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Category Archives: Marlowe and the Spacewoman

Let’s Be Honest: There Were Distractions Along The Way

It was a dark and stormy night

The panacea that was, then wasn’t, then was again.

So not that long ago (though with all this sheltering in place and working from home, November sure feels like a previous epoch), I talked about my search for the perfect distraction-free writing instrument. At the time, I announced the results of my search: after much soul-searching, and even more web browsing, I had procured myself a New Old Stock Psion Netbook Pro.

(Fascinating side note: Psion trademarked the Netbook name years before the Eee PC and other makers came out with their generically named “netbooks” and there were several years of litigation involving who owned the name and whether trademark was being infringed upon. But I’ll leave those distracting details for you to look up yourself, should you be so inclined.)

At the time I wrote that blog post of discovery, I had yet to heavily use the PNP. But once I started, I came to calling it the Pain in the Neck Pro. Because, you see, the keyboard fell short of my expectations.

To be clear, I knew it would sport a less-than-standard layout and, given the form factor, would be cramped compared to my IBM Model M. I accepted those…compromises. If fact, it turns out (as will be seen shortly) that I was able to adapt to those particular idiosyncrasies.

No, the problem was the spacebar.

The physical-single-switch-only-at-the-exact-center-of-the-spacebar spacebar, otherwise known as the doesn’t-register-your-keystroke-unless-you-hit-the-dead-center-of-the-spacebar spacebar.

Now as you might suspect, it turns out that most typing of stuff, at least in the English language, makes heavy use of the ‘a’ key, the ‘i’ key, the ‘e’ key, the ‘t’ key, and, oh yeah, the effin’ spacebar!

I was constantly having to arrow back several characters to put in the space that I had typed but which had not registered. This was about 80% of the time I tried to use the spacebar.

If you let your fingers do the walking, have them skip over the spacebar

It’s a QUIRKY layout, not QWERTY.

(But hey, unlike the Freewrite and the Freewrite Traveler, at least the Psion has arrow keys!)

It was more than a little frustrating and after a few false starts, I gave up. I wrote it off as a close to $200 learning experience, but one I was too embarrassed to talk about on my blog because, well, it cost me close to $200.

Actually, significantly more than $200 if you factor in the next thing I did: I didn’t just kinda sorta give up, I whole hog gave up and bought a brand new Windows 10 convertible laptop. The one with all the distractions built in (the horrible OS itself, the web browser you feel compelled to use to look up things like the history of the word “netbook” and all the litigation surrounding it in the early ’00s, the music player you are unable to resist using to listen to the ballads about those “netbook” lawsuits, and the video depositions taken as a part of those lawsuits that you simply must watch on YouTube).

Yes, I had fallen off the wagon of focus and leapt, belly-first (and fully extended), into the packed, unsanitary public pool of distraction.

The Missus was so disgusted she took the kids and moved back in with her parents. For a couple of weeks. While it’s possible she was just visiting them, given the scope of my relapse, that seems unlikely.

Anyway, yes, I had ditched the old laptop running Linux for a fresh piece of kit.

Well, that’s not true – the old Linux machine went into the pile of old computers I’ve irrationally held onto since 1981 (“Why hello there, Timex Sinclair 1000”) because someday, maybe, I will need one of them as a backup when my main computer is hit by a super virus and the only thing preventing the evil villain who wrote said virus from taking over the world is a putty ssh connection into his mainframe from an old computer viewed so obsolete that he failed to make sure the virus could infect it.

This is also the excuse I give for why I have an old 33.6K external modem and parallel port cable.

Hey! It’s a legit excuse!

Now where was I? Oh yes, my new and shamefully distracting computer. With a stylus and touch screen and name-brand speakers and a cool, cool look that draws my attention away from the task at hand even when it is off. It was by using that shiny shiny computer that I may have accidentally searched about the Psion Netbook Pro spacebar problem and found out you can just cut out a piece of card stack, place it directly over the rubber dome under the spacebar, and solve that whole problem.

Well sh*t.

So, because I had so totally given up on and boxed up the ratty-keyboarded Psion and put it in storage and gone ahead and spent even more money on a brand new laptop…well, two things happened:

One, I was super annoyed with myself because if I had stumbled on this bit of info about the spacebar sooner, I either could have fixed the issue or, even better, avoided it entirely by buying my second runner up HPC candidate, the NEC MobilePro 900C. No matter how you looked at it, that would have been WAAAY cheaper than the new laptop.

Two, because I had the new laptop and didn’t care about the Psion anymore, I was willing to take the Psion apart and try to fix it. If I break the keyboard in the process (something I’ve done in the past when removing spacebars from keyboards), who cares? This particular HPC is already junk as far as I’m concerned.

But the spacebar came off fine, the square of card stock went in with little difficulty, and when I was done, the spacebar worked great no matter where on the key you actually struck it.

Which means I finally have my distraction-free writing tool!

And along with it, no more excuses.

Well dr*t.

Of course, the irony that I had to go down a rabbit hole (yet again) to learn about the relatively straightforward fix for my distraction-free writer is not lost on me. A fine $200 learning experience indeed!

I threw a bone up in the air and when it came back down it was a space station. It hit me on the head and knocked me out. When I woke up, this was next to me.

The USB port is on the other side. Allegedly.


This post (and the previous one) was written and edited on a Psion Netbook Pro using TextMaker for Windows CE. I will say this much: it works.

 

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I got distracted trying to find a distraction-free writing tool

Sure the battery life is great and the keyboard has arrow keys. But will it blend?

Writing a haiku? Fine, it might work. But a novel?

So it’s the middle of November and many of you are no doubt participating in Nanowrimo.

I am not.

I should be writing. I should be wrapping up the short story that is almost, unbelievably close to done.

I should be wrapping up the third Marlowe and the Spacewoman novel, the first draft of which is two thirds done.

But I’m not.

Instead, I got lost down the rabbit hole of process.

Not the thought process of writing, but the mechanical process of writing.

As is clear by the sizeable passage of time since I’ve generated any prose, I am prone to distractions. So as I sat down for one writing session, I thought, “Hey, I should Bing* search ‘distraction free writing’ to see what options I have.”

Because obviously I should spend the precious free moments I have for writing doing anything but writing.

Why distraction-free writing? Because I wanted yet another excuse for why I don’t write I wanted something that would force me to write without opening another tab in my browser to look up something inconsequential to getting the story done, such as which font I need to download in order to properly spell “procrastinate” in some weird language like Old or Middle Latin.

(Those are totally languages, so don’t leave any angry comments below!)

And boy, did that search give me some cool results.

First I encountered a lot of apps / programs that, really, are just bare-bones text editors. But not only could I just use Notepad instead for that, but my laptop is 10+ years old and takes forever to boot. So long that I switched from Winblows to Linux, which also, it turns out, takes forever to boot.

Just slightly less forever than Winblows 7 with 10+ years of programs installed on it.

So I realized that apps were out. No, I needed a distraction-free hardware solution that didn’t take until the next ice age to boot.

The Alphasmart gets lots of play during Nanowrimo, but it has a teeny tiny LCD display that is just too small for me.

Enter the Freewrite, which claims you will double your hourly word count.

And exit the Freewrite, when I see that it costs $549, only does one thing (allowing you to type documents), and has no arrow keys because going back to edit is for losers.

But wait, in a shocking surprise substitution, enter the Freewrite Traveler, which also claims you will double your hourly word count.

And exit the Freewrite Traveler, when I see it costs $369 (on sale, normally $599!), has all the same issues as the Freewrite, and, oh yeah, isn’t out yet.

I was starting to lose faith and therefore was forced to redouble my searching efforts.

Which is how I stumbled across the Pomera DM30, a compact, instant-on device with a folding keyboard and E-Ink display.

That can be had now for (as low as) $208, uses a Japanese keyboard layout, has be be imported from Japan, and is also distraction-free since it can’t do anything else.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I sometimes am forced to use a Japanese layout keyboard at the day job, and let me tell you, nothing is more distracting than trying to hit the space bar or figure out where the friggin’ ‘:’ and ‘;’ keys actually are, inaccurate labeling on the keys notwithstanding.

WTF, Japan? WTF?

But these devices (the Freewriti, as the plural for Freewrite is written in Old Latin, and the Pomera) were instant on, and that really appealed to me. There was no way I’d pay $250+ for (yet another) computer/word processor, so I was reluctantly leaning towards the Pomera, even though I knew the keyboard would drive me crazy and the $208 price still felt a bit steep.

That’s when I discovered HPCs.

HPCs are, for those of you who are young or who are old but not nerds, Handheld PCs. Small computers either running proprietary OSes (such as the Psion 7 running Symbian) or Windows CE.Some are tiny and literally fit in the palm of your hand (such as the HP 100LX which runs DOS), and others are slightly larger with nearly full-size keyboards (such as the NEC MobilePro 900C or Psion Netbook Pro).

They also haven’t been made in at least 15 years.

But I found a new old stock (so still in the box, woo-hoo!) Psion Netbook Pro on eBay for ~$130 and, after weeks of searching and researching and viewing YouTube videos of it (and the Pomera and the FreeWriters and the HP 100 and 200 LXes and the older Psion 7 that goes for $450+ on eBay), I ordered it.

It came with Windows CE (duh), Wordpad and a bunch of outdated Microsoft Office viewers.

And nothing else.

Which I found a little…lacking.

So I spent another week or so doing more research, discovered someone selling a CD with a bunch of licensed programs for Win CE, including a more full-featured word processor than Wordpad that could save documents as Microsoft .doc files.

So for another $48 (including shipping), I ordered that.

And waited 18 days for it to show up. The first 13 of which were spent in the originating post office. For some reason.

Some incredibly frustrating, but unknown to me reason.

Side note: the USPS package tracking sucks. That is the scientific term to describe it – I’m too polite to use the informal term that immediately comes to mind.

Now did I use my shiny new (old stock) distraction-free writing computer during all this?

Hell, no! It only has Wordpad! Yeech! I’m no masochist!

(Well, OK, maybe I am, but not when it comes to my writing.)

So if you’re thinking about dipping your toes into the whole distraction-free writing world, I have one word of advice for you:

Don’t.

* I didn’t use Bing. No one does. I used a different, functional search engine. That doesn’t spy on me.

 

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How getting a Brazilian saved Balloons of the Apocalypse! (It’s OUT!!!)

Today, August 30th, 2014 is a momentous day.

You know how it goes. Girl meets boy. Boy joins a classical music worshipping cult. Girl never sees boy again, until years later when she stumbles across a street orchestra playing for food, and there he is. But she's happily married now, and he smells really, really bad.

As always, only Marlowe, spacewoman Nina, and a sham wedding can stop a dangerous Beethoven cult bent on world domination.

The second Capaldi Doctor Who episode aired.

It had daleks.

I liked it. And Capaldi as the Doctor.

So a momentous day indeed.

On a completely unrelated and nowhere near as momentous note, Balloons of the Apocalypse is now available.

The third installment in the Marlowe and the Spacewoman series, it has it all:

Words.

Sentences.

Paragraphs.

Mystery.

Exotic locales.

Marriage.

Major character deaths.

Steam-powered pigs.

Zeppelins.

I won’t bore you with the details, even if this is the promotional blog post announcing the release. Click on the Balloons of the Apocalypse link to learn more.

(I really hate self-promotion.)

But I will reveal to you the Brazilian connection to this book’s release.

I admit, I’d been in a rut for the last year or so when it comes to this book.

The day job, my marriage, my young kids, they sucked the life out of me.

No offense to the Missus or the kiddos. Or the day job, in case my boss is reading this.

It’s just these things are big responsibilities that take a lot of time and effort to do right.

And let me tell you, facing the prospect of losing your day job, Missus, and/or kiddos, you find yourself wanting to do it right.

Needing to do it right.

And getting dirty looks from coworkers, spouses, friends, family, and kiddos who expect you to do it right.

Talk about pressure.

That plus my previous books never magically turned into best sellers, so I reached this point where I was all, “Screw it. No one cares. I’ll never be a rich and famous author. Why bother, especially when there is a diarrhea-soaked diaper for me to change?”

Wait, make that two.

Dammit.

So I stopped working on and thinking about Balloons of the Apocalypse.

I could claim I was letting that field lie fallow, but I’d be lying.

I’d given up.

The light had gone out from my authorial eyes.

I’d developed a major facial tic around books in general.

I was done with writing.

And reading, since it reminded me of writing.

Then the Brazilian showed up.

Well, not so much showed up as appeared.

OK, not even appeared. More like lurked.

Eh, maybe lurked isn’t the right word.

I’ll explain.

I started noticing blog hits from Brazil.

Now I’m not going to say I don’t get huge volumes of traffic on my blog that would make it impossible to link a referrer to a visiting country, but it was pretty clear to me that not only was this repeat visitor a repeat visitor, but the Brazilian always came to this blog via ianmdudley.com.

(Don’t click on that. You’ll end up here again. Really. I promise.)

Not because of a search term (hello ‘Blake Shelton naked’ people!). Not through twitter. Not via facebook.

The Brazilian was going directly to my website, which redirected him or her to this blog.

For the longest time, I thought, “I’ve got this huge fan out there, desperately visiting my web site every day to see when Balloons of the Apocalypse will finally come out.”

My initial response? “Schmuck. You’re in for a helluva wait.”

But after a few days I began to feel bad.

Then sad.

Then guilty.

I was ruining this person’s day, every day, by not having the book out for him or her to read.

I think the last straw was Brazil’s elimination from the 2014 World Cup.

Now the Brazilian had endured enough.

Now I had to offer the only salve that could possibly help heal this broken, crushed, disappointed fan.

Now I had to finish and release Balloons of the Apocalypse.

So here it is. Two more editing passes and some minor re-writes later, and it is out in the world. Ready to languish on virtual book shelves, untouched by anyone.

Because two days ago I learned the truth.

Don’t ask me how. My methods are proprietary and the amount of money I spent too vast to mention anywhere the Missus might get wind of it.

(Remember that whole ‘doing the marriage right’ expectation thing?)

In a seedy sports bar on the less reputable edge of São Paulo, there is a bathroom with an ignored OUT OF ORDER sign (in Portuguese, of course) on the door, with the words, “For a good time, go to ianmdudley.com” scrawled, also in Portuguese, by the way, above a cracked, leaking urinal.

Learning that really took the piss out of me. But I was too far along in the publication process to stop.

So now I raise an angry fist while facing southeastward, and I shake it angrily at you, Brazil.

You broke an innocent man. You crushed his spirit. You made him burst into tears every time he walks up to a urinal.

Which resulted in a visit from HR at work.

(Remember that whole ‘doing the day job right’ expectation thing?)

On the not-so-off chance I lose the day job and find myself saddled with alimony and child support payments in the near future, please, please, please consider buying a copy of my book.

And the next time the guy at the urinal next to you bursts into tears, remind yourself:

“There but for the grace of a Brazilian go I.”

Bloody Brazilians.

 

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Balloons of the Apocalypse Cover Reveal

Everything looks to be on track for the release of Balloons of the Apocalypse, the third book in the Marlowe and the Spacewoman series.

(That’s e-book, mind you, I have more work to do before the paperback is available. Say another month?)

And now, with minimal further ado, the cover!

Just one minor ado. Release date.

30 August 2014.

That’s this Saturday.

I’ll post links, but you’ll find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. And, if all goes well, Smashwords.

Shudder.

I hate the Smashwords meatgrinder, but I like their distribution reach.

And I sell more books there than on Barnes and Noble.

Sad, that.

OK, done with the ado. Here’s the cover.

You know how it goes. Girl meets boy. Boy joins a classical music worshipping cult. Girl never sees boy again, until years later when she stumbles across a street orchestra playing for food, and there he is. But she's happily married now, and he smells really, really bad.

As always, only Marlowe, spacewoman Nina, and a sham wedding can stop a dangerous Beethoven cult bent on world domination.

Artwork done by the same artist who did the previous two covers, smokewithoutmirrors. She does fantastic work. I highly recommend her to anyone looking for a book cover.

Or a vanity portrait. I printed mine out to wall size.

Scares the crap out of the dog.

Along with the cover, I thought I’d ramble a bit about the editing process, since I learned something new this time.

Well, maybe not new. Just something I wasn’t conscious of before.

When I write a book, it takes forever to get it done. Quite literally years.

OK, that I was conscious of. Everyone who knows me is conscious of that!

Part of this is my fear that people will hate my work, and so I revise and revise and revise, trying to present the first copy to beta readers as a fait accompli.

It never is.

I’m getting better. Marlowe and the Spacewoman went through ten revisions (I think, maybe eleven) before I published it. It also took me close to ten years from first draft to published.

The second book (short story, really) actually took longer, but I started it before the first book.

Don’t ask. It’s complicated. And I abandoned it for a large part of that period.

I started this book five years ago? Four or five.

Either way, an improvement.

And considering I had kids in the middle of all that, kinda impressive.

What I discovered this time around is that taking my time really does work wonders.

Because I finish a draft and let it lie fallow.

I don’t read it for ages and ages.

And by the time I get around to it again, it’s fresh and new and not in my head. So I can read it with a clear eye.

This helps me see problems. Typos, grammar goofs, misused words.

But not well enough to forgo other readers.

Beta readers are essential, because some biases are so ingrained that you are blinded to the problems they cause.

No matter how long you wait between reads.

I went about a year between penultimate read-through and ultimate read-through. And found lots of the above-mentioned, typical goofs.

And the blind bias stuff? My betas found a heartbreaking number of problems, which they dutifully reported back to me.

I think, with their help, I addressed the worst of that.

But I did have a couple of big surprises.

After I started the last read-through, I found myself thinking about the book a lot.

Usually when I was trying to fall asleep.

Annoying, that. Especially on a work night.

But that’s not the surprising part. I always obsess over current projects.

It was the couple of major plot holes I discovered. Things that happened (or didn’t happen) which simply made no sense.

The sorts of things, that, when I see them in other books, make me go, “Man, this author is lazy. He didn’t bother to think things through. Shame on him. I will find out where he lives and burn his house to the ground.”

I was stunned to discover them in my book. I’m not lazy, but I certainly hadn’t caught them in previous read-throughs.

More alarming, neither had any of my beta readers.

Actually, the fact that they missed them too makes me feel a little better.

Fortunately, I was able to patch the holes pretty easily, once I applied myself.

I also struggled with how to open the book. I tried three different openings.

The final one? Came to me while I worried about it.

In bed.

Trying to fall asleep.

So that’s my process:

Crank out a first draft, wait approximately one earth orbital period, and edit it.

Worry about it in bed.

Repeat until I have enough confidence to share with beta readers.

Worry about it in bed.

Stare at their feedback emails for several days before working up the nerve to open them.

Worry about it in bed.

Marvel in the description of issues I wouldn’t have detected if they’d come up to me, kicked me in the family jewels, and said, “Oh, pardon me, I didn’t mean to do that.”

(My issues are very polite.)

Worry about it in bed.

Edit again.

Worry about it in bed.

And again (the editing, that is. Oh, and the worrying too.)

Then, just maybe, I’m ready to publish.

There is only one drawback to my approach.

OK, two if you count sleep deprivation.

After several read-throughs of one of my books, it starts to feel old.

Not fresh.

Done before.

(Because, well, it has. In the previous drafts.)

So by the time I’m ready to publish, I don’t feel a lot of excitement.

This is bad, because publication time is when you’re supposed to promote it.

So now I have to promote and rah-rah-rah a book that, for me, feels tired and worked over.

And worry that everyone else will feel the same way.

I don’t think I’m going to be sleeping well for the next few nights.

 

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If you’re lucky, they’ll make you sit in the comfy chair while they indoctrinate you

To complement the planned publication of Balloons of the Apocalypse Sooner Rather Than Later!™ [IT’S OUT NOW!], I am presenting a series of articles about a group that features prominently in the book – the Ludite (pronounced LEWD-ite) Church. Their primary claim to fame is that the worship the music of Ludwig van Beethoven.

The start of the series – Introduction to the Ludite faith – can be found here.

While many aspects of the Ludite Church can, and ought, to be viewed with concern, consternation, and untempered vitriol, one aspect of the Church’s work is universally praised.

Its furniture.

And rightly so.

Ludite furniture isn’t just the most highly sought after home and office product to come out of Beet City. It is the most highly sought after home and office product in the known world.

Many people, willingly or not, are brought into the faith. Not all are suitable for missionary work.

Some of those who aren’t show an aptitude for the arts.

A non-zero number of those who show an aptitude for the arts also exhibit a talent for carpentry.

A fraction of that number, it turns out, can be trusted with knives and other sharp tools.

These people end up under the purview of the Ludite Church’s Artisan Bureaucracy.

Artisans are apprenticed with a Master for ten years.

The first three of those years are spent sitting in a chair, holding stock still, and watching the Master work.

In the fourth year, the apprentices are allowed to start doing basic prep work, such as queuing music and fetching sand paper for the Master.

During years five through ten, the apprentice slowly works his or her way up to making miniature furniture: chairs, stools, simple beds, kitchen sets. This involves building a 1:15 scale version of an item, tearing it apart, then rebuilding it, over and over, until the muscle memory is perfected and the Master approves moving on to the next item.

Such is the thoroughness of their training during this period, that this miniature apprentice furniture is coveted by dollhouse aficionados, who are known to pay exorbitant amounts for some examples of the work.

If all goes well, after ten years, Journeyman status is achieved, and students are allowed to assist in the manufacture of full-sized Beet City tables and chairs.

Master status, usually attained during the Ludite’s twilight years, is only rarely bestowed, with fewer than ten Masters in existence at any one time.

This long and arduous creative path results in Beet City furniture being the most supple and calming furniture in existence.

The exact process of manufacture is a trade secret, but the sales brochures do disclose this much: the material is saturated with Beethoven’s music from start to finish.

It starts in the design phase, when the rare materials are procured. Only the highest quality recordings are played. In the case of a prestigious commission, recordings are deemed too flat for the sought after effect, and live orchestras are brought in to play around the clock.

It has been suggested by some that music is even played to the trees as they are cut down, and in extreme cases, to seeds that are planted with furniture in mind.

And, of course, Beethoven is played during the actual assembly of the furniture. The intention is to saturate the fine-grain wood with the dulcet tones of the Great Composer’s work, so that it might ooze the melodies’ soothing effects as the furniture is used.

Whether you view the Ludite Church as our last hope for salvation or an intolerable bane on freedom, you cannot dispute that the chairs are remarkably comfortable, the tables sturdy and beautiful, the bed frames deeply relaxing.

Even the condemned who swing from Beet City-made gallows are reported to go out with a smile.

Followed shortly thereafter by the violent convulsions of death.

Although Augustus Brutus, an early Il Maestro of the Church, claimed these convulsions were the Great Composer reaching out from beyond the grave, attempting to conduct one last symphony.

So convinced of this was Augustus Brutus that he tied batons to the hands of those facing execution, and he had an orchestra present during the hangings, playing music to the wildly gesticulating limbs.

The resulting music was said to be so disturbing that Augustus Brutus was eventually murdered to put an end to the practice, and all recordings destroyed.

Now who among us wouldn’t want to own a piece of furniture with a provenance like that?

 

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Don’t bother preaching to the choir – they’re listening to the music (and subliminal programming)

To complement the planned publication of Balloons of the Apocalypse Very Soon Now!™ [IT’S OUT NOW!], I am presenting a series of articles about a group that features prominently in the book – the Ludite (pronounced LEWD-ite) Church.

The start of the series – Introduction to the Ludite faith – can be found here.

They say that travel broadens the mind.

It also broadens the faith base, if done correctly.

And the Ludite Church knows how to do travel correctly.

In the post-Big Fed era of limited long distance travel options, the Ludite Church recognized that bringing the flock to Beet City was not a viable long-term option for growing the number of the faithful.

So they sent out missionaries, to both preach to the unwashed masses and to market the desirability of Beet City as a vacation retreat for those with the means to travel.

But when your faith’s spread is reliant on brainwashed proselytizers, you can’t just take a newly minted convert and turn them loose on the world.

The Ludites learned this the hard way in the early days, when mass defections and deprogrammings occurred amongst their missionaries once they were out and about, free of Beet City’s cloying control.

So the Church evolved and took steps to prevent any but the most devoted from going on missions. This involved a series of activities and tests designed to crush any form of free thought or resistance.

Little is known about the first few years of indoctrination within the walls of Beet City, called the Rite of Composition, except that at one stage it involves a coffin-sized box, a stage magician with a sword, and asparagus-flavored marshmallows. But the end result is an evangelical with an undying love of Beethoven and an unending devotion to His music and return.

Once an Initiate has been deemed to have passed the Rite of Composition, he or she progresses to an Associate Second Stand position within the Church. At this stage, the adherent is deemed indoctrinated enough to trust outside Beet City limits.

They are shipped out to neighboring city-states, though never one where relatives are known to live. The Church is not willing to risk a deprogramming effort made on the part of distraught (and now either penniless or locked in property litigation [see second article]) family members. The Associate Second Stand’s mission is to spread the Lyrics and Music of the Church to new potential Initiates.

A complicated point system taking into account the number, wealth, and geophysical location of new converts is used to judge the Associate Second Stand’s progress, and when a certain point score is reached, they are said to have achieved Clarissimo and are elevated to Second Stand.

Attainment of this level is accompanied by a laminated certificate from Il Maestro, the Church’s leader, congratulating them on their success.

This point system is the closest thing to a bible the Ludite Church has. However, unlike religions that feel compelled to spread the word of their holy documents, the Ludites hold this system as a closely guarded secret.

The official Church line is that to know and fully appreciate the rules, adherents must slowly build up their spiritual readiness in a carefully controlled manner in order to accept it.

Others, who admittedly have not seen the writings, suggest it is because the rules would be immediately recognized as silly when viewed through an eye untarnished by extensive brainwashing.

Many books detailing the point system have been written, but are only available to church members for a more-than-nominal charge. Skeptics have joined the Church in order to gain access, but to date, all have succumbed to indoctrination and are now vocal supporters of the Church.

Each copy of the books is uniquely numbered, never allowed to leave Beet City limits, and carefully watched. And so, to date, a copy has never made it into non-secular hands for examination.

An investigative journalist with a platoon of mercenaries came close, which is how the outside world learned that the books were designed to explode once more than a meter outside Beet City limits.

This is also how the outside world became acquainted with that most fearsome weapon, the baton blaster.

It doesn’t need to be said that none of the journalist’s team, herself included, survived the incursion.

Her posthumous article on a baton blaster gap, however, both won a Peabody and started a baton arms race.

Which led to a lot of wasteful spending on musical accoutrements and more than a few nasty musical military industrial accidents.

Also, her ghost writer was pretty steamed about not getting any credit for the Peabody.

 
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Posted by on 13 August 2014 in Marlowe and the Spacewoman

 

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All your bass, alto, and soprano are belong to us

To complement the planned publication of Balloons of the Apocalypse Very Soon Now™ [IT’S OUT NOW!], I am presenting a series of articles about an organization that features prominently in the book – the Ludite Church.

The start of the series – Introduction to the Ludite faith – can be found here.

This installment discusses the process of indoctrination – how new members of the Church are inducted into the Faith.

First, it needs to be stated that the Ludite Church believes in expansion. Rapid, unobstructed expansion.

As a result, some of their missionary activities are deemed by outsiders to be…aggressive.

Now while it is true that missionaries are sent out to find new converts, the primary source of new recruits is tourism.

The Ludites built a grand city in the desert, one of remarkable architecture, striking landmarks, and unrivaled musical performances:

Beet City.

One cannot see or hear the words ‘Beet City’ without thinking of some of these tributes to music and engineering:

  • The Eternal Flame of the Composer, a fountain of fire and vibrato unparalleled in modern existence, and said to put viewers into a trance of pure ecstasy
  • The imposing, 1000-meter tall Statue of Symphony, a stern-but-welcoming herald inviting music lovers to visit Beet City and experience its transcendent power
  • The Gift Shops of Inexhaustible Kitsch, offering a vast array of inexpensive mementos that allow you to keep Beet City close to your heart, even when you are far away

As intended, this wonder of the North American continent serves as a major tourist draw, pulling in a rich and varied pool of potential converts.

Once trapped within the walls of this holy see, visitors are barraged with subliminal messages and, in some cases, more overt methods of brainwashing conversion.

Those who are ill-prepared for this onslaught of indoctrination soon find themselves inured to the beliefs and tenants of the Ludite Church, and so a family vacation to Beet City turns into an unintended pilgrimage.

Tourists are carefully monitored at all times, and when the authorities deem that indoctrination is complete, they are designated novices and apartments provided for their long-term stay. The tour guides provide directions and maps, and the new novice then finds him or herself at the Office of Legal Orchestration.

It is in these offices that the novice provides a detailed family history, including last known addresses of all relatives and ancestors, and sign over all their worldly goods to the Church. Following the completion of this necessarily cumbersome paperwork, the Initiate is taken to a celebration known as a Mass Conversion. Here a Church Member of the First Chair performs the Rite of Confirmation. This Rite not only converts and enters the individual into the Church as an Initiate, it also converts all of their relatives and ancestors into the Church.

As relinquishing all your worldly goods is a prerequisite to joining the Ludite Church, the Office of Legal Orchestration then files lawsuits against all the Initiate’s relatives and ancestors in the City-States where they reside. The lawsuits seek to recover the property of said ancestors, which in the view of the Office of Legal Orchestration is now the rightful property of the Church.

It is disturbing how successful these lawsuits have been. Their success is usually attributed to the 10% finders fee awarded to the municipality in which the lawsuit is filed. All appeals have to be made in Beet City, where plaintiffs must sit through an indoctrination presentation before being allowed entry to the courts.

Few are able to resist the power of this presentation, and end up joining the Church as well.

Still, it cannot be denied that Beet City is an amazing place well worth visiting, assuming you can withstand (or don’t mind) the attempts at conversion.

Part 3 of this series, Assumed Missionary Positions of the Ludite Faith, can be found here.
 
 

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Deadly music isn’t just a Sirens thing: Intro to the Ludite Faith

With the planned publication of Balloons of the Apocalypse, the sequel to Marlowe and the Spacewoman, coming up Very Soon Now™ [IT’S OUT NOW!], the time is ripe for an exposé on a group that features prominently in the book.

I speak, of course, of the Ludites (pronounced LEWD-ites).

Adherents to the Ludite faith, also known by the (derogatory) term Beeters, worship the music of Ludwig van Beethoven and await His return to complete His 10th Symphony.

It turns out this wait can be a dangerous one, for many of the faithful have died in the course of trying to expedite Beethoven’s return.

I will offer no person judgments on the ludicrous beliefs of this reckless cult, but will instead, in a series of articles, paint a picture of their history and beliefs, and allow you, my gentle readers, to come to the conclusion that they’re kooks.

In this first installment, I talk about the basic tenants of the Beeter faith.

But before one can talk about the rules of the Beeter faith, one must describe the events that led to it.

This brings us, of course, to the period of history known as the Partially Thwarted Apocalypse, and the collapse of the Big Fed (known in its heyday as the United States) that occurred as a result.

A great deal of chaos and fear ensued amongst the general populace immediately following the global collapse of all large governments. However, instead of driving the unwashed, and now ungoverned, masses to church as conventional wisdom suggested, this uncertainty so disheartened people that they fled from faith in droves.

Those who failed to be circumspect about their lack of a lack of faith often found themselves on the wrong end of a hail of stones and other heavy, sharp projectiles.

In the North American continent, secretive, isolated cults did well in the first few years after the fall of the Big Fed, as did religions that masked their beliefs behind faith in more secular items.

Prominent examples of these neo-secular faiths would be the Ludites and their fixation on Beethoven and his music, the Church of Mickey D and its holy Shroud of the Clown, which held certain types of fast food to be hallowed, and the deadly Bunny in da Hat cult, which placed a high premium on violent street magic.

And yet, within ten years, as city-states formed and imposed order in the form of local government, the uncertainty and disheartenment of the masses faded back to comfortable, or at least tolerable, levels. In this environment of structure and perceived stability, faith came back into vogue and there followed a period of openness.

With this new openness came conflict, and then, inevitably, consolidation.

The Ludites proved quite adept at co-opting and absorbing other religions, and as one of the first faiths to embark upon such a course of action, quickly built itself a large and stable fan base.

The best example of this absorption of other faiths is the annexation of the Church of Mickey D. To ease the merger, the Ludite Church declared fast food a required staple of the faithful (more on Ludite eating habits in a later article), and by the time fast food was phased out of Luditism, three years later, the Mickey D members had either embraced the Ludite faith completely, were excised with ruthless precision (sans all their worldly goods), or died due to poor heath resulting from their preferred diet.

The Shroud of the Clown became the Shroud of Tourette, reportedly donned by Beethoven prior to delivering his frequent public verbal flayings. According to the new Church doctrine, the shroud cloaked Beethoven in an impenetrable aura of obscenity and invective that left those subjected to his withering diatribes gibbering, broken shadows of their former selves.

The incongruity of a bright yellow and orange shroud in Beethoven’s era was glossed over as an article of faith not to be questioned. The golden ‘M’ emblazoned on the front of the shroud was explained as an emblem of the Church’s supreme leader, and thus was the office of Il Maestro born.

It is towards the end of this period of consolidation that the Ludite Church, now confident in its ability to safely operate in the open, published its basic tenants. Prior to this, the articles of faith were passed down only orally, in the form of hauntingly beautiful cantatas.

Initial circulation of the tenants was poor due to the use of stone tablets as the medium of publication. This was quickly rectified by phasing in the use of parchment and paper.

The basic tenants are simple:

  • Only through Beethoven’s music can one find fulfillment
  • Beethoven shall return to this Earth to complete his Tenth Symphony, bringing harmony and peace to the world
  • To prevent false prophets from claiming to be the Bringer of the 10th Symphony, Beethoven cast upon the world the Curse of the Tenth Symphony
  • Thou shalt not write a Tenth Symphony before Beethoven’s return, and after His return, His 10th will be so perfect there’s no reason to finish yours
  • The Return of Beethoven will be known and heralded by the Ludite Church’s holy leader, Il Maestro

Surprisingly, from those five basic tenants, Church bureaucrats have derived eight thousand pages of rules and regulations. This includes, to mention but a few, minutiae on offices that can be held within the Church, proscribed and prescribed food stuffs, acceptable methods of travel for missionaries, hierarchy of techniques for indoctrination (ranging from ‘kill them with kindness’ to use of drugs and sleep deprivation to break resistance), and proper posture of orchestra members when performing Beethoven’s music.

But whatever you might think about the Ludite Church, there is one fact that no one disputes:

They have excellent taste in music.

Part 2 of this series, Indoctrination into the Ludite Faith, can be found here.
 
3 Comments

Posted by on 29 July 2014 in Marlowe and the Spacewoman, Noir

 

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Think of the children! (Instead of ignoring them in favor of social media)

Walking past the kiddos’ room one recent evening, I heard crying.

“Daddy,” my son said, when he was still sobbing twenty minutes later so I relented and went in, “I don’t want to grow up, because if I do, I won’t be able to fit in your lap any more.”

I asked him to repeat that, because all I heard after “because if I do” was “I couldn’t be a Toys R Us kid.”

After he repeated himself, I sat down, forming a lap, and patted him over.

“Don’t worry,” I said as he plopped down on my legs, cutting off all circulation. “As you grow, I’ll just eat lots and lots of food so I get bigger.”

My son considered these words for a moment, and then burst into a new round of tears. “But Daddy,” he objected, “if you get bigger, you’ll break the house!”

This. My son fearing I’ll expand beyond the capacity of my house walls due to overeating.

This is why I have given up on social media.

Or at least dialed it way, way back.

Now a lot of folks who are going off-line or getting off the grid these days whine and drone on and on about corporate snooping and unconstitutional government surveillance.

Well, they can keep their tin foil hats. Those things are not my style.

And they’re utterly ineffective against government mind control rays.

If you want to properly shield your brain, you need to go lead or gold foil. Which is expensive and uncomfortable.

Not to mention, it gets you strange looks walking down the street.

(And mugged, more often than not, when it comes to the gold foil hats.)

But for me, social media had become an addiction that distracted me from family time and writing/editing time.

Also, work time, but that was more of a benefit than a disadvantage, in my view.

So, over the recent holiday weekend, I quit the internet cold turkey.

Just for the weekend, mind you, as an experiment to see how I fared. I’m not crazy.

The results?

The biggest benefit was that, with the mobile data setting on my phone off, my battery life went way up. Like 10% improvement up.

I know. Impressive.

The secondary benefit was I became aware of this strange, seemingly-but-actually-not intangible aura surrounding me.

The Missus, upon my commenting on this dawning awareness, snorted and said it was called ‘reality’.

I like reality. There are people and places and things that I can actually touch, feel, taste, and smell.

OK, the smell aspect isn’t always a winner, especially with kiddos still in diapers, but overall, a very worthwhile experience. Especially kissing. It feels way nicer to kiss real lips than displayed lips during a Skype session.

Last but not least, I must point out that during my 72 hours of disconnect, I didn’t miss the internet.

Considering how obsessive I am when it comes to checking for likes on Facebook, retweets on twitter, and visits on my blog, this came as quite a surprise.

How much of a surprise?

Well, usually when writing a blog post, I pause six or seven times during the writing to see if any of my other posts have gotten a hit since I last checked.

This post? Haven’t checked once.

Well, more than once.

Or twice.

The point is, I’m getting better. I’ve proven to myself that I don’t need it as much as I need things like food, water, and oxygen.

Even though it used to feel like I did need it, and in this order of priority:

  • Internet access
  • Oxygen
  • Ice cream
  • Soda
  • Food
  • Water
  • Hot baths with scented candles and Tangerine Dream playing in the background

The long weekend is over now, and obviously, since this blog entry exists, I have not given up on the internet entirely.

But I have scaled way back.

And in doing so, I’ve found I have more time and, more importantly, more patience around my family, friends, and coworkers.

(Since my boss told me I had to develop more patience over my probationary period, this is a double win for me!)

No longer do I view these ‘reality’ interactions as annoying but apparently mandatory distractions from being on-line and getting the latest status updates on people I’ve never met.

You know what else I did with this additional free time?

I  got back to editing my next book, Balloons of the Apocalypse. The sequel I’d originally planned to release this May, but which sat ignored on my computer for months. Why?

Because after I’d gritted my teeth through my work day, and then endured the dull agony of family time, I only had enough energy for one more thing. And when forced to choose between my indie writing career and on-line friends’ social updates, I chose the latter.

The latter plus watching that video of a wombat improbably attired in a Speedo wrestling with, and then eating, a python wearing a fedora.

I miss that video. It is awesome, but I’ve lost the link. Anyone have it?

But I digress. The point is, until completing this off-line experiment, I had no idea the former option, or any non-social media option, for that matter, was even a viable choice.

Turns out it is a viable choice.

The more you know.

You’re welcome.

Need a breakdown to decide if quitting social media is for you? Happy to oblige, because I’m a public service kinda guy.

Pros of internet and social media

  • That guy you follow on twitter because he’s a writer too? See exactly what he had for lunch today
  • Find out the horoscope for Libra even though you aren’t a Libra, or believe in horoscopes, because that very nice lady in Cleveland, Ohio (or so her profile claims) shares hers. Every. Day.
  • Discover the dinosaur-murdering truth about Steven Spielberg (that a-hole!)
  • Develop a deep and abiding hatred for family and friends because they are constantly interrupting your attempts to catch up on Facebook
  • Have a faceless, uncaring government build a detailed dossier on you based on where you surf, what you post, and what you buy, solely so they can predict your every behaviour, and when democracy is overthrown, know exactly where to send the shock troops to arrest you
  • Have a faceless, uncaring corporation build a detailed dossier on you based on where you surf, what you post, and what you buy so that they can make money off you without compensating you. Also, so they can predict when someone in your household is pregnant and send you coupons for baby formula. Actually, that one might be kinda handy…
  • The warm, cozy, but totally unwarranted belief that every time you tweet a link to buy your book on Amazon, it’s clicked on by thousands of eager fans-to-be. Or hundreds. Or even one

Cons of internet and social media

  • Incensed hatred of anyone, especially young children, who want you to forsake the internet in order to meet their social interaction needs
  • Lower productivity
  • Can cause Repetitive Motion Injuries and/or flare-ups
  • If a lot of the people you follow are female writers of a certain age, they have this thing called Beefcake Friday, where they barrage your feed with unwanted pictures of muscular, shirtless, well-oiled men, often fire fighters, which, coupled with the lower productivity already mentioned above, makes you feel even more inadequate as a man. Also, wouldn’t being slathered in oil make a fire fighter more flammable? Is that wise?
  • Cancer

I’ve done the math, and I didn’t even need a calculator! I will be doing a lot less internetting going forward. Which is good news for my family, coworkers, and anyone waiting for my next book.

But it’s very bad news for my oncologist. My poor, poor oncologist.

 

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It’s another writing blog meme! Jump before it hits yo- Too late.

So, like a bad case of the croup, there’s a writing blog hop making the rounds. And like a bad case of croup, I caught it.

This particular round requires a regimen of antibiotics answers to four questions about writing. I’m not sure I have anything of value to say on the art of writing, or as I like to call it, ‘prosefaction,’ but rather than break the chain and have untold horrors befall me and my descendants, I’ll wing it.

Who was so generous as to push me onto this blog hop conveyor belt? Why none other than Kit Campbell. So send your complaints about this blog to her, thank you very much.

What am I working on?

Keeping a tenuous grip on my sanity. Oh, you mean writing-wise?

Keeping a tenuous grip on my sanity:

I’m editing Balloons of the Apocalypse, the next book in the Marlowe and the Spacewoman series, while holding a full-time job, dealing with toddlers when I get home from work, being awakened at the crack of dawn EVERY morning by said toddlers so I’m sleep deprived, trying to pull my weight in the whole marriage/relationship thing, and taking flight lessons.

Why did that come out ‘lesions’ when I first typed it? I may be just a wee bit utterly exhausted.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

David lost himself in the role. He was totally unrecognizable under all that clown makeup and that huge handlebar mustache.

The stuff that dreams are NOT made of.
Image © Glenn Francis, http://www.PacificProDigital.com

Hmm. How is it different? I’d say the absurdist element, though that probably isn’t unique to my books. I built a world that makes you scratch your head and hopefully laugh, but my main characters don’t see it as anything but the world they live in and must navigate.

Oh, and I have an immobile character named House who I always imagine being voiced by Stephen Fry (and not Hugh Laurie, who despite starring in the medical drama House also appeared with Stephen Fry in a number of things, including Jeeves and Wooster). House is Jeeves, only without the ability to sap you with a cosh.

At least directly…

And in the Marlowe-verse, David Hasselhoff played Philip Marlowe in the movies.

Why do I write what I do?

Why do any of us write? To keep those effin’ muses at bay, of course. Once they deliver an idea to me, they pester me until I use it.

Jump up and down on my head.

Pinch my cheeks.

Squeeze my buttocks.

Makes me yelp every time, which, given that the bastards are invisible, has caused no end of problems at work, during romantic moments ‘alone’ with the Missus, while passing through airport security, and during the bi-annual, court-order psych evaluations.

But once I’ve written it down, I have a few hours respite before they come up with what they think are brilliant new ideas.

It really sucks when the ideas are lame. They never see them as such.

If you’re reading something of mine and come across a passage that strikes you as particularly lacking, just remember: I thought it was lame too, but I had to put it in to stop the incessant badgering.

How does my writing process work?

Computer and fly swatter. Because though they may be invisible, those Muses are not incorporeal.

I used to pants it, but I’m experimenting with outlining now. I rarely stick with the outline all the way through, but it helps to have a nice, solid map of where I want to go and how to get there from where I am.

Of course, editing doesn’t have much outlining in it. I suspect I’d be doing it wrong if it did.

And there’s my contribution to the writing process.

Now, as I understand it, I’m supposed to burden give a few more writers the opportunity to wax poetic (or prosetic) on these questions. Kit’s already dodged this bullet, as she’s the one who tagged me, so I choose:

Lisa Eckstein (a madwoman with a box and some writing utensils)

Tamela Buhrke (a madwoman who happens to write)

S.G. Browne (a very sane, sensible, and funny writer)

Stephen King (not holding my breath on this one)

 
 

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