Ducks and geese on the water at sunset (179_7932)

The Kids and I are riding into the sunset for the immediate future.  That is to say we’re taking a brief hiatus from blogging.

“NOOOOO!!!!” you scream in response.

Calm down, drama queens.  It won’t last that long.

For your information, we’re only talking days, not weeks.

“How many days?” you demand vehemently.

A few.  Perhaps several.  But less than eleven.

And you weep, “Why?”

Because we’ve been going for more than four years and feel we deserve—let alone need—a break.  It’s only a brief respite, a mere sip from the well of rest from which we’ve for too long abstained.

During this time off, there will be no Random Thoughts and no Vocabularium entries.  As a matter of fact, there will be absolutely nothing.  No new content.  No photos.  No videos.  Nada.

As in nada damn thing.

See, I made a funny.

The point is we need a vacation from the blog.  We’ve grown tired, stressed from the continual grind, weary as it were.

But this isn’t forever.  It’s for some number of days not to number more than ten.  That’s barely more than a week if it even lasts that long.

I promise we’ll be back.

During this time we’ll be snapping photos, capturing videos, recharging our batteries, and enjoying a retreat from the digital mayhem that is online journaling.

So we’ll see you in no more than ten days.

Ducks and geese on the water at sunset (179_7942)

[photos include mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos), American coots (Fulica americana), brown and white Chinese geese (a.k.a. swan geese, Anser cygnoides), wood ducks (Aix sponsa), unknown duck species, and perhaps a few creatures I couldn’t recognize in these particular images]

The movie meme

You know how I am about web memes.  Don’t tag me with them because I won’t be imposed upon for content.  But that doesn’t mean I hate them.  Actually, I like some of them and include them here if they suit my fancy.  And this one does.

From Diva Kitty & the Fluffies comes the movie meme.

You’re welcome to play along in the comments if you wish, and you’re equally welcome to use this on your own blog if you have one.  I won’t tag anybody since it’s not my thing.

I’m taking great liberty in my answers as many ask for one and I’m giving a lot more (that’s just how I roll).

1. Name a movie that you have seen more than 10 times.
Any Star Trek, Star Wars, or Godzilla film, all but the latest King Kong film, the original “The Fog,” “Dark City,” “Contact”, “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar,” “Stargate,” “Casablanca,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Roots,” “Donnie Darko,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “The Gods Must Be Crazy,” “Grosse Pointe Blank,” all of the classic sci-fi and horror stuff (“The Time Machine,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” all the Dracula, Frankenstein, and werewolf movies, etc.), and a great many others.  You have to remember: I’m an avid movie nut.

2. Name a movie that you’ve seen multiple times in the theater.
Several, but the one I’ve seen the most is “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”  The Casa Linda Theater—when it was open—once showed it at midnight every weekend.  I attended religiously.

3. Name an actor that would make you more inclined to see a movie.
I assume that means actors who are alive since the dead folk won’t be showing up in anything new… or so one hopes.  Anthony Hopkins—and not more inclined but obligated to do so.  Even if I know the movie’s terrible, I’ll still see it once.  The same is true for Jake Gyllenhaal, Sally Field, Tim Curry, Ben Kingsley, Drew Barrymore, Jude Law, Whoopi Goldberg, Kenneth Branagh, John Malkovich, Glenn Close, Johnny Depp, Gary Oldman, Ian McKellen, Meryl Streep, Richard Dreyfuss, John Cusack, Joan Cusack, Michael Caine, Ewan McGregor, Denzel Washington, John Travolta, Julianne Moore, Gary Sinise, Kevin Spacey, Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Stewart, and Guy Pearce.  There are others, I’m sure, but that’s certainly the top of the list.  I can’t help it if I have a lot of favorites.

4. Name an actor that would make you less likely to see a movie.
Same assumption on being alive or dead…  Jim Carrey, Keanu Reeves, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Sandra Bullock, Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy, Justin Timberlake, Cedric the Entertainer, Jamie Foxx, Sylvester Stallone, and probably a few (several?) I don’t remember at this moment.

5. Name a movie that you can and do quote from.
Hello!  I’m gay.  That would be every movie I’ve ever seen.

6. Name a movie musical that you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs.
“The Sound of Music” and “The Wizard of Oz.”  There are many others, yes, but those two stand out in my mind.

7. Name a movie that you have been known to sing along with.
See above.  And “Newsies” (I’m so embarrassed!!!!).

8. Name a movie that you would recommend everyone see.
“Contact,” “Das Boot,” “Dangerous Liaisons,” “Dead Poets Society,” “Pi,” “Following,” “Silkwood,” “Reversal of Fortune,” “Dark City,” “Casablanca,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Memento,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” “The Birds,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “Gods and Monsters,” “Hotel Rwanda,” “Philadelphia,” “Gorillas in the Mist,” “Se7en,” “The Bear,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and “Donnie Darko.”  I’d recommend more if I didn’t know it would bore you to tears.

9. Name a movie that you own.
A lot.  I’ve reduced it from several hundred to around a hundred.  How about “Edward Scissorhands” or “The Opposite of Sex”?

10. Name an actor that launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops.
Mark Wahlberg (although not terribly impressive, his acting certainly is an extreme dichotomy compared to his music).

11. Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what?
My goodness yes!  I grew up going to drive-ins considering sit-in theaters didn’t exist yet.  I remember seeing “Jaws,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” the 1976 version of “King Kong,” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” at drive-ins.  Plus a whole lot more.  You might even be surprised to know I saw “Red Dawn,” “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock,” “Casper” (HATED IT!), and “Congo” (HATED IT!) at drive-ins.

12. Ever made out in a movie?
Yes.  And more than that.  A great deal more.

13. Name a movie that you keep meaning to see but just haven’t yet gotten around to it.
That list is a mile long.  There’s “Superman Returns,” “Zodiac,” “The Pursuit of Happyness,” and “father & son.”

14. Ever walked out of a movie?
“Laws, yes!”  “The Hard Way” immediately comes to mind.

15. Name a movie that made you cry in the theater.
“Philadelphia”…and there wasn’t enough tissue on the planet to sop up my tears.  I’ve cried during plenty of movies, but that one goes down in history for inducing the most sorrow in the theater.

16. Popcorn?
Large with butter—because my bad cholesterol hasn’t clogged all of my arteries yet.  Well, I get a large if I’m sharing, otherwise a medium or even a small will do fine.

17. How often do you go to the movies?
I don’t go anymore.  I think the movie and theater industries are gouging the public while offering crap for the investment.  Unless something ginormous comes along that absolutely must be seen on the big screen, you won’t catch me going to a theater.  When they get the prices under control, and when the MPAA stops acting like Nazis, perhaps then I’ll consider changing my stance—but probably not.  Besides, DVD brings better quality right to my own living room, and it does so at a fraction of the cost… and I can drink beer that way!

18. What’s the last movie you saw in the theater?
“King Kong”… and it’s a regret I’ll suffer with for the rest of my life.

19. What’s your favorite/preferred genre of movie?
I don’t have one.  My tastes are quite varied.  Although it’s easy for me to say science fiction draws me in easier than anything else, I’m rather eclectic when it comes to entertainment (movies, books, and music), so even that would be disingenuous.

20. What’s the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?
The first one I can think of is “Saturday Night Fever,” but I can’t honestly say whether that was the first movie I saw in a theater (obviously excluding drive-ins).  Something else might have come before it.  Now that I think about it, I’m positive several came before that one, but back then the local theater had Monday Movie Night for a dollar a film so they could get more of the old drive-in people to try out the new sit-in idea.  We were going every week and seeing something different, so I’m sure plenty of others came before that one.

21. What movie do you wish you had never seen?
“Dreamcatchers” even though it’s based on Stephen King.  All three of us—Jenny, Derek, and I—sat through it thinking the others in our party wanted to see it, but afterward all three of us admitted we wanted to walk out after about fifteen minutes.  There are times when silence and consideration for others represent a doomed policy that should be abandoned in haste.

22. What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed?
“Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” is probably the most esoteric film I enjoyed but that was considered “weird” by pretty much everyone else.

23. What is the scariest movie you’ve seen?
None.  Movies don’t scare me.  They never have.  When my brother hid behind the couch while we watched the original “The Fog” on television, I sat enraptured without flinching.  When my other siblings hid and diverted their eyes while we watched “The Legend of Boggy Creek” on television, I was fixated and had a hard time even blinking.  You see, I enjoy scary movies even though I think most are passed off under that label despite containing nothing more than cheap thrills and pedestrian scares.  I can’t honestly say any movie has ever frightened me, although plenty have provided the occasional, gratuitous shock.

24. What is the funniest movie you’ve seen?
“Mars Attacks” when altered; “To Wong Foo…” when altered or not.  I mean me when I say altered.

Open thread

What a great story: Bald Eagle Returns to Philadelphia after 200 Years.  “America’s national emblem is nesting in Philadelphia for the first time in more than 200 years but it may be on a collision course with developers. A pair of bald eagles, a species that has recovered from the brink of extinction in the last 40 years, has built a nest in a former Navy yard on the south side of Philadelphia, the sixth-largest U.S. city and where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were written.”

You have to see this video!  It’s of a duckling feeding koi.  I can’t tell if it’s intentional or not (i.e., the duckling may be trying to wet down its own food), but it’s still cute nevertheless, especially because the koi are large enough to eat the duckling.

Interesting research for those sharing life with one or more dogs: “Going right or left makes a big difference for tail wagging dogs, Italian researchers have discovered. Tails wag to the right when dogs are happy and see something they want to approach, and to the left when they are frightened and confronted with something they want to run away from, claim the researchers.”

Bizarre Hexagon Spotted on Saturn: “One of the most bizarre weather patterns known has been photographed at Saturn, where astronomers have spotted a huge, six-sided feature circling the north pole. Rather than the normally sinuous cloud structures seen on all planets that have atmospheres, this thing is a hexagon. The honeycomb-like feature has been seen before. NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft imaged it more than two decades ago. Now, having spotted it with the Cassini spacecraft, scientists conclude it is a long-lasting oddity.”  See the article for a photograph.  And I think it feels so 2010

Getting the writing back on track

With the requirement to spend all my free time looking for a job now a thing of the past, I desperately need to get back on track with Dreamdarkers.  I had originally planned by this time to have it ready for outside review.  That didn’t happen.  I was on a roll with it through late 2006 but fell way behind over the last three or four months because my priorities shifted so dramatically—and necessarily.

So now that I have a job to start in a few weeks, it’s time to refocus on the novel.  I still believe I can have it ready for agent submission by early summer at the latest.  That is assuming, of course, that work doesn’t interfere or that some other catastrophe doesn’t pop up to take my attention elsewhere.

At this moment, the manuscript contains about 450 pages.  It will grow.  Does that mean the book will be that long?  I can’t say right now since this is only the first rewrite of the original “Darkness Comes to Kingswell” short story.  I know there’s much more to add and expand, but I also know the edit session to follow this rewrite will undoubtedly remove content.  That means its length will fluctuate up and down while I continue manhandling it throughout these various writing and editorial passes.

Keep in mind, as I’ve pointed out before, I don’t know how the number of pages in the document translate to the number of pages in a printed book.  I doubt anyone could know that.  The margins, font size, and spacing of the current digital text ultimately convert to something quite different, and even that depends on the margins, font size, and spacing of the bound paper.  There might be a relative correlation derived from some abstract, variable-controlled equation, but it would offer nothing more than a guesstimate.

Relatedly, one of the friendly folks at Starbucks has been following this project for some time.  She recently asked me what chapter I was on.  I explained to her then what I explained to you last November:

I know there are writers who include [chapters] up front, but I’m not one of them.  It forces my hand in a way that I don’t like.  Instead, I want the story itself to be my focus, not on how long each chapter is or where I need to go before including a new pause.  When it’s done, I’ll go back and work out where the chapter breaks should be.  They do serve a useful purpose, I know, and as an avid reader I appreciate them.  Nevertheless, guessing at the number now is being foolish.  Once I’m happy with the story, I’ll go through it and find the places where a reader can comfortably pause without losing the spirit of the chronicle, and that’s where I’ll put in chapter breaks.

With that in mind, I have no idea how many chapters are in it now or how many will be in it later.  For me, that’s not relevant and is something I’ll figure out once I’m happy with the story.

I still intend to follow Dreamdarkers with End of the Warm Season (assuming that’s what it’s called).  I have explained to both xocobra and Jenny in the last few weeks this very real truth about that story (from an e-mail to Jenny):

The more I think about that one, however, the more I think it’ll be two books.  Either that or a very long single book (like [Stephen] King’s The Stand at almost 1200 pages).  We’ll see how it works out.

I say that because the narrative spans centuries (whereas Dreamdarkers spans a few days).  Likewise, the second tale is based on two antagonists and their slowly yet ultimately intertwining lives.  It also must cover a methodical discovery by the protagonist(s) regarding both the bag guy and the bad god, what they’re up to, what could happen if either or both accomplish what they wish to accomplish, and how to stop them.

Oh, and it will also delve into a bit more history surrounding Kingswell, my little East Texas town, as well as a secret or two from Dreamdarkers that won’t be told in that novel.  I can’t promise you all the answers the first book doesn’t share, but I can promise a surprise or two will be contained within the second story that will shed light on what really happened in the first.  I won’t give any hints on that since I think it makes for a great surprise to see how Dreamdarkers ultimately is told from Dave Lloyd’s perspective versus what you find out in End of the Warm Season.

I won’t guess beyond that story.  I do still have plans to write The Breaking of Worlds, a lengthy series of books to number perhaps 6-8 novels.  Will it follow immediately upon the heels of End of the Warm Season?  Or will there perchance be another story more centralized on Kingswell before that larger tale unfolds?  Or more than one?  Only time will tell.

[Update] One more thing…  There will be no more excerpts from Dreamdarkers posted here.  I’ve shared enough to give a feel for the book.  I’ve shared enough to reveal some of what it’s about.  At this point, sharing any more tidbits would become obsessive behavior used to hide a lack of other post material, I think, so the rest of the story will only be available in the final book.

And for those to whom I promised a signed copy of the final manuscript, you will still receive one—after the book is on store shelves.  Consider it a bit of protective behavior.  I believe the story will change a bit for the second release in paperback, not to mention the possible third release in mass-market paperback, so what you receive will be a copy of the original hardback novel.  That should ensure its greatest value and rarity.

But I know you don’t want it just so you can turn around and sell it…  Right?