Connections

Here's a secret. Authors cheat. We cheat all the time. Constantly cheating. For instance, Damico's personal history is pretty much my personal history with a few exceptions. Lifting my backstory started as a joke and turned into a major cheat. Another cheat evolves out of the fact that you don't want to put a factual error in a book. If you write that people in Switzerland speak Swiss, it doesn't matter if all the characters involved would honestly think Swiss is a language. It isn't. You need to hang a lantern on that somehow. So Damico's memory is about 15% better than mine. If he's complaining about a Star Trek: TNG episode in book 4 of DbC, I have to go back and watch the episode to discover that, no, it wasn't Worf who said that line. It was O'Brien because Worf had left Starfleet in the season finale the episode before and O'Brien stood at his post for those 40 or so minutes of story. I'd forgotten that. A better ST:TNG fan would be offended by that error, especially coming from the mouth of someone tearing down the episode, and so I had to get all the other details right. So I cheat.

And there are other cheats, that are just good process. We call them editing. Most editing is just very creative cheating. Finding creative ways to get around abusing the words "just" and "turned" and "was". Finding that creative solution you had at the end of the book and rewriting the beginning of the book and pretending you had it all along. Stealing a good idea from Writers' Group (which isn't really stealing, since it was given freely, but the Writers' Group could be called one big cheat, couldn't it?) Cheating. You could make that argument that all good processes are really just cheating, codefied as best practices.

I just finished those 80-110 hour weeks I do when I'm editing a novel. In this case the second draft of DbC 4. The book turned out to be in better shape than I had any right to expect. In the end, it mainly boiled down to establishing connections.

When I started that book, I knew there would be a super weapon since it's based on Star Wars (or more directly Hidden Fortress, the movie that inspired Star Wars). But I didn't know what the weapon was until I'd made it about halfway through. I knew what it did, but not the actual Weapon itself, so I couldn't give clues to its identity. So at the halfway point, maybe a little further, I figured out what the Weapon would be, but I didn't have a lot of experience with the particular thing. Damico would, of course, after I edited his backstory (cheating!). So I brainstormed it at my game group, which had at least two people with a lot of experience with the thing in question and one of them came up with the connection to lemonade stands. I would use lemonade stands, in an absurdist manner, throughout the book to foreshadow the Weapon's real nature and a few real die hards out there would figure it out (or get close enough) and feel good about themselves.

Of course, I didn't have any lemonade stands in the first half of the book (because that would be pretty absurd), so I had to make sure I found places to add them on my way through, and I'd added <<Lemonade Stands!!!>>> as a note at the beginning of the first chapter to cascade through my edits.

The other big problem the book had (and might still have, we'll see how the second round of critiques goes), has to do with the epigrams. Howard Tayler made a joke during the second book that spawned the running gag in the fourth book's epigrams, which turned them into one giant meta-joke/story that doesn't pay off until you've read both the chapter quotes and the novel all the way through. Around chapter 15, I started getting notes from critiquers where they'd say things like, "These are funny, but distracting, and I'll stop commenting on that now." Basically, they all gave up on pointing out the problems with them and trying to fix them right around a third of the way through. Then, around chapter 39, I have a line in there where they all said, "Wow. Okay, I'm interested now." Unfortunately, that's near the end of a 50 chapter book.

The secret of that line is that it intimately connected the epigrams to what happened in the main story of the novel in a way that didn't seem possible previously. And by the end, I think they all agreed that the payoff was worth it, but that they wouldn't have taken the whole journey with me if they hadn't been forced to by the nature of a critique group. I think the general attitude was, "I like what you're trying to do here. I hope you figure out some way to pull it off. Good luck."

So. What did I do? I cheated.

I stole a page from The Empire Strikes Back. Hopefully, I did it well enough to work. In The Empire Strikes Back you have two plots, one very exciting (Han and Leia being chased and almost captured or killed at every turn) and one very boring (Luke and Yoda talking philosophically about the nature of reality). The way the screenwriter pulls you through that second plot is by mirroring the first. Han and Leia almost die in a cave. Luke goes into a cave, etc. He borrows the tension and excitement from the first plot and you feel it in the second, even though that second plot, on it's own, hasn't earned it. I tried to do that when plotting the epigrams, but I just couldn't make the parallelism work (I wanted every epigram to hit the same story beat as the chapter itself, but that didn't happen and I see now that wouldn't have solved the problem anyway). So in the final edit, I went through and I foreshadowed that big line in Chapter 39. I found ten or so other lines in the epigrams and I purposely found places to mirror them in the text of the chapters themselves, although never in the same chapter as the quote. So even the least astute reader should see, by chapter four, that there is a direct connection between the two, and while they won't know what it is, I'm hoping the puzzle of trying to work it out will carry them through and keep them from giving up (or at least have them shrug and give me the benefit of the doubt, for those who don't enjoy cracking puzzles but would rather just watch them unfold).

And on the matter of Lemonade Stands? One final happy bit of happenstance?

The opening dialog, first bit of dialog that happens (chronologically, at least)? It's Lotianna in a desert, waxing poetic about the thing she misses most. The thing she misses most? Lemonade. I didn't even have to add that in. It was like I planned that to be a thematic thread from the very beginning.

So sometimes you cheat. Sometimes fate cheats for you.

Or maybe I just cheated by twisting everything in this post to be about cheating. Anyway you cut it:

Connections.

Fyrecon

I spent this weekend pouring my sweat, my energy, and several layers of my vocal cords into the Fyrecon. This was Fyrecon's first year and they made a fine showing. Most of the people involved are old pros at the con scene in one way or the other, but this is the first time they tried to start a con on their own, and a lot of us rooted for them quietly even as we kept our professional reserve. I can honestly say that I couldn't be more pleased.

There were bumps, not all of them their fault. The person before me in Plot a Novel in an Hour was under the impression that he could tear down his huge display of weapons after my presentation started. I don't know if this was his first conference or if he'd just gone over and this was an excuse, but it meant that my most time-sensitive presentation only had forty minutes instead of the normal fifty. It's the only time I've ever not actually finished it (although we were close enough to the end that the audience had all the nuts and bolt, I just didn't get that big finish moment that usually fires up the crowd). That made me sad.

I made new friends. I carpooled with my massage therapist and his wife. My massage therapist is an artist and his wife a writer, both professions had tracks at the conference. The first day we carpooled, only his wife wanted to wake up in time to go up together, so my massage therapist and a third guest rode up seperately, which was fine because I have this ritual. You see, my con personality, I've spoken of it before, takes a LOT of energy. I have to get into character. My current method of getting into character is to sing My Shot from Hamilton at the top of my lungs. I'm friends with Josh and Allison, we go to movies together every Tuesday night and we're about to start gaming together, so I knew that even if she hated that, she'd endure it. I was a little worried about the last day, however, when Josh and this third guest, Haley, would be in the car.

I met Haley that day and she came to Plot a Novel in an Hour. She seemed nice enough, but I was a little worried about the ride up the next day because subjecting someone to 7 minutes of loud, non-consensual hip-hop isn't always the best way to begin a relationship. Then, right before bed, she sent me a friend request on Facebook, which made sense because we used messenger to coordinate all day and that would allow me to not ask "Is Haley with you?" In every new conversation before coordinating lunches and dinners and the like. But under job, there in the friend request were the words "Musical Theater Major." At that point, I suspected it would all be all right. I knew for sure, the next morning when I asked her, "How do you feel about Hamilton?" "I love Hamilton!" "Well, great. Then the next seven minutes aren't going to suck for you." So we sang My Shot. Then she told me that I had given her the Hamilton bug. Well, I could certainly do something about that, so I started the show from the beginning and had a UofU theater major sing to me the entire drive. Which is great when your throat is completely destroyed and you'd really just like to sit back and not have to entertain everyone else for a bit.

We had good classes, great debates. At one moment in the green room, actual tears tears flowed from all the sharing. More bonding related tears at other times, with other people. I got to sit and have a great conversation with Toni Weisskopf from Baen for almost two hours, which I can tell you doesn't happen nearly enough for my tastes. No shop talk. No agendas. Just people sharing their lives. We discussed homes and pets and giving blood and childhood stories and the little things that are trivial to everyone else but mean so much in the moment.

I hear the conference did well financially. They didn't have final numbers last I checked, but I think it did well enough for a second year. I look forward to it. They made a good space for the students. They made a good space for the presenters. All in all, I found it a great experience.

The Benefits of a Long Commute

My mother is disabled and lives with me, but for years before that, I'd drive to her house most every Sunday for dinner and a movie. I lived in Orem, UT. She lived in Salt Lake City. I hadn't discovered podcasts yet, so I spent most of that time listening to music. But more importantly, I spent those 45 minutes, both ways, twice a week, grinding on plot. Drilling down on story problems. Digesting the writing I'd done that week. Planning my writing for the next week. Just working through those mental cycles necessary to work out the issues.

I've joked before how there have been periods where I quit writing on my drive home every night after Writers' Group, only to recommit and figure out my way forward by the time I arrived at my door. Long commute. I have a 25-minute drive to work (35-minutes in good weather when construction starts). Long commute. There are times at work when I just can't stare at the screen anymore and I step into the big conference room and stare off at the big NSA complex off on the distant mountains (I've probably been flagged). Not a long commute, but a few minutes when my subconscious sits idle.

We talk a lot as writers about the importance of butt-in-chair time, and I don't want to discount that, but just as important is that time when you're not working on writing...when your brain can process what you've done and what you're going to do. For me, it's the commute. For you, it might be house cleaning, or yard work, or gardening, or building that shed out back, or pulling cable because your significant other has the same reaction to exposed cables as most people have to snakes. Maybe it's running errands. Maybe it's paying bills. Maybe it's organizing your sock drawer. I don't know, but your conscious mind frees up and can work on the product at hand and suddenly your realize, "Oh. Hey. My plan is super convoluted at the end because it needs to be for it to work out, but the person who made the plan didn't know it needed to be convoluted. She should have made it simple. I need to come up with an excuse for her to have foreseen all this. Dammit."
 
 I'm an outliner, a pantser only by necessity. Still, my favorite moments are when I walk into the climax and realize the hero's plan won't work and that my whole outline for the ending goes out the window, because I don't stop writing, I just start writing desperately, and I think it comes across in the character's desperation. But I don't recommend that for the weak of heart. I suggest figuring out that plan doesn't work about two months before you have to write it, so that you have two months of showers and drives and long meetings where that one guy (you know the guy) is talking for you to figure out what the real plan should be.
 
 I had my first gray hair at seventeen. I started writing in earnest at sixteen. You do the math.

War in Ficition

It's Memorial Day, and I'm thinking about war. This is the first Memorial Day in a long time that hasn't been a convention weekend for me, and I'm not used to using the day for it's intended purpose. This has me thinking some about war in novels.

War can be handled in different ways in different works, of course. It can even be handled differently for different characters. War changes some people. It probably changes most people. My grandfather carried the scars of the World War II until the day he died. His heritage was Italian and the first man he killed (at least the first he knew he killed), was an Italian soldier. The soldier spoke to him before he died. My grandfather never told a soul what the soldier said, but he had nightmares about it most every night for the rest of his life. Some people sacrificed life and limb for their countries. Others sacrificed their sanity and the souls.

But does that mean that all war stories have to be about intense mental scarring and post-traumatic stress? I don't think so. Some people seem built for war. The horrors roll off them. There are different theories as to why this might be, but it boils down to the fact that some percentage of the human population seems born to take human life, when necessary. They aren't serial killers. They don't necessarily enjoy it. They just don't have the switch that causes them unbearable guilt in war or violence when defending others. If you're writing adventure stories, you can certainly assume the characters in your stories are these people.

But I've been thinking about my grandfather, and what he sacrificed. What he endured. When I was young, I read a psychologist talking about mental illness. Unfortunately, I can't quote the source, but he said something like, "I can show you why any person in the world should have gone insane. I can't tell you how a single person, with everything they experienced, stayed sane."

You can tell different stories with the same character. People change. Situations change. My grandfather could have fought for months before that moment where he killed that soldier and exchanged those words (I actually don't know he didn't). Those nameless soldiers in the distance, would they have had the same effect on him? Maybe, maybe not, but if I were telling that story, I would feel justified making that a major turning point in his relationship with war. Most of the war stories he told me were comedies. Stories of adventure and drinking and bar fights. I could tell stories that seemed more like adventure stories before and darker explorations into the pain of trauma after. There was a stark demarcation in his life between the stories of war he told to entertain, and the twitching, horrifying torments that came in the middle of the night.

But we read stories to escape. We read stories to be affected. Sometimes we need the stories to be fantasies. Sometimes we need them to be painfully real. Sometimes we need them to edify the spirit. Sometimes we need to explore the pain we can't express ourselves. Sometimes we honor a person's outer deeds. Sometimes we honor their inner trials.

No one story can cover the full canvas of war. Pick your theme, and just do your best to do it justice.

Dealing With Rejection

This weekend, I watched a video about getting your head in the right place for sales or personal relations. I watch things like this sometimes as little character studies. For instance, I'm a terrible salesman. I do well socially, but when I try to convert those skills to a business setting, I often break down. So if I want to write a good salesman (or conman), I might watch videos of salesmen and conmen trying to teach people how to do their thing.

Anyway, this person was speaking on rejections as an obstacle for a sales call, and I started thinking about rejection as a fact of life in writing. One thing almost every successful writer has in common is that they've been told they aren't good enough far more often than they've been told that they are good, or great, or even competent. Listen to TV writers speak about pitching, for instance. They are lucky if they make one sale for every fifty rejected pitches.

Many of the most popular authors were thoroughly rejected, and I'm not just talking about the ones who's finished work is populist, but of questionable quality. I'm talking about universally beloved books. Dune. Harry Potter. Brandon Sanderson skipped a big part of that portion of his career by just accepting that he would write crap for his first several books and not submitting them.

I don't suggest you do that.

I suggest you take as role models people like Shannon Hale or Kevin J Anderson. Kevin announces how many times he's been rejected at Writers of the Future and often challenges people to show him more rejections than that. Shannon laminated her early rejections into a giant role that she unfurls down panel rooms and out the door in a spectacular object lesson.

Death by Cliché was rejected something like 28 times before I produced it as a podcast to modest success. Between my Writers of the Future contest win and my next big sale, I must have had 300+ rejections. I've never done the math. Rejections are a part of the business.

So how do you deal with rejection?

I celebrate every rejection. I make a point of it. Every rejection, you see, is a step forward in my career. It's a churn. If I don't get those manuscripts out there, and those rejections back, I don't learn and move forward. I listened to these people early in my career and thought, "What if my number is one thousand, and I won't really know success until I've been rejected one thousand times? I'd better get busy."

Or you could sit there and do nothing. Afraid. Stagnant.

Napoleon ordered trees planted along the major roads in France, his reasoning being he wanted the armies of his empire to march in the shade. When one of his advisors pointed out that it would take twenty years for the trees to grow tall enough to shade an army, Napoleon said something like, "Well then what are you waiting for?" Except, you know, it probably sounded smarter when he said it, because he said it in French.

I was just as afraid of rejection, when I started, as the next person. Each letter devastated me. But instead of getting depressed I forced myself to celebrate each one, in some small way. Literally. How depended on my churn rate. If you're getting three a week, you probably can't afford a fancy dinner each time.

At first, I'll admit, it's lip service, but you know what? After a year or so, the sting had faded a bit. It still hurts to this day, but only when I read the rejection. When I see the rejection has arrived, I often give a little "Whoo hoo!" And after the slap fades, I can celebrate honestly now. Not every time. Sometimes the demons still come calling, but usually. Most of the time.

And now, when my last rejection for a project comes in, I'm already plotting my next big move. I'm always thinking ahead.

It might take twenty years, so you better start now. Ask yourself: What are you waiting for?

Except, you know, ask it in French. You'll sound smarter.

Mothers and Writers

It's Mother's Day, or it was when I wrote this, and I don't have any big news, so I thought I'd speak a little about how we become writers. I've done those tours where you go to schools and speak to teachers about getting kids interested in reading, and they usually have me speak on the writing aspect of it. I usually start with something jokey and dismissive like "I can only speak for myself, but the best method seems to be to have your father obsess about writing a novel and then die before completing it, leaving a terrible scar on your eight-year-old psyche." If that doesn't sound very jokey, know that I say it with a great deal of charm.

But in my case, that's just the flashy answer. The more honest answer probably goes back to my mother, who not only read to me at an early age but realized that my appetite for books exceeded the amount of time she could dedicate to reading aloud. So she recorded herself reading to me, with herself making beep sounds to tell me to turn the pages, and gave me the tapes. That way I could have her read to me over and over again, as much as I want.

When I was young, I had two surgeries, one more invasive and more extreme (I don't mind talking about it, but I don't know if you want to read about it so I won't discuss the nature of the condition here), the second a simple tonsillectomy. She knew that I would likely be frightened by both experiences (I might have been two for the first one), so she wrote a picture book for each, called Bobby Goes to the Hospital detailing my completely mundane upcoming trip in such a way that it demystified it. I don't remember having the first one for long, I was way too young, and the fallout of that surgery lasted a long time, but we kept the tonsillectomy book for years, and I would read it and request it over and over. That moment, seeing myself as the main character in a book, with stick figures for all the characters, might have planted the first seeds of writing my own first person narratives.

After that, especially after the death of my father, she probably spent a whole lot of time ignoring my light being on well past my bed time, as I read well into the night. During the Satanic Panic, she didn't blink when I started playing Dungeons and Dragons. I never asked her why, but when concerned parents asked one of my best friends' mothers why she let her son play that "evil game," she said, "Evil game? I walked in the other day and he was trying to figure out how to managed the budget of a small city. I want him doing more stuff like that, not less." I suspect my mother's take was something similar, that the skills I built in the game, or the defense mechanism I gained from it, outweighed any dangers.

There's an old joke, I can't remember which comedian said it. Many have probably done some variation. It talks about how the young boy goes out every weekend with his dad and plays catch. Runs plays. Learns fundamentals. How the dad drives him to games. Shows up. Fights with the coach. Helps him analyze other teams. Watches endless professional games with him, dissecting the teams. Then the kid stands on the sidelines and the camera hits him for his first nationally televised game and he mouths very clearly, for all the world to see:

"Hi, Mom."

When I make that joke about my father, there is truth there. I'm sure his unfulfilled need to become a writer has a great deal to do with my drive to become a writer. But who made my first audiobook? Who made me the character in my first Marty Stu story? Who ignored endless nights of me reading my way through grief and boredom. Who ignored the Satanic Panic and trusted the judgment of an adolescent boy over Paul Harvey? Who was out there, every weekend, laying the fundamentals?

Hi, Mom.

The Eight Thousand Word Wall

We missed recording the audiobook last week. My nose ran and I felt a cold coming on and I feared that if I sleep deprived myself like I do for a normal recording session, my voice would not just be shot, but I'd get fully sick and I'd miss multiple weeks. So this week I came back strong and we recorded for a solid one-and-a-half to two hours.

We got a good session. At the end, we recorded a two-page chapter and I completely fell apart. I hit the wall, hard. An error on every line for the first two or three paragraphs. It was seriously a bridge too far, and we barely finished it, so I learned my limit for a single sitting. If I were to do longer recording sessions, I'd need to take a break at that point, at the very least. Something to clear my mental palette.

I checked when I got home today (yesterday when you read this.) We recorded just over 8,000 words, which works out to be a hair under a tenth of the book. So we didn't quite hit my goal for a session but the progress pleased me a great deal.

I'm grinding on the outline for DbC 6 right now. It's a little a tricky. Not as tricky as 5, which is the hardest thing I've ever plotted and probably ever will plot. But it has its challenges and I'm grinding my way through them. It's the end of a trilogy that started with DbC 4, and I need to get it right. It also fulfills a few promises about the universe in general, and how some of the characters interact with the fact that they live in a game.

On a personal note, I bought a new mattress, a memory foam affair that I hope with decompress my back and release some of the perpetual back pain that I feel. So far, so good. Last night, I went to bed with a hard knot of locked vertebrae in my mid-thoracic. It felt like a fist in my back. In the old days, that would have remained locked until I saw the chiropractor. In this new bed, it loosened up over the night.

The downside is my overall pain levels have gone up while I loosen up, but that's a process I expected. I intend to up my trips to the chiropractor starting this week. Just until we get through that trouble patch where things start moving but they haven't settled into their new configuration.

Well, that's all for this week. Talk to you next.

Working Through the "Stall"

We're in that no man's land of writing. DbC 2 is still five months out from release. DbC has been out for a year, so at this point, there are few surprises on that front. I've turned in DbC 3 and still await a response. DbC 4 sits fallow at the moment. DbC 5 stands at about a quarter done.

We missed about a month of writers' groups in a row, what with conventions and illness and commitments. Then I missed last week due to a new sickness at the house where we meet. This week it falls on my birthday and people have made plans for me.

It can be easy to feel like you're stalled. As if nothing moves forward.

This is where professionalism becomes important. I'll produce less during this time, sure (especially the periods where I'm sick or we're missing group because of my commitments), but during this time, I need to build up a writing buffer for the next time I'm sick or I'm busy but writers' group isn't cancelled. Those weeks will happen.

It's easy to say that it's all about discipline, but it's really about knowing your own limitations. I've personally discovered that my weekly writers' group is my discipline. It's a deadline that I will almost never miss. Without one, I'll go a year and a half without writing. Now how would it be with a publisher? I don't know. Things might be different, but I've known a lot of writers who miss deadlines from publishers. I know that when I started my game company, it was much easier to motivate myself to put in 120 hour weeks at the beginning than after I realized that it would never be a great success. So here I am in this "stall" moment. The writers' group is the cause of part of the feeling of the stall, but that's just an illusion. I'm mid-book and still have some momentum. What would I be doing if I didn't have that writers' group (or another like it)?

I'm not willing to find out.

My mother sent me a quote last night. It was a variation on "It takes ten years to become an overnight success as a writer." For many writers, this has a lot to do with finding out their limitations and their capabilities. Learning what routine works for them and what doesn't. I know that if I discovery write, I'll restart a book three times, like Tolkien. I can't afford that. I've learned that I'm more productive after everyone's gone to sleep, but I can write any time no one's bugging me. I've learned that I'm a night person, but I can retrain myself to any schedule if need be. I've learned that being sick is about the worst thing for my productivity. Being in pain, thankfully, is not that bad (because I spend a lot of time at near-unmanagable levels of pain). I've learned that I can write or record an audiobook on three hours sleep, but I shouldn't edit that way.

But mostly, I've learned that there's a slacker deep inside me, and that I have to work hard to keep him in check. New words are the hardest for me to motivate myself to create (they aren't the hardest when it comes to the actual work), so if I can just keep the pipe full of them, the 120 hour weeks of editing that follow, by necessity, will come naturally.

Did I mention I can write and record audiobooks on three hours sleep?

Audiobook Back Underway

We took a week off for Easter. Families. You know how it is. Today (well, yesterday when you read this), we started recording again in earnest. Discovered I'd forgotten to record the dedication of the book and that I'd probably better add a reader's note about ellipsis because I do things with ellipsis in book two that I'll just need to read aloud in the audio version. Then we launched into recording.

I talked about this the first time, but it's been a while. We use "bump and roll" editing, where we correct mistakes as I make them. Basically, if I flub a line, we back up right there and I take the line again so that when he starts editing, he's starting with one more or less good performance and just processing the finished sound and taking out weird, incidental noises. (I bet I make that sound way easier than it is).

So my judge of how well I'm doing is how often I've stopped momentum with one of my mistakes, and I can tell you right now the number one thing that causes me to make a mistake. It's acting. If I make a mistake, it's ten times more likely to be in dialog or in more impassioned POV narrative than a wind-up introduction. I think I went two or three pages in chapter one without a single mistake, and every one of those involved me voice acting dialog. When you're acting, you speed up a little. Your emotional brain connects and begins to anticipate words more, and those aren't always the words actually on the page. Often you find yourself halfway through a sentence and realize it isn't the sentence written. At least I do.

But for how we did? We hit our stride. We probably did better today than we did most days in book 1. I feel like we're getting better at this, and I had feared we'd have to learn how to do it all over again.

Anyway, we had a bit of a run up to get started again, but we recorded one fifteenth of the book today. I'm happy with the progress. I'll try to get a full ten percent next time. If I can hit that every week, I'll know that my sleep Sunday mornings are numbered.

And also, I won't have to read Fox in Sox two times a day every damn day like the producer makes me do while recording. I hate that damned book. Hate it. Hate it.

On Mass Effect and the Purpose of Humor

You probably think that I'm going to comment on humor in the new Mass Effect game, Mass Effect Andromeda. For that to be true, however, the game would have to actually have a sense of humor. Unfortunately, it does not. I have laughed out loud once in the first 24 hours of the game. In the past games, I would have at least chuckled ten times by now.

Why? Well, it's pretty obvious the authors just aren't that funny. The characters still banter. Their conversations are at least moderately clever, but they don't come off the mark into being witty. My friend Dan Willis put it best. He says that the game has spectacular story, but only workman writing.

No, instead I was just going to point out that I've been playing Andromeda since Wed night. I'll probably do two playthroughs before I do a new draft of DbC 4. That assumes the first playthrough doesn't take too long. In the first few days, I've played 24 hours and 8+ multiplay matches. I hope to finish the first world, post-prologue, tonight (last night when this posts.) I love these games and I didn't really start in time to see the bad animations, except in youtube videos, which seem exaggerated. Compared to Mass Effect 3, they are amazing. I spent the first hour and a half of ME3 nauseated by the uncanny valley.

But back to humor. Why do we need it? Well, at its core, I believe humor is an interrupted defense mechanism. It's what happens when our brain's natural defenses short circuit. The horror mechanism. The fight/flight mechanism. This is why in almost all jokes, someone gets hurt. We're taking the human mind's normal revulsion to that topic and subverting it.

And this leads us to the most useful aspect of humor. Humor tears down our brains' normal defenses and allows us to accept information that we'd normally reject. Jokes allow us to discuss topics that venture into the taboo. So much humor is transgressive because it can be. Humor, by its nature, pushes back the borders of what the listener considers inappropriate. A lot of comedians use this just as a mechanism of the humor itself. Transgression triggers our humor reflex in an of itself. I've heard black comedians say that certain offensive words make a joke six percent funnier, and they are probably right. There's a certain "I can't believe they said that" factor in any offensive joke.

Of course, this is a mixed bag, because everyone has a different idea about what's too transgressive. My mother's favorite joke contains a shocking amount to implied spousal abuse. My grandfather used the f-word as punctuation, but comics like Eddie Murphy and George Carlin could offend him with their swearing (not in the seven dirty words routine, ironically).

But here's the practical use: a joke can drift into areas where a civil conversation can never go. People are willing to laugh at things that they can't discuss rationally. Politics. Social issues. Touchy themes. You still can't go far with these things, but you can address them.

I remember a moment in The West Wing where flag burning finally came up. I braced myself for a giant political argument on free speech. Instead, Bartlet just said, "Is this really a problem? Really? Do we have a flag burning epidemic going on that needs to be brought before the president?"

In another show, I would have thought that a dodge, but The West Wing usually tackled those issues head on. This time, however, they took the time to use the scene as a giant comic drop on everyone arguing about the issue, and it did it in such a charming way that I, who had very strong views on the issue at the time, just chuckled and felt foolish about myself. So foolish that I've rarely thought about it since, outside the context of that scene.

However, humor used as a polemic must be funny. It must be well done. If it's attacking cherished beliefs, it should be subtle and light handed. (If it's attacking ridiculousness, just go to town). The fact remains, the funnier you are, the more you can get away with. If your jokes aren't landing, you can't pull this off. If your jokes kill, you can get away with a lot. If you only care about preaching to the choir, you can get away with more than if you're actually trying to reach across to people who disagree with you, but if that's the case, are you just pandering? Then again, there's something to be said for punching Hitler, as it were.

If you really are trying to reach across an ideological gap, this kind of delicate work requires a lot of test reads. You likely need to get a disparity of viewpoints in your readers. If you attack someone's belief's and you don't want them to be offended, you damn well better have them over-represented in your readers, and you need to listen hard to their advice. I've never written a story that I've taken that far, but if I did, I'd probably do multiple drafts with multiple sets of fresh readers, guiding me until you got the tone perfect because it would have to be perfect.

I personally go for a lighter hand, using humor to deliver a payload of theme that the reader might not notice at first. It's not typically a shocking theme, but the humor acts a delivery mechanism used to implant it more deeply in the reader's mind than it would have landed without the humor. Probably because the most shocking political message I have to deliver is something along the lines of, "Hey. Let's not fight so much."

So, yeah. Shocking.

On Critiques and Humor

Here's the thing about humor. Everyone thinks they are funny. It's one of the oldest truths in comedy. Some people even are. A few can be funny reliably, but even then, there's a big jump between that and writing humor.

Some of it comes with experience and some can be trained. I posted on joke forms a few weeks back, after LTUE. I stole that from Howard Tayler.

The problem with critiques, in general, is to know what to take from them. Most good critiquers no not to be prescriptive when critiquing. They explain their problems as best they can and allow you to fix them. All of that goes out the window with humor. Even the most careful critiquer can't help but try to get a joke into a manuscript. I know. I've done it. It's one of the oldest traditions in humor, older than writers rooms, probably older than vaudeville.

The problem is that most people are really, really bad at it. I receive many joke suggestions in my critiqued manuscripts and its amazing just how few I can actually use. I suspect most of them aren't serious suggestions, they are just the critiquer feeling the need to interact with the text in a humorous way, and I take that as a compliment. But sometimes they get quite prescriptive. "You need to put X joke here." "Make a joke about Y." "How did you not make a joke about Z?"

You need to be aware of this if you try to write humor because it's the biggest pitfall before you. Almost every one of these jokes will be terrible, and by the time you get them, you might have lost all perspective on your own jokes. But trust me. They will be the most obvious joke possible, and the obvious joke, by definition, is almost never funny. The heart of humor is the unexpected. The very fact that the critiquer expected the joke is your biggest warning that you can't make that joke. So take careful note of these suggestions, and then do the opposite.

There is another thing you need to know about critiques and humor, and that's the fact that your own humor will seem stale to as you revise. The most important critiques you can get, early on, are which joke are actually funny. I don't know how many times my editor or copyeditor hasn't gotten a joke in the 6th or 7th draft that killed with everyone else. If I hadn't known those jokes killed, I would have cut them. Jokes are subjective, and you need to know if a joke is popular, because by that 7th draft, when they tell you it isn't funny you will believe them. It will have stopped being funny to you about three months prior. You won't even be able to remember when it was funny. Whenever that happens, I just put a comment to the effect of "That joke is a crowd favorite" and my editing people, who are smart enough to know that humor is subjective, just shrug and say, "OK" and move on.

Of course all of this goes out the door if you have a really funny person critiquing your manuscript, or, like I do, a professional humorist. In that case I recommend stealing their jokes, making them your own, and never looking back.

Because that's actually the oldest tradition in comedy.

Death by Cliché 3 Turned In, and a New Rule

First the good news. Today (well, yesterday when you read this), in a sleep-blurred haze, I turned in Death by Cliché 3. So that's done. The last draft had a bit of a rocky edit, and it's because of a joke I made in the chapter quotes.

You see in one of the chapters I needed a quote and so I had the narrator mention that he'd cut a superfluous chapter, and that should make it easier for me to hit the total number of chapters in the outline, which was 70. (This will almost certainly not be the same number of chapters when it releases). Then, as a joke, I have you hit Chapter 69, then 69.1, then 69.1.1, then 69.1.1.1, etc, until I get to the end of the climax and I move on to 70. A little meta joke. I didn't think much of it.

Well both my beta readers came back confused. The ending made no sense. Major plot points were missing. They thought character were dead who walked around, interacting with people at the end. I just couldn't figure it out. The setup at the end is tricky because the main characters never completely figure out what is happening in the novel, so there's a lot on the reader to keep straight. I can't just have a character think about how it's all working to remind them. Still, it seemed to be more than tricky. It seemed to be a train wreck.

Then I got to chapter 69 in their notes.

I keep all my chapters in separate word files until I combine them for submission. With chapter 69, however, I put them all together because I was afraid the numbering would make it hard to keep track of the read-order when you had them up on a computer screen. Then I noticed that no one had any notes after chapter 69 itself. They'd just arrived at that first pagebreak and stopped. They hadn't paged down and discovered 69.1, not to mention all the rest. So no wonder they were confused. They missed ALL of the resolution and most of the action of the climax.

I got a good new scene out of it trying to re-explain the theme, though, so it wasn't a total waste of mind-numbing panic.

On top of that, throughout all of the last two weeks, I've had pneumonia. This isn't terribly new, I'm a bit prone to it. It runs in my family: my father got pneumonia once a year. I used to get pneumonia after every con. Literally, 100% of the time. Then I learned that if I took an extra day off afterward, I stopped getting pneumonia. I still get con crud once in a while, but even that's rare, and when it comes, it rarely turns into pneumonia anymore.

Not after FanX. FanX put me down hard. It wasn't until the pnuemonia had me operating at about 40 lost IQ points that I finally realized what was going on.

See, the weeks before FanX I'd been in full work mode. I'd promised Wymore a critique and I had to turn in DbC3. I did my standard "crunch mode" 100-120 hour weeks. With five hours sleep a night. I pushed and pushed and pushed. It wasn't until I got sick that I realized the whole point in the extra day of rest was so that I didn't have to fight of convention sicknesses with a compromised immune system. Driving myself to the point of exhaustion before the con is a great way to get really, really sick.

So now I have a new rule. Not only do I take an extra day off after the con, but I have to go into the con well-rested. If I'm in crunch mode before the con, I probably need to suspend it at least a few days before the con itself. Because I like many things in this world.

Breathing is in the top five.

With DbC 3 turned in and myself recovered, I'll enter a bit more of a relaxed time. I'll play a couple games, then get into a full edit of DbC 4. Probably when I finish Mass Effect: Andromeda. In the meantime, I'll probably work on my novel Kill dash Nine, but at a relaxed rate, maybe a chapter every couple days.

Well, that's all. TTFN.

Sick Week

I have this tendency to get pneumonia. My father came down with a case every year. I get it every con if I don't take an extra day off after and once in a while if I do and I'm not careful. Post FanX, my lungs have started to fill and I'm in full on rest-so-it-doesn't-become-infected-and-become-a-real-case mode.

So I'm taking a sick week. It will take most of the week to recover. I'm still working on DbC3 but I've curtailed all other projects, including this blog. Instead, I'll steal a Schlock Mercenary Comic for your enjoyment.

www.schlockmercenary.com

SchlockMercenary.com

DbC 3 again, and More Villains

First of all, this weekend is FanX. My schedule has already changed slightly, so if you're planning on attending events, I suggest getting the phone app. It updates as they make changes and tracks your schedule for you. You can also set alerts to remind you when you have an upcoming event on your schedule. I live by it.

Also, if you want to be my assistant at FanX this year, you can apply. I'll be picking from submissions this week. It isn't a paid position, but it's light work. :) You can find out how by checking out the World's Greatest Comic Book Podcast on Tuesday.

Now on to business. I've started the rewrite of DbC 3. The front end and the back end will take the most work, which is pretty much the inverse of my usual books. Typically, it's the section between the Act Two Twist and the beginning of the climax where I flail about without a purpose. So that's a pleasant change. Anyway, I haven't made it very far yet, as I had to put a critique for Wymore to bed first, but I started Saturday and have officially hit the first section where two bits need to be rewritten and combined for brevity. So. Yay?

Okay, so that's out of the way. Last week I spoke about villains, but I only really discussed the more down-to-earth villains. The kind of villains you could have a beer with. Even Darth Vader had to get out of that armor from time to time and really did everything because he desperately feared being alone. But what do you do about the big evil's, like Sauron. Or the Devil. The evils which are more elemental forces than people?

The only thing I don't like about The Lord of the Rings is the treatment of Sauron. I need something to sink my teeth into with a villain. With the big, elemental evils, you might not be able to give them and sympathetic point of view, like you might with a more human villain. That doesn't mean that their POV can't be interesting.

I start with brilliant dialog. If I'm writing a ten thousand-year-old villain, he will always be the wittiest person in any room. His dialog will captivate. More importantly, it will show a point of view that is slightly outside our way of thinking. Above everything we know. Beyond us.

Let me give you an example from a book I think unlikely to get published. In it the villain is an eleven-thousand-year-old fallen angel. I wanted to play with all the fallen angel tropes, so he spends a great deal of time talking. Endlessly taunting the main character as they fight. Now there are plans within plans withing plans here, and the main character finds out later that there's a tactical reason for every word he says, but early in the conversation, hero calls him out on it. The fallen angel tells the main character that all of those stories where the villain taunts the hero... every one, since the beginning of time...they've all been about him. The hero mentions that in the stories the hero always wins, and the fallen angel says, "That's because they're stories."

It's in that moment that the main character realizes that he's not just fighting a fallen angel, but an archetype of evil so iconic that he's warped the way humanity has communicated for as long as humanity has used narrative to comfort themselves. He also realizes that while in the stories the hero always uses the villain's monologue to beat him, in reality, the fallen angel indulges himself because he can. In reality, he's never lost. The monologue, a terrible cliche in most cases, has become a terrifying reminder of just how powerful the villain actually is.

But I also wanted to give him a slightly broken and ironic point of view, so in one of his monologues, he told a story. In this world, they had a war in heaven, but in it, the fallen angels had a moment of victory, and this fallen angel was the one who forced his way into God's presence and made their demands. He tells how all God had to do at that point was apologize, and all would have been forgiven, even then. If God had just admitted, even after all that pain and blood, that he'd just been wrong, that the fallen angels would have forgiven him and the breach could have been healed. But he wouldn't. God stood, too stubborn and too proud. And the world remained as it did to this day.

I never state it outright, but it should be obvious to any reader that the opposite was, of course true. That God is silent throughout this entire story because it is He who waits. Quietly. With forgiveness. Waits ready to be asked. Did the fallen angel deserve grace? Of course not, but as the book states later, that's the point of grace. It wouldn't be grace if we deserved it. Watching this broken creature rail and accuse God of his very own crime doesn't actually build sympathy, but it adds a bit richer texture to a character who could appear entirely two-dimensional otherwise.

You might not be able to actually make a character like this sympathetic. You can, however, add enough color to make them an interesting read.

DbC 3 and 5. Also, Villains.

Last week I turned in my first chapters of DbC 5 into writer's group. It was a bit of a hot mess, like first submissions often are, but it was a sufficiently entertaining hot mess. I'm happy with the response. We will push forward.

Friday I spent about three and a half hours in a car so that I could spend two hours doing RPG panels at SaltCon. It was fun. Their panel track is still in its infancy, so attendance was light. I think the administrator worried about that, but I've been doing this too long to worry about stuff like that. I've done 7 pm Valentine's Evening panels before. You make do.

After that came recovery and a fair number of pain pills. On Sunday if finally burned out on Blood Bowl II, which means that It's time I get DbC 3 in hand. I don't have an actual deadline on this one, nor do I have a huge pile of first draft notes to enter, so my goal is just to work on it an hour or more each night. It will take a little more restructuring than the second draft did. I want to cut about ten percent from the beginning, but we'll hit that at a good, solid pace and once I'm past that and they leave on their mission, the book should fly by.

I didn't want to just talk about news this time and this week's events don't present a natural theme, so I thought I'd borrow the theme from CQ's monthly topic: Villains.

A common problem we see in movies is that the villain is more interesting in than the hero. This is a bit easier to pull off in movies than in the written word, I believe, because of the lack of POV writing. Cracked has pointed it out several times, at least on their podcast. The reason the villain is so interesting in movies is that his motivation doesn't need to be well-reasoned. In many movies, if not most, if you actually examine things from the villain's side, things fall apart very quickly.

But in a novel, we tend to have large portions from the villain's POV. Their motivations and their plans need to hold together better than in a movie, and because of that, the villains in books fall flat a lot more often than in films. In movies they can be visually flamboyant and over the top. In a book, they have to make sense, and they are often petty and cruel, psychologically damaged, and rife with unlikeable traits that are unpleasant to experience from their point of view.

I think my view on villains was shaped by doing too much Shakespeare in college. I know it crystalized when watching The Rock with a friend with whom I'd done said Shakespeare. This friend pointed out that the movie was so compelling because we wanted Ed Harris's character to win as much as we wanted the heroes to win, just like in most Shakespeare plays. I realized at that point that I'd been doing the same thing in my own writing.

Usually, I do one of two things with the villain. Either I give them a noble goal and a believable reason they don't believe they can achieve it through noble means, or I put them in a much more evil organization and make them the underdog, so that the reader begins to root for them (because we always root for the underdog). It's not uncommon for me to receive notes early in a book where new readers express distress as two characters move toward an inevitable clash and the reader is upset that either of them will die.

This is, of course, exactly the response I'm going for. That tension adds all sorts of drama to story, and how it will play out in the end will keep a reader on the edge of their seat throughout good portions of a book. It can also make them hate you, of course. Use it with caution.

Of course, this takes you back to the problem you have in movies: making your hero interesting enough to face off against your villain. That is harder. Heroes can be as boring as bag of doorknobs.

Generic, industrial doorknobs. The bag is nothing special either.

Death by Cliché 4 In the Can and FanX and Other Cons

At almost 2 am Thursday morning, I finished Death by Cliché 4 and turned it in to my writer's group. I then took a celebratory lap. I'm sorry, that should read "nap." And by nap, I mean I passed out for five hours. Five hard, hard hours.

So that's done. Thank god. It's over. Put a fork in me. Now I need to get the first submission ready for five. In time for Thursday. It is the Dark and Hungry God. It must be fed. It comes round once a week. Whether I'm ready or not.

Also, Friday we received our schedules for FanX. I'm on three panels. Considering that we have greatly reduced schedules this year, I'm going to consider that a lot.

My schedule is as follows:

Friday:

Build A Story: Professional Storytellers Create from Scratch :: 151G

Friday March 17, 2017 :: 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm

Saturday:

5:00 pm

Choose Your Own Apocalypse: Dragons vs. Undead vs. Elementals :: 151G

Saturday March 18, 2017 :: 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm

7:00 pm

The Art of Horror: Why People Loved to be Scared :: 151G

Saturday March 18, 2017 :: 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Before that, I'll be speaking briefly at SaltCon. Just two panels, this Friday.

Also, I believe I agreed to add a new con this week at Weber in June. I don't have a lot of details on that one yet. I believe it's new. So it was a weekend of convention news.

I don't have much else. My brain is still spinning. I'm putting off my next big rewrite of DbC 3. I don't wanna.

Aside from DbC 4, just odds and ends. Talk to you next week.

This Blog Title Intentionally Not Funny

So. This week we held Life, the Universe, and Everything (LTUE), the academic symposium for science fiction and fantasy writers. We laughed. We cried. There was likely a knife fight over Keynesian Economics. I'm not sure, I was in the Green Room singing Hamilton, insinuating that the movie The Accountant was based on the life of Larry Correia, and looking for a spoon so I could do a proper koala bear impersonation. Occasionally, I would emerge, bleary-eyed, to do a panel.

On one such panel, a panel I suspect that I actually pitched, we discussed the secrets of writing humor. The panel called "I'm in it for the laughs" (Which, if I pitched, was probably supposed to be called "This Panel Title Intentionally Not Funny"), involved Michaelbrent Collings, Frank Morin, Michelle Witte, and myself pretending really hard that we know how humor works. Frank Morin was moderating, so he was the one who had to do the least amount of lying. However, I made a solemn oath in that panel, and I take such oaths seriously, so I'm fulfilling it now.

You see, I had big intentions for this panel. I was going to sit down and catalog all of the major formulas of joke writing. Rule of three. Comic drop. Forced Congruence. All of them. A quick google search had shown no good resource for this, and I thought they should all be in one place. Unfortunately, I also had a demo for the Star Wars RPG to run on Saturday. The Star Wars game was two hours of people counting on me to be entertaining. The list of joke forms, in a panel, would be taking other panelist's time so it could run no longer than five minutes, and it would take much longer than the game's ten hours to prep. My priorities became clear and it just never got done.

Luckily, about five hours before the panel, Howard Tayler mentioned he had a presentation with such a list. This surprised me because I'd asked him for one previously. This shouldn't have surprised me because months or years after I'd asked for that list, when he actually wrote this presentation, he asked me for sections of my book DbC2 to quote inside, so I totally was part of preparing this. But, I've been accused of many things. Observant has never been one of them. Howard sent me the presentation. The day was saved (in passive voice, because Howard was very, very tired).

After reading the list in a staccato, rapid-fire fashion at the end of the panel, about a dozen people looked up with shaking, desperate pens from their attempt to take notes and asked where they could get a copy of that list. I promised I'd make this blog post. Then I promised Howard that he could approve it first. Then he promised to take his giant New Rock sci-fi boot off the small of my back.

So here we are. The list. I won't give a full presentation on each. That's another panel and it's Howard's purview. I'll go a little deeper into Rule of Three, just because that's the one he used my stuff in, so I feel like I'm on comfortable ground there.

Comic Drop

A comic drop is when you take a person of high status and you lower them a peg. Political satire is comic drop in purest form. Comic drop is NOT funny if the person already exists in a low state. That is called "punching down." You can only punch up. As Krusty said on the Simpsons, you can't throw a pie into the face of a schlub. You have to throw the pie at someone with dignity.

Rule of Three

Rule of three shows that things are funny in patterns of threes. Look at my joke about my green room antics, above. The general patter of a rule of three joke is beat, beat, punchline. For this one, I'm going to quote Howard, who goes on to quote the first and second drafts of Death by Cliché 2: The Wrath of Con.

Here’s a snippet of text from Bob Defendi in which a world-class swordswoman is really, really enjoying the carrots in her stew:

"These carrots could make apples jealous. These were the kings of carrots. These carrots could unite the races and bring about world peace. These carrots were to food what the reverse short sword grip was to parrying."

This bit was funny, but it felt like it might be misfiring a bit. As we reviewed it we found that there were four elements, which made the joke seem a little long. Rather than cut anything, we simply reordered the elements, putting the first one last.

"These were the kings of carrots. These carrots could unite the races and bring about world peace. These carrots were to food what the reverse short sword grip was to parrying. These carrots could make apples jealous."

Payload, Then Pause

Payload, Then Pause states that the funniest part of the joke, the punchline, should go as closest to the natural pause as possible. In Howard's example above, I led with the apples line, which he pointed out was actually the funniest analogy. Howard looks for the funniest word in a joke and often rewrites the joke to put that as close to the natural pause as possible.

Recontextualize

Recontextualize is a joke form where the reader believes you're talking about one thing and then you twist the joke at the end. For instance, I often tell people, "I miss you, Jim." <Pause for contextualization.> "So I'm buying a scope." <Recontextualization>

Wordplay

The wordplay in its basic form is the pun. In its highest art form, it is the "Who's on First?" routine by Abbot and Costello. Most witty banter falls into wordplay. Half of the stuff dripping from a Joss Whedon script lands here.

Repetition

Repetition is returning to the same joke multiple times, in new and interesting ways. The classic form is the callback, where you revisit an old joke to bring completion, often twice to invoke Rule of Three. A secret about that carrots joke above is that Howard doesn't really love it because of what he wrote there. Howard loves it because it's a running joke that plows relentlessly through that scene, as others are trying to demand that woman's attention. (Howard knows this of course, but it's an example of how one bit falls into multiple joke forms. That one bit hits probably hits every joke form on this list except Double Down and Noises Off.)

Another interesting use of repetition was employed by David Letterman. When he had a huge joke land during his monologues, he'd put that punchline in his pocket for whenever he got in trouble later during the same bit. For instance, I once saw an episode where he said that he saw two men talking, confused, and one of them said (in a hick accent) "Them bats is smart. They use radar." The delivery was perfect and the audience died laughing. For the rest of the monologue, if a joke fell flat, he would stare out into the audience walk way too close to the camera, and say, "Them bats is smart. They use radar." He would instantly have the audience back on his side.

Double Down

Double down is a form of joke where you set up a joke, a second character undercuts or denies it, and instead of backing off, the original character recommits to the joke, but harder. With Howard's permission (and he'll cut this if I don't have it), here is an example bit of dialogue from Schlock Mercenary:

"No other casualties to report, sir."

"Really? What about your arm?"

"I'm currently left-handed."

"Your right arm is missing."

"It's not missing. It's fused to a bulkhead on deck twelve."

Surprising, yet Inevitable

Many jokes will have some aspect of surprising yet inevitable. Like a good story, a joke often catches you off guard with the ending that you should have seen coming, but didn't. Jerry Seinfeld's observational humor was a master of surprising yet inevitable. He would spend entire routines talking about things we spent all day interacting with, but never really considered.

Noises Off

The key to the Noises Off joke, as Howard tells it, is that the pie fight you see in your head is always funnier than the pie fight you see on screen. The setup is that you see or hear two characters describing or commenting on the action without seeing the action itself. Now, Lilo and Stitch had the Noises off line in it, ironically, not in a Noises Off joke. In it, Lilo was on the phone while her house was being attacked and Stitch, the alien superweapon, was trying to save her. In a classic Noises Off joke, we'd get this from the other side of the phone and never see what happened in the house. In the movie, we get it backward, and Lilo hangs up on the person the moment after she delivers news so we only get a hint of the reaction. So while it isn't a true Noises Off scene, it culminates with the most perfect Noises Off line ever written:

"Oh good, my dog found the chainsaw."

Reach Further

Reach Further is a variation of the double down joke form. In double down, a second person interacts with the first. In reach further, the joke teller sets the joke, takes a beat, then takes the joke further on his or her own. Here's the example Howard used from Jim Gaffigan, and I love it too much to find another:

“Growing up my parents had fine china you couldn’t even put in the dishwasher. ‘Don’t get that wet, you need to clean it with a kitten.’”

Quite the reach. And then? He doubles down.

“‘It needs to be a white kitten’”

Forced Congruence

I will end this post the same way Howard ended his presentation. With forced congruence, and perhaps the greatest line of comedy ever written. It is self-explanatory:

“The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't.”

—Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

DbC 2 Turned In and LTUE

I set myself a goal of editing a quarter of DbC 2 each night until it was finished. When you're doing the actual final proof it's not that hard to do sixty pages in an evening. Often you go twelve pages without an edit, and when you get there it's either a comment that left for the copy editor so he wouldn't change something or a minor change like a comma. About three times in an evening I would need to make a real change.

Anyway, Thursday and Friday I'm not actually home, so I finished that Saturday and submitted it. I expect word any moment that they received it. (Monday morning edit: word received). So that's put to bed. Now I just need my audio guy to finish his studio so we can begin the audiobook.

Meanwhile, I've been prepping for Life, the Universe, and Everything, a local academic symposium. They've asked me to run a game demo and I've chosen to run a Star Wars adventure for Fantasy Flight Game's current RPG. I've modeled the base structure of their beginner sets. Friday night I ran it for my game group. We went long, but about an hour. So on the day of, I'll need to either cut or come up with an alternate plan. Right now, I intend to poll the group at the beginning and ask them if they want the full version of the adventure or a stripped down version. If they want the stripped down version, I'll heavily edit two skill-intensive encounters that eat up a lot of table time, and possibly cut a redundant encounter which mainly teaches initiative and the edition of a second range band. If they want the full version, we'll run it as is, and see about moving to the game room when our time in the demo room expires. It will mainly depend on if they want to devote three hours to the game or just the two.

Other than that, I'm probably moderating a panel or two. I should probably look into that.

All right. Obviously, I know I'm moderating some panels. In fact, one of the panels I asked to be removed as moderator. Usually, I love moderating, but I feel it necessary to talk less when I moderate and I might have the strongest subject credentials on that panel, so I decided to head that one off early. I have often ended up at panels, seen that one of the biggest authorities on a subject had been made moderator, and offered to take over for the same reason. Anyway, the staff was happy to accommodate.

Other than that, I've been playing Blood Bowl II. I feel like finalizing DbC2 earned me continued goof off time. I finished my first tournament as the Dark Elves, my favorite team, but I haven't rolled a single stat gain on a player and that's killing me. I'll probably try another team tonight. Maybe the Undead or Wood Elves or Dwarves. (Monday morning edit: Tried Undead and Wood Elves, Wood Elves won me over, and after four games, they already earned a stat gain on a wardancer.)

So that's my week. Next week you'll get an LTUE report.

TTFN.

Final Edit Time. Also, SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY!!!

This was a pretty big weekend. I usually write these Sunday afternoon, but this one was delayed until the evening, after possibly the most exciting Superbowl in...I don't know...ever? Thirty-one unanswered points? A 25 point comeback? The first overtime in Superbowl history? The Fox streaming feed going out and having to watch a chunk of the fourth quarter in Spanish? It was eventful, I'll tell you that much.

I found the flood originally straightening up for the playtest in the playtest room in the basement, so that's how the weekend started. In between, I played a lot of Blood Bowl II, which seemed particularly appropriate for Superbowl Weekend. I won the campaign mode literally ten minutes before kickoff. I started up an Old World League Tournament after, but then paused it to write this.

Also during this, I emailed my copyeditor to find out if I'd lost an email somewhere. Back at the end of December, I'd turned in my full rewrite of DbC 2 for him to go over. He usually has a pretty quick turn around, and he'd sent me a few facebook messages early on that led me to believe he'd jumped right into a second round of edits. During the big game we emailed back and forth a few confused date emails, but it came down to the fact that he had finished but the email had never actually been sent. So now I have the edits. It should be a non-issue for me to get them out this week.

I still have flood damage to repair. I also need to prep a big Star Wars demo for Life the Universe and Everything, a symposium in Provo. It will have an audience, so I want it to be as professional as possible. Anyway, a full enough week, but I'm looking forward to it.

TTFN.