Monthly Archives: May 2007

Writing Down the Bones

Last year a lovely and talented writer named Jennifer turned me on to Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.

Thank you Jennifer.

Thank you.

I’ve had this book for months and I haven’t even finished it. I can only read about two pages before I suddenly have to put the book down, rush over to my desk, and write something.

This book is so unique you can judge it by weight. It’s light, yet it holds more inspiration per ounce than anything I have ever hefted before in my life. It’s like condensed inspiration, slowly and lovingly rendered down to almost pure form.

I know I’ve touted this book before, maybe here, definitely elsewhere, but even if I’m repeating myself it deserves to be repeated. I sometimes wish I’d discovered this twenty years ago, but no. Things happen for a reason. The universe has a timing all its own. Something brought Jennifer and I together one morning at a Starbucks, and I think her gift to me was to tell me about this book. So the book came into my life at a time where I can really appreciate it, and savor it, and let it inspire me one page at a time.

I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone who writes. Not just novels, but poetry, business reports, sales receipts, shopping lists … even if you don’t write at all. It teaches you in a very Zen way to appreciate life as it happens.

It’s a writer’s job to notice things. Moments. Instances. If you notice them, you appreciate them. Then you can write about them.

But the real gift here is that you learn to notice them.

Thank you again, Jennifer.

And thank you Natalie Goldberg.

Water to Wine = Beer?

Well, spending the night alone with a spaceship in the middle of a big quiet ballroom is proving to be very inspiring! I’ve made a lot of progress on my novel since last night. Not so much in wordage, but rather with research and complexity of plotting.

I’ve found out some very interesting things that support my contentions in my fantasy novel. Interesting to me, at least — interesting to find that my flights of fantasy are not only possible, but also shared by other people.

Interesting contention number one: Beer was around long before wine. Sumerian grain farmers seem to have discovered beer almost immediately after discovering how to make bread, and probably by accident. You get bread wet, and under the right circumstances, you’ll end up with beer.

Interesting contention number two: Jesus Christ was a beer brewer. Being that beer was, back in those days, something made by priests and considered to be holy, there is a lot of evidence that could easily be interpreted to show that not only was Jesus a brewer, but the texts referring to him turning “water into wine” actually referred to him turning water into beer. Which makes sense because that’s what a brewer does. When the Greeks first translated the bible from ancient Hebrew they lacked a word for “beer” and so instead used the word “wine” in its place. They probably thought it didn’t make any difference. Both drinks are alcoholic, and besides, the Greeks were wine making fools. Thus leading to…

Interesting contention number three: There exists a couple thousand-year old conspiracy by the wine industry, started by the wine (not beer) loving Greeks, to cover up the fact that Jesus drank beer instead of wine during the last supper. Thus, there could very well have been beer instead of wine in the Holy Grail!

Another discovery I made tonight was the existence of Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of beer. I have a character in the novel who — it will turn out — is actually Ninkasi.

All of this puts a delightfully wonderful spin on the plot and brings it full circle. And, even better, I don’t have to change anything I’ve already written. It all fits.

So, to wrap it up, it’s about 4am here in the Crystal Ballroom, and I’m still sitting three feet away from a spaceship, and I’ve just discovered that, no, my eyes are not playing tricks on me. I figured it was just because I am tired, that I keep thinking I’m seeing things moving out of the corner of my eyes.

Nope. Something is moving, all right. I’m not alone in the Crystal Ballroom.

There is a mouse scurrying along the walls.

Got Insomnia?

Anyone having problems sleeping tonight is more than welcome to hang out with me on my second night guarding the spaceship.  I brought my USB camera and am broadcasting live all night (or as long as my WiFi keeps working) on WriterCam.com.

I’m spending the night working on my novel, and fending off those who may try and sabotage the spaceship.  Which, oddly enough, I guess is possible … which is why I’m here.

Sleeping with Spaceships

You’ll never guess what I’m doing.

I’m guarding a spaceship.

I am, right now, sitting in the Crystal Ballroom at the InterContinental Hotel in Dallas, typing away on my buddy Bill’s computer (I brought my little writing machine but, alas, forgot the power cord) and guarding the “Pixel,” a prototype lunar lander developed by Armadillo Aerospace. Apparently its in the contract that there must be someone in the room with the spaceship at all times.

It didn’t say that the person had to be awake, however, and so the hotel thoughtfully has rolled in a bed for me to sleep in.

It’s going to be very weird, sleeping next to a spaceship in the middle of the Crystal Ballroom.

My New Portable Writing Machine

It’s the keyboard that’s new.

I love it.

Parting Shots at the IT Industry

I started out a writer, then bought a IBM PCjr wayyy long ago, for the sole purpose of using it as a word processor. Unfortunately the computer was such a piece of junk that I had to become a computer technician to make it work. Thus, it led me down a path that at first I loved, but after years have come to be desperately sick of.

Recently I walked away from that path. Yet it comes back to haunt me, and I get asked questions … some of which I don’t know the answer to.

Not knowing the answer used to terrify me. In the IT world, it’s a sign of weakness. Unprofessionalism. Uber-geeks are supposed to be all-knowing.

So now someone asks me an uber-geek question and I don’t know it, my initial reaction is to internally panic. Then I realize … NO! I do NOT have to know this anymore!

The flood of relief is intoxicating. I smile. I sometimes even giggle. I tell the hapless audience, “Um, I have no idea. Call the IT department.”

The IT department is in Majokakjhpajhae India. They look at me in horror. “No, please, don’t make me call them.”

“Why not? I have to.”

“But… but…”

It’s true. I have to call them as well. I’ve been stripped of my godlike powers over the network. I can do nothing but call, and watch some poor guy on the other side of the world try and figure out why my computer is acting up … I watch them move my mouse around, guessing at things, trying this and that, and all the while I know he’s on the wrong track — and I don’t care that he’s on the wrong track. Because while he’s doing that, I’m on the phone with my fiancee, or I’m working on something on my iPaq. The computer problem is no longer my responsibility.

And that is so sweet.

I’ve started weaning myself off of technical publications, too. Letting subscriptions lapse. Opting out of newsletters. But there’s one I find hard to let go of … I will, eventually … but it’s called Good Morning Silicon Valley. It’s hard to let that one go because those guys think so much like I do.

This morning I was reading about how Microsoft is now starting again to attack the open source community, and it raised my hackles. I thought, jeeze, just when I was starting to like Microsoft, just as I was thinking that, okay, the behemoth has mellowed and was becoming a kinder, gentler monopoly … then something like this. The big beast still lives, with a hunger that still desires to consume the entire world.

But then I step back … and ask myself:  why do I care?

I take a deep breath. I sigh. I let it go.

I don’t care. I write for a living now, full time. The computer is now just a tool. I don’t care what operating system is on it. All I care about is that the network connection is live, and the printer works.

Goodbye IT world. I know you should never say never, but … I never want to go back. Let it move to India.