Categotry Archives: Writing

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Been a While Since I Updated… Which is Nothing New.

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Categories: Fibromyalgia, Writing, Tags: , , ,

With apologies to Dickens, there are the best of times and the worst of times; but, there are also times like these which go beyond the suck scale.  I really hate it when we go off the scale, I like things easy to categorize and keep track of and when things drop off the end of the suck scale all I know for sure is that I’m screwed.  I like knowing how screwed.  Its sort of comforting.  I just wish that suck didn’t involve a full-body pain that’s reminiscent of the pain level of passing a kidney stone.

Oh well, when life gives you lemons brew hard lemonade.  That reminds me, I need to do that very soon now.  Anyway.

We’re back to the revelation that nothing will happen if I don’t make it happen.  Meaning?  Apparently I’m not going to feel better anytime soon, so I’ll need to do what I’d do when I feel good in a state of uber fuckedupness and say the hell with the extra time it takes.  That means quite a bit of stuff around the house and I need to finish off the Almanac.

Where am I at on that?

340 pages, 295,309 words, 1,423,345 characters.

Sadly, I have a ways to go.  I expect I’ll end at around 500 pages including illustrations.  Its going to be fun though 😉

© 2010, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.

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The Names Have Been Changed to Protect… Someone…

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Categories: Memoirs, Writing, Tags:

You remember it, at the beginning of every episode of Dragnet, the stories you are about to hear are true… yadda yadda, so forth and so on.  That’s the style I use when I commit memories to paper, or in this case electrons.  There’s a few reasons why, like I don’t remember names, or I figure some things people don’t want me to remember their names.  Its pretty easy for me to forget names, I went to two proms at my own school and another for a girl I knew in another town and I’ll be damned if I can remember a single one of their names.

At least two of them would be pissed to know I’d forgotten their names, and one would be grateful.  The grateful one because she talked a big game then decided to hold a teenager loaded with hormones at bay.  The evening wasn’t a complete bust, her brother’s girlfriend got pissed off at him and left with me, and those hormones didn’t go to waste after all.  Now I think she’d be happy that I don’t remember her name.  We’ll call my date for that night Blue Belle, because that rhymes with the state she tried to leave me in.

Names can get confusing as well, but that can actually help in some cases, take for example the name Buck, my best friend was Buck; but, I was the only one that called him that.  I had at least two other friends named buck, but in their case it was on their birth certificate.  Note to parents… really?  First name too?  C’mon now, give a kid a break.  One of the Buck’s was pencil thin, gay and dreamed of designing women’s clothes and he cursed his parents daily for hanging Buck on him.

Sadly, I can also say that I don’t really embellish the stories I tell. I may find a funnier way to phrase them than I might have otherwise, but yes, they really happened and yes, they and I really did things that silly and survived.  I don’t know any stories involving people that didn’t; but, hopefully my eulogy is one of those stories because truth be told I’d really like to go out with a belly laugh rather than a bunch of sniffling and tears.  Since I’m just shy of middle aged you have 60-80 years to think up those stories.  No pressure.

I think every life has a lot of stories to be told, we all have to jigger names and places a little to protect the completely, partially or remotely innocent.  For that matter there’s a lot of stories that I tell now that I wouldn’t have dreamed of telling when my daughter was young and impressionable.  She found out a few of them from my Dad when he came to her graduation, some of them stories I have no plans to write down.

Thanks Pop, owe you one there. 😉

© 2009, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.

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Writing and Me

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Categories: Writing, Tags: ,

Reading and writing have always been an essential part of my life, some of my fondest memories are of doing both over the years. I discovered fantasy quite young, like many of us my gateway was J.R.R. Tolkien, I was a precocious little fellow and read The Hobbit at around 10, and then looked for more and found the Lord of the Rings, and then every word I could read from him, The Silmarillian, Unfinished Tales, and then I looked for everything I could find like it, and then fantasy in general.

Don’t get me wrong, I read everything, science fiction, biography, historical and contemporary fiction, and once I locked myself in the garage by mistake one day I even read an entire book on palmistry, but fantasy really stuck. Then, on my 13th birthday I was introduced to fantasy role-playing through the game of Dungeons & Dragons, and from there my interests widened. I started building my own world and started scribbling short stories at the same time, and then started to bring the two together.

I’ve never quit writing, role-playing and world-building, but the writing part was put on the back burner a lot. My time in the Air Force called for a distinctly different style of writing and I always found it creeping into my work, and a modern technical writing style coupled with bullet statements is hardly the proper format for epic fantasy. But, when I could I scribbled noted and snippets in notebooks, and then I discovered computers.

The first was a Commodore 64, and I spent a couple of years typing all of my notes into it, only to turn around a few years later to have to type it all over again into my first PC. There was a great deal of time lost I guess, but as I typed it all in again I expanded ideas and updated things. Over the years my writing voice changed and I had to jigsaw all of the pieces of stories and styles together and then start the work of smoothing them all out into a single coherent telling of a story. That’s taken a long time as well, but also time well spent.

Now I’m retired, and at 43 I have a lot of productive writing years ahead of me, and now is the time to see what I have in me. I don’t claim to be a great writer, lets understand that right away, I am at best a dedicated amateur with hopes of one day becoming published. My opinions about writing as a whole are simply that, my opinions and bear no great weight in any circles. This doesn’t stop me from having opinions though, and those that know me will tell you that I have an opinion about nearly anything you’d care to mention. With this small disclaimer in mind, what is writing to me?

Creativity is important to me, I am at my happiest when I am writing a story, drawing a map, or even tinkering with the pages of this site (as the rest of the staff will tell you is nearly always). I have told stories about places that didn’t exist since I was old enough to talk and writing them since I learned how to stretch letters into words and sentences. I’ve taken every journalism and composition class that I could and for better or for worse I consider myself at least an adequate writer.

Far too many people think that they cannot write, and this to me is a shame. I don’t know who it was that said that every person had at least one great story in them, but I have the deep-seated belief that they are right. Anyone can tell a story, and if you can tell a story then the next logical step is to put it on paper. To hell with the grammar, scroo spelling, just write the story down. Writing is like most other things, the more you do it, the better you get.

© 2009, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.

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Is ón cheann a thagann an cheird

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Categories: Writing, Tags:

I don’t know if it shows, but most of everything I write is stream of consciousness, when I sit down I have an idea of what I want to write but I’ve never been a big outline kind of writer. I took several years of composition and journalism classes over the years and I don’t know why but teachers would demand an outline before I proceeded. I detest that process to the point that I’ve written papers and then the outline from it and turned it in to the teacher.

When I write most things I feel my way through them, to use a buzzword, its my process. Take for example my main “life’s literary work,” it’s fantasy and growing but I only really know, in rough terms where I want the story to go. How it gets there is something I find out when I sit down to write it. By now I know the characters well, and I can make the mental adjustment to write for each one of them to stay in character and in my “writer’s voice.”

Maybe that’s what drives me nuts about the nuts and bolts of the traditional writer’s process. I like to write with feeling, I know when I’m in the groove when I feel something like a voice in my head as I write it, and when I pause and read back through it there is a natural flow to it that tells me I’m cooking with napalm.

Now don’t get too worried that I listen to the “voices,” its not the Twilight Zone voices telling me to do strange things. Depending upon who you listen to I get into enough trouble without listening to any voices. Its like when I was younger, it seemed perfectly natural to dispose of a bunch of dud fire crackers by emptying all the powder into a snuff can, and filling the left over space with match heads. What I didn’t count on was the fuse burning that fast. But I stopped smoking after a few minutes, and my eyebrows grew back just fine.

There is an old Irish Gaelic phrase, I’ve sort of adopted it as a motto, Is ón cheann a thagann an cheird, the craft comes from the head. I value knowledge and learning greatly, I have run four different web browsers, each for different purposes and when I click Opera Google is the home page. I will Google anything in a heart beat. Couple that with my appreciation for the History channels and all of the various Discovery channels it comes in REALLY handy. I gather more notes on more odd subjects because it never ceases to amaze me where I can find a plot element.

One of my next projects is going to have to be more book storage in my Troll Cave, my little office under the stairs, because I have run out of room for reference books. The Encyclopedia of superstitions, the Dictionary of Chivalry my 3 volume dictionary set, all the way in the living room, well that’s about four steps, but I’m still feeling separation anxiety.

So what if I forget what a Gong Farmer is? Its way over there! By the way, a gong farmer is the guy that empties out the cesspits and privies. Yes, that’s right, a gong farmer is the guy that we’d now call a poo wrangler or a turd herder. They dig out and haul off what we don’t want to see or think about.

What a crappy job. Literally.

Writing, like no other discipline is where Is ón cheann a thagann an cheird applies the most. Mathematics is formulas and rules. Science is laws, theories and principles. History is dates. Writing is creativity.

Journalism might be 5w+h, who, what, where, when, why and how. But a well-written news story isn’t a bare recitation of these elements with a circled 30 underneath. The journalist takes the essential elements and with the craft of their art they link them together to present a story that is compelling and has an immediacy that grabs and holds the reader.

I’ve written technical procedures, regulations, newsletters, articles, research papers, a little marginal poetry, very short stories, short stories, and am still polishing what I hope is a few books. The styles are different, their purposes are different, but the flavor and flow of writing is something that we’ll carry with us no matter what we write.

What I really hated writing was performance reports. It is harder to get a bad one through the system than a good one, and you always have to say things in the most PC way possible. I’ve wanted to use expressions like: hit rock bottom and quit digging, somewhere a village is missing an idiot and they can have this one, proof of why cousins can’t breed. On the other hand there are guys that I wanted to say things like: Michelangelo with a tool box, couldn’t get better results carrying a chainsaw, or a sunuvabitch with passion. But no, we have to use the tried and true cookie-cutter bullet statements.

But, most of the world doesn’t have to write bullet statements, we get to use actual language. Language takes craft to make it stand and strut the stage. It takes creativity and passion. It needs the writer to combine their emotions and experiences with all that they have studied, observed and learned and make words rise off the page.

The craft comes from the head, but the head is what you make of it. If you lower your bucket into an shallow well, you will draw nothing up. Dig the well deep, and it will always reward you. The craft comes from the head, and inside your head is where you live. Look, listen and learn every day. See how people act and interact. Read widely and from many authors. Know yourself. Know who you are and you will know more than most people.

© 2009, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.

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Bringing feeling to what I write…

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Music is a friend of mine, just like movies life has a soundtrack and what is on the player depends upon what I’m writing at the time, so before I get started I’ll introduce you to a few situations and the musical friends that help me find the voice I need.

For writing battle scenes, Duel of the Fates from Star Wars or Princes of the Universe by Queen, or most of the Patton Soundtrack.

For a brawl, Beer for My Horses by Toby Keith and Willie Nelson,

For A death scene the obvious choice takes us back to Queen, Who Wants to Live Forever or Too Much Love Will Kill you, or Johnny Cash’s version of Hurt.

Love scenes, Siuil A Run (Walk My Love) by Celtic Woman, I don’t Want to Miss a Thing by Aerosmith, I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That) by Meat Loaf.

For the great speech before the battle: Hold your Head Up by Argent or The Angry American by Toby Keith.

Actors talk about their process, but writers have it too. You can’t write about the privations of a man without food and water when you’re burping up Burger King, you can’t do romance when the dog is hiding when it looks like you need to kick someone. You have to draw on every trick of the trade that actors think is their realm alone. I don’t care what actors say, they may believe that they draw the cold written word from the page and breathe life into it, but no actor ever born can bring life to dead words.

I’ve just written the scene below just now, be a little merciful and I am rarely a first draft writer. Make that almost never, but I digress. You can’t let me do that or I’ll start remembering stories and we’ll be here for hours. Pay attention! Wink

Music, as I said, is a great help to setting a mood, but music alone can only do so much, you have to look back into your own life for experiences to draw from. The piece below tells of the return of a legion to the fort and barracks and houses that they call home, bur the emotions of that can fluctuate throughout even something so short, because the same event that is joyful to one may be shattering to another. I can look back at the times I walked down a boarding ladder or the ramp of an aircraft and remember the feelings that I felt when I saw the people waiting, and then the butterflies you get when you see the face in the crowd that you missed so much.

So, taking that feeling, a little mood music and mixing in other memories and emotions that I’ve felt and seen around me I came up with this, a situation I’ve clearly never been in, but one I can bring myself to feel:

The long lines straightened as the gate opened before them, and men scarcely able to hold their heads up before the sound of the stiff beams being drawn and the massive hinges groan now drew themselves tall and the scuff of boots on gobbles was replaced by the beat of heals striking ground. Proudly now they returned, the weariness of the miles and aches of wounds in the back of a thousand minds as they stepped through the gate and again into that place they knew as home. From the corners of anxious eyes in composed faces they sought the faces of those they loved, spying them at last, a single face from thousands as each found the face they carried etched into their hearts.

And at the head of the column rode their commander, the privilege of the horse now a trial as he felt the eyes of those that searched the lines and could not find the faces of those they gave to their country, and now shaking fingers touched lips nervously as the frantic eyes searched again, and again they returned to the man astride the tall charger in the front rank, their eyes begged and accused him at once and with leaden heart he wheeled his mount and looked over his command.

His voice was rough and he fought for control over it as he ordered the Centurions and Sergeants to case their colors and at his order the broad flag of the legion leapt up the and cracked with a loud snap as the wind pulled it proudly. He had no words for them, they needed none from him as his eyes swept over the ranks and at last he gave the order to stand down and fall out. He himself dismounted, passing the reins over to a waiting groom and standing beneath the standard.

The voices of wives, sons and daughters raised in slow crescendo to joyful and raucous greeting, husbands and wives and soldiers and sweethearts crushing themselves to each other, unwilling to let the slightest space grow between them after these many pitiless months held them so far from each other. The children swarmed, new babies shown and crying with confusion at the strange person that now held them for the first time, many marveling at the size of little ones now grown taller. Tears poured without shame to leave dark dampened lines in the dust of the road on their cheeks to be wiped away by loving hands or ignored entirely as lips touched first tenderly and then with the explosion of long contained emotion. Many was the wife, lass or child with small muddy smeared on their cheeks.

Not so for the Tribune. Amidst all this joy, the ache of greeting his wife formally lest their joy turn to salt in the wounded hearts of those than now looked to him for word of the ones that didn’t come home. Wide eyes and trembling lips that pleaded for words that he could not speak. He could not ease their fears and sorrows, there was no joy for these faces. It tore at his heart and he wished again and once for each of the seventy men that would not march through that gate that he had died in every one of their stead. But he couldn’t even do off the buckles of his armor and show that he too had bled, shedding his blood, but not his life beside his men. Merciful fate mocked him and the words of praise they receives when the grand army separated and returned home were bitter ashes in his mouth now.

He walked among them, a word to each, his regret, his sadness, they mocked him now as hollow as he commanded his face to remain as stone, but they all saw into his eyes and into his soul, it wasn’t enough but they took what they could from him. And then to spare him, to ease the cruel burden of command came the sergeants who left for a bit their own families to go among those that knew now only loss and despair, and then those fortunate families spread to find friends and bring what comfort that could be found on such a day.

Among this huge multitude, yet all but alone he saw what so many would never know. The profession of arms was pitiless and remorseless, claiming with savage caprice the health or lives of the young, the old, the brave or craven without any rhyme or reason. But though the fields of strife drank deeply of the blood of so many, none that lived apart from these men of leather and iron could ever know the bonds between all that shared the lot in life of a soldier, and the lot of the wife, the son, the daughter of a soldier. And as the Tribune saw the many families blend and draw close around those among them in such pain until none could tell where the single families began or end as they drew together as one, and then would his hand seek hers, and their fingers twine together as they drew apart that he could at last bare his pain to the only person that cold custom allowed, after the door closed the world away from them at last.

I hope what I’ve given as my “process” matches what I’ve written, and hopefully some one can tweak and adjust it to their writing. As always your mileage may vary, thanks for indulging me.

© 2009, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.

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(Old) Thoughts on Writing

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I’m getting back into writing more these days, trying to finish a story that I started more than twenty years ago.

Why its taken so long to get this far is a little complicated.

I write about the world that I created for AD&D, the roots of the world reach back to when I was 13, even then I was a detail kind of person. As I built countries and races and nations and people I needed to know more about them. I slowly filled several spiral notebooks to satisfy this curiosity.

Then stories started to fill other notebooks. Mythologies, people, laws, history, I needed a how and why to help make the AD&D campaigns feel more alive and real.

Slowly the game helped me flesh out the details over the skeleton, and writing added more still.

Then I left home and all of those notebooks went into the bottom of my duffel bag to Japan with me. The writing continued when I could find time to write, and the games continued as I found people interested in playing. That wasn’t easy. I am something of a work-a-holic and so work took more and more time away from all of that, and then I got married and after not too long I got Milady Kim interested in playing. And so the growth of the world continued slowly as I gathered a few more players. It also began to refine as I grew older and had a deeper pool of experiences to draw upon

Then I got my first computer, a Commodore 64, which at that time was cutting edge, and working on new material took a back seat to putting all that I had from several old ragged notebooks onto a small army of disks. And then I was spending more and more time at work because I was assigned to writing technical procedures and that required I work on a PC. Once again Milady Kim showed me wisdom. Why have work on one computer, and my writing on another, when they couldn’t talk to each other.

So, I jumped onto the PC market, back when the 386SX-16 was the screamingest thing running. And when I wasn’t working on work at home, I was putting everything from the Commodore into the PC. Yes, from writing it all in notebooks, to typing it all into one, then another computer. It took a long time, and in that time my writing matured with me, and so when it was finally all in the computer it was all started over from scratch, so writing that started in my teens took me through my twenties and thirties to bring into full flow and continuity.

The longer I served the more “official” writing that I did, and officialese and fantasy are never really compatible to me, and it would take a week or so off just to get back into the fantasy-writing swing and about that time I’d get a few good days and go back to work.

Then I’d get sent somewhere and I was back to my traveling notebooks. I’ve scribbled ideas in several countries, sometimes in decent rooms, in tents, outside where I could find a space to sit, in ready rooms, on aircraft, you name it. And when I got home it would all have to be transcribes again into the computer.

Now I’m transitioning from service, very soon to retire and so I write almost nothing official anymore, and the writing is flowing back into me. No more short declarative sentences in a style known as officialese. Richard Marchinko describes military communication as: “Redundant, bureaucratic military nomenclature, either in written nonoral or nonwritten oral, mode, indecipherable by non-military (conventional) individuals during interfacing configuration conformations.”

I can hear you all already saying WTF? Well, I included that to show you the difference in mindsets and the problem is causes me to get my head right to write in either form.

Now that I’m writing almost exclusively in the fantasy mode now, a few hopefully short, observations.

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A story is a lifeless thing if you don’t have characters that you can relate to, and you have to be able to relate to them on a personal level. I am a sentimental guy, and I have written about characters literally from cradle to grave. And there are times when I get very misty-eyed relating their passing, or great or terrible moments in their lives. A character has to be a 3d flesh and blood creation, or you’ll write flat stories about flat people.

I am not a first draft writer, I write and get as much down as I can and what ends up n the page as draft is really rough, and then I go back and smooth until it flows as best I can and then I move along and do more. This is first draft, sorry about that, it won’t be pretty writing.

To write you have to get yourself into writing mode. Music is good for this. Stephen King blasts AC/DC when he writes. I listen to music that fits what I’m writing. Jerry Goldsmith’s Patton soundtrack for Battles, Queen’s Who Wants to Live Forever for death scenes, Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing for Love scenes, just as a few examples. I guess there are method writer’s just like there are method actors, and to that degree I am one of them. I have to feel something to write it, or it sits lifeless on the page.

You need support to write. I rely on my family to help me tune my writing, to point out places where I wasn’t in the grove so to speak. But you also need those around you to be with you in what you do, and there I am one lucky bastard.

Write and let the story take you to the end. I can’t do outlines, I try and as I write I end up at the destination I was aiming at, mostly, but the trips is a lot different than I had programmed. Its like a road trip, you know where you need to be at the end, and you can program the stops, but what you see along the way eventually takes over and rules how you’ll go and what you see along the way.

© 2009, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.