Back in the Land of WiFi

I’m not even being trite. The further up you get in Door County the less connected you are. I spent a whole week with nary a G to speak of. Verizon is a great service, but even they have their limits. Our friend’s kid took out his flip phone at one point and proudly claimed, “I have 3Gs.” I just looked at him and said, “Prove it. Do something with them.” ūüėČ

Honestly I could have traveled about 5-10 minutes south of Fish Harbor to a coffee shop that offered WiFi for my iPad (still no 3G-4G there), but the point was to get away. Also the closer one in¬†Ephraim¬†reminded me of The Victory more. It was also a cash only place. A little less Brooklyn, but still eccentric. Leroy’s Coffee Cafe, and I’m guessing Leroy is an ex-surfer or ex-skateboarder. Between that place and The Good Egg, Ephraim is an excellent vacation spot. Really, most of Door County is.

My writing highlight of Door County (aside from some kick ass scenes that make the book harder to finish but the story better) came from day three of showing up at the coffee shop at 7am to write until 9-10 in the morning. A long line had formed so I set up my stuff and started getting ready to write. When the line was gone I walked up and ordered my coffee. The barista was fixing it and asked if I was writing a book. My gut reaction was to say, “No, I just really like coffee.” Then I remembered she was fixing my drink.

Another highlight that came back to bite me in the ass was when I was told that television signals were able to be picked up in the park. This was awesome for me as Ben Dukes was making his debut on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. If you remember back earlier this month, I blogged about how his bit on the show as a worker was my inspiration for my protagonist in my Camp NaNoWriMo story. So we cranked up the antenna and did a channel scan. Sure enough we had a CBS channel. Unfortunately it was fuzzy at best and storms Wednesday night knocked it out entirely. On the upside, I had the DVR set, so I caught the show on Sunday when we got home. Also, the clip is already up on his YouTube channel.

For the record, Down in Flames is one of my favorite songs from his album. Also, the playlist for Dukes will be coming out shortly. The one for my other protagonist is only about half done.

Now on our way to Chippewa Falls (Lake Wissota specifically) we passed through Cadot. My wife texted this to my sister (who had already been camping there with her husband and our cousins for a day) and she requested we bring her some Country AND Western. (Country Fest was going on in Cadot this past weekend.) I told her to text her back with “done” but I don’t think she did.

You guessed it. As we were driving to the boat launch so my wife could scope out photo opportunities, I advanced through the iPod to play the Johnny Cash song that made the playlist (When the Man Comes Around) and Down in Flames. Also, as we were leaving the Leinenkugel Brewery on the way back to the campsite, the first song on the shuffle was When Do We Start Drinking, also by Ben Dukes. My sister may never make a smart ass request of me again. Oh who am I kidding? I know damn well she will.

So this morning I sat back in my usual spot. The Victory. I busted out as many words as I could in the hour and a half I had. About a thousand. Well under my normal amount. But it was my first day back. Also there were multiple people pacing up and down across the tables. Multiple. All of them. Stalking like a caged friggin’ tigers. As I was writing about the Big Bad‚ĄĘ in the story… you guessed it… stalking up and down like a tiger. Seriously, it was freaking me out. But I digress.

I was back in the Land of Connectivity. The Nirvana of WiFi. And what did I do? I sequestered myself into a WiFi Wasteland to write. On the upside, I am coming up on 40k total. So that means, charity story update time.

UPDATE

  • I’m nearing 40k.
  • The story will likely top out at 53-56k with the scenes left to write.
  • Editing, revising and writing between the scenes might get me 60-65k. For my genre that is a bit light, but it is still novel length.
  • I have a couple more people to write into the story.
  • The ending is solid in my mind. (Although I haven’t written it yet.)
  • Dukes is fleshing out well. He’s becoming the young Obi-Wan to my detective’s Qui-Gon.
  • I met my revised goal of $300 raised, but I’d like to give the top spot a run for their money. (I’m currently second.)
  • To offer incentives, until the end of this week I will continue to give the care package to any donors. The person donating the most I’ll send the playlist for Dukes to them. Or just Ben Duke’s album, since half of it is in the playlist.
  • As always, anyone who donates $5 or more will get a copy of the ebook.

So, get to work people. Tell your friends, tell your neighbors. Tell anyone and everyone. If enough of your friends, family and neighbors sign up, I’ll send you a care package too!

To donate, click on the Camp NaNoWriMo tab above, the Sponsored Camper stamp to the right, or simply go to http://zombiejoe.stayclassy.org

Opening the Scene

Writing Totem at The VictoryWell honestly I’m not sure this will be the opening scene. In fact, I’m not even sure about the title. The tentative title of Under the Hood pertains to a piece from the first story in this setting I wrote a while back. It has since gone through revisions that took that reference out. This means either putting it back or bringing out the other layers to the title. You know, like an onion. Or an ogre.

As I said before, I’m writing this as a series of scenes or vignettes. The will be the stories of a bunch of people tied together and brought to bear under the main story of two protagonists. Therefore my “opening scene” (or the one I labeled “Scene 1.1” in my project file) takes place where I started writing it. The Victory, my local coffee shop in Madison. It is my wifi-devoid sanctuary where I can go to write without the distraction of my house, my dog and the Internet. It was also the scene of several current events headlines this past year. All of which I am pouring into this story.

As this is also my writing spot, my version of Neil Gaiman’s gazebo if you will, I will post up some photos of the location as well. You can get photos of the infamous rock-through-the-window scene on their own web site. While this place is definitely not for everyone, it has an atmosphere to it that I find¬†invigorating. The only difficulty I ever find in writing there is that sometimes the music playing in the store system doesn’t match my scene. I fix that with an iPod and a playlist. This also allows me a unique view of the people around me without the benefit of hearing what’s going on. You notice much different things that way.

If you’re in the Madison area and want to get a look at one of the scenes from the story, check this place out. Be warned the store is cash only. There is an ATM at a gas station less than a block away, but having cash on hand is something I’ve just gotten used to. To quote Patrick, the owner of the Victory, “It’s not that we don’t believe in credit, it’s just that we don’t believe you should pay for it.” And yes, he has offered to let people pay next time if they don’t have cash on them.

Say what you will about Madison, its politics or the current landscape of the state, but its places like The Victory that make me want to stay here. And places this close to me I feel the strange need to put in to stories and mess them right the hell up. Luckily for me Patrick seems to have the same messed up sense of humor I do and loves the idea of The Victory being in the story.

So, welcome to Scene 1.1 – The Victory from my Camp NaNoWriMo story, Under the Hood. (Tentative title)

Two Questions

So this morning the curse of Monday hit. Normally I would be posting my thoughts on Odyssey Con from the weekend, but not today. To give you all the proper frame of reference to this situation I need to give two pieces of history, one of which is a bit of a spoiler to this weekend. But we do as we must.

Steven Barnes, one of the Guests of Honor this year at OddCon and¬†arguably¬†one of my favorite authors (which I will get into later), spoke several times through the weekend on how all things boil down to Two Questions. (Capitalization is added by me for the emphasis on the concept becoming an ideal.) Who am I? What is the Truth? Everything you do is part of answering those two questions. I know, pretty philosophical stuff for a guy whose online persona involves a decaying, ambulatory cannibal. I’ll dig deeper into this more in my processing of the weekend (next blog post), but sufficed to say the concept touched on something from my high school to college days lost in the haze of a concussion. In short, it reminded me of who I am, helping to answer the first question. But more on that later.

Additionally we must consider that my critique group has determined that I need some conflict, some punch at the end of chapter three of my work in progress. Something that an agent or editor would hang on to if they request the first three chapters. So, about a week and a half ago, I started a new document in my Storyist project to write Chapter Three. My reasoning behind doing it that way is unimportant and I may touch on later. All that is needed for our purposes here is that I had a file with just the new chapter three I’ve been working on this past week.

Saturday morning at OddCon, I was sitting in the lobby intending to work on chapter three as I didn’t make the cutoff for the spontaneous writing contest. With the distractions around the lobby, I could have pulled off the contest but I didn’t have the flow going to work on the manuscript. Also, after a couple of paragraphs Kimberly sat down near us. She’s a freelance editor here in Wisconsin that had joined in on NaNoWriMo this past year. I talked with her for a while and waited for Paul to come find me to help set up the room for Steven Barnes’ tai chi session. Fast forward to the panel after I did the tai chi and from my bag I can hear music playing softly. Actually I recognized it because it was one of the punk songs from the Unholy Ghosts playlist. I turned off the music on the iPad and locked it.

This morning what I discovered is that due to me leaving the document open that morning, the trip in my bag had highlighted all the text and replaced it with gibberish. At first I had thought the file was corrupt and checked my full document (which was backed up, unlike my new chapter three one). Once I realized what had happened it dawned on me that it was my own error that had caused the loss of around 4-5k words over the past week. A minor nightmare for an author, the full document would be worse. As a side note, if you ever hear of me getting 30-90k into a story and not backing it up, sweep the leg like I am in the Karate Kid movie.

Here is where the Two Questions come into play. This is where I need to answer them.

Had this been at the start of my trip down the road to become a working author I would have likely freaked out. Tears are not assured, but there would have definitely been¬†expletives¬†and likely some striking of inanimate objects with high amounts of velocity. But that would not have been who I am. As I stared at the gibberish on the screen and pieced together what had happened, my internal¬†monologue¬†actually said, “Who am I?”

I remembered back to the hazy times of my martial arts classes in high school, about two years into my four year training stint. We were learning self-defense holds and breaks and the instructor was waiting for me to follow through on the move. He wanted me to force him down to the mat. So I did. He got up with a smile, looked and Sensei and said, “I knew there was a warrior in this one.” So, today when I asked “who am I” the answer was a warrior. I am not the kind of person that would let something like this break me.

Also, who I am is a person with (what I call) an Instagram Memory. It’s like a photographic memory, except fuzzier, crappier and while it looks good at parties, there are very few instances where it would land you a job or a paying gig. What having an Instagram Memory (another answer to who I am) means is that the entire re-written scene/chapter (complete with new foreshadowing and a different ending) is still in my head. Some of the better lines are still there as well. In short, I simply have to go through and draw them back out again, only now I have the chance to refine them again. I can make the chapter even better.

As for what is the truth, that is even easier to define. The truth is I need to do a back-up of my work at night as I cannot do it while working in the mornings as the coffee shop is a wifi free zone. Had I exported the file to Dropbox or to my email, I would’ve had a recovery plan. Also it has reminded me to not only drop out of the app when shutting down, but to lock the screen instead of just closing the cover to put it in sleep mode. In other words, the parameters of the writing world I’m in include closing out and locking down. I took it for granted that shutting the unit would be enough. I directly caused this problem and now I know not to do it again.

So, sitting in the coffee shop I stared at the screen, answered these questions and came to terms with what I needed to do. I wrote a journal entry on it (most of which is contained here), drank my iced americano, and then restarted the chapter on my newly cleared document. The 450-500 words I managed this morning was the same opening of the scene, but because I was writing it fresh I was able to describe it more clearly (and succinctly) giving it more pop. At least I think it did. We’ll see once I hand it over to my critique group.

No ulcer, no high blood pressure, no rage. Just acceptance and moving on. All due to two little questions with big answers. I think I’m going to be using those two for a long time.