Archive | October 2013

That’s not what persecuted means, part 2

Image of a newspaper story.

Families in Russia faced actual religious persecution.

Besides the incident I wrote about yesterday, the various anti-gay groups, a whole lot of the speakers at the so-called Values Voters Summit, have been getting more paranoid in their claims. They refer to things like the legal recognition of marriage equality as religious persecution. They refer to the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws that have been on the books for many years before the marriage equality movement as religious persecution, but only when it is used to combat discrimination against gays and lesbians. They refer to anti-bullying programs in schools as religious persecution.

None of that is religious persecution.

You know what is religious persecution? Having your grandfather and later your father arrested for leading a Bible study. Having the police show up at your school when you are nine years old and they take you into custody, put you in an interrogation room, and question you for hours about your parents’ religious beliefs, while your little sister is held in another room, and they tell you can see her again if you will just admit that your parents are preaching illegally.

I knew a woman whose childhood included those things. She was attending Seattle Pacific University and we had a class together. She was about ten years older than the rest of the students, wanting to finally get a degree, because she had spent her high school years (years) taking refuge in a U.S. Embassy in the Soviet Union.

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That’s not what persecuted means

I have restrained myself from commenting on the nonsense that one branch of one party put us through with 16 days of what amounted to extortion, but there is at least one incident about the recent craziness in Congress that I have to comment upon: Stenographer in U.S. Congress disrupts debt ceiling vote to rant about Jesus or House Stenographer Seizes Microphone In Bizarre Rant.

So this woman, whose job it is to record the official things said in the House of Representatives, at the end of a 16-day fiasco that cost taxpayers billions of dollars, put hundreds of thousands of people temporarily out of work, cost the economy much more, contributed to some needless deaths, and very nearly put the credit of the entire nation in jeopardy, in the moments before a last minute vote to bring said idiocy to a close, she rushes the microphone and begins ranting about Freemasons and how the country ought to be a Christian nation but isn’t and “praise Jesus!”

When I say “rant,” I mean that it was, vehement, immoderate, and exceeding normal parameters of behavior. Read More…

Friday Links!

The Octopus That Almost Ate Seattle.

What year is it? KKK Battles With Town Over Renaming School Named For Klan Founder (Our local alt-weekly paper headlined it’s covered of this story, “If the KKK Doesn’t Want You to Change the Name of Your School, You Should Probably Change the Name of Your School” my thought is, if someone thinks refering to people uncomfortable with the name as “many bestial blacks and other criminal elements out for revenge” should seal the deal)

The creator of Calvin & Hobbes: Mental Floss Exclusive Interview with Bill Watterson.

This, Right Here, Is The Problem. “…this is why women are routinely mocked by sexist, skeezy shits who think that finding us attractive must necessarily invalidate whatever point we’re making…”

The Marriage Equality Movement Could Change Dramatically In The Next Two Weeks.

What we Teach Men.

Houston Chronicle Expresses Regrets For Endorsing Cruz.

Morning Radio Host Interviews Psychic and Puts Him to Shame.

The religious right is a fraud: Nothing Christian about Michele Bachmann’s values.

Rachel Maddow sums up the government shut down fight’s accomplishments (click here if the video isn’t embedding properly):

And sometimes you need a band and a bus to propose marriage:

Everyone looks great in purple!

And everyone can be someone:

And everyone can help:

Just let me listen to my music

My first iPod was pink.

I was 19 years old when I got my first Walkman. It played cassettes, which while more compact than vinyl LPs (which was the dominant format for commercially purchased music at the time), they were large enough that carrying around more than a few albums worth of songs could be a bit awkward. So I usually had only one or two tapes with me at any time, and therefore tended to listen to the same album over and over again throughout a day.

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Concoctions: assembly, disassembly, and reassembly

My lynx plushy seated at my laptop.

One wonders how I hit 105 wpm with those paws.

A couple days ago I wrote about authors who claim to write stories in order (Put one scene after another…), with some commentary on the accuracy of those claims. And while I talked about how I did things myself back in my typewriter-only days, I didn’t talk about my current process.

I don’t have one single approach. Each story is a bit different. In the typewriter days I tended to scribble thoughts and fragments in notebooks that I carried around with me until I reached a point I was ready to start. Sometimes I still write notes by hand, but more often they get typed into my phone. I have an app called WriteRoom which connects with my dropbox, so anything I type in the phone is available as a text file to access from my iPad, my laptop, or my desktop. The same company has a product called PlainText that works on the iPad and Mac. What I like about PlainText is that it has a good integration with Scrivener, which is my main writing tool.

If I’m at the point where I think the notes and ideas are turning into a story, I’ll set up a story file. Depending on how long I think the story will be, I may start a simple file and just start writing. If I know It’s going to be a longer piece, I’ll set up a Scrivener novel file, and copy all of the notes I’ve assembled elsewhere into the Research section of the Scrivener file before I start writing.

Often those notes I’ve scribbled or typed down include conversations between characters in the story. Sometimes they are complete scenes. I don’t always know where the scene falls in the story when it first comes to me. Sometimes, by the time I’ve finished the story, those scenes aren’t part of it. Even though I had to write them down in order to figure out the story, they don’t belong in it. They may be things that happen in between scenes that are merely alluded to. Sometimes they’re things that never “happened” in the fictional world at all.

For instance, one time I had a scene pop into my head, one of those Write me down! Write me down now or I’ll go away! scenes. Two characters were debating/arguing about the moral and practical consequences of a series of events they had been involved in. I eventually figured out the story and wrote it. It the middle of the story, during one of the events the characters had argued about in that scene, one of the characters is killed. And then some of the events the two characters had been debating happened after that character was dead. This particular story wasn’t set in a fantasy world where people might have conversations after death, so that scene couldn’t happen.

Most of the time, with short stories, once I start, I write most of it in order. I’ll write a scene, and that dictates what happens next and how the characters will act. I may end up going back to insert an extra scene. Or a scene may pop into my head that I know is close to the end, and I’ll write it to get the information down, then go back to where I left off and figure out how to get to the end.

Sometimes, I realize that I started the story in the wrong place. I had this one short story I had been working on for years. It just didn’t quite work. I would read a version at my writers’ group, and even before anyone said anything, I knew it still wasn’t working. Reading a story outloud, and feeling the non-verbal ways people are reacting to it sometimes is all the critique you need. When I finally realized that I’d begun it wrong, I fought for while. I loved that opening. I had read the opening, without the rest of the story, at several readings at conventions, and the audience had loved it.

But it was the wrong start. It happened at the wrong point in the emotional arc of the tale. It only worked from the point of view of the minor character who never appeared again in the story. It was a great opening—but it was an opening for a story starring that character. I had to look at which character it was that underwent the most change, or had the revelatory moment when the conflict resolved. She needed to be the protagonist, and then it was obvious where the story began: the moment she confronted the puzzle which her revelation would be about. Which was a very different opening. The events of that opening I had clung to for so long still happen in the story, they just happened in the middle, and from a different point of view. The scene is still a good scene, but the emotion and rhythm is very different.

Novels are a lot more complicated. For one thing, to sustain a novel length story you need subplots, in addition to the main story. Those subplots need to have some relationship to the main story line, some of them even feed into it. They get resolved at different times. And making all of that work requires me, at least, to go back and add new scenes, or move scenes (or parts of a scene) to a new location in the narrative.

In a novel-length story, there is often a point where I have to jump way ahead and write part of the ending. It’s usually a point where enough of the subplots have got going that I make some intuitive leaps about how some of them tie together. I write the scene, knowing full well that by the time I get to it I’m probably going to have to rewrite it a bit. But having it there it acts like a target, giving me something to aim at as I try to move all the characters and subplots across the finish line.

Calling it a finish line is misleading, of course. Because once I’ve finally gotten them all there, then I have to go back and fix things. But that’s a topic for another day.

No one likes a bully (except just about everyone)

In most action movies there’s a scene that everyone in the theatre cheers. One of the bad guys—one who has been portrayed earlier on the movie as being particularly cruel, heartless, otherwise repulsive—meets an especially grisly death, usually at the hands of the hero.

Of course we cheer, you say. He wasn’t just the bad guy, he was an extremely bad bad guy! No matter how egregious or overly cruel his final moments were, he had it coming! We’re just cheering the concept of justice.

I get it, truly I do. And I have certainly cheered many such scenes, myself.


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Put one scene after another…

Cat looking at a Macbook.

This may or may not be an accurate representation of me writing.

I’ve met several writers who are proud of the fact that they seldom write out of order. They begin at the beginning and keep moving forward until the end. Yes, they go back and edit, but they seem to consider it a failing if they realize they have to go back and add an entire scene.

Back when I first started writing seriously, personal computers didn’t exist, so I was writing on a typewriter. Typewriters don’t have copy-and-paste (for that, you needed scissors and actual paste!), delete (white-out and erasers have limits), and so on. So you sit down, start at the beginning, and keep going until the end. Revising meant re-typing (you could do minor revisions by marking up the pages, of course, but for your final manuscript you’d need to retype everything—in order).

Word processors make it a lot easier to write things out of order, then arrange and re-arrange to your liking afterward. That’s a good thing. But as I’ve said whenever I have explained why I occasionally host writer’s round robins with manual typewriters, there is a value to a situation that forces you to keep moving until you reach the end of a tale. When revision is difficult and messy, you learn not to let minor things distract you from the goal of finishing the story.

And some people really need that. Otherwise there wouldn’t be so many reviews and articles out there with titles such as “20+ Distraction-Free Minimal Writing Apps to Help You Focus,” or “10 apps for distraction-free, productive writing,” or “(Even More) Distraction-Free Writing Tools” (let alone so many applications that do that to make the reviews necessary!).

But even when I was working on a typewriter, it wasn’t true that I wrote stories strictly in order. Before I ever sat down at the typewriter, I thought about the story I wanted to write. I might have jotted down some lines of dialogue or a few paragraphs of description in a notebook. Sometimes it would be several pages of description, with odd notes scribbled in the margins, words crossed out, or whole sentences written in between two lines of text.

Other times I would sit down, start writing a story, maybe get several pages done, then decide it was all wrong. I’d go back to pencil or pen and paper and try to sort out what was wrong with the story. Eventually I might pick up the story where I’d left off and continue it, but more often I started with a new blank page.

And back then I hated doing that, if for no other reasons that I hated wasting paper. Typing paper wasn’t a minor expense, and in some of the small towns we lived, getting a replacement ribbon when the ink started running out meant waiting until the next time someone was driving to a bigger town some distance away.

And don’t get me started on carbon paper and the expense of extra paper when you’ve decided it’s time for a final draft!

I do think that there’s a great deal of good that comes from sitting down and plowing forward. It’s too easy to get stuck in an endless loop of re-doing the earlier scenes so that a story never gets finished. But I think the writers who make a big deal of the fact that they almost never back up or write out of order are deluding themselves.

I’m basing this not just on my own experience, but my observations of their offices. Most of the writers I have known well enough to see their workspaces who make that claim have far, far, far more notebooks and sketchbooks that they work in before they start “writing.” All those outlines, notes, character sketches, et cetera in those notebooks are part of the writing process.

There’s nothing wrong with that. But I think they do the aspiring writers who ask them about their process a disservice with this delusion.

Now, I need to stop working on this and get back to my novel. I’ve been hung up in chapter 15 for far too long…

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

Image of Glinda the Good from the Wizard of Oz.

Glinda says, “Come out, come out, where ever you are!”

Today is National Coming Out Day. If Ray were still alive, it would also be the day we’d be celebrating the twentieth anniversary of our commitment ceremony (he promised to stay with me for the rest of his life, and he did).

Since I am still occasionally surprised to learn that someone I know or work with hasn’t figured out that I’m gay: my husband (Michael) and I are both men, and we’re very much in love with each other and happy together.

Picture taken by Chelsea Kellogg, reporter for the Stranger.

Michael and I.

But while I’m (re-)stating what I think ought to be obvious, I would like to announce that I am a card-carrying liberal gay man who thinks:

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Friday Links!

It’s National Coming Out Day!

Set some time aside to look at all the pictures and watch the videos: The cave so huge it has its own weather system: Explorers discover a lost world with thick cloud and fogs trapped inside.

The Oatmeal explains: Columbus was an awful person, but Bartolome de la Casa was not.

While that was being shared, other people wanted to remind us: The Oatmeal Sucks, Even if Buzzfeed Was Wrong.

I don’t even know where to begin: Landlord discovers 11-foot python in rental property: undernourished, abandoned, burned because it had wrapped itself around a water heater for warmth. “the second time in a month that law enforcement has asked for assistance from WSU to catch a large snake according to College of Veterinary Medicine officials.”

25 years of National Coming Out Day:


Public Couple Fights Anti-Gay Bullying and Alleged Censorship.

Why is Betty White changing her name:

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