Saturday, October 3, 2009

Viable Paradise

My first venture into the exciting world of hypernurbs. When Galactus throws a teaparty...

So I'm probably not going to be doing a lot of blogging this next week. I'm off to attend the Viable Paradise writer's workshop on Martha's Vineyard. Seven pro writers and editors, twenty-seven other neophyte writers, and me.

Due to a combination of class deadlines and general paralysis, I am nowhere near as prepared as I would have liked to have been. My query letter is flabby, I have no synopsis, my outlines need work... but fuckit. They aren't expecting me to spring the damned novel on them anyway.

I am frightened of the trip, I'm looking forward to the workshop. It'll all be fine. I'm certain that once I'm actually in the process I'll feel great. It's the anticipation that's killing me.

So now I have to cut my hair, then head downtown and have a copy of the current draft of the novel spiral-bound.

I'll do one set of edits on it on the flight in, then go over it again on the flight home, then do at least two chapters of revision a day until it's all done. At that point it'll just be a matter of sending it through Homework Club for the final polish.

And at that point I'll be working on the next volume with the Monday night krew. That's going to be tricky. I've finished the first volume, I have a solid outline of the third, but for the second all I have is a bunch of scenes that have already been written (yeah, I've written a couple of drafts of volume two already -- but things have changed so much that most of that work is going to be discarded), and a list of all the shit that needs to happen. I need to organize this into a real plot.

I suspect that what I learn at Viable Paradise will help me with that.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Primitives 3

I just don't have time to fiddle with this anymore. Just have to bite the bullet and send it off.

Still, I am actually kinda pleased with this one -- I can easily see doing a little comic strip or animated bit with these suckers, especially if I add a few more characters.

Primitives 2

It's starting to take on the oddest kind of life. This kinda makes me thing it's taking place on the Serengeti of Misfit Toys.

Definitely starting to feel the love part of the love/hate relationship with 3D.

Primitives 1

Modeling and posing complete, now all I have to do is come up with lights and textures. More later.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Almost Gone

Two floating idols regard each other malevolently over the world they've created...

... while below them, their creations wage war for survival. Man, this project is giving me the dickens.

Dag. Before we get into the main part of the post, you'll never guess what happened. I just rescued a hummingbird. I'm out back in the studio the missus and I share. As you know from previous posts, I've got the upstairs and she's got the downstairs.

Well, the missus was giving a class to a private student when she heard a fluttering noise from one of the high windows and saw what she thought was a baby bird. I came down to look, and when it fluttered into sight it was a hummingbird.

I opened all the doors and windows while Karen fetched a duster on an extensible pole. At first she was swiping randomly, which worried me. Those little suckers are delicate. So I had her go upstairs and put the duster through one of the cutouts in the wall so she could see what she was doing and just startle it rather than brush it.

This worked. She chased it to the next ledge over, and then to a lower window.

I ran and grabbed a stool so I could reach it. 's funny, but there's a brief passage from the novel that applies perfectly here. "There are times when animals can tell that you want to help them; it doesn't happen often, but when it does they will endure whatever you do to them."

Of course there's no way to know what the animal's actual reaction is (I suspect this is true of dogs, probably not in this case), but there have been a number of times in my life when animals in need have gone completely passive while I've helped them.

In this case, when I slowly lifted my hands, the bird opened its beak once, then stayed still as I picked it up and cradled it in my hands. Its body was twisted to the right, where its wing stuck out, feathers disheveled. It was panting and seemed in great discomfort. I thought Karen had smacked it a good one, and decided not to tell her about that part. I thought the poor little thing was a goner.

When I got it outside, I wondered for a moment if there were an animal rescue center that would cope with an injured hummingbird, or if I should just put it out of its misery. I needed to know how badly it was hurt.

So I took its right wing in between thumb and forefinger, and gently stroked its length. As I did so, its feathers straightened out. The bird stretched the wing, and it folded neatly in place at its side.

The bird's entire physical conformation changed instantly. Instead of the crumpled little ball of fluff I'd picked up, it was neat and lively, green feathers shimmering in the sunlight. It bounced to its feet and took off in a straight line at top speed, chirping loudly as it went into the tea-rose bush.

Bird don't know, bird ain't grateful. I'm the one who's grateful for that moment, and that's good enough.

Got to say, I've been going through it. The approach of Viable Paradise on top of the drama I've been going through lately (had a mercifully brief dream of my mother-in-law's death last night) has had me in a state.

(And the difficulty I've been having with my 3D class hasn't helped. I have a compulsive need to excel in my classes [been a straight-A student since my return to school], so my sense of just-not-getting-it is driving me nuts. I just keep telling myself I used to feel the same way about vector graphics and now they're second nature to me.)

It's not Viable Paradise itself. My meeting with Chia and Chris (and the inimitable Dan) left me feeling entirely at ease. I feel completely confident about things now. Hey, it's a completely structured environment where the focus is on one of my areas of strength, surrounded by people I'll probably really like. Frankly, if my whole life could be like that I'd be a happy man. Go ahead and send me to prose prison.

But all of the associated preparations have me feeling absolutely terrified. Not a phobic reaction -- but something on that scale. You know, the occasional accelerated heartbeat, hyperventilation, that kind of thing. Honestly, when the missus made me get a prepaid cell phone, holding that thing in my hand made me panic.

See, there's all this... grown-up stuff going on that I've been insulated from my whole life. Cell phones? Plane tickets? Shuttles? I know it sounds stupid to real people, but I've never dealt with any of this stuff in my life and have regarded the ability to do so as some sort of god-given gift.

I know as soon as I'm actually doing it I'll be fine. I'm good at dealing with things that are actually happening.

But living with stuff hanging over my head? It kills me. Fucking kills me. As the missus said, "You need tsuris, and if you don't have any, you'll find a way to make some." This is all too true.

Thank goodness for Karen. She's really rallied around me, jabbing me in the ass to take care of business, taking things out of my hands when I'm falling apart, and doing it all with love and respect.

And it just dawns on me that I did the same for her when she was dealing with her mother. This is something we've been teaching each other for a long time now.

It's funny. Love is something, and friendship is something. But the skill of knowing when and how to take care of the other person and to allow them to take care of you is a whole separate thing. And right now I'm so grateful that we've figured that one out.

So I've decided to keep working on my 3D homework today and tomorrow, and that'll have to be it. Even if the project above isn't as polished as I want it to be, even if I have to take a grade hit, I have to put my novel first.

Because on Saturday I'll organize my novel's manuscript, put all the critiques I've received into order, and print a copy of the work as-is so I can use my plane time to do a line-edit and overall reading of the book. I realized that at least one crucial dramatic moment was skipped due to my familiarity with the plot (it's when the protagonist realizes who's haunting his house), and I have to wonder if there are any others.

I'm not gonna have my query ready to go. Maybe I'll have a chance to work on it at VP.

It's Thursday. I leave the house at 3:30 on Sunday morning.

I'm almost gone.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Sinister Hand

My sister took the family out for fondue last night. Good times.

I've always had a strange relationship with my left hand. Among other things, it's tried to kill me.

If you've ever seen my handwriting, you've gotten a look at one of the clues. I've been told it's diagnostic for someone who's been switched from left- to right-handed. This has given me trouble over the years. I've given up entirely on cursive and have printed everything throughout my adult life. I can't even read cursive, really.

On the other hand, there was a period of time in my youth when I tried to teach myself to write two different things at the same time, using both hands simultaneously. I wasn't able to pull that off, but I did find that I could write the same thing with both hands at the same time, writing mirror-wise with my left hand.

After a while, it was just as easy for me to write mirror-wise with my left hand as normal fashion with my right -- easier. My writing was neater, even if reversed. And when I was doing this I could read my backwards writing just as easily as the conventional stuff.

More aggravating have been the times when I've tried to work a combination lock unsuccessfully. I've had times when it's taken me more than twenty minutes to figure out that I'm doing it mirror-wise with my left hand.

When I was in high school my brother and I were part of a study that investigated underachievers, students whose performance wasn't in line with their abilities. The woman conducting the study was horrified at my developmental asymmetry and strongly encouraged me to engage in practices that would treat my right and left sides identically. For instance, my right arm swung when I walked but my left arm didn't. She insisted that I consciously swing both arms to the same degree.

Things hit a peak when I was going nuts in my early twenties. For a while one of my chores at work was making notepads. There was an old papercutter in the basement and it was a monster. It had a three-foot solid iron handle; if you stacked two reams of paper under the blade, the weight of the handle sheared through them as if they weren't there. Shhhp.

So when I worked on the papercutter, my left hand recognized opportunity. My right hand would be under the blade neatening a stack of paper when my left hand would sneak up and pull the safety knob, releasing the blade. The iron handle would swing down and smack me upside the head and I'd jerk my right hand to safety.

This happened three, four times a week over the course of six months or so.

A couple of years later, after I was considerably more stable, I was walking with my brother and we were talking about that study we'd been involved in. I said, "I'm sick of fighting with it. If I'm asymmetrical, I'm asymmetrical. I'm not gonna make my left hand swing; it can do whatever the hell it wants."

And then, with no conscious action on my part, my left hand started to swing...

We've gotten along much better ever since. I think the time I spend typing and playing music helps -- these activities give the left hand a chance to do something smart and work in concert with the right hand.

Still, it's a little weird to know you have more than one person in you -- and they don't always like you.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Yes, I'm A Heathen

What's interesting about this one is that the sky was flat as the dickens in the original shot. All the detail came out when I was developing the image in Lightroom. (Incidentally? I heart Lightroom.)

So I pride myself on being a materialist. An atheist. It's taken me a long time and a lot of effort to reach this position. To consciously and knowledgeably reject the fundamental beliefs of the vast majority of mankind ain't easy for a lot of us. But at the end of the day, there is no place where religion contributes to any real understanding of life and the universe. Religion and science are not complimentary means of understanding the world; they are inherently opposed, and religion just don't work. It do not function; it have no technology. I reject any belief in mythology.

But let's be serious. I am a heathen wretch. Despite my intellectual beliefs, I still regard myself as being battered about by unseen forces, and feel my trespasses against the spirit world can cause calamity.

Let me introduce you to some of my stupid, stupid superstitions.

Any show of pride, declaration of intent, or stated desire must be accompanied by knocking on wood in order to show the spirit world that I remain humble within.

If no wood is available, I knock on my noggin, the implication being that I regard myself as a blockhead.

It's bad luck to cuss like a space guy.

"By Saturn's icy moons," or "Great sweltering nebulae!" for instance. I once spent a morning cussing like a space guy and the afternoon brought me terrible fortune. One of the worst days I've ever had. So I've never used any space guy oaths since then, for which my friends and family must be grateful.

Things happen in threes; if two similar events occur, keep your eyes peeled for the third.

But it's true, he bleated plaintively.

And while we're at it, similar events occur in clusters.

As my old pal Angel used to say, shit comes in piles. And so do presents.

Always give the other person the largest share.

Again, if the spirits had any idea what a megalomaniacal narcissist I am, I'd be in real trouble. Always stay humble and you might not die screaming. This one presents me with a certain amount of frustration, given that the missus believes in always taking her bite out of the middle.

Always be polite to strangers; they may be more than they appear.

I always suspect random street crazies of possessing ineffable wisdom and mystical powers. And courtesy to others is a way of demonstrating courtesy to the world at large. Actually, I try and treat everything and everyone with respect when I'm not running amok.

If you put your underwear on inside-out it brings bad luck. In order to correct this situation, you must spit in your underwear before reversing it.

I'm fairly sure this is an authentic piece of folklore -- I believe it's African American but I'm not certain. I have no idea why this notion stuck with me but it did. I've never actually had to launch a loogie but every so often I almost put my underwear on inside-out and catch myself getting a little edgy over the prospect of wearing spat-in boxers.

I may not believe in God, but as the Cowardly Lion once said, "I do believe in spooks."