Tuesday, July 31, 2007
For the boys I can cook up one box of Macaroni and Cheese or throw a package of weenies on the grill and they will both eat it. These two novels have totally different palets, so I'm continually trying to decide which one to feed. I'll work on one until I sense the other starting to shrivel and die, then its off to provide a bit of nourishment to the other story. This has basically resulted in the starvation of this blog. I sense the quality of my posts lagging and I apologize but unless each of you are going to start sending me a dollar a day to subsidize my dreams of making a living with words, then the blog will be the thing that suffers most from my limited creativity.
Over at the Women of Mystery blog blogger and regular commenter here, Terrie Farley Moran suggested I blog about my attempts at converting an 8,000 word short story into an 80,000 word novel, so that is what I'm going to do. Right after I explain that led me to be writing two novels at once.
Back in February I headed out to Arizona to a writers conference put on by Michael Neff, the man behind Webdelsol. The conference was great, I learned a lot, met several interesting people, including blog regulars Bluefingers and Alex Keto, and made some valuable contacts with agents. At the tail end of the week long workshop Michael sat down with each of us and really went over some of our writing and he offered up his brand of advice.(very insightful, but blunt)
Michael basically told me that he liked my writing but it came across as dark and emotionally heavy and it listening to me over the weak he'd heard a lot of really good humor in my story telling. He encouraged me to try and get some of that down on the page. His suggestion was to sit down and write a short story in the same manner and dialect as I would use if I were sitting in a seedy bar telling a story to the man sitting on the stool beside me.
So I flew back home to Texas and thought about it. I was already on the verge of starting a new novel that I knew would require more a more humorous tone that my previous work so I decided Michael's advice would be a great exorcise to get in that frame of mind. And my short story Plundered Booty was born.
Truthfully, I never intended a word of it to see the light of day but the more i wrote the more I laughed. Finally I decided to send what I had to a couple of people to see if they found it funny or if I had finally gone over the edge. I was surprised at the reaction I got. I literally had people begging to read the rest of it. Only I didn't have anymore. So I hurried and finished the story. Then everyone started telling me this is the best thing you've ever written. You should make it into a novel.
At first I blew the comments off. Sure I appreciated them. I like my ego stroked as much as the next guy but by this time I was already well into another novel. A twisted love triangle involving a woman named Grace who blames sex for ruining her life, her husband, the Texas Panhandle bull semen king, and the father of her teenage son's girlfriend.
But Captain, the first person narrator of Plundered Booty kept whispering in my ear, Feed me. Int he short story he had no name other than Captain, he will keep that moniker for the novel but right off the reader learns his full name. Here is an excerpt from the very end of the first chapter.
I will tell you my name is Hank Petty Zybeck. Hank, after the greatest country and western singer of all time. My dear departed daddy's description, not mine. Petty, for the king of all racecar drivers. Again, my daddy's opinion, but one I happen to share. And Zybeck, because I'm my father's son. Least that was my momma's claim to her dying day.
Who knows, it might even be true, but neither of my parents stood over five and a half foot tall, and I’m a good five inches better than six foot. My dad's hair was the color of axle grease and my momma's was a couple of shades darker if anything, whereas my hair has always been the same shade of red as fender rust.
But this story isn't about my questionable heritage, and it's been a long while since I went by Hank. Most folks call me Captain.
Well, that happens to be where this story begins.
Now I can't get Hank to shut up and Grace is losing weight faster than an incarcerated Paris Hilton. I had to let one of my children starve but Grace better speak up or she's liable to wither away.
This post is long enough for now, but soon I'll talk about the actual process of adding more than seventy thousand words while maintaining the flavor and integrity of the original story. That is if something titled Plundered Booty can be described as having integrity. Here's a better description. Throw a Kinky Friedman novel in the blender with a Jimmy Buffet CD, add in two bottles of Caribbean Rum, a splash of sea salt, and a quart of motor oil and voila -- you have Plundered Booty- The Novel.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Last night me and my wife went to see the latest Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix and I gotta say knowing how the series ends changed the way I watched the movie. There was a good bit of foreshadowing things to come that I never would have noticed before. Overall, the movie is good I rate it a close second behind The Prisoner Of Azkaban amongst the ones that have been made thus far. It did end with on a more upbeat tone and with a bit more optimism than the actual novel and of course a ton of things were only skimmed upon, but a worthy way to spend a couple of hours.
The girl who played Luna Lovegood reminded me a lot of the band camp girl from American Pie. I Think it was her eyes and the inflection in her voice.
Also is it me, or does Hagrid's half brother Grawp look an
awful lot like a steroided up version of Alfred E. Newman?
Saturday, July 28, 2007
To me it always sounds as if the side affects are worse than the original problem. Then the other day my wife pointed out the side affects for some new drug that is suppost to help restless leg syndrome. I watched for the ad after that and sure enough she was right. Sure there was several of the usual, dizziness, headache and what not but those last tow got me.
May cause an increase in gambling activity and sexual urges
Now there is some worthy side affects. Before we know it casinos will start dissolving a couple of tablets of this stuff in you free cocktail. Not only will you be able to sit at the table longer because your legs will feel better, but you will want to gamble more, and hey when you are done losing your money, we have a brothel right next door that happens to take credit cards.
But I have a theory. These side affects are utter BS. My gut says there is some dude who works for the company. My guess is he was taking the medicine himself and went out to Vegas for the weekend. Lady Luck probably deserted him too resulting in heavy casualties to his savings account. Seeking a bit of solace he probably hired a bit of "companionship" for the night and then flew home.
Then his wife looked at the bank statement and credit card bill where she found a five hundred dollar charge from Sugar Bunny's Escort service or some other such business. Now this guy being fairly sharp quickly admitted he'd done wrong but only because he wasn't able o control his gambling activity or sexual urges. It had to be the new medicine. And some how he convinced his boss these side affects were real and now there they are, tacked on to the very end of that commercial.
I say that was one fast thinking fellow.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Let me quote from a couple of my favorites. I'm doing these from memory so don't beat me up if I got a word or two wrong. More than likely very few of you have even heard these songs.
From Robert Earl Keen's - The Road Goes on Forever -
Sherry was a waitress, at the only joint in town.
She had a reputation as a girl who'd been around.
Then a bit later ...
Sonny was a loner, older than the rest.
He was going in the Navy, but he couldn't pass the test.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't that paint an image of these characters in very few words. It does for me.
Here is a bit from Charlie Robison's My Hometown -
Went to college like they asked me too,
but they didn't ask my friends.
Don't think I saw a single classroom, but I drank a lot of beer.
Buddies still love to listen to me when I talk about that year.
Four lines and I know this guy, of course that may be because I actually do know guys that fit this description.
I don't know that there is a point to this post, but as thought I'd pass along my thoughts.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Being back to work after a two weeks absence for training was no fun. Then I finally went to pick up my copy of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. Then it was off to my weekly critique group. Between my travels and those from others in the group (trips to Costa Rica, Austin for the Texas League of Writers Conference, a week at the Iowa writers workshop) our group had not met in a good while. So I got to go to Houston and Norman and hang out with postal workers. My fellow member traveled abroad and hung out with other writers and learned many valuable things about the craft. I got the short end of that stick.
After critique I camped out with Harry and read until the dark side of midnight.
Twice this weekend I was reminded of a story involving my oldest son. First at a backyard party in honor of friends who are being transferred to Fort Worth. Amarillo is about six hours north a a bit west of Ft. Worth so while we will still see these friends on occasion it will not be often. The second reminder came from a fellow blogger but more on that at the end of this post. Also I haven't mentioned my sons in a good while. Probably not since the post about me doing the hokey pokey in my underwear. My son is almost seven now but this story took place when he was just shy of three.
For those who might not now my house is out in the boonies, the sticks, B.F.E. -- choose your own adjective. A simple trip to nearest convenience store is a good jog.
So one late summer day my wife decides to send me to the store for ice or something. My son, always eager to go somewhere began shouting, "I wanna go! I wanna go!"
So I instructed him to put his shoes on. He looked and looked but couldn't seem to find them or his socks. Finally after about five minuted of him whining and wanting help he found his shoes but not his socks.
Minutes later my patience was running thin so I said, "Just put your shoes on. You don't need socks."
"Yes I do. Help me. I can't find them. Where are they?" All said in a high pitched whine. His big blue eyes were glossy with unshed tears.
"If you don't hurry I'm going to leave you here."
This unleashed the tears as he sobbed, "But I can't find my socks."
Again I said, "Just put your shoes on and come one. Socks are for weenies anyway."
The sobs ceased. The tears stopped flowing as my offspring looked at me as if I'd lost my mind. Several seconds went by as he stared at me with something close to disgust on his young face. Finally he said, "Dad, socks are for my feet, not my weenie."
Once you've read this pop on over to Alicia's blog and read the post that reminded me of this story, and if you have a young child of your own, watch what you call it, or they are sure to call you out for your word choices.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Jessica has visited Amarillo as a speaker at the Frontiers In Writing Conference on two occasions and she present some great workshops. If you've never read their agency blog or checked them out, here is the link.
Stay tuned for another posting later.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Remember last week I was went on a rant about Lady Luck being ticked at me and not showing up when I needed her? Well apparently Lady Luck is a blabber mouth. Seems as if she has been spreading evil thoughts about me to her sister Karma. And let me tell you Karma is way more into revenge than Lady Luck.
Remember my rant yesterday about my fellow students, especially the wannabe athletes? Know what I did yesterday after posting that blog? I went down tot he pool and played about two hours worth of water volleyball. And guess what. I woke up with a sore back. Maybe if I whisper sweet nothings to both lady Luck and Karma they will rub some BenGay on my lower back.
So I take it all back. Mt fellow postal students are the brightest, most beautiful people on earth, especially that dude with the foil, wherever he may be. Okay that was all BS but his next part isn't.
In order to repent I'm going to spread some good Karma around. I want to thank all of you for taking part of your day to read whatever crazy nonsense I happen to post. I'm still a bit amazed how quickly this blog has taken off. The numbers of visitors grows daily and for all of you who take the time to comment, thank you. You give me the motivation to keep coming up with something.
Now I have a favor to ask of y'all, actually three favors. My friend Katrina just launched a blog here on blogger called Texas Tawk. Drop in and offer her some encouragement the same way you have me. Now to favor number two.
Obviously she learned more than me since she has a great novel out called Potter Springs and while I whole-heartedly recommend you go buy it that's not the favor. you see Britta has this blog that she has maintained far longer than mine has been around. But she posts erratically, I know she's probably busy writing her next novel instead of blogging but I still think it would be funny if quite a few of you stopped by her blog and left a comment something along the line of Hey, Travis said you need to blog more often. By the way when Britta does post she opens the door for some really good discussions.
And for the third favor? Head on over to the criminal brief site and read Deborah Elliott-Upton's article on risky writing. She's the one who urged me to take a chance and turn my short story Plundered Booty into a novel.
Okay that should be enough homework to keep y'all busy while I'm driving back to God's country, or as the rest of the world calls it -- Texas.
By the way don't forget, my hundredth posting is fast approaching and every comment gets you an entry into the Grand Prize Game. ***Hint -- Part of the prize is related to today's post.***
|You Are 76% Texas|
So know I'm curious as to how Texan you regulars are? Or you irregulars too. On second thought that description might fit the lot of my readers as well as myself. By the way there is still another posting to come. Something is wrong wiht the link for the survey and I'm not sure how to fix it other than to post anther link here. How Texas Are You?
So as you read yesterday, my nerves have been shot by postal school . Last week I learned about Infrared Thermography in a class that can only be describes as information packed. A week was barley enough to go over all the material. This week I have Airborne Ultrasound which is basically should have been a two day course but someone decided to stretch out to five. The pace has been excruciatingly slow, so this morning I decided to try a new approach.
I got to class started reading through the day's material. i ignored the instructor and the plethora of comments from the cheap seats (those made by my fellow students) and in about forty minutes I was done.
So what did I do for the next three hours? WRITE!
To the the instructor and those sitting around me it must have looked like a was taking some very detailed notes, but in reality I finished the chapter that I started last night. I would estimate that in three hours of lecture time I penned somewhere close to four or five thousand words. It has been a long time since I wrote in longhand and not via the computer but right now, before I type it in later, I'm really pleased with what I got down. And this was a chapter in that pesky fifteen year old girls POV that normally comes very slow for me.
So maybe in the future I'll write her out by hand instead of keyboard and see if that helps.
How many of you write by longhand? Just curious.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
Just a few quick random thoughts before I head off to bed. After all, I do have to be in class in about six hours.
By and large Postal Workers are some of the ugliest people on the face of the earth. I had this though while standing in the lobby tonight watching out for my compadres to head to the game. Yes, I realize there is probably some other postal worker with a blog posting this same thought since he spotted me in the lobby.
What is the point of wearing shorts and sandals if you are also going to wear knee high black socks with them? I mean does that two inches of bare skin really help cool you down. And this has to create one heck of a weird tan line.
When you stay at a place with six hundred or so other postal workers, 90% of which are men, and old fat men at that, you suddenly look a lot better than normal at the pool. It ain't often that I'm not the fat hairy guy. I'll take it when I can get it.
I promise tomorrow I'm actually going to post about something writing related. By the way I did get a couple of thousand words typed up between the pool and the softball game.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Now a quick whirlwind trip home for the weekend and back to Norman on Sunday for a class on ultrasound starting bright and early, 6:30 Am, Monday morning. Hope all of y'all have a good weekend.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
I haven't posted any of my recent reads so here they are. I'll post links for each of them over on the right in case you want to find out more about the titles. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler, Faking It by Jennifer Crusie, and Open House by Elizabeth Berg.
So tomorrow is my big Infrared test. I'm not worried about the written part, since I've always been a really good test taker. All my life I've had a knack for scoring way beyond my actual knowledge level when it comes to tests. At most postal technical classes the test is open book but not this one. The hands on practical test is interesting. The instructor has already told us he has placed several items in a box that will be covered by a sheet of black plastic and we will have to set up the camera correctly so we can see inside the box and tell him what the items are.
He's already clued us in that one of the items is a candy bar but he expects us to tell him which brand. My question is what the hell does this have to do with my job? Trust me folks there are not candy bars laying around inside the mail sorting machines. If there were I'd eat them regardless id they were Snickers bars or Baby Ruths. And I have never needed a twenty-five thousand dollar camera to find candy.
All of a sudden I'm big in Bulgaria. (After that crack the other day about their women's weight lifting team.) I've had nearly a dozen hits from the country since then so if any of you spot a gaggle of big hairy women headed my way A warning would be in order.
My wife went to see the latest Harry Potter movie tonight without me. I'm sad because I know her and as soon as I talk to her she'll start telling me all about it and I much prefer to be surprised. But I love her (quirks and all) and I'll eventually see the movie just the same.
I may or may not post tomorrow and Saturday. And just a heads up. The Feedstore Chronicles will again be late Sunday and I'm cheating this week. The story I plan isn't technically a feedstore story but it's my blog and they are related in a significant way. The comments seem to have picked up since I announced the contest a couple of posts back, and just for the record emails don't count. We are all friends here so don't be shy post for all to see. And no I won't give hints to the prize, but like I said the monetary value is pretty low.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
I wanted to show y'all what I'm doing in this class but the picture did not come out very good since I had to take the pics with the infrared camera and then take another pic of the display screen with my cellphone. Only about half of the details and various colors came through but here they are. these are the same pic from two different palette choices.
Freaky huh? The pictures of yours truly were taken by my trusty lab partner Brent, from Maryland, who I talked into trying Shiner Bock down in the lounge tonight. He looks almost exactly like Kurt Russell when he played Wyatt Earp In Tombstone, moustache and all.
And just for the record, the contest winner will not receive an unexpected visit from Earl. I like you guys and I would never subject you to Earl. What do y'all think doesn't that second pic make me look like the long lost love child of Jerry Garcia?
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Oh I almost forgot to mention that on my way back to the hotel from the casino I noticed a sign at a bar for Tuesday night Hot Oil Wrestling. Cash Prizes offered. So if I take another beating at the tables maybe I can enter and raise another stake. Not that I could whip the ladies that enter but I'm pretty sure there would be a lot of people pay money not to see my body glistening with hot oil. Besides, how would I ever get that junk out of my chest hair?
Monday, July 9, 2007
Actually the equipment will be a great resource to troubleshoot faulty electronic components, bad bearings, and to measure the heat radiating out of all the mechanic's butt-cracks when they bend over working on a machine.
The Postal training facility here in Norman is actually very nice. it is ran by Marriott and they have a large pool, complete work-out facility, pool tables, a lounge as they like to call it but I prefer bar,and all kinds of food. Most of it bad but then again, I am a strange eater and I don't even know what cous cous is, but they sure like to serve it here.
Right down the road there are two casinos an later tonight I think I'll go try my luck at the poker tables. I'm also trying to use this time quiet alone time to get a bit more writing done.
Also as an aside, I have stuck my toe into the myspace waters so if any of you are myspacers look me up by my name, Travis Erwin, in case you've forgotten and add me as a friend. I look pretty pathetic right now and besides, we all need friends.
So I went to this site which will rate your blog based on past content. I thought I played fairly nice, but here were my list of offenses.
This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:
All in all I still don't think those words are all that bad, but oh well.
Friday, July 6, 2007
What about tomorrow you say? well here in Texas there are unwritten rules that you must abide by to maintain your residency status and tomorrow I'll be fulfilling most of this all at once. Yep, I headed out some land owned by friends where I'll fish, get sunburned, dig sand burrs from my shoe laces, cook a variety of meat and eat it right off the grill, shoot off countless rounds of ammunition from rifles, pistols, and shotguns, ride four-wheelers, partake in a Shiner Bock or two, and generally have a good ol' time getting all sweaty and dirty. See you Sunday.
Thursday, July 5, 2007
By the time I got home and went to bed, a bit after midnight I was exhausted which always means I'm up for an interesting night of dreams. I'm one of those weird people who wake up in the morning and can remember 90% of my nocturnal illusions. Nocturnal illusions I like that term. While writing my second novel the word dream and nightmare became an echo so I had to seek out creative ways to describe the same thing. Nocturnal illusion still sticks in my mind.
So between the good times, bottles of Shiner, my fatigue, and the hellacious thunder storm, which blew through in the wee hours of darkness, I didn't sleep too well. But I did have some interesting dreams, mostly about people I have not seen in a long time. Funny how by daylight I can think about these people and fail to see them clearly in my mind but in my nocturnal illusion they were vivid as ever.
The first a friend of both mine and my wife's is somebody I haven't seen but once or twice in the last ten years, and only briefly then. It's not all that strange that I dreamt of her however because I've been thinking about her since she plays a vital part in the next edition of The FeedStore Chronicles.
I also dreamed about a great uncle of mine who has been dead for a decade and we were never all that close when he was alive. In my dream he asked me if I was going to take a shower. I said yes that that was it.
After that I dreamt I was hired as a ride tester at Disney World, but for some strange reason I had to doing all the testing without a shirt or shoes. My skin got burnt and my feet fried on the hot pavement every time I ran from ride to ride.
Don't ask me what any of this means - except I'm weird, but most of you already knew that.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
10) Hagrid will be swimming with the fish, dining on worm dirt, feel free to add you own animal related death saying here, very early on. I say Chapter 3 at the latest.
9) R.A.B will in fact be Sirius's brother and he will live to redeem his name and provide Harry a bit of aid.
8) Ginny Weasely will once again be in grave danger but will survive in the end. there will be be no time for romance between her and Harry.
7) Draco Malfoy will die at the hands of his own father.
6) Harry is one of the Horcruxes.
5) Neville will directly cause Bellatrix's death.
4) Ron and Hermione will survive and go on to one day live in the burrow with half a dozen red headed kids. The oldest of which will be named Harry. This probably won't all come out in the final book but trust me this is what happens.
3) Snape did indeed kill Dumbledore but he did it at the headmasters urging,because Dumbledore was dying anyway and this enabled Snape to reestablish credibility with the death eaters. Yes, I am saying Snape is actually a good guy.
For these last two I'm throwing one leg over each side of the fence. Ouch! Damn those splinters hurt. Here are my TWO theories on Harry's fate.
2) In the final clash with Voldemort Harry destroys his nemesis but only at the sacrifice of his magical powers. Harry becomes a muggle.
1) Harry dies in the final battle but destroys Voldemort in the process. The final scene is of Harry, on the other side of the curtain, meeting his parents for the first time. And of course Sirius and Dumbledore will be there as well.
So tell me why i"m wrong, or right. Or at the very least answer this question. Does Harry live or die?
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Will be heading to a friends house tomorrow night for a big shindig. Fireworks, Food, and Beer. He also has a fifteen year old daughter that I need to pester in the name of research. Maybe I'll get a post up tomorrow and maybe not, but just in case Happy Fourth of July to all and don't forget to fling that firecracker before the fuse burns all the way down.
Monday, July 2, 2007
July has arrived and later this month the book event of the summer, the decade, and maybe of all time will finally be here when Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows is released.
First I'm curious how many of you have read the series, are dying to discover Harry and the gang's fate, are planning to stand in line at midnight for a copy?
I am a fan of the books. I'll admit I came in late, just before the release of the fourth book, and I never would have joined in except for the controversy. a small town near here actually had an organized book burning, and I work with a number of people who to this day think J.K. Rowling is poisoning the minds of the world's youth with witchcraft and satanic devilry. So I had to read the series myself just to see what he deal was ... and I loved it. The characterization, the intricate plot and detail that seem innocent in book one only to become vital in book six. I still marvel at Ms. Rowling's ability to tell such a large story.
Now later in the week I'm going to pontificate about the final book. Offer up a few of my predictions and ask for a few of y'alls. In the meanwhile you should check out these sites, Mugglenet and J.K Rowling's if you haven't already, but if you are a fan I know you have.
Also I'd love to hear which of the novels is your favorite and why? My vote goes to The Prisoner of Azkaban. I'll explain why later in the comments section.