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Archives for October 2012

The American Quest

Alex’s breath fogged in the cold night air. The sweatshirt he’d grabbed from the back of his chair smelled like old milk or cheese. Alex checked the pocket and pulled the lint out, throwing the tuft into the bushes. By two-ish in the morning, the streets had died. Earlier, pangs of hunger had set in, and Alex didn’t want the last package of noodles, crunched and broken on the cupboard shelf. He deserved a treat.

The corner-store was less than two blocks from his single bedroom flat. The neighborhood was built in the 1970s and had gone into disrepair due mostly to landlords hording money against unsung bullshit. No one really knew the state of things anymore, especially with how much the politicians garbled. For Wall Street things were fantastic, thought Alex. For the out-of-work, code monkeys, not so much.

Alex walked through the intersection of Derby Street, dimly lit against a flickering streetlight. He could see two figures standing next to a parked car, their hoods pulled over their heads, creating a single, large shadow behind them. He figured they must be kids, probably breaking into cars. He watched as one guy slapped the other’s arm with the back of his hand and pointed towards Alex. For a moment, Alex thought of the game he’d just left. Maybe they were players too. He always wanted to meet fellow gamers in the wild. He’d love to talk to someone about the loot he’d collected or the secret dungeon he’d crawled through for the fiftieth time, all for a random chance at a glorious riding mount. He’d been trying for half a year.

“Hey, you got a light.” One of the hooded men asked as he came shuffling up the sidewalk. He held a bent cigarette between two fingers.

“No, man. Sorry.” Alex looked down the sidewalk.

“You got a few bucks then?” The guy turned toward the corner store, shouldering next to Alex as he walked. The other guy pushed lightly on Alex other shoulder with a hand as if to say he was repeating the question. Alex kept walking. He thought about the night he’d won the crown jewel riding mount off the six armed beast, Death Strider. The mount was coveted by players throughout his server. Many farmed it after the weekly reset, because that was the best time to defeat the boss and get the mount — the statistics gathered from thousands of playing hours suggested as much. Fourteen had been found dropped within an hour of server reset.

“I don’t have any extra money. I’m heading to get a few slices of pizza,” Alex’s voice cracked. He was sorry he’d said it. Why would he tell them what he was doing?

The only time Alex saw the mount, the raid leader, a goblin named Chugbugoo, had pocketed it for himself, even though Alex’s character, Teemo, was the one who rolled the highest. The mount was rightfully Alex’s. He’d filed a petition and waited for redemption, logging in at odd hours to see if his request had been fulfilled by Sky Support. Then the green check-mark had been ticked and Alex saw the stupid response. Loot rules needed to be said upfront. A master loot raid was up to the discretion of the leader. Alex then knew the dice rolls were for show — the true power was held by the raid leader. After that, he’d always forced the lead to announce loot rules in chat.

The guy behind Alex said, “Why don’t you just give us your wallet and we’ll go in there and get what you wanted?” He said it like the offer made sense, like he was talking to a fourteen year old girl looking to buy Schnapps, not a guy who hadn’t seen the Death Strider mount in fourteen weeks, a guy who only wanted to buy a few slices of pizza to push down the bile gurgling up his throat.

“No.” Alex stopped walking, his hands hanging dumb at his side. “I’m not giving you shit,” He looked at each of them. He saw their scrawny faces, the sprouts of hair under their chins, acne scars, bloodshot eyes. He saw terror curtained behind a drugged veneer.

“Now leave me be.” The one guy laughed, and the other followed with a snort and a short squeal. “We’re just giving you the rub,” the other parroted the same, but Alex didn’t care. He was going to get his reward.

New Additions to the Site

I’ve updated the site, as you may have noticed. I’m using the Genesis Framework built with the Minimum Theme. No secret I love WordPress (sorry, Drupal). One thing I do love about Drupal is the ability to add custom content types. There’s numerous reasons to have this functionality  so color me surprised when I realized I could perform the same thing in WordPress.

Custom content types did not just appear. They’ve been around a long while. But I’ve realized I can use them to great affect. For instance, my site now has a “Stream” section where I can post anything small that doesn’t necessarily warrant a full-fledged blog post. It uses a custom content type.

Fixing a Leaky Memory Problem

I’m not talking about brain cells being sapped. I’m talking about forgetfulness. You see, I like to read. I love to read short stories, but I often find that the location of said story eludes me. I might know I read it in the New Yorker, but not the year or anything more than I read it there. Sites like GoodReads and LibraryThing fill the memory gap when it comes to novels, but I haven’t found a site that lets you catalog the short stories you’ve read.

So I created a custom content type.

You can see the type in action on the site here: The SSLOG allows me to keep track of the where and when, and the written-by-who? Great, right? I think so. If there’s any interest, I can draw up a tutorial on how to do it.

But, tonight, it’s my birthday. I’m going to get off the computer and go read American Gods for a bit. No work tomorrow, so we’ll see what happens then.

My New Kindle Paperwhite

I got my Kindle Paperwhite today! Coming from the second generation Kindle, this thing is really great. The touch screen is surprisingly one of the better features. I didn’t realize how clunky the four way navigation was until I used the touch screen. Browsing through the online store takes much less time, as does most other tasks.

The screen on the Paperwhite is the biggest attraction though, nice crisp contrast. And I can use it while Che sleeps. Great for those marathon reads into the wee hours of the morning.

Che’s going to use the Kindle Keyboard model for now, until we decide the next step. Heck, the touch version is only $69 right now. We might get her one of those if she enjoys reading on the Kindle.

Are you a writer?

I was reading this article on Forbes titled “Why You Shouldn’t Be a Writer.” The article got me thinking, and, maybe a bit defensive.

You shouldn’t write if you’re not called to it. Do you hear the siren song? Writer’s bear a burden. They must write. I do agree, to an extent, but human virtue tends to be a bit more prickly-by-appearance yet smooth-to-the-touch.

Consider that life itself can change priorities and attitudes about what can and won’t be done regarding a dream. A person may have to build a crib, install a car seat, and change diapers in the middle of the night. All the while knowing they could be writing if they just had time. Life does happen and can take us away from our passions.

Mental challenges can also hinder the creative process. Disabilities, diseases, and other cases of illness can dampen the creative spirit. For others, they choose to write through the pain and suffering. And that’s really the message. Take the time, make sacrifices, but write.

You were not a writer during those down times. I was there myself for quite a while. Am I back? Yes, I would say so. But to really know if it’s for real, we need to dig into ourselves, find that core desire, and see if it has any life in it or does it feel brittle, aged, and cracked?

There’s no “magic secret”; writing is like everything else; ten percent inspiration or talent, and ninety percent hard work. Persistence; keeping at it till you get there. As Agnes de Mille said, it means working every day—bored, tired, weary, or with a fever of a hundred and two.


My distance from fiction was largely due to time constraints and lack of discipline. For the past several years, I’ve been plugging away at articles that stifled my creativity. I wrote about insurance, student exams, US cities, Brazilian wood, armored cars, RC planes, dentists, restaurants, sofas, children’s bedroom furniture, and dozens of other topics. Each tap on the keyboard brought me one step closer to creative suicide. Think DFW’s brilliant story about the IRS auditor, Wiggle Room.

Of course, I had motive for going the article writing route. I needed to keep my lights on. My passion for writing wasn’t burning bright enough to light my house or filling enough to keep my belly full. But maybe a better writer, a Saul Bellow, I.B. Singer, or Stephen King, would have suffered by candlelight to get their story onto the page. And, maybe, I should learn something from the early writings of these authors. Many wrote in extreme poverty because the only thing that mattered was the story.

E.B. White handled his own mail and responded to all the inquiries from his fans. So too did Isaac Asimov, writing more than 10,000 letters to fans who wrote him over the years. Of course, responding to fans is still writing, so their exercises can be found as less of an excuse and more of a waypoint regarding their particular character.

In my case, I deal with the time constraints, but I also have self-doubt regarding my writing prowess. I’ve bottled it all though. My self-doubt looks strikingly like Coca-Cola. Each time I write, I’m dropping a Mentos into the mix.  Who cares if I’m terrible at it. I’ll only ever know myself, if I get to creating more stories. And if I never become a “writer” rather than an “amateur author,” then so be it.