Saturday, November 13, 2004

A few thoughts on freedom of speech

I visited the Bitch Novelist's Blog a little while ago, and was inspired to say a few words about it.

She raises some good points about literary fiction and it's lack of gonads. God forbid that anyone should say anything that might offend anyone else. Tapioca is the main course in the the field today.

There are 2 things about this blog that I don't like, however. First, she has made her point very clear. She does not need to keep whipping it. Let's move along to something else. Second, she provides neither her name nor any way to contact her. Let me preach on this one.

Freedom of thought and freedom of speech are two basic human rights. As the saying (usually attributed to Voltaire) goes: "While I don't agree with what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it." Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, no matter how wrongheaded, or even stupid, I think it is. They also have the right to say what they think. We all have the right to disagree, as long as we don't try to interfere with anyone's life or liberty.

Along with these rights go a certain responsibility. We are all responsible for our thoughts and actions. Part of that responsibility is taking ownership of them. By hiding behind anonymity, Bitch Novelist is shirking her responsibility. I think that's wrong. Anyone who reads these entries understands that I will express my opinions out in public and sign my name to them. They're mine. Anyone that doesn't like my opinions doesn't have to read them. I don't expect to please everybody, and anyone that takes offense at what I say has the right to disagree. All I ask is that you do it to my face and sign your name.

That's enough raving for one morning. CUL8R.

A time to rest.

It's been an emotionally draining week of work on WITB. I'm going to take what Holly calls a"busman's holiday" this weekend. I plan to whip my article into shape and (maybe) get it submitted. Then I'll take a look into my backfiles of partially completed and/or outlined short stories and find something there to distract me. Back to the "real" work Monday.

Busted!

Off the AP wire yesterday: Tampa prosecutor Lydia Dempsey Wardell was arrested for DUI Wednesday. She is known as a real hard-ass on DUI cases. Her blood alcohol was 0.23, which is nearly 3 time the legal leimit in Florida. She had her 3 children in the car with her.

It always warms my heart to see hypocrisy exposed. I will be the first to admit that I have driven while intoxicated before, but not since I became opposed to it. You cannot maintain any credibility in this world if you don't practice what you preach. It's called integrity, and there seems to be a lot of that lacking in our public figures these days.

Music to cry to.

k. d. laing Live By Request - God Almighty she can sing! Her rendition of Roy Orbison's "Cryin'" leaves me breathless and amazed. "Black Coffee" and "2 Cigarettes in an Ashtray" also hit me right in the heart.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

It is finished.

Maggie's dead, Polly's madly in love with a sociopathic monster, and John is a vampire. Let the games begin.

2300 words today.

Has the rest of the world gone insane, or is it just me?

Maybe I've finally slipped over the edge into Loopyland. I can't be sure.

What's wrong with this picture?

Harry Smith on CBS's The Early Show: "Yasser Arafat was a terrorist who won the Nobel Peace Prize..." What?

Motherly instin...uh, insanity.

I guess everybody knows by now that Aleta St. James, 56 going on stupid, gave birth to twins Tuesday. I have tried to hold my tongue about this. I have tried to be charitable and ascribe to her only the best and noblest motives, but I just can't hold this in anymore.

Having children is not a "right". It's a responsibility, and an awesome one. Children are not objects to put on your mantelpiece like awards. They are human beings, and you are responsible for their lives and well-being, both physical, mental, and emotional.

Ms. St. James says that she can handle this job. Let's do a little basic math. When they start school, she will be 62. When they hit puberty, she will be in her late 60's. When they graduate high school, she will be 75. Handle it? Most 20-somethings have trouble keeping up with one 3-year-old. How well will a 60-year-old be able to handle 2 at the same time? When her children need life advice, will she be able to identify with their problems and offer advice that will be relevant to the world as it is, rather as it was? Not to mention the fact that they will grow up without a father. None, not even a divorced one. None at all.

I consider this one of the most reprehensible and irresponsible acts of selfishness I have ever witnessed. God save these children.

The perils of kittens.

On a lighter note: Nothing can complicate your life quite like a 10-week-old kitten. Getting dressed is a real adventure now that her current favorite game is "Let's Pretend Daddy is a Tree and Climb On Him". Coupled with the fact that she suddenly is operating on the assumption that she has wings, this game is becoming a hazard to my health.

Veteran's Day. Rainy. Got the house to mysellf all day. 3 errands to run, and then no excuses. Got to get some major work done.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Another one bites the dust

The Peterson jury foreman got sent to his room without supper. 3 down so far; 3 alternates left. It might be time to consider calling this one and trying again. I guess the judge will give them another week at least, in the interest of saving money and time. What else can go wrong? Stay tuned; it ain't over yet.

Vampire metabolism reconsidered

A very basic consideration that I neglected: the Laws of Thermodynamics - conservation of energy (energy can neither be created nor destroyed) and entropy (energy "leaks" out of a system over time).

"What goes in must come out." Vampires drink blood. How much depends on whose variation of the mythos you use, but the drinking is a constant. The blood must go somewhere, or the creature would bloat like a tick. Since total energy must be conserved (and energy=matter, E=mc2), the excess blood cannot just disappear into thin air. I know that supernatural forces are at work, but the Universe still has to remain in balance.

The 2nd Law, entropy always increases, requires a constant input of energy to keep a system running. That means that some of the blood must be used for fuel. Since there are only three ways to extract energy from matter (oxidation, reduction, and nuclear fission/fusion), our choices for metabolism are limited. Nuclear reactions we can rule out immediately. If this were the source of a vampire's energy, a single feeding would last virtually forever. There would also be an enormous amount of heat to dissipate. Reduction is also unlikely, since this reaction requires hydrogen, and hydrogen is not readily available, as a general rule. That leaves oxidation, which requires oxygen. The best and most likely source of oxygen is air. Therefore, vampires do breathe. They also need to excrete waste byproducts (since blood is hardly the "perfect food" that it is sometimes said to be) and excess "fuel". This idea catalyzed by Stephen King's "Night Flier" in Nightmares and Dreamscapes, in which the protagonist watches in a mirror as a stream of bloody urine appears from nowhere and splashes into a urinal.

We can postulate that depriving a vampire of sustenance causes a severe, though non-fatal, debilitation. I think we can make the same postulation about oxygen. Depriving a vampire of oxygen would therefore be a valid method of weakening the creature.

Another implication is that normal activities, e.g., walking, consume a base level of energy, but the enhanced abilities of speed, strength, and shapeshifting must require sudden, enormous inputs of energy. This energy could be stored in the body, but prolonged use of these powers would soon deplete the reserves, again leaving the vampire weakened.

Thus, an experienced vampire would likely use stealth and fear as its main weapons with short bursts of speed and strength. Shapeshifting, the most energy intensive activity, would be restricted to urgent need. A "rookie", on the other hand, may not understand these things, especially without a mentor to show it the ropes, and would waste energy profligately until it learned better control. Should it live (or unlive, if you will) so long. For a real horror, imagine a vampire that has exhausted its energy reserves trapped in some way without access to blood and with limited, if any, air. Some way to spend eternity, huh?

In Washed in the Blood, I have two vampires at war with each other, so the sword cuts both ways. They are both subject to these limitations. Thomas (the bad guy) still has the advantage of experience. He has been around a long, long time (since pre-Christian times). John will need all the help he can muster just to break even in this fight. And no cheating by Divine Intervention, either.

Probably more later. A mind is a terrible thing.

Washed in the Blood - 750 words (Passed 10,000 words. YAYYYY!)
"Done to Undeath" (vampire cliches article for Vision) - 1100 words (first draft)

Today started badly. I forgot my Ambien last night, and the dreams kept waking me up all night. Got up muzzy, headachy, and in a real pissy mood. I really didn't want to write today. But I am determined to get through this part of the book, whether I like it or not.

My mind kept finding reasons not to work, but I finally sneaked around it. Worked on the article first, quick outline, then knocked out the first draft. Then quickly Alt-Tabbed over to Chapter 4 (which I already had open) and started free-writing. Before I knew it, I was deep into the story and knocking out some damn good prose.

Tomorrow is the payoff. Maggie is dying. She is struggling to stay alive until John "wakes up". She knows that she will have to sacrifice her life so he can live to track the monster down and kill him. One more scene in between, setting up John to take the blame for Maggie's murder (and mutilation). The villain (Thomas) speaks to Polly about suspecting that John may be mentally unstable. Tells her about John List. Thomas is posing as a psychologist studying ministers from various denominations (secretly studying "religious psychosis", so he says), so he has an air of authority. Then a quick switch back to the horror chamber for the first climax.

While thinking ahead to the big scene, I came up with a good opening line for a future story: "The last night of her life was far and away the longest." Lots of possibilities there.

Musical Muses for the day:

Belinda Carlisle Live Your Life Be Free - Very 80's pop rock, but one of the sexiest voices on the planet. Good, fast beat to get the energy flowing.

Janis Joplin I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again, Mama! - Blues straight from the bottom of the soul. If you can listen to "Summertime" and not be moved, you ain't human! Really good for writing hurtful scenes. Really gets me into the character.

Maire Brennan Whisper to the Wild Water - Elegant, ethereal, and calming. A good cool-down.

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Started reading John Gardner's The Art of Fiction (ISBN 0-679-76403-1) last night. I really appreciate a man who writes about reality rather than following the bleating masses. There's a lot of wisdom packed into this small volume. A couple of examples:

"Fiction seeks out truth...The writer who can't distinguish truth from a peanut-butter sandwich can never write good fiction." (I love that! A new tagline.)

"The true writer's joy in the fictional process is his pleasure in discovering, by means he can trust, what he belives and can affirm for all time. When the last trump plays, he will be listening, criticizing, figuring out the proper psychic distances."

Words to live by.

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One final bit of vampire wierdness. No application to WIP, just mental flotsam:

How do vampires (new ones, that is. Fresh ones?) get out of the grave? Those in mausoleums or above-ground tombs would have no problem, but what about someone in a sealed metal casket in a concrete vault under 7 feet of packed earth? That one's a stumper.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

1300 words on Washed in the Blood today. For me, that is an astounding amount. I've come to the brink, now. Maggie will have to die either tomorrow or Thursday. I hate it, but there's nothing I can do about it. Nothing. Shit.

I've always loved vampires. I love their danger and sensuality, the aura of mystery and forces beyond human knowledge. Vampires are powerful symbols of the evil that can take over a person and turn him into a monster, though he yet appears human. They are the predators in the night before which we are helpless and have only our religious belief to guard us from death or worse.

In working on this novel, I have had to address some serious philosophical and practical questions about vampires, as well some not so serious ones. By applying character building and worldbuilding techniques to the problem, I have come up with a few answers:

1.) Do vampires have souls? Though they are often called "soulless monsters", I have come to the conclusion that they do, in fact, retain the soul of the human that they once were. I believe this (for the purpose of this novel, anyway) for a couple of reasons. First, something must be animating the body. It it retains the memories and personality of its previous existence, then it stands to reason that it would also retain the soul. Second, something has to be animating the body. If this is not a soul, then we are faced with a being that can commit any amount of evil without any consequences. I believe in consequences. I believe that, as sentient beings, vampires have the free will to choose their moral path for themselves with the possibility of redemption at the end.

2.) Do vampires breathe? This has no impact on my current WIP, but interests me anyway. There is a strong supernatural element about vampires. They exist solely on human blood, which would imply no byproducts or waste disposal issues. They are, strictly speaking, not alive, so they don't really need a metabolism and therefore no oxygen. If they had to breathe, that would be a potential fatal weakness, as they could be smothered, and this has never been considered an option for slaying vampires. I prefer to believe that they can breathe, though they don'y need to.

3.) What's the deal with mirrors and cameras? Does this carry over to video recordings and digital cameras? Mirrors and film development both depend on silver: silver chloride on the back of the glass to make a mirror and a silver emulsion to develop pictures from film. Silver has always been considered a powerful force against the supernatural, and evil in particular, so it seems to me that the silver would reject the image of a vampire. Since video cameras and digital cameras don't use silver to capture and preserve images, then vampires should appear on video tapes and digital images.

4.) If they cannot use mirrors, how do vampires shave? This question presupposes an answer to a larger question: do vampires' hair continue to grow? Though seemingly facetious, this is a tough question. Are vampires alive or dead? If they are alive, then hair and nails will continue to grow. If they are dead, hair and nails do not grow. Problem: vampires are neither alive nor dead. They are "undead". Hmmmmm. I have to come down on the side of hair and nails not growing. Since a vampire's body is preserved through supernatural means, it does not need such mundane aggravations as shaving, haircuts, or nail trimming.

Oh well, enough mindless speculations for one day. Heigh-ho, heigh-ho.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Another "buy" recommendation:

Midnight Rain by Holly Lisle (ISBN 0451411757). This is an intense romantic suspense novel with supernatural overtones that left me wrung out like last night's dishrag. I had intended to read it over 2 or 3 days, but once I started, I couldn't stop. I read straight through 2 football games, which says a lot. Buy it! Read it! You'll love it.

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You mean this stuff is supposed to be fun?

Finally got up my nerve and did some more work on Washed in the Blood this morning. 450 words. It's not a whole lot, but this is a very difficult part of the novel for me. In the scene I worked on today, the protagonist's daughter has sex with the villain while her mother, bound and gagged so she can't move or make a noise loud enough to be heard, has to listen. Wild, animal sex with moaning and screaming and furniture banging.

It would have been a lot of fun if Maggie hadn't been force to listen. She's already been through Hell over the last 24 hours (book time, of course) and has another day to go (though she doesn't know it yet). She's already been raped and mentally abused and she's lying in the basement under the bedroom (the door to the basement is open, so she hears everything) with her husband lying dead by her side. He will rise again on the third day as a vampire, and boy will he be HUNGRY!

This is hard. I really, really like Maggie, and I really hate doing these terrible things to her, but the story demands it. Her abuse and ultimate death provide the motivation for John (her husband and the protagonist) to embark on his mission of vengeance and will fill him with a consuming and unbreakable (for now) resolve. Since he will be framed for her murder, it will isolate him from potential allies. Finally, it will crank up the intensity of his crisis of faith by an order of magnitude.

All that being said, and realizing the necessity, I am still hurting over these events. Sure, most of the time writing is fun, but the really good parts, the parts that make a story memorable, sometimes hurt like Hell. I just try to keep in mind that once I finish this chapter, I can move ahead to some really cool chase scenes and plot complications. Maybe this is what they mean by "paying your dues" ro "suffering for your art".

I'll get back to it in the morning. I wimped out on the sex scene, and I have to go back and put the good stuff in.

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An idea for an article for Vision: "The Immortal Undead: Vampire Cliches That Suck the Life From Your Stories". That will be fun.


Sunday, November 07, 2004

"To sleep, perchance to dream...For in that sleep of death what dreams may come?"

The Bard, in the guise of the Melancholy Prince, cut right to the heart of the matter. The dreams were bad last night. Real bad. Blood and death and forces too powerful to control. Ack! I see Ambien in my immediate future.

Dreams are the real windows to the soul. In our dreams, we are forced to confront those thoughts and questions that we dare not speak in the light of day. Though they may seem surreal and meaningless, a little thought often reveals that our dreams are profoundly and fundamentally truthful. Sometimes painfully so.

I don't wish for my dreams to come true. They are not pleasant.

Finished Ghosts in the Snow last night. Wow!! A wild ride all the way to the finish. Ms. Jones has a delightfully evil twist in her thinking. Sometimes, I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, or scream in horror. I say again: BUY THIS BOOK!

Midnight Rain (by Holly Lisle) is next up. I read the preview chapters at her Web site, and I know that this one is going to be another good-'un.

Enough for now. I have an urgent need to write some of this out.

Sweet dreams.

"To sleep, perchance to dream...For in that sleep of death what dreams may come?"

The Bard, in the guise of the Melancholy Prince, cut right to the heart of the matter. The dreams were bad last night. Real bad. Blood and death and forces too powerful to control. Ack! I see Ambien in my immediate future.

Dreams are the real windows to the soul. In our dreams, we are forced to confront those thoughts and questions that we dare not speak in the light of day. Though they may seem surreal and meaningless, a little thought often reveals that our dreams are profoundly and fundamentally truthful. Sometimes painfully so.

I don't wish for my dreams to come true. They are not pleasant.

Finished Ghosts in the Snow last night. Wow!! A wild ride all the way to the finish. Ms. Jones has a delightfully evil twist in her thinking. Sometimes, I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, or scream in horror. I say again: BUY THIS BOOK!

Midnight Rain (by Holly Lisle) is next up. I read the preview chapters at her Web site, and I know that this one is going to be another good-'un.

Enough for now. I have an urgent need to write some of this out.

Sweet dreams.