Tag Archives: Magic Spreadsheet

Personal Update

I thought that today I would share a few things about myself. But first, an update on my writing.

My Tesla story is finished. It kind of sucks, but it’s done. The basic plot is a man who is visited by aliens from Venus. They tell him that they destroyed their own world with pollution and the greed of a few, and had to leave the solar system. But they kept an eye on Earth and have returned to keep it from happening to us. Their first attempt was with Tesla, but since he failed they are trying again with our hero. That was Story #28 of my Dirty Little Freaks collection. I updated my count meter, but there seems to be something wrong with it and it isn’t displaying the correct count.

Also, I’m up to 48 days in my writing chain on the Magic Spreadsheet. Things are going well, and this week I have decided to write a story in the format of a daily diary of someone who is an essential prisoner. She gets daily assignments, but once her task has been completed she can do whatever she wants with her time. Except leave.

Okay, now for the personal stuff. I have been on vacation this past week, celebrating my anniversary with my beautiful wife. I always take the week off for my anniversary, and this year it was actually a little more than a week, as I decided to take the 5th of July off as well. So my vacation started on July 4 and is over today, July 14. A nice, long, ten-day vacation.

We didn’t go anywhere for my vacation. I would have liked to have gone up to Wisconsin Dells for a day, but unfortunately we couldn’t afford it. Our car was on its last legs, with brakes that were hanging on by a thread, so we spent all of our meager savings and then some on taking it to a mechanic. He’s a really nice guy and he gave us a deal, but it still cost $886 to do the work that had to be done. There’s still a lot of work left to do on the car, since the exhaust is essentially gone, but we simply don’t have the money for it, so it will have to wait while we rebuild our savings. The important thing, though, is that I can now drive down the street without worrying about whether or not I will be able to stop.

We also did some cleaning over the last few days. We have recently decided to eliminate some of the clutter in our lives, so I started digging into the piles of boxes in our storage room and made some hard choices about what to keep and what should get kicked to the curb. A lot of what I threw away was old papers and magazines, but I also have a large stash of computer books and games that I no longer use. My plan is to take them to Half-Price Books so they can dispose of them for me. Many of them are so old that I doubt anyone will want them, but you never know. The important thing is that they won’t be taking up space in my house any more.

That’s all that I have time for today. I’ll be back next Sunday to let you know how my latest story came out. Until then, have a great week and keep writing!

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Challenge Accepted!

When I asked last week what I should write about next, one of my friends suggested I write a YA Cthulhu story. So I did.

I started in a coffee shop, with a young man meeting his goth girlfriend. She promptly dumps him, telling him she can’t stand his lack of ambition. So, of course, that drives him to seek out an antiques store in the area, where he acquires an ancient tome to help him summon the Old Ones. All in an attempt to win her back.

To be honest, the story is incomplete. It really should be longer. It could actually be the start of at least a novella. But for now it is a fairly decent set-up. Maybe later I’ll write Part 2, which would go over the actual summoning, and the disastrous consequences that would necessarily result. Maybe.

This week, I’m going to follow up on a writing prompt I had posted a few months ago and then forgotten about. Someone managed to find it recently on Twitter and reminded me about it. The question was: What if Tesla really was from Venus as some theorists believe? And if so, what was he doing here?

So that’s my challenge this week. It will be more of a sci-fi story, which I have little to no experience writing. I enjoy reading them, and watching sci-fi movies, but I haven’t written much in that genre. So even if my story sucks, at least it will be good practice.

If you’re following my track on the Magic Spreadsheet, my chain is 40 days long now. I have been writing first thing in the morning, even before I go to work, just to make sure that I get it in. Even though it is usually still dark out, that seems to work for me, so I plan on continuing the trend as long as I can.

That’s it for today. Tune in next week for a report on “Men are from Earth, Tesla is from Venus.” See you then!

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Exploring

That was the working title of my last Dirty Little Freaks story. It started out nice and sweet, with a little boy getting ready to spend the first day of summer vacation exploring the woods near his house. His mother even helps him get his supplies in order so he can stay out all day if he wants to.

Then, when he gets into the trees, something changes. His walk through the forest turns into following a mysterious path. A faint trail that you walk by instinct more than sight. A trail that takes him deeper into the woods than he thought possible. And when he stops to rest, he discovers a clearing. A perfect circle allowing the sun to shine some light into the darkness of the forest.

Of course, you know it has to be a fairy circle. And when the leprechauns show up one of them offers him a raspberry, which he eats, and afterward shares his bag of chips with them. And then he tries to leave. At which point the door slams shut and he is told that once you eat fairy food you can never leave. He shrinks down to their size and becomes one of them.

This whole story was an exploration. I just sat down and started writing, just to see where it went. I didn’t know what was going to happen in the woods until it did. I also had a thought Saturday morning that maybe the leprechauns should eat him. A friend of mine suggested that he eat them instead, which was an interesting twist, but instead I went for a simple entrapment. I was very tempted to have some death creep in there, but the first part of the story didn’t really support it, so I just wrapped it up as best I could and I’ll see if something better comes out of edits.

Sometimes that’s the best thing to do. Give your characters their head and see where they take you. Mine like to go where the lights are all burnt out or broken, and a serial killer is lurking behind that tree over there. Not that one, the one right next to you. Oops. Too late.

I also watched Cabin in the Woods on Saturday night. That was interesting. I followed it up with the first episode of Under the Dome, the mini-series based on the book by Stephen King. So far, so good.

As far as my Magic Spreadsheet goes, I have hit level two, and my chain is still strong. The words are piling up, now at 300 words a day. I’m going to ride this train as long as I can. I wonder if I can make it to the end of the line….

That’s it for today. See you again next week with an update on Story #27.

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Portrait of a Character

This week’s story wasn’t so much a story as an exploration. I started simply, with a visit to a tailor to get a tuxedo for a wedding. As the story progressed we discover that he works in Hollywood and knows Bruce Willis. And the I tried to throw in the weird.

When the tailor goes to measure for the pants we find out that our hero has something wrong with his legs. They are covered by some kind of metallic substance that even he doesn’t understand. And apparently it’s dangerous to others.

By this time I was already flailing, searching for an actual story. After he showed the tailor the danger involved in setting off whatever the stuff was on his legs, the man is completely professional and finishes taking his measurements. And then our hero leaves.

As he goes, we find out that he is a stuntman, not an actor, but it is the “armor” as he calls it, that lets him do what no other stuntman can do. A walk through memory lane then goes over what happened the first time he used his power in public. It was at a bank robbery, and he ended up killing someone, which haunts him to this day.

Definitely not much of a story, but it might be an interesting character concept for a larger tale later on. If I end up publishing an anthology of these tales, this one probably won’t make the cut, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth writing.

In other news, my writing streak on the Magic Spreadsheet  is still going strong, and I rewarded myself by buying some games. I didn’t have any games on my netbook before, as it was intended primarily for writing, but I saw a sale on GOG.com for some old D&D games that I couldn’t pass up. Even though I already owned most of the games in the bundle, there was one included that I have been lusting after for years and that alone was worth the price. (Neverwinter Nights 2, in case you were wondering.) Also, they were all downloadable, which is important since I don’t have a CD drive for my netbook.

The only catch to buying these games was that I had to promise myself that I would never start playing before I got my writing done for the day. After all, a writer has to keep his (or her) priorities straight. And having a little fun after finishing my work is a nice reward.

That’s all for this week. I’m starting a new story today as soon as I finish this post. I wonder what it will be this week? Tune in next Sunday to find out!

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What Did I Just Do?

OMG.

Dirty Little Freaks #24 was way out of my ballpark. I’m not sure how I got there, but the story took me places I have never been before. Places that are impossible for me to reach. It was a struggle all the way, but I think I can be proud of what I did, even if it was a painful journey.

I started with something simple. A rude comment made by someone at a funeral. As I developed the story, the comment was made by a younger brother and the funeral was the main character’s father. Then things started to get really interesting when I decided that the comment that had been made was true, and that it was about our main character having an incestuous relationship with her father.

It was about pain and loss and love that broke the rules.  And it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write. I’m not looking forward to editing it, because I know that any changes I make to it will only have to make it better, and I’m not sure how I can. I was really stretching my boundaries on the first draft, so taking it to the next level is going to be rough.

I think that the direction my story took was at least partially influenced by the book I was reading. The Lake of Dreams, by Kim Edwards. It wasn’t about incest, but one of the themes was the death of the main character’s father, and how it affected the course of her life. I could actually see how the story I was writing changed to reflect the story I was reading. That sort of thing doesn’t happen often for me, so it was interesting seeing it happen now. And don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it was a bad thing, just that it was unexpected and a little frightening to go where I have never gone before.

In other news, that makes 19 days in my Magic Spreadsheet chain, for a total of over 8,000 words. Having the spreadsheet is really giving me that extra incentive to keep writing, even though I might not want to. In the last few months, I have only been worrying about getting the story done, and have skipped some days when I didn’t feel like writing. But now, the focus is on getting at least the minimum in every day, so I have been writing first thing in the morning and taking the rest of the day for myself. The stories have been longer, as I only have to make sure I reach the end by Saturday, but I think they have also been better. We’ll see how it goes in the coming months.

That’s it for this week. I’ll be back next Sunday with another update. See you then!

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FanFic or Not FanFic?

So my story this week is a sci-fi version of the classic television show “Hogan’s Heroes”. The question is: is it fanfic? (For those of you unfamiliar with the term, fanfic is short for fan fiction, where someone writes a story based on the characters or world of another writer.)

I don’t think it is, for a couple of reasons. First, I changed all their names. Second, because it isn’t set in Nazi Germany, but instead on a different planet far in the future. I think that those two things give my story enough differences from the show that it can’t really be considered fanfic.

But I could be wrong. I haven’t written any fanfic before so I’m not really familiar with the limitations of the definition. Maybe the fact that anyone familiar with the show would be able to easily make the connection is enough. While I did change the names, a few of them are fairly close to the original (Kronk instead of Klink, Shoz instead of Schultz, etc.) I am also trying to be faithful to the personalities of the characters.

So what do you think? Is my story fanfic or not? Have you ever written fanfic? If so, what was it?

In other news, I am still using the Magic Spreadsheet, and my chain is up to nine days as of Tuesday night. I’m going to keep going as long as I can, and I’ll keep you informed as I go.

That’s about it for today. I’ll be back on Sunday to let you know if I was able to finish this week’s story. I’m going to try to do my best to honor the great Bob Crane and Werner Klemperer, but they are a hard act to follow. On the plus side, I did buy the complete series on DVD, so there is plenty of inspiration (and entertainment) to keep me going.

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Peer Pressure, or Finding a Reason to Write

I have been hearing about it for months now, and I finally gave in. I signed up for the Magic Spreadsheet.

In case you haven’t heard about it yet, the Magic Spreadsheet is an online spreadsheet on Google Docs that lets you track your daily writing. Not only that, but someone has made a game out of it, giving you points for both the number of words written (250 minimum) and how many days in a row you write. The longer your chain, the more points you get. I signed up on May 28, so this is my fifth day in a row writing, which means I get 5 points just for writing today. I also got 3 points for writing over 1,000 words. When I get 495 points I advance to Level 2, and my minimum word count goes up by 50 words to 300 words per day.

Since my project for this year is to write a short story every week, I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I finish the story early. I might have to start another project on the side. Something that I can pick up whenever I have the time, but that will let me get in my minimum word count.

At least one of my writing group is also using the Magic Spreadsheet, and is up to level 4 with a chain of 110 days. One of the podcasters I listen to is Mighty Mur Lafferty, and she is level 5 with a chain of 180 days. I don’t know if I can match that record, but at least this gives me something to strive for. It makes me accountable for writing every day, which is something I have been slacking on.

If you are interested in signing up, you can join the Facebook group or you can just Google it. Make sure to read the directions first, but don’t be afraid to add your name to an open slot. And if you do, let me know, so I can watch your progress. (If you’re looking, my name is at the bottom of the ISBWtwo sheet.)

In other news, I finished my 22nd Dirty Little Freaks story, and I’m trying to come up with something to write for number 23. I was watching Hogan’s Heroes today with my wife and I started thinking it might be interesting to write either some fanfic based on the show, or a story that is at least loosely modeled after them. Probably the latter, as I don’t think I could pull off a story worthy of the magnificence that was Bob Crane. (And if you haven’t seen the show, do yourself a favor and check it out.)

That’s it for today. Wish me luck on my daily writing, and I’ll see you back here on Wednesday with another update. TTFN!

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WisCon Loot

WisCon was great. I learned a lot and had a great time. It was also exhausting. I actually skipped a couple of panels for the sole reason that my butt was getting sore. Instead, I found a comfy chair or couch to rest my laurels on for a while, and then it was back at it!

My wife gave me an allowance of $200 for the convention, but I went way over. I took that much in cash with me, and ended up getting another $100 on Sunday, but that didn’t last either. I also used plastic for some of my spending, so yeah, way over my limit.

Here’s a list of most of the things I bought this weekend (I won’t count food, although that was a big part of it):

  • Pocket watch – this is for the steampunk outfit I am trying to put together. It’s a really nice, wind-up timepiece. And of course, when I got home I discovered there’s no pocket on my vest. Doh!
  • Several small, brass-colored charms. I’m thinking of polishing them and making army-type medals out of them.
    • Tree
    • Key
    • Bat
    • Anchor
    • Octopus
  • I picked up twenty ARCs (Advance Reader Copy) for a dollar each at the Gathering. My friend Zombie Joe “helped” me by handing me five that he recommended. In no particular order, they are:
    • Changeling, by Kelly Meding
    • More Than Midnight, by Brian James Freeman
    • Deadly Sting, by Jennifer Estep
    • Born in Flames, by Howard Hampton
    • Ruins, by Orson Scott Card
    • The Disaster Survival Bible, by Junius Podrug
    • Touch of the Demon, by Diana Rowland
    • Tarnished, by Karina Cooper
    • Desperate Days: Selected Mysteries Volume Two, by Jack Vance
    • Bad Medicine, Vol. 1, by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir (graphic novel)
    • Libriomancer, by Jim C. Hines
    • Dearly, Beloved, by Lia Habel
    • The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2012 Edition, edited by Paula Guran
    • Alien Diplomacy, by Gini Koch
    • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
    • False Memory, by Dan Krokos
    • Shivers VII, edited by Richard Chizmar
    • Full Blooded, by Amanda Carlson
    • Flying in the Heart of the Lafayette Escadrille, by James Van Pelt
    • Kindred and Wings, by Philippa Ballantine
  • I also bought several published books from the Dealer’s Room. Some were sequels from authors I have read before, while others were new things I saw this year and had to have. These are books that I will definitely be reading before next WisCon, while the ARCs may end up just gathering dust, like the ones I picked up last year.
    • The Mad Scientists Guide to World Domination, edited by John Joseph Adams
    • Dark Faith: Invocations, edited by Maurice Broaddus & Jerry Gordon
    • Treemaker, by Kater Cheek
    • Dayrunner, by Kater Cheek
    • Faerie Killer, by Kater Cheek
    • Lunatic Fringe, by Allison Moon
    • Hungry Ghost, by Allison Moon
    • Interfictions, edited by Delia Sherman & Theodora Goss
    • Interfictions 2, edited by Delia Sherman & Christopher Barzak
    • Couch, by Benjamin Parzybok
    • Ex Heroes, by Peter Clines
    • Midnight Blue-Light Special, by Seanan McGuire
    • The Lives of Tao, by Wesley Chu
  • And finally, I ordered the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition, from Amazon during the con. It was delivered on Tuesday.

That’s about it. If any of you are interested in hearing my thoughts about any particular book, leave a comment below and I’ll try to move that particular volume up in my To-Read list. Otherwise, the only thing left for today is that I just put my name on the Magic Spreadsheet. If you don’t know what that is, you can either Google it, or wait for me to write a post about it sometime in the next couple of weeks.

That’s it for today. See  you on Sunday!

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