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Slay Ride


Originally published at Richard S. Crawford's World. You can comment here or there.

When I was a kid, we had this Christmas tradition where my mom would bake a bunch of sugar cookies, and then my sisters and I would decorate them with frosting paint. Occasional we’d attach accessories such as glitter or marshmallows or chocolate chips. It was a grand time, and a neat tradition, and we’d serve the painted cookies at Christmas Eve, along with all the other goodies.

I don’t remember how it happened, but at some point, this tradition took on a macabre turn. Instead of a cheerful Christmas stocking, we ended up with a bloody severed foot. Instead of a jolly reindeer with a shiny red nose, we ended up with a zombie reindeer. And so on.

And I’m not sure what it was that ended the tradition; perhaps it was the beach bunny elf with the strategically placed chocolate chips, or the swarm of zombie snowmen. Or maybe it was just that my sisters and I moved away and ended up with grown-up responsibilities such as jobs and no longer could make it to my mom’s house to paint the cookies.

But the spirit of the tradition lives on! At Thanksgiving this year, my mom gifted both my sisters and I with this:

The Walking GingerdeadYes, a kit for making zombie gingerbread men! How cool is that? How cool is my mom?

Naturally, Jennifer and I were thrilled and couldn’t wait to make these cookies. Last night was the first night that we both had free, so we decided it was time.

So we looked on the back of the box for the instructions. The first thing we noticed was this:

WGD-back-panel

We figure it’s pretty generic text, and probably shows up on the back of each of the different gingerbread kits that the company produces. On the back of this particular kit, though, we thought it was particularly funny.

Anyway. We put together the dough, mixed up the white frosting, baked the cookies (during this part I Tweeted, “The house is full of the smell of baking gingerbread and the screams of the damned’), and decorated them. This is what we ended up with:

WGD-doneNeither Jennifer nor I will be transitioning to a career in decorative baking anytime soon. But I think they turned out quite spiffy anyway. And horrifying. And truly in the spirit of my family’s holiday tradition.

(And you can’t quite tell in this picture, but the three gingerbread men in the middle are normal ones, made with a normal gingerbread man cutter, screaming, because they’re surrounded by zombie hordes.)


‘Tis the season for (undead) Holidailies!

Supplement: My story, “Night of the Frozen Elf”, was selected as an Editor’s Pick at Book Country yesterday. Read it here!


Originally published at Richard S. Crawford's World. You can comment here or there.

National Novel Writing Month

Once again, Jennifer and I will be participating in National Novel Writing Month. That is to say, in November we will both commit to writing a 50,000 word original novel. This year I’ll be working on The Book of Jonah, a comedic modern retelling of… well, of the Book of Jonah from the Bible. Jonah has always struck me as the funniest of the Biblical prophets, and, while other writers have taken him on as their subject matter, it’s high time that someone did a modern take, with the sense of humor that marks the original tale.

Jennifer, of course, will be working on something entirely secret and esoteric. She may share some details with you as she goes along. Or she may not. She’s mysterious, that one.

At any rate, this means that once again we’re hoping to attend the Night of Writing Dangerously, an annual event held in San Francisco where hundreds of NaNoWriMo participants gather to spend the night writing. It’s basically a write-a-thon. And, as always, we’re raising money to do so; our goal this year is $375. Donations go straight to National Novel Writing Month’s Young Writers Program, which is a fantastic program aimed at getting kids ages 17 and younger to get writing and get their creative juices flowing. What could be spiffier than that? Our nephew has participated in this program, and we’re both mighty proud of him.

So to make a tax-deductible donation, click on the logo below, or on the “Night of Writing Dangerously” logo in the left navigation bar of my blog. Or you can click here! It’s all good. We would greatly appreciate it! And if you make a donation of $50 or more, I’ll be sure to include your name in The Book of Jonah somehow. Since I plan on putting the novel online as I write it, you’ll get to see your name in pixels. How exciting! No, really!

Anyway. Thanks. We both appreciate it your donation.

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“The Quest” and Clarke’s Third Law


Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

-Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)


The Quest is a reality show of sorts that runs on Thursday nights on ABC. It's not a typical reality show like The Biggest Loser or The Bachelor or Survivor XXIV: Pebble Beach. Instead of twelve contestants locked in a gym or on a desert island or in a room with a narcissistic bachelor, the contestants are placed in a pseudo-medieval setting, complete with a queen, a Vizier (whose job is apparently to sneer at everything), mages, monsters, and so on. Challenges involve tasks such as hunting down dragon tears for the antidote to a poison that has been administered to the queen and swordfighting. Really, it's more like LARPing than like a real reality show. It's a very silly show, but Jennifer and I are actually enjoying it.

Watching this has made me think of the "Three Laws of Prediction" as formulated by science fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the third of which I've quoted above (I had to look up the first two laws, which hardly anyone knows, but the third one is pretty famous). In "The Quest" there are a few elements of anachronistic "magic" which are really just commonplace technologies. The "fire orbs" which the participants had to hunt for in a recent episode were magical devices that glowed with an inner light, but in "real life" they were simply glass jars with a fluorescent liquid inside of them. In the Hall of Fates (where the participants must be judged for their actions and one of them voted off the show), the visages of previously banished contestants hover against a high, dark wall; though they are obviously just projections from a hidden source.

I find this use of modern technology to replicate magical effects pretty fascinating. It puts me in mind of an amusing post I saw on Facebook some time back. I wish I could track down the source, but like all things Facebook, the source is sadly lost to history. The post goes something like this:

How would you describe modern technology to a visitor from, say, the 1800s?


"I possess, in my pocket, a device which allows me access to all the world's knowledge at the touch of a finger. I use it to look at pictures of cats and get into arguments with strangers."


When you consider that you can actually speak to Siri in your iPhone, or to Google in your Android device, it becomes even more fantastical. With ChromeCast or AppleTV you can use your phone to control your television or other devices. In short, your pocket device makes you the equivalent of a wizard.

Amazing, isn't it? I can't imagine describing modern technology to someone from the 1800s (or even the early to mid 1900s), let alone someone from medieval Europe. If a sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, then what would such a time traveling visitor think of our times? And what sorts of technology are yet to come that we can't conceive of, that we would think magical ourselves?

All this, of course, has made me come up with an idea for a new novel. This annoys me, because it's a very shiny idea, and I am already committed to finishing Code Monkey. No, you cannot have this idea. I'm hoarding it. Someday -- probably in 2016 -- I'll be able to write it.

Someday...
writing
When I was first writing, seriously, back in high school, I aimed to be the next Kurt Vonnegut. Not sure why. I wrote satirical science fiction and some serious science fiction and fantasy. These days I still admire Vonnegut and I love his writing, but the world already had a Vonnegut, and we don't need another one.

Then for awhile I aimed to be the next Clive Barker. I wrote horror that I imagined was dark, edgy, and imaginative, with elements of humor. But now the horror market is oversaturated, and again, the world already has a Clive Barker, and we don't need another one.

Then back in 2005, when I wrote Fred Again, I realized my main writerly goal: to be the next Christopher Moore. Since then I've written fiction that is humorous, with elements of the fantastic.

I've decided now on a new goal: to be the first Richard S. Crawford. I write stories of all sorts, from science fiction and fantasy to dark horror, to comical pastiches. I've come to realize that my fiction is a bit Christopher Moore, a bit A. Lee Martinez, a bit Tom Holt, a bit Terry Pratchett, and a bit of a whole bunch of other writers that I really admire. But mostly, I'm hoping that my fiction is distinctly mine, that I've found a voice that I can write with and that people will read and enjoy.

And all these thoughts came about because I sat down and decided on my next four novel projects (after Code Monkey), including my NaNoWriMo projects for 2014 and 2015! For your reference, those projects are:

  • Brought to Life (a rewrite of my 2010 NaNoWriMo novel);

  • Down to Ninevah

  • Brought to Life 2

  • The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster


And so I address my writer friends: what are your goals? Not just in terms of word count, but in terms of style and voice that you want to develop? Who are some of the authors that you really admire, and how have they influenced your own work?

Originally published at Richard S. Crawford's World. You can comment here or there.

When I was first writing, seriously, back in high school, I aimed to be the next Kurt Vonnegut. Not sure why. I wrote satirical science fiction and some serious science fiction and fantasy. These days I still admire Vonnegut and I love his writing, but the world already had a Vonnegut, and we don’t need another one.

Then for awhile I aimed to be the next Clive Barker. I wrote horror that I imagined was dark, edgy, and imaginative, with elements of humor. But now the horror market is oversaturated, and again, the world already has a Clive Barker, and we don’t need another one.

Then back in 2005, when I wrote Fred Again, I realized my main writerly goal: to be the next Christopher Moore. Since then I’ve written fiction that is humorous, with elements of the fantastic.

I’ve decided now on a new goal: to be the first Richard S. Crawford. I write stories of all sorts, from science fiction and fantasy to dark horror, to comical pastiches. I’ve come to realize that my fiction is a bit Christopher Moore, a bit A. Lee Martinez, a bit Tom Holt, a bit Terry Pratchett, and a bit of a whole bunch of other writers that I really admire. But mostly, I’m hoping that my fiction is distinctly mine, that I’ve found a voice that I can write with and that people will read and enjoy.

And all these thoughts came about because I sat down and decided on my next four novel projects (after Code Monkey), including my NaNoWriMo projects for 2014 and 2015! For your reference, those projects are:

  • Brought to Life (a rewrite of my 2010 NaNoWriMo novel);
  • Down to Nineveh
  • Brought to Life 2
  • The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster

And so I address my writer friends: what are your goals? Not just in terms of word count, but in terms of style and voice that you want to develop? Who are some of the authors that you really admire, and how have they influenced your own work?

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This friendly rock-hopper penguin welcomes you!





(Tagged by my friend Andrea Stewart. Andrea is a member of my face-to-face writers' group, WordForge. She's wicked talented and a really neat person to boot. Check out her website and her fiction.) 

So many books to read! So much television to watch! So much social media to catch up on, constantly! So much work to do at work! It's actually kind of amazing that I get any writing done at all, isn't it? And yet somehow I manage to get some words written on a more or less regular basis.

1. What are you currently working on?

Currently, a couple of things. First, of course, is my novel Code Monkey, which is a refinement of the novel I wrote for National Novel Writing Month in November 2009. I thought it was fun and I honestly believe it has potential. My goal is to complete the current draft within the next week so that I can submit it to my crit group this month.

I'm also working on a couple of short stories: "Flash Drive" and "The X of Doom". And, of course, I plan to publish "The Winds of Patwin County" in July under the Igneous Books label. More details on that as they become available.

 2. How does your work differ than others in its genre?

That's a tricky question because I'm not actually entirely sure what genre Code Monkey belongs in. I call it a "love story with occasional monsters" but that by no means implies that I'm writing a romance. I've asked around, and the people who've read early drafts seem to agree that it's contemporary fantasy, but I'm not sure what defines that genre. So, I'm not sure how to answer this question, except to say that I hope I'm doing enough differently to make it entertaining and to avoid the tropes and cliches common to the genre it belongs in.

The same is true of the short stories I'm working on.

3. Why do you do what you do?

I'm not 100% sure, but I think it has something to do with just enjoying the process. I've written stories ever since I was very young (my mom still has "Tornado in the Sky", a book I wrote when I was, I believe, 6). Whenever anyone suggests a game of Dungeons and Dragons, I want to be the Dungeon Master. I'm not always satisfied being the audience. I just like to create the worlds and the characters and the stories that they're involved in.

4. How does your writing process work?

Too often, it simply doesn't. While I almost always have a document open in Scrivener or LibreOffice on my computer, I'm too frequently distracted by something else: a novel I'm reading in one browser tab, or Facebook or Twitter in another. I know the best thing for me to do would be to shut down my Internet connection when I write, or simply switch to a workstation that has no Internet connection at all, but I find it's simply too easy to restore the connection and start browsing again.

But I've set myself some goals. Daily writing. A certain word count or time spent editing per day. And so on. I'm hoping you readers will help hold me accountable.




And here I go, tagging some people.

First, Dex Fernandez. Dex is a talented writer and a good friend. We go back several years.

Second, Jessica, whom I know through NaNoWriMo, and who's pretty spiffy, in my opinion.

Third, Jamie Thornton, another member of my writers' group. She is the author of Rhinoceros Summer, a fantastic coming-of-age novel that spans two continents.

And, finally, Leigh Dragoon, a great writer, member of my writers' group, and a good friend.

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Story of the week: yet another update


Okay. Between jury duty (for a rather intense trial) and extra hours of work to make sure our website doesn’t explode this month, I’m finding I just don’t have time to write this month. So my Story of the Month project will resume in February instead of this month.


Sorry about that.





A Dalek in the kitchen!

A Dalek in the kitchen!


First things first: There’s a First Friday write-in at my house this Friday at 7:00 pm this Friday, January 3, 2014. Hope to see you there! If you want to come, send me an email or something and I’ll tell you how to get here.


Anyway, today’s my birthday, and I turn 46 years old. I’m quite all right with that. I freaked out a little bit about turning 40, as is traditional, and I suspect I will do so a bit when I turn 50, because I think you’re supposed to. But 46? Meh.


It’s also New Year’s Eve. The picture above shows what Jennifer and I have done so far. We inflated the Dalek that my parents had given me for Christmas, and then it invaded the kitchen. Fortunately I had my sonic screwdriver ready, and successfully fought it off. Go us! Now it’s up to the cats to deflate it with their claws. I’m sure that won’t be difficult for them.


Typically, I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions. I used to make them when I was younger but I usually didn’t keep them for very long. Then, in a bout of rebelliousness, I decided that instead of New Year’s resolutions, I would make March 25 resolutions — the thought being that March 25 was just as arbitrary as January 1 for that sort of thing.


Nowadays I use my birthday and the end of the year to consider the areas of my life that I like to focus on, and consider where I’m at in those areas of focus. Those areas of focus are, summarized:


Health. Physically, I’m not very good at this, but with the mindful eating I’ve been practicing I’ve been getting better. Emotionally and mentally, though, I’m pretty happy with where I am, though there’s definitely room for improvement.


Relationships. I’m still working on some basics, like returning phone calls in a timely manner. For some reason, I suck at that. But I have good relationships with my wife, my family and with my friends, both online and off-, and I’m looking for ways to make those relationships better and stronger.


Geekery. By which I basically mean learning and fun. Learning IS fun, of course, but in the “fun” column I also put gaming, reading, entertainment, and so on. It’s all geekery because I’m a geek. This coming year, I do intend to do some more learning. A lot more.


Writing. Always. This year I plan to focus on it a bit more. Maybe start submitting short stories again.


And that’s all. As I said, I don’t really make resolutions. Instead, I just like to refocus on what’s important to me.


‘Tis nearly the end of Holidailies





Today’s the sixth day of Christmas. Tradition demands that I give my wife six swans a-swimming. As interesting as the cats would find those, however, I think I’m going to pass. First of all, we have no place in our house or nearby for the swans to swim (California being in a drought, after all). Second, swans are messy. I don’t want to clean up after them.


Anyway, first thing’s first. There’s a First Friday Write-in, the first of the new year, at my house at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, January 3, 2014. Hope to see you there.


In other news, tomorrow is my birthday. I turn 46 years old. I am surprisingly okay with that. As my friend Cheryl put it on Facebook, “Better to be smelling the daisies than looking at the roots, am I right?” Indeed she is.


 




Christmas Thoughts ‘n’ Things


NOTE: Even though most of this post was written on December 26, it’s now the 27th as I finish and post it. Happy third day of Christmas!


Ingrid in a Santa hat

Ingrid in a Santa hat


It’s December 26th in this particular time zone as of this writing, which means it’s Boxing Day, or the second day of Christmas. Tradition demands that I give Jennifer a pair of turtle doves, whatever those are, but I’m going to pass. I guess I’m just a lousy husband. Anyway, here’s a picture of one of our cats, Ingrid, wearing a Santa hat. It’s okay. She always looks this grumpy.


Aside from all the driving, the past two days have been pretty low-key. On Tuesday, Christmas Eve, Jennifer and I went down to my parents’ house to hang out with the family. We all sat around and chatted, had Chinese food for dinner and various cookies and things for dessert, then opened stocking stuffers and presents. I had drawn my sister Leona’s name in the gift draw (my parents draw names to see who we’ll be giving a gift to, instead of giving everyone a gift; I really like this tradition, because it means I can put a lot more thought into a single gift instead of trying to find something for a bunch of different people), and I gave her a nice black sweater which she’d been wanting. Her husband Mike (who wasn’t able to come to the festivities) had drawn my name, and I ended up with a copies of Wonderbook, an illustrated book on writing speculative fiction by Jeff Vandermeer that I’d really been wanting, and Existence by David Brin. My parents also gave me a three foot tall inflatable Dalek. They’re Doctor Who nerds just like me, so they know what I like. 


Yesterday, Christmas Day, we went to Jennifer’s sister’s house to spend time with her family. It, too, was a pretty low-key affair. After breakfast we opened presents, and again I ended up with some pretty cool stuff: a book on ghosts and hauntings, a DVD of The Universe from the History Channel, and a subscription to Scientific American, which makes me happy in light of my plan to writing The Neverending Symphony in 2020. It was fun hanging out with various in-laws, nephews, and nieces, and the caroling in the evening was fun as well, but by the time the day ended, Jennifer and I were both wiped, and quite ready to go home.


And now I’m back at work while Jennifer’s off shopping with her family (on the 26th, they hit the post-Christmas sales to stock up on cards, ornaments, and supplies for the next year). It’s been a slow day, customer support-wise, so I was able to spend the day focusing on some projects that I’ve been working on.  There’s hardly anyone else in the office, too, which has been nice. Not that I don’t like my co-workers, of course, it’s just that it’s nice to be able to focus on existing projects rather than on customer support emergencies.


So at this point there’s not much left to do except sit around and wait for my birthday. Once that’s over, then it’ll feel a little less like limbo around here, and a little more back to reality.


‘Tis the season for (rambling) Holidailies




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