Saturday, April 30, 2011
Now I find myself in a little bit of a difficult position. It's no secret that I have Korsakoffs Disease--which involves some painful neuropathy I manage with vitamin supplements, and some holes in the memory that plague me in small ways. I don't say that as a complaint. It's a fact, and usually no big deal. I manage it.
Writing a novel is a long process. It's a long work, even if it's a short novel (and mine aren't short.) Remembering basic facts is important. I haven't run into it yet, but I've read and heard from other authors that readers will call them on errors in the story. I try to avoid errors in the story. For the reader, the book will be (lord, hear my prayer) one seamless piece...that starts at the beginning, middles in the middle, and ends at the end. In the case of Sexton Sand, it won't end...but will become the start of the 5th book in the series.
I've been mostly away from writing Sexton Sand while building myself a computer, a task I can now say with a bit of pride is done.
So... I have but one more little thing to do before I write the ending of this book, polish the draft, and publish it. Note: I'm not putting a date out there. I've been pissing myself off with missed self-imposed deadlines.
I started retyping the manuscript again. I'll make a few minor changes, I suppose, but the main purpose of retying it is to come as close as possible to finishing the draft as a seamless work.
I owe my readers that much. See the links at the bottom of this blog to order your copies of the first three in the series: Sexton, Sexton Sand, and, Storm Clouds Over Sexton.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
The same thing is happening now. I'm not following much of it. In fact, I'm not following any of it if I can help it, but because I turn on a television every once in a while, I can't help but see it.
I think the couple are a nice man and a nice woman who are about to get married. I think that's great. I'll even apply the word "awesome" to it, for that's what love is.
Sociology was a big part of my major, so I'm watching this pre-wedding stuff with the interest of a social scientist and a desire to make some semblance of sense out of it. I'm not afraid to admit I will probably never understand the whole "who is making the dress?" and "Who has been invited" bits of the puzzle.
I'm particularly interested in the American fascination with the royal family (some call them "The Royals"). Didn't we fight a revolution in order to get out from under the thumb of a king (who, if you read many histories, doesn't sound like that bad of a guy when one looks in the rearview mirror)?
Looking for a conclusion or two? You won't get them here. All I have is some speculation regarding the Question of American Interest in Royal Weddings. So here goes:
- We do not, nor will we ever, have a Royal Family. We have Presidents. Sometimes their kids get married, and it's a big deal. Our collective interest in those is not nearly as big as it is in the royal stuff. I think it's because we're too familiar with our Presidents and their families for us to cloak them in mystique. We see them on the campaign trail, sweating, giving speeches in the rain, squeezing flesh, etc. They are--whether we like them or not--people.
- The Royal Family is different from our American "first family" (a term I kind of like, but for reasons I don't understand) in that they are born into the family or marry into it. They're born with the weight of the monarchy on their shoulders, as well as all the glitz and glamor. I think it's a weight, frankly, because I'd be willing to bet their hands are tied more than they are free. I don't think this couple could have run off to Vermont for a wedding without risking severe retribution from Her Majesty or a cabbie from London.
- We'll have great seats at the wedding and will see a show unlike anything we can put on here outside of Hollywood. Big church, lots of people, real jewels...shiny stuff. Lots and lots of shiny stuff. And small reminders that England was a Kingdom long before the letter "J" appeared in the English alphabet... Actually, that family is older than the current alphabet. How's that for history?
- And one final stab at yet another reason we Americans like royal weddings: We don't have to second guess anything. Liking him or her or the Queen isn't political for us. We can, if we choose, just sit back and watch the show without fear of having to defend ourselves to someone from a different political party.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
You can fix it, Dave. It just needs some new hardware and a software update or two and you're good to go.
That voice, as is so often the case in the heads of men...was full of shit. I knew it. My wife knew it. One out of two of our cats knew it.
We also knew that I had heard the voice and that I was compelled to obey.
So I popped the lid off the old Compaq and wandered down to the local computer shop--the kind with a few shelves of new hardware like hard drives, and power supplies, and other miscellanea that is foreign to the Best Buy crowd.
The Voice told me to buy some used RAM (otherwise known as "memory" to smarter people than me). So I bought some RAM. Went home and stuffed it in the old case and told myself I was smart. Then I bought a new hard drive. The old one held 1 Gigabyte. Hey (laugh again if you're of a mind to) One Gigabyte was HUGE in 1998. The new drive (purchased used) was 40 gigabytes. Wow! What a dude! (That was THE VOICE AGAIN.)
I'll spare you the drive for drivers, the wrenching pounding of the internet for drivers that would make my salvaged DVD drive from the eMachine from Hell work on the Compaq From Yesteryear.
I got it working. I did! I was proud of my old machine. I was running a version of Windows 1998 never dreamed of by those (now) old guys who created that vintage version of Windows.
I have to say it was a success. I wrote 6 books on that old Compaq. Designed 12 book covers (paperback and dust-jacketed hardcover) on that old Windows 98 Compaq. It took a long time to do that on that old machine.
Well... Sorry to say, the lifespan of that old Compaq was reached. It's gravestone (I'll bury the case with honor in the backyard some dark night) will say:
- My verbal skills are quite high and my mechanical skills are quite low. Screwdrivers are almost beyond my skill. Believe it. I'm not kidding.
- I have no formal computer training. Well...there was a class I took in 1981 that involved saving data on a tape recorder, but I think that doesn't count anymore. And I got computers merit badge in 1978...
- I was willing, and it's a good thing, to take my time and buy the hardware one piece at a time, used, from guys in polo shirts buttoned all the way to the top.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
I mentioned (several times, if memory serves) that my old Compaq running Windows 98 finally bit the dust. Unfortunately, when the motherboard finally gave up the ghost a month or so ago it took the hard drive out with it. I liked that hard drive. It was 130 gigs and worked well, even with my souped up Windows 98.
My mom and stepfather sent me one of their old computers and I love it. It's runnning Windows 2000 Professional and I dutifully loaded Service Pack 4 on it, bringing it handily into the realm of "Running Everything I need And Then Some".
The only hangup (literally in some cases. I use free dialup internet) was that I couldn't install antivirus. Everytime I started to get the files cooking, the antivirus shut down.
Know what that means? ...Virus.
The only problem I have in running old software is that updates are hard to come by. This includes fixes for viruses. They're out there, but you have to be able to root around the nether regions of the internet to find them. I'm no stranger to the netherworld of the etherworld.
Then the light came on. One of those stunning moments of revelation where one is faced with the choice between getting really, major-league pissed off at the cretins who create viruses or slapping one's own forehead and proceeding to fix the problem. I chose, as always, the latter.
You see, I figure it takes a special kind of moron (Yes, I'm proudly a special kind of moron) to use his jump drives to transfer files between an old laptop that hasn't had virus updates installed since 2006...and the new computer he just got. Took me until a couple of hours ago to figure out the reason I haven't been able to restore Windows 2000 Professional to the desktop is...I'm using infected media to do the job.
The clever sumdebitch won't win. This laptop will spend the rest of the night downloading the megabytes of virus updates. Then I'll scan the system, make it clean, and go back to re-installing Windows 2000 Professional (I have the files I need to do it...on a currently infected jump drive) and get on with what I really want to do: write books.
Ahhh... I feel better now. Knowing I have the solution to the problem always makes me feel better, even before I implement it.
By the way...do me a favor and entertain yourself: buy a David J. Steele book or 3, or 4 or 5. www.lulu.com/spotlight/misticuf
Sunday, April 17, 2011
That's an allegory for where I am with Sexton Sand.
As I've mentioned before, I don't outline my books. I like to keep spontenaiety going by having only a vague idea of where the book will take me (and hopefully you) before it ends and the next one begins.
As a result, sometimes I find myself wondering what's going to happen next. That's where "Full Speed Ahead" comes in. "Full Speed Ahead" involves sitting at the keyboard under a phrase in bold print--in this case the phrase is Chapter Sixty-eight--and staring at the blank screen below it. I find there's only one answer, and it often involves judicous use of the delete key.
I start typing. If I like what I type, I keep it. If I don't like what I type, I delete it. Sometimes I delete a lot. Sometimes I don't delete at all.
And sometimes, as you'll see below... I post the thing on a blog while I clear my head.
So, here it is--tonight's production (so far) of Chapter Sixty-eight, Sexton Sand.
Nick parked in a corner of the gravel lot as far away from the beach and the latrines as he could. He left the keys in the ignition. The car was an old Ford Taurus with more miles on it than anyone who worked on it thought it should have and he kept it only for winter days when he didn’t want to drive his newer car. If it was stolen, it would be someone else’s problem.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Where am I?
The question floated around him in all layers as if the words were objects rather than a conveyance of ideas. He wondered where his spirit was trapped. Was it trapped in his head, his brain, his mind, or did it lie restless in a spirit cage between paradise and the pit? Glimpses stronger than blackness—allowed or required by the demon, he could not be sure—showed him he was physically with Tom and John and Andy. He wanted desperately to ask their help in this...but could not break through.
Where are they taking me? He wondered. The demon gave no answer. Silence. Surrounded by silence as thick as the darkness that held him. There was no sense of the physical. Is this death? Was death naught but the cessation of the physical, leaving the mind to fold in on itself until finally fatigued beyond all sanity it swirled in useless circles like sand caught in the dry wind of the desert?
I WANT OUT!
He roared with his mind, half expecting to hear hollow echo, but of course there was none. How could there be an echo in a void where there was nothing from which to bounce sound? Indeed, how could there be sound in a void?
Fringes of panic tickled him like invisible fingers. He squelched the feeling. Centered himself. Paused...
Something did not make sense. Did not add up as his American friends might say. The link. It was possible for the demon to kill him, but if it had...
If I am dead, my body is dead as well. If my body is dead, the demon would have nothing to possess. The silver cord remains. I am connected to my body. This is a false darkness. This touchless blackness is a curtain rather than a wall or a void. I am capable of movement. I must be capable of movement. How? What must I do?
He decided to begin with his extremities: fingers and toes. The concentration was easy, but sensation was difficult. It was as if he was trying to move someone else’s arm by the power of his imagination. Time was meaningless in his present state. He had no frame of reference for it to know whether it passed or whether he was outside its reach.
Finally he felt something. As if he was sliding his fingers into a glove—as he had done only in Sexton—he slipped his imagined fingers into his real fingers. Moved the index finger on his right hand. Raise it. Lowered it. Again.
Andy was only half awake as the light of dawn started to turn to the long planes of sunrise slanting in through the crack under the door when he saw Rajahd’een’s finger move. He cocked his head to the side, staring. The guy didn’t move his hand, arm, or head. Just raised the one finger and let it fall. He glanced at John and saw he was asleep. A glance at Tom and he was pretty sure Tom was asleep too. Moved his gaze back to Rajahd’een. The hand was still again, resting on his leg. I probably imagined that, he thought. He hoped he did. John didn’t seem to mind punching Raj in the jaw to knock his body out, but it wasn’t on Andy’s list in his head entitled: Things I’d Like To Do Today. Possessed by a demon or not, Andy didn’t like the idea of punching a good guy. On the other hand, the demon who was the king of the country—the country that took him prisoner, thank you very much—was not completely out of the question.
He looked back down at Rajahd'een's hand. The index finger was in the air again. His eyes widened. He leaned forward without getting up. What’re you doing, Raj? He wondered without knowing for sure whether he was asking himself or the guy with his finger in the air. And so much for not wanting to punch anyone.
His right hand was clenched in a fist. I’ll pop ya good before I let you hurt us. He raised his left hand to push himself off the floor. Crouching on his haunches, he started to get ready to move. Another movement—caught from the corner of his eye—made him stop. Tom held up his hand. Andy looked at him and saw him shake his head. “What?” he whispered.
“Let’s watch him for a minute,” Tom whispered. “This isn’t like the last time he woke up.” He grinned. “...But stay ready.”
STOP THIS IMMEDIATELY! The demon roared through the void fully awake and in firm control once again. With a spasm of the soul more than the mind, all sensation left Raj and swept him away from touch...
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Belay that. Distractions are an excuse. I know it, and so do most (I'd wager) of the people who claim they can't find time to write. Having said that, I'll say it's been too long since I last wrote new material. Ralph the Muse wasn't happy about that, and given some of the heat I've gotten from friends who are waiting for my next book, Ralph isn't the only one not happy.
Well, I am happy to report that I'm now back in the chair. A fresh chapter of Sexton Sand is now finished. It came easily once I put my ass in the chair and set my fingers into motion.
Sure, I've had a couple of sizable distractions like:
- blowing up my antiquated computer
- constructing a new computer from used parts
- learning, after completely building a system...that my hard drive was a casualty of the light-smoke-odor show that was the demise of my vintage 1998 Compaq Presario
- A little thing called "Income Tax Returns"
- and, certainly not least, illegible handwriting...
Sunday, April 10, 2011
I'm a language guy. I've always been a language guy. Test scores and aptitude tests never vary when it comes to my language ability--highest marks every time.
Those same aptitude tests agree on one more thing as well, and it's funny because it's true: mathematically (I call it math-e-magic), and mechanically, I am in the wording of most of those tests: "IMPAIRED." I'm the wrong guy to ask to put the chain back on the bicycle, the wrong guy to ask for help changing your tire, and unless you have tape rolling for America's Funniest Home Videos...I'm the wrong guy to put in a new light fixture.
Having said that truth and saying it with a grin on my face of the bashed unabashed, I can say... I've been building a computer. Not by choice, really, but I'm having fun with it. I have experience with putting computers together because I've blown several of them up over the years.
Computers aren't like other machines. They work more like language, at least in this writer's opinion. There isn't much mechanical about a computer. Very few moving parts. There are connectors that go from one thing to another thing and if they're not hooked up, the computer doesn't spit, sputter, putter or hiss (usually.) And if it does spit, sputter, putter, or hiss, one only needs to yank the plug out and pick one's eyebrows off the ceiling.
I worked for a long time for the Boy Scouts of America, back in the day when if you didn't get a technician to donate his or her time, you were the computer guy if you weren't afraid to take the lid off the box and tinker a bit. The first computer I bought had a grounded plug (they all do) but my apartment had only 2-wire outlets. Undaunted and cocky as hell, I lopped the offending 3-prong plug off and used Scotch tape to tape the wires together on the extension cord I cut off so I could plug the computer into the wall.
I don't recommend that to my friends. It's neither safe nor pretty.
Over the years I've had to replace hard drives and install memory chips, take out floppy drives and put in new floppy drives. Never knowing exactly what I was doing...just getting stubborn about it and not giving up until the damn thing did what it was supposed to do.
So, when my old Compaq (purchased in 1999) running a super-tricked out version of Windows 98 died three weeks ago, I bought a new case. Took the old mother board (the thing in the box into which all the other stuff plugs) and fired the machine up. Got nowhere. Got a used mother board and hooked it up. Got nowhere. Took the whole kit and kaboodle (a highly technical term) back to the computer repair shop and the owner stuck another used mother board in there and got it to run...in Safe mode.
Long story short, I got all my hardware into the machine...but couldn't get past safe mode. The reason was simple and easily denied. I did not want to believe I blew the hard drive up. I did blow it up, as I came to realize eventually. Dead. The data wasn't lost. I didn't fall of f the potato truck yesterday, ya know. Safe mode allowed me to copy all my books, book covers, drafts, ideas, etc. onto a jump drive. Therefore, I still have all the important stuff.
My folks have sent me a computer they're no longer using. I'll be able to get that one running and use that hard drive in the case with the motherboard I just bought (I'll find a way) and reload all the stuff I saved to the Sacred Jump Drive I have named "Ralph" in honor of the muse who helped me create it.
And then, my friends, I'll be able to finish Sexton Sand.