Friday, April 30, 2010

The Crystal Bridge

My novel is very slowly taking shape, but the process is more painful than I had anticipated. I knew it would be hard work. I mean, if it wasn't everyone would have a novel floating around. Wealthy celebrities wouldn't have to pay people to write books for them. Every wannabe author would have a manuscript under their bed. The market would be flooded with book after book and it would be even more impossible to get published. It is difficult enough to get published, so I guess its a good thing writing is hard work.

My biggest problem is lack of time. I work 50 to 60 hours a week and that eats the biggest piece of my time pie. Television eats a large chunk too. I am picky about what I watch, but I have my favorite shows that I want to see. Most of them fuel my writing. I lean towards the fantastic, the scientific, and the well written. Fringe, Lost, Better Off Ted, Community, Bones, and Glee fill up my DVR. Netflix brings me the joys of Dresden Files, Buffy, Angel, and other long lost series. My wife collects others. Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls, Stargate, Firefly, and WonderFalls fill shelves and make their way to the dvd player regularly. I have a hard time cutting them all out. I know. I am weak.

My other problem is that writing uses completely different parts of my brain than my usual day to day living. I have to tap into memory, science, and creativity at the same time. Most of my day is spent dealing with angry guests, filling out spreadsheets, answering phones, and email. It takes time to shift out of that mindset and into the proper frame of mind to write. Time that is already short. This blog helps. Writing is the fastest way I have found to make the switch. You start and your brain begins to lean in the write direction. I can't start right in on my novel though. The shift makes my first couple paragraphs...well...makes them garbage. They don't work. My blog lets me babble for a little while and ya'll don't seem to mind too much if my first paragraph or two are not beautifully crafted. Thank you for that.

Another problem with writing a novel is keeping everything straight. "Keep it simple stupid" has never been my motto. My first attempt at tiling, I took on the entire bath surround using 4 types of tile and putting in two niches. Let's put a giant orange stripe down my living room wall. Let's refinish all the cupboards in my kitchen. Let's rewire all the lights in the kitchen and run speaker and ethernet throughout the house while I crawl around in the attic. I don't go for simple. I do things the way I want to. My novel follows suit. It is going to be large, complex, and follow many characters back and forth between two worlds. It is going to include an interesting take on magic that includes some scientific explanations. It will bridge two genres as it explores genetics, theoretical physics, magic, subatomic particles, dragons, holograms, elves, quantum computing, and dwarves. I have to create a world where these things can exist, making up names as I go. My brain may very well explode soon and you will all cry. I am sure you would.

These are my roadblocks. Like it or not, most of them are my own fault. I chose to go into the hotel business. I chose to watch too much television. I chose to create my debt that chains me to my job. I chose my characters and the worlds they live in. I chose to redesign my home. I chose to write. I choose to keep writing. My story is good, my characters are real and believable, my novel is fricken fantastic. In truth, I don't have much choice. I will write. I have to.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Scars on The Mountain

Saint George, Utah is one of the most beautiful pieces of country you will see anywhere. The city nestles in the valley surrounded by red and black hills with the grey-blue mountains towering over the north, the white and red cliffs of Zion peaking out of the distant east, and rolling hills in every other direction. It is stunning in any season at any time.

What makes me sad is that we have permanently scarred the face of mother nature. I am not talking about normal development. We need homes and businesses. I am not talking about the massive "D" or the painted "Dixie" even though I could go off for a while about how stupid those are as well. I am talking about the deep, blood red gashes in the mountains around us. It bugs me every time I drive home from work. I drive right along the edge of the mesa and it hurts my little heart to see those marks that will never heal.

How greedy and arrogant do you have to be? Do you really need to be higher up than everyone else? I know people will say that it's about the view, but that's a partial truth. It's about looking down on others, feeling superior. It's about pride. It's disgusting, mean, and a violation of the natural beauty.

Fine. You want to be on a hill, build on a hill. Build where there are natural ledges and shelves. Do not cut into the side of the mountain until nothing remains. I might add that the mountain I am talking about is made up almost entirely of sand, sandstone, clay, and ash. It is covered in a thin veneer of volcanic stone. By stripping away the outer layer, we weaken the structure. We are chipping away at the shell of a very large egg. That egg is going to crack and spill down on the homes below. We will one day see landslides as a consequence.

Build where it is practical. I say make your backyard, your family, and your home beautiful so you will always be surrounded by "the view" that matters. You do not have to look down on me to feel good about yourself. Look around at ground level. Look up at the mountains, trees, and sky. Look at the inherent beauty of our world and be content with what you have. Do not waste your wealth and influence in order to destroy and elevate yourself. Please, remember the lessons of Babel.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How to be Clever

I am a moderately intelligent person. Oh, who are we kidding? I'm a freaking genius.

I learn quickly and I know how to apply knowledge. I seek solutions that others don't see. I can learn how to do almost anything by research and experience. I am good at everything I decide to attempt to be good at. I can remember bits and pieces of my life from when I was two. I paint, carve, write, draw, build, design, know computers in and out, tile, refinish, restore, and beautify. You can call me egotistical if you want. I am and I'm not.

The problem is...anyone can do this. I'm not that special when you boil it down. I just do things that naturally exercise your brain. I've always done them and didn't know till recently that they were part of why I learn quickly. I am going to share a few of my tricks with you. I want you all to be geniuses. I think the world would be better off if there were more people who think and are aware.

Trick One: Smell things. The first time I went to the doctor after I learned to speak, I told him that his stethoscope smelled funny. I remember when I was three and my sister spilled kerosene in the basement. I could taste it and I can still picture the high backed wicker chair next to the puddle.

I catch myself sniffing things sometimes. I apparently do it without thought. I sniff my sandwich at the deli before I take a bite. I sniff a brand new pen, blue tooth head set, leather strap of my watch, the herb I just picked from the garden, or a chunk of sandstone I found on the trail.

Your sense of smell is directly tied to your memory. It also forms connections to places. Your brain creates maps constantly. You can visualize your home in detail, but can you smell your home? Your brain creates maps around all your senses. We use sight so much that we forget that our other senses do this too. You have a scent map, a texture map, and a sound map in that melon too. They are interconnected, but we lean on our sight too much. Use all your senses and your brain makes more pathways, more connections, makes you smarter.

Trick Two: Close your eyes. Visualize the world around you without using sight. This forces you to lean on your other senses. Once again, more pathways, more connections, smarter. Many of us do this briefly when we shut off the lights at night and make our way to bed by touch. Try more. Close your eyes in the shower. Work your way through the routine by touch alone. Close your eyes as you unlock your front door. Choose the right key, put it in the lock, turn it, open the door, make your way inside. Close your eyes while you eat breakfast. This reaffirms the neural map in your head and improves your spacial awareness.

When I was a kid I used to lay on my bed and spiral my mind outwards. I would imagine the bed, the bedroom, the trunk in the corner, the dresser, the house, the neighborhood, the state, the county, the world, space, the solar system, the universe. It is good to know where you are. You will find your spatial memory improves. Someone will mention an object and you will picture it in your mind and know exactly where it is, even if you saw it only for a moment days ago. You will also be less likely to run your cart into someone at the grocery store. This will make me very happy. I always get annoyed at everyone's lack of spacial awareness at the grocery store.

Trick Three: Laugh. I'm not sure if there is documented science linking laughter and intelligence, but there should be. My brain just feels better when I laugh...less squishy and mushy. Humorous jokes last longer in your memory. You will always remember the look on someone's face that made you crack up. Laugh more and you will learn more. Look for things to laugh about. Don't mope. I laugh at myself a lot.

Trick Four: Never stop learning. We have this glorious thing called the internet. It is not all goofy cartoons about unicorns, light saber weirdos, and porn. It is a gateway to knowledge. Don't know how to tile...look it up. Don't know why ants walk in lines...look it up. Don't know why space time is curved, why the sky is blue but sunsets are red, how skin heals, how fusion works, why solar panels make electricity, how chocolate is made, why raindrops are shaped that way, how many licks does it take to get to the center...look it freaking up! Never stop. Ever. Learning is a part of the human experience. When we stop learning we die.

That is about it. I could offer more tricks, but most of them you know. Read. Do puzzles. Brush your teeth with your other hand now and again. Mix it up. Have fun. Learn. Grow. Be. I expect you all to be geniuses by tomorrow. Get to work already.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Igor's Girlfriend

My little black book in my pocket doesn't have past girlfriends' numbers. It is full of notes and thoughts, random bits of conversation, an image here, a chunk of nerdy science here. Enjoy my madness...

The snow had frozen into glimmering crystals on each blade of tall grass.

A thin layer of snow had slid off the roof of the car and curled when it touched the hood. It billowed and curved into delicate spirals like the fragile icing on a wedding cake.

Mark the Fish Doctor.

If you pee in the right spot it turns the water into a yellow heart.

Belly button lint is full of magical potential.

Desert of a Thousand Fingerprints. Lines that were drawn in the sand have long ago turned to stone.

You know the girl. Built like me. I bet she could charge up Igor...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Soulless with Spaghetti Friends

I have strange dreams. Let me share a few with you this fine morning.

Last night I had a dream that my soul had been stolen from me. I was being hunted by the soul police, a special unit that could identify the soulless and lock them away. Many people sell their souls for drugs, alcohol, or pleasures. Some lose them gambling. They become leeches on society, prone to violence and criminal behavior without their souls to guide them. Some even give them up to be free of pain, sorrow, and guilt. Mine had been taken from me by force. I was running from the police while searching for it. I ended up finding help in a latin neighborhood from a boy with black eyes. He told me that my soul was mine and could not be taken. Call for it and it will come. I woke up as the police found me and I was yelling to the empty sky for my lost soul. Weird huh?

A while ago I dreamed of an old lady in a B&B who used illusion to ensnare her prey. She would lure young couples to the romantic B&B and then separate them from one another in the maze-like house. She would then devour them and stack the skeletons in the cellar. Her true form was something like a giant spider.

Another night I dreamed that there was a TechnoWizard on the corner of Holland and Ash who helped people out for a price. He used technology and magic to do PI work.

A few months back I dreamed that I was an archeologist and while digging up an ancient village we found two men perfectly preserved under a layer of dirt and a netting that looked like it was made from spider silk. When we removed the spider nets the men awoke, fought with us, and escaped. We learned that they were terrible criminals who had been forced to endure thousands of years awake, but unable to move as punishment for their crimes.

A young girl was being hunted by the government. She had special powers and they were eager to find her and exploit these powers. She hid in the sewers and subway tunnels, constantly afraid for her life. If the government could not capture and control her, they would destroy her to keep her out of enemy hands. She made a companion out of spaghetti noodles, who was her only friend. She was cornered near the end of my dream and her spaghetti friend was injured. She destroyed tanks with just a thought.

That is just a taste. My current book is from two separate dreams. One was about a boy who could travel to different universes in his head. The other was about a company doing computer simulations. These simulations began reaching into other dimensions and causing side effects.

Keep a dream journal. You never know what your mind will come up with. I have several novel ideas from dreams and dozens of short story ideas. Yes, I'm odd, but what did you expect?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tinfoil Unicorns on Bicycles

About a month ago I was driving down my street and a kid sped by on his bike. Nothing too unusual about that...except he had a tinfoil hat on with one pointy tinfoil horn sticking straight up. He must have been about 11 or 12. I was struck by the vision of some unicorn loving, UFO nut, but it was just a little boy being silly. It was awesome! Seriously, made my day, my week. That I can still picture it now, a month later, is a tribute to this little boy's greatness and imagination.

So...what happened to us? I was a goofy kid once too. Some may argue that I still am, but I am nothing when compared to this. Yes, I bark, I gobble, I paint, I carve, I sing to myself, and I do a velociraptor impression that has sent people screaming in terror. I am weird. But, I am not tinfoil horn weird...not anymore. I would feel embarrassed to ride down the street with a tinfoil horn on my head and that makes me sad. I have lost something by complying with this rule. Tomorrow, lets all break a little rule, go outside the norm. Keep that child inside you alive a little longer.

What can I do with saran wrap?
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