Writers seem like normal people, when you meet just one at a time. Well, mostly normal. Get in the company of two or more, and you’re likely to lose the thread of various conversations. Writer speak is peppered with its own unusual, unique, and sometimes quaint lexicon. Here are five of the headscratchiest examples.

1. Pantsing — This one is my personal favorite. The variations “pantsy” and “pantser” add an extra quality that sounds even more bizarre to nonwriters. The origin is an old pilots’ saying about flying by the seat of their pants, meaning depending on their instincts and how the plane feels as its motions, vibrations, and possible problems resonate throughout their body, through the plane seat’s connection, to the seat of their pants area. It essentially means just starting to write and letting the story come out however it wants to. I don’t really do this very often, from word one. My thing is more getting things going and then sitting back to watch it unfold. Both come down to writing by instinct.

2. Window Staring — The fine art of looking out a window, or at a wall, while the brain’s inner workings figure out a stuck place. It looks like day dreaming, and that can be involved. It actually can be productive, while looking like doing nothing.

3. Getting an Entire Novel from One CD — This one sounds like gibberish to a nonwriter, but to writers with a brain that generates storytelling from music it’s the language of productivity. And I mean it literally. It’s pretty rare to this extent, but on a few occasions I’ve sat down to listen to a new CD on headphones and by the end emerged with a fully plotted novel. No inkling to full blown. A lyric snatch, music note, or even entire song will inspire characters, dialogue, or plot. Sometimes all of it together, in a glorious cinematic unfolding of story.

4. Doing Index Cards — Wouldn’t want to leave out screenwriting. A lot of people write out plot points on index cards and arrange them into a story flow. I can’t say more about it, because, as with fiction, I do my plotting in my head. I’ve always thought it was cool, though. Any temptation to try it gets shot down pretty fast, since I love my own personal style too much to risk messing it up.

5. Buttons — In screenwriting, a button is the bit at the end of scenes and acts that makes a reader want to turn the page. Oddly, I had to become aware of buttons and learn to create and use them when writing scripts, but later on I realized I’d been instinctively doing the same thing at the end of scenes and chapters in my fiction. In scripts, they eventually became a natural part of my flow, but trying to make myself do them at first was like hitting speedbumps on the interstate.

The language of writing and screenwriting evolves, as experience and ability grow. It can almost seem as if it was learned by osmosis. Then something new comes along to remind us it was more like a brainstrain at first. Much like any other language, integrated into everyday life.

I’ve been sidelined by a wrecked back. The kind that’s so bad it makes walking an ordeal. More than a decade ago I injured a muscle in my lower back, lifting an old style computer monitor. After the fact I found out they weigh about forty pounds. No wonder I actually felt the muscle tear. I was incapacitated for weeks, wanting tomato soup and toast daily, for some reason unknown. I had an old cane that my aunt used when she broke her leg, and used it to hobble to the bathroom. I still have the cane. Still use it, though the hobble isn’t quite as bad this time. Probably due to the absence of muscle spasms. Those things would sideline a moose. This time pasta with an excess of shredded parm loaded on is my food of choice, liberally interspersed with chocolate and ice cream, and tomato or avocado sandwiches. My palette has apparently shifted over the years.

Other than struggling to stand (and hobble) sufficiently to acquire food and make necessary trips down the short hall that seems at least a mile long these
days to the bathroom, I’m mostly only good for sitting and staring at the TV. I’ve gotten through a bunch of movies. I’ll do a roundup or something about the best of them in time.

At the moment I’ve used up a big quota of my concentration ability on writing a few hundred words of my zombie story last night. It’s an unfamiliar struggle to write, since my mom died in July, so a few hundred words is a real accomplishment right now. Yes, I am aware of the irony. I started that story in the spring, just because I wanted to try something different. Unfortunate timing, but I want to finish it before starting something else…or going back to my serial killer script. Oddly, I think zoning on the Walking Dead marathon this week shoved me back into the world of the living, breathing writer I am, since it dragged zombies right up to the front of my mind again. I should just call this the year of death.

So how did I hurt my back this time? It would be funny, if it hadn’t ruined at least two solid weeks of my life.  I try to do a Travel Tuesday pic on Twitter every week. A couple of weeks ago it was this one I titled Scenic Roadside New Mexico.


It was in an old photo album of a lot of cross country trip pictures. Old and big and heavy. Without thinking, I grabbed it up with one hand and carried it around. There was at least one twist in there somewhere. It took a day for the pain to kick in. I’d gone to a Chinese buffet and went inside fine. When I got up to hit the buffet, I suddenly could barely walk. What the–? Took me a couple of days to figure it out.

This weird, suddenly destroyed back thing runs through the women on my mom’s side. Her sister had a terrible episode once, finally got it better, only to sneeze and cripple herself again. I’ve learned to brace wherever I am when I feel a sneeze coming on, to the point of once almost taking down a section of metal CD racks at Walmart. A weird, bad back can be a hazard to more than one’s personal…person.


I managed last week’s Travel Tuesday, despite my own personal faux zombie apocalypse (more than once I thought of how my painful shuffling gait was like a Walker parody). This White Peacock on Oahu one didn’t involve heavy lifting.

Here’s Today’s Travel Tuesday pic, while I’m on the subject. A beautiful and dramatic hillside vineyard near the Mosel River in Germany.


I’m hoping this forced break from normal life will reboot me back to a long term more normal life, after the disruptive, surreal, and heartbreaking years of living life through the lens of my mom’s long journey through Alzheimer’s. I miss her every day, but emerging from that period of our lives is like walking into bright sunshine, after living in a cave.

Bookstores keep disappearing, so it’s becoming more and more difficult to find a book or magazine I’m published in, on physical shelves. It was worth the effort to see “my” Analog on display at Books-a-Million.


I’m not sure a word has been invented to adequately describe how cool the first sight of the cover is. It’s like instant Christmas.

Here’s a different view…because Analog.


I managed to put my phone away, after these two shots, but I stood there for a bit longer, basking.

A happy moment, for a thrilled author.

This fascinating piece about Salvador Dali’s rare illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland grabbed my attention in a fast moving blip, passing through my Twitter stream. Something about the combination of colors and oddly placed lines drew my eyes closer and closer, until I saw enough to make me want to read the article.

I actually first read Alice and Through the Looking Glass as an adult, though I was almost as familiar with many scenes and characters as if I had read them long before, from quotes peppered throughout some books by a favorite old school novelist who was often lumped into the massive genre called romance. Her name was Emilie Loring, and she wrote novels spanning a large swath of the 20th Century. Though they all embodied sweeping romance, I would term them dramas, for their cinematic qualities that made reading them akin to watching the fine old black and white movie masterpieces from the Golden Age of Hollywood. She was fond of scattering quotes from classic literature throughout her prose, which I suspect were the root of my becoming a Dickens fan and wanting to read Carroll as a grownup. I went down the rabbit hole and through Alice’s looking glass looking for the source of the quotes, which enhanced my enjoyment of the books even more.

Dali is not really my cup of Mad Hatter poured tea. My only real knowledge of his work has been his Melting Clocks, which is a bit like wondering if the Mad Hatter was pouring time pieces, as well as tea, on some occasions. I’ve been of the vague opinion that Dali’s paintings are so far into surrealism that my brain can’t quite catch up.

That still holds for these illustrations, though their softer smudgy colors and Alice subject matter render them just over the edge into the realm of charming. Somewhat. I find them confounding, as well as intriguing, as I try to match them to the familiar stories they depict. Dali and Dodgson seem an odd combination at first, but, on further thought, they just may be a match made in the places where  surrealism and Wonderland meet.

I can’t let the 50 year anniversary of Star Trek pass without marking it as special to me. I stumbled into The Original Series long after its original run. I’d seen the movies and some franchise episodes. I liked them, but it was reading the novels that made me love them so much that I wanted to write my own Trek fiction. This avalanche of inspiration led me to watch… everything Trek. All that amazing Star Trek goodness inspired me to not only play in Gene Roddenberry’s sandbox, but also to continue what I learned from that into creating original fiction.

The end result to date of falling in love with Kirk, Spock, and Bones is that I won publication in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds anthologies VII, VIII, and Ten. The thrill of seeing my byline on those pro sale stories will forever be a landmark of my life, as a reader, a writer, and a human. That experience instilled in me a great love of writing and a work ethic that has led me this year to another longheld dream come true, being published in Analog.

Today, on the date when Star Trek first aired 50 years ago, I salute The Great Bird of the Galaxy. He enhanced my life in ways he never knew, but that I will treasure forever.

This. Right here, in the guise of a simple web link, we have what all of geekdom has been bating breath in preparation of for what seems like eons. Well, what may actually be eons from the other end, depending on how long lived or even still living the potential alien folks in a solar system far, far away may be. We know nothing about them. We know not if there actually is…er, are, a them, yet the space hungry version of Pavlov’s dog is salivating the instant this particular bell is clanged.

Personally, I’m of two minds about the whole thing. While my science revering, space loving, science fiction writing side is right up there in the stands, cheering its little heart out, the side that both loves and freaks out over the old TV series Alien Nation would be a lot happier if Stephen Hawking hadn’t decided to voice the resounding voice of reason by telling us not to call ET back. After all, the pop culture tinged concept of alien overlords gets a whole lot less Alien Nationy, when it comes in riding the what iffing coattails of a real life alien signal. It gets real life real and not a little scary.

Even if this one doesn’t bring us a singing telegram from the stars, it serves as a hair-standing-on-end reminder that someday there may be profound decisions to be made about just how discoverable we should be. Isolationists? Arms open wide? I’m not sure. Probably somewhere in between would be best, but as a group we Earthlings aren’t really known for our restraint. Still, even the futility of resistance in a worst case scenario would spark the one thing no alien visitors could ever be prepared to face…the human spirit.

While impatiently waiting for Amazon to make the MP3 of Chantal Kreviazuk’s new album Hard Sail available, I decided to trawl YouTube to check out the songs on it. I came across this must see, must hear treasure for people who have never heard of her and fans alike.

Chantal Kreviazuk is a Canadian singer songwriter I first discovered in the days when brick and mortar CD stores roamed the earth in vast herds. One of my favorite passtimes was buying music at random, though sometimes on the advice of store clerks who thought I was cool because I spoke their music language. The day I took home Under These Rocks and Stones I instantly fell in love with her voice, her lyrics, and her melodies. Music inspires my writing in ways almost symbiotic and Chantal Kreviazuk’s has been a fixture in that inspiration stream from the moment I heard Surrounded on the above mentioned CD. That makes having to wait out Amazon’s Canadian music lag especially irksome.

In the meantime this gorgeous, intimate Strombo Sessions performance is almost as wonderful as a studio album, since I love the nuanced subtleties of live performance. The set list only includes three songs, two from Hard Sail and a Radiohead cover, but it is so awesome it feels like a longer private concert. This live performance showcases the fact that she’s a classically trained pianist, and the beautiful cello accompaniment adds a haunting note, even evoking the sound of humpback whalesong during Daydreaming. This Strombo Sessions performance is such a treat, as I wait for the new album from one of the singer songwriters I’ve loved the longest.

Chantal Kreviazuk on Strombo Sessions