, if you care.)


Friday, May 25, 2007


So forget about importing Haloscan comments into Blogger. The only way I could do that without writing some kind of script would be to do it by hand, comment by comment. Not gonna' happen.

So I've decided to move Acid Free Paper instead.

The new site will be called Acid-Free Paper (notice the hyphen), which ought to please all of you grammar puritans, and the URL will be acid-freepaper.blogspot.com. I'll officially announce the change as soon as I get all of the necessary parts and pieces moved over. My last post here will be a pointer to that site, and I'll keep this one around for as long as Haloscan holds out.

For the record, I plan to avoid ever using the word 'shitzu' on my new site — a mistake I made on about my second or third post here — because that one word turned out to be Google's favorite and I really don't like shitzus (nor any other yappy dog), so I felt kind of violated every time one of those shitzu fans started shitzuing Google for the word shitzu on my blog. My dog, if I had one, would eat shitzus.

I'm also hoping that with the hyphen in the name, I will get fewer searches for making acid from paper, putting acid on paper, people advertising free acid, eating paper while on acid, and my all-time favorite, acid toilet paper.

Human beings, I swear. (Toiler shakes his head.)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Trouble With Comments

As most of you know, I use Haloscan to manage my comments. It was a great choice for one reason alone: It almost completely eliminated spam. (A few started to come in several months ago, but then they stopped for some unknown reason.)

Unfortunately, Haloscan appears to be a sinking ship. Login to their site fails almost daily now, the comment links don't always appear on my blog, and sometimes the comments don't show.

I'll look into extracting all of my comments and maybe moving them. Until then, I apologize if commenting on my blog is a trying experience. Just remember what Yoda said.

Update! It has come to my attention that some of your comments may have been lost. If so, it was a glitch (see comments below). I've only ever rejected obvious spam. If you saved a comment that got "rejected", feel free to try again or send it to me personally by email and I'll make sure that it gets posted.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Never Say Never

I once swore that I would never anthropomorphize an animal in a story.

Guess what? I'm anthropomorphizing an animal.

Personally, I find crow tastes a lot like chicken.

Kitty cat (not her real name) agrees, although she finds crow a bit gamey.

(Image Credit: Big Cats Online)

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Allure of Tools

Why is it that writers who seem most obsessed with the tools of the writing trade — word processors, flowcharts, computer technology, special pens, etc. — never seem to write anything?

I've met quite a few "writers" like that. One guy, who was part of a writer's group that I attend until he finally admitted that he never actually wrote anything, seemed particularly fascinated by computer programs that supposedly help novelists do their thing.

How on earth can a piece of software help a novelist do his thing? I'll never know. The best help that I ever got was from a clean, sharp rule on a white piece of paper. It was just begging me to put something on it, and I was helpless to resist.

That's why my current best friend is my moleskine, which is a small notebook of thinly ruled, off-white paper. My second-best friend is a gel pen, because it doesn't make my fingers tired. And my third best friend is a little 12-inch notebook computer that I got for about $75, although it would have cost only $50 if I hadn't asked for a special battery and a case. It also came with a bunch of Atari stickers on top, but my friend didn't charge me for those. I love it because it has a very clear screen, it weighs almost nothing, and I doubt that anyone will steal it.

But these three gadgets combined comprise only about 3% of my tool set. The other 97% involve my senses of seeing, tasting, touching, hearing, and smelling (say, 25%), and my gray matter (say, 70%). The remaining 2% remains unaccounted for at this time.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Stardust Comes to Life

Neil Gaiman's short novel Stardust is coming to a theater near you some time this summer.

Of all the stories that I've read over the past year, that one stands out as my favorite, mostly because of its sense of life. It's a fairytale, plain and simple, but Gaiman's mind seems to have its own, unique, and benevolent landscape, and it comes through in the story. Like some examples of magical realism today, it has a modern edge to it, except it's bright and happy for a change.

If you read it, don't scrutinize it. The story doesn't hold up under careful analysis. Take it in as a fun romp through a happy fantasy land.

I'll put it this way: If you're the type who would like an off-the-wall, happy movie like Amelie, then you might like Stardust.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Success

Here's some happy news.

I generally keep my work to myself. After all, I'm not a charity. But recently I shared a couple of my better short stories with about ten select friends and associates. The results have been positive, to say the least, and profitable for me.

Best of all, several unrelated readers offered the same, enthusiastic praise about a certain aspect of my writing. They said that my characters and settings are so vivid that they fairly leap from the page. As one reader put it, "I felt like I was transported into a place that I had been before, yet I noticed that you accomplished this with just a few touches. How did you do that?"

It's a trade secret, my dear. I've been sworn into secrecy by the International Guild of Vivid Writing. :-)

Thank you all very much for your kind words! This is an aspect of my prose that I already considered to be one of my strengths, so it's good to get, not just validation, but actually some rather enthusiastic validation.

(Toiler takes a bow — his one and only moment of glory in the last five years, and perhaps his only glory for the next five.)

Now, if I can just figure out how to develop a fascinating, twisting-turning plot, then I'll be cooking with some serious hydrogen fuel.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

New Propaganda

I happened upon a quote by Terry Goodkind from his novel Phantom, which I have not read. It inspired my comments below. If you can't bear to read the whole thing, then you should be able to get the point from reading just the first few sentences:
Like all irrational beliefs, it was also unworkable. To live, those beliefs had to be ignored to accomplish goals of domination, which in themselves were a violation of the belief for which they were fighting. There were no equals among those of the Order, the torchbearers of enforced equality. Whether a Ja'La player, the most professional of the soldiers, or an emperor, the best were not simply needed but sought after and highly valued, and so as a body they harbored an inner hatred of their failure to live up to their own teachings and a fear that they would be unmasked for it. As punishment for their inability to fulfill their sanctified beliefs through adherence to those teachings, they instead turned to the self-flagellation of proclaiming how unworthy all men were and vented their self-hatred on scapegoats: they blamed the victims.

Through an act of deep magic, I have developed my very own literary crystal ball, and here is what my probing vision reveals: The "philosophical novel" is going to be the next genre. (Or, at the very least, the future of New Romanticism is going to be burdened with too much dense, quasi-philosophical prose.)

Pray, let this not come to pass.

We writers, by and large, are nothing like real philosophers. Few of us have integrated -- or will ever integrate -- enough particulars to write competently about the sort of broad, philosophic themes that Ayn Rand deftly tackled. And when a writer wants to tackle lofty themes but lacks particulars to draw upon, he will always resort to bald reporting. That's why this new genre's guiding principle -- or so I gather -- will be to tell and not to show.

This should never happen to an Objectivist.

More than any other literary theory in history, Ayn Rand's romantic realism respects the mind, both the reader's and the writer's. The romantic realist illustrates his ideas primarily in the form of images using words, which themselves primarily denote action, to which the reader responds via an active and deeply familiar mental process -- the process of looking at "reality" and perceiving it. The effect of this kind of transaction between writer and reader is an enormous commitment to story, and a sense of traveling on an emotionally complex thrill-ride.

Clearly the most engaging fictional imagery emerges when a writer draws upon his own observations and integrations in the real world, by which I mean, from that which he knows in fact, not just in theory by means of reading other people's books. Qua romantic realism, Atlas Shrugged is not a boilerplate. It couldn't be even if it wanted to be, which it doesn't. (For Rand's view on this, see especially the taped version of her course "Fiction Writing".) That's because no writer living today even slightly resembles Ayn Rand. (Please forgive me if I have overlooked a budding genius among us.)

At the very least, by reading this passage by Goodkind, perhaps some of my readers may now understand more clearly why I have, at least in part, placed some psychological distance between my work and the explicit tenets of Objectivism. I don't wish to write in a philosophical genre. For that matter, I don't wish for anyone to -- unless they can do it the right way, which is to say, the very same way that I plan to write an adolescent adventure story.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Writer's Funk

I'm in a writer's funk right now. I like it, but I'm not sure everybody else does. My apologies to my partner. He's very independent, but even so, having me in a useless mental state probably doesn't do much for our social climate. He didn't get dinner until 8:30 last night (I'm usually the cook; he's the dishwasher), and we haven't been skiing or kayaking much at all on his free time. Same goes for my friends: my apologies if I seem a bit flaky right now. It's because I'm, well, being flaky. It's just hard to wrap my brain around anything besides work, and my motivation to do anything else has all but evaporated.

What do I mean by a funk? In my case, it's the state of mind that comes after working at the nuts and bolts of something for a very long time, when all of those disparate ideas finally begin to fuse and make sense. I can't say it's excitement. This work is too hard for that. Mostly it's a growing sense of focus and a stronger will to keep going.

Maybe it's a little like parenting: My kid has been equal parts wonderful and challenging of late — maybe less wonderful than challenging — but when he goes to sleep and I have a chance to see him in his most benign state, I feel reassured that I'm in this for the long term, and that I wouldn't have it any other way.