Megalomania–I’m Trying to Teach Myself to Play Guitar…Again

Music noteSeveral years ago, possibly in the neighborhood of fifteen if I really think about it and piece together clues from my kinda garbage memory, I asked for and received a guitar for Christmas. I like music a great deal and I thought it’d be great to learn how to play guitar. I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal to teach myself the how-to’s. After all, ain’t that how it was done in the old days?

Yeah, well, as usual, I underestimated myself.

I probably only played my cheap little acoustic a handful of times in the first month that I had it and then I put it away in my closet to be ignored. I think I got it out a few times when I cleaned my closet and at some point I managed to lose the strap and the little guitar bag it came in (it didn’t have a proper hard case), but the point is, it’s sat mostly neglected. Aside from learning like two chords in a half-assed manner, that guitar got very little use.

Two reasons for this, both of which happen to be fundamental aspects of my personality and also great pains in my large posterior and can be explained with one story that my mother loves to tell.

One day, when I was about three years old, I was found in my grandparents’ closet with a book on my lap and I was crying. My papa asked me what was wrong. The problem? I couldn’t read the book. I was mad and frustrated and disappointed and upset because at three I couldn’t read this book I had chosen. I’d only just started reading words, you see, and I thought that I should have been able to read ALL of them.

I still have a tendency to be like that. If I can’t get something right away, particularly if I think I SHOULD be able to get it right away, then I get really frustrated by my inability to get it. And then I beat myself up for being an incompetent stupidhead and eventually end up giving up. This doesn’t happen with everything, but it has happened with more than I’d like to admit and probably a lot more than should have been allowed.

You’ll notice that I was trying to read that book in a closet. You wouldn’t know it by the fact that I blog and the way I run my mouth on Twitter, but I’m actually a very secretive person. I don’t like people knowing I’m doing things, particularly if I’m learning new things. I don’t need people asking me questions and frowning at me and putting doubts into my head. I do that enough without help.

So fifteen or so years ago I never learned to play the guitar because I was frustrated I wasn’t picking up the chords fast enough and  I didn’t want anyone hearing me practice. I live in a small house. Shutting the door just doesn’t cut it.

This past weekend, though, I got the urge to learn to play the guitar again. I thought of how much easier it would be with the ready Internet access for handy tips and the downloadable apps for tuning and learning chords. It’d actually be really easy, much easier than the first time when all I had was a book and no means to properly tune. And it could be fun.

Writing has slowly worn away that hang-up I have about being perfect the first time. It’s okay to make a mess and be terrible at something at first. And who cares if the other people in the house can hear me? They don’t care if I can hear their Jerry Springer and midnight conversations when I’m trying to sleep. They can put up with my guitar.

In conclusion, I’m giving it another go. Let’s see if I do better this time around.

Also, callouses.

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Writing–Now I Don’t Feel Like It

flame box elder penI don’t really feel like revising (Vampires) Made in America right now. Oh, I know I said I would and I know that I will, but I just don’t feeeeel like it.

Part of the problem is I have this kind of problem this time of year, with all of the holiday stuff going on and making Grinchmas and preparing for the middle niece’s birthday next week (I still haven’t gotten her present yet, oops, need to work on that) and then the day jobs and chores, I tend to feel a little tapped out in the energy department. I don’t really enjoy a lot of the writing work I end up doing in December because I feel like it’s just more work. While I normally enjoy doing revisions (even the crappy, hard ones I feel a certain thrill that comes with spinning straw into gold), it’s a struggle for me to like them in December.

I think the other part of the problem is that I don’t feel like I’m doing any good with these revisions so far. I know I need to add a section, possibly a chapter, and I have yet to see the perfect spot to put it. I feel like all I’ve been doing for the past couple of weeks is dialogue tweaking. I did a major overhaul of the first two chapters and after that, everything has just been speeding right along with minor little changes here and there and I feel like I’m slacking.

This in turn makes me feel like I don’t wanna.

The problem with me is that I’m acting like this is the big and final revision of this manuscript when it’s actually just the first. Yes, that added section needs to go in now. And that last third of the book will probably be seriously worked over (at least that’s what my notes say…actually my notes say “the last third of the book needs work, good luck with that”). There will be another revision or two (probably three) after this. Hell, I’m not even sure whether or not I’m going to change the location yet or not (not a huge change, just going from real city to fictional-city-that-might-resemble-a-real-one). So, yes, this isn’t the end all be all of this book no matter what oogy feelings my brain is giving me right now.

But my brain doesn’t listen to reason. It’s worse than my heart in some respects. And my brain says I’m not working hard enough, apparently missing the point that I’m not supposed to be working very hard this month. It’s a real drag. I’m doing my best to press on, knowing that I am actually doing work, laying the groundwork for the next revision, even if it doesn’t feel like. This is all just a fleeting bit of stupid and I will get through it.

Right now, though, I just don’t feeeeel like it.

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Writing–You Guys Would Watch My TV Show, Right?

Rainbow paperWhenever I’m writing a story and I end up writing a huge chunk of dialogue (which happens often, I know, you’re shocked), I can hear my mother in my head saying, “Why don’t you just write scripts? Your stuff is mostly dialogue anyway.”

The woman is not wrong. I’ve always had a natural tendency towards dialogue and a hundred years ago, a lot of my stories were pretty much all dialogue.

I’ve experimented with script writing before. I participated in Script Frenzy one year before the program closed down and I tried my hand at adapting one of my novellas into script form just for the practice. I even wrote my own TV pilot for shits and giggles (it was mostly the shits).

I find myself drifting back into that script territory once again.

I got an idea for a TV show over the summer and to amuse myself, I’ve been jotting down idea for it in a notebook, something to do when I need something to do. And over time it’s sort of took on the shape of an actual thing. A decent thing. And I think it might be fun to run it out as far a it will go in my spare time. It’s sort of a black comedy murder mystery thing. In my head it’d be like an anthology series, each season would have a different murder and different people solving the murders, but it’d be set in the same town and you’d see a lot of the same faces. The first season is a couple trying to solve the murder of a man they found on their doorstep for the reward money.

See? Fun!

I’m doing a similar thing with another idea, only it would be more like a TV movie or a mini-series (seriously, I feel like we could do with more of those; remember when they were on the Big 3 networks every week, sometimes multiple times? Yeah). Originally, I figured the idea would be a novella, but I sort of like the idea of hashing it all out in script form. Maybe I’ll end up writing it out as a novella after the fact, but for now, I like doing it this way. It’s fun.

See? Even more fun!

Logically, I know that nothing will come of either of these things in script form. I can’t make anything come of anything I write in my other forms. Scripts are an even tougher sell, particularly when you have absolutely no connections and you live in the middle of a cornfield. I love my corn, but it doesn’t network well.

As far as I’m concerned, though, anything I do that has to do with writing has value.  This isn’t a time waste. It’s a good, productive thing.

At the very least, it just furthers my crusade to clear out all of the ideas from my brain.

But, you guys would totally watch my show if on the very, very off-chance it ended up on TV, right?


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Funtimes–Holiday Shopping Suggestions

flame box elder penNo, do not fear. This is not a post to try to get you guys to buy my stuff (but, still, buy my stuff *coughcough*).

This is a post to draw your attention to a couple of my friends who make some really fabulous things that you should be aware of. These are perfect items to include on your own holiday wishlist or to purchase for friends or relatives.

Seriously. These are great things that you don’t want to miss out on.

RowevilleRetro. Handmade pens, pencils, styluses (stylii?), and other goodies, made from reclaimed materials. The pen in the picture? All mine, baby. It’s flame box elder and writes beautifully. It’s pretty neat to know that I’ve got a pen so unique. Don’t see one you like? You can custom order one to get exactly the pen/pencil/stylus your heart desires. And for a great price! Don’t forget to like them on Facebook and/or follow them on Twitter to keep up with latest goodies.

Brush Crush. Hannah McFadden is a terrific artist and now you can own one of her lovely pieces (I’m still making up my mind on which one I want; I want them all!). Inks, oils, pastels, acrylic, watercolor, she’s got skills in so many mediums. Check out her website for more pieces and like her on Facebook to keep up with her latest projects.

‘Tis the season for giving and if you’re going to be giving, then give something good. So, give these good people a look see, pass on the URLs, and, ya know, buy something.


*Full disclosure: None of the people involved in the two shops asked me to do this. This is all me, baby. I’m promoting them on the blog because I like them, I like their stuff, and I already promote them on my personal Facebook and Twitter. In my opinion, they deserve to have lots of people flocking to them to purchase their merchandise. If this blog post (or repeated sharings/likings/retweetings/favoritings/whatever) can help generate that mob, then it’s the very least I can do.

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Writing–December Projects

SnowflowerThe only thing I have on tap for December is revising (Vampires) Made in America. That’s it, that’s all, and there ain’t no more.

With the holiday gauntlet I run and the Grinchmas practices I observe, time and energy are in short supply in December. I’ve found that having one big project to work on during the month usually yields better results than trying to obliterate some huge To Do List. The lack of pressure lends itself nicely to me getting the thing done and then getting more things done. It tricks me into being more productive than I intended to be.

So far I haven’t caught on yet.

If I do get my revisions done quicker than anticipated (and that’s quite likely), I’ll probably pick another project to revise, most likely the Zak novella (still no title) or one of the other stories that I want to put into the People Are Terrible anthology.

I’m actually looking forward to revising (Vampires). When I first wrote it, I didn’t like it all. After re-reading it, I find that it’s actually a lot better than I thought it was. It’s got potential.

Revising it should be an interesting time.

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Megalomania–Dear Twitter Followers…

TwitterSometimes when I gain new followers on Twitter that end up being real people, I feel like I should warn them about myself. This usually comes about because it’s obvious that they’re only following me because of one aspect of my Twitter and I’m not sure they’re aware of the other bits of nothing I spew there. I know that some of them must have had the smarts to read through my timeline to get an idea of what my Twitter business is about, but sometimes I wonder.

So, here are the important things I feel someone should know if they’re following me on Twitter:

-Mute the Cubs hashtag if you’re not a Cubs/baseball fan. I cannot stress this enough and I actually remind people to do this periodically. I am ANNOYING during baseball season. I live tweet the games and usually make terrible jokes and often try to find the silver lining in every loss. Obviously, this dies down during the off season, but things will still happen like trades and Cubs Con, so it’s best to be prepared.

-I sometimes tweet about TV shows currently in production. I try to be mindful of the spoilers. If I’m going to be tweeting a lot about a show, I’ll be sure to use the hashtag so you can mute it. Otherwise, enjoy my random, sporadic commentary.

-I’m more likely live tweet reruns, though (which shouldn’t be too surprising if you read my Twitter bio because it says right there that I’m a Rerun Junkie, among other things). Right now it’s mostly Fantasy Island and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea since Addam’s Family hasn’t been on, but I’ve done it for Dragnet, Adam-12, Emergency!, The Golden Girls, The Rifleman, Gunsmoke, Big Valley, Perry Mason, and Ironside, among others. Just know that it can and probably will happen at some point and I don’t always use convenient hashtags to mute.

-I will favorite anything and everything. I favorite what I like, what amuses me, what I want to be able to find again later. I don’t abide by any established favoriting rules. I’m a rebel, baby.

-I’m not funny all the time. I try to be at least somewhat amusing because I’m not much of anything else (informative or political or current event-ish). So if you’re following me because of one tweet you found really funny, hold on to that tweet. Because there’s a good chance I’ll never be that funny to you again.

-I tweet about my life. Usually just the non-boring bits, but also the boring bits. I tweet when I’m going to a job or when I’m going to sleep because some people like to know why the hell I’m not replying to them. Call them health and welfare checks, if you will.

-Sometimes I tweet a lot. There are days when I tweet so much you might think I’m not doing anything else.

-Sometimes I don’t tweet very much. There are days I might only have one or two tweets. If I’m not feeling social or interesting, then I don’t force myself to be. That’s dumb.

-I will probably follow you back. I like interesting people and I’m not a social media snob. If I think we can relate, then I’ll follow you.

-I am finicky about who I @, though. I stop myself a lot from replying to people a lot. I consider this a courtesy because off-line I usually don’t take advantage of the pause to think if what I’m about to say isn’t as funny as I think it is. Also, I don’t reply to a lot of people’s tweets because I don’t think I’m cool enough to be tweeting at that particular person.

-I will unfollow you and not feel bad about it. Sometimes there’s no hard feelings. You’re just not my type. Sometimes it’s because you turned out to be something a lot more distasteful than I initially thought. Quick route to being unfollowed: be a bigot. Any kind of bigot. Doesn’t matter. I’m a very intolerant person. I will not tolerate your active dedication to being a piece of shit.

-And finally…I’m way cooler on Twitter than I am anywhere else on the Internet or off of it. Truth.

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Funtimes–I Went on a Trip…and Did Very Little

The view from our room.

The view from our room.

Despite the con that was the purpose of our visit being cancelled, roommate extraordinaire Carrie and I ventured to Milwaukee anyway. We had four nights in a nice hotel booked cheap and it seemed a shame to waste them. At the very least, it sounded like a good idea to just get out of the cornfield for a bit.

We didn’t have a concrete plan to do anything. Oh, we had ideas and got even more from the very nice concierge in the hotel. We thought maybe we’d go to the museum or possibly walk a block over and go shopping.

Instead, we did basically nothing. From Thursday at about five o’clock in the evening when we checked in until Monday at around ten o’clock in the morning when we checked out we didn’t even leave the hotel.

And it was glorious!

After spending the day on trains (the first one being late enough that we had to run to make our second one and that was not a great time), we had room service. The next day, Friday, we were totally going to go downstairs to eat in the pub, but instead we got all caught up in a How It’s Made marathon on the Science Channel and ordered in pizza instead. Thus began our food drawer. We stashed the left over pizza and breadsticks in the dresser along with some of the snacks we’d brought along because we are experienced travelers. After that, any extra food went into the drawer for later.

Milwaukee Christmas tree

It’s very pretty for existing before Thanksgiving.

Saturday, after receiving passive-aggressive notes from housekeeping (okay, not really; they slipped a card under our door saying they were honoring our Do Not Disturb sign and if we needed anything to call them), we left the hotel room so they could come in and do a bit of tidying, which was mostly them just making the beds and putting in new towels because the room was so nice we didn’t want to do anything to mar it. We admired the Christmas tree in the lobby (which had been lit for the first time that day in a ceremony that we missed because it’s not Thanksgiving yet and I acknowledge nothing Santa-related before then), Carrie got some Starbucks, and we hung out in the lounge before finally heading to the pub.

At the pub we enjoyed a fish fry and cheese curds (when in Wisconsin!) and I had a fantastic pumpkin ale which was why we ended up going back to the pub again on Sunday. That second visit I got to watch three NFL games while enjoying my ale and onion rings and chicken tenders.

In addition to the pub and watching more of How It’s Made (that show is just fascinating; I never before contemplated unicycle wheel hubs), Sunday was momentous as I had for the first time in my 34 years a Starbucks coffee. I liked it well enough and didn’t die. It was a salted caramel mocha and I wanted to add pretzels to it.

I miss the food drawer.

I miss the food drawer.

Monday, we bid goodbye to our now empty food drawer and our fabulous view and the seemingly endless episodes of How It’s Made (we watched several episodes before leaving that morning, too, as our love had grown so strong), and trained on out of there, making a stop at Union Station for lunch with my amazing friend Harry, before finally arriving home to find the cornfield really friggin’ windy.

I think most people would find our vacation to be incredibly dull and a missed opportunity to see all sorts of Milwaukee things, but to Carrie and I, it was relaxing. For me, it was the equivalent of floating in a warm pool for several hours. Refreshing.

So don’t knock it until you’ve gone someplace else and done nothing.

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