Archive for October, 2013|Monthly archive page

NaNoWriMo 2013

In Writing on October 31, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Last November, I joined NaNoWriMo.  For those of you who have trouble navigating the Intrawebnets (my parents), that means National Novel Writing Month. At the time, I was thinking something along the lines of, “Golly, I’ve been writing Notes From The Future since April 22. I should try my hand at writing an actual novel.” So I signed up about two weeks in to NaNoWriMo and read all the stuff: 1,066.66 words per day, goals, pep talks, things and thingnesses. Sure, I was two weeks into it, but I was certain I could make it work.

I started writing Down With Dogs. Here’s the synopsis I put on NaNoWriMo: “Classically-trained non-union actor trapped in the East Bay of the SF Bay Area takes a job teaching youth theatre in order to finance his return — read, escape — to the East Coast.” As one attentive reader has recently pointed out elsewhere, my claims at avoiding biography are transparently false. To be clear, it’s writing a bio about myself as an unpublished author that I find daunting. And depressing. So I can’t take it seriously. Some might counter that with the statement that I am published via these various blogs. And that would mean something if a) I was making any money at it, and b) anyone other than bots or very close (read: obligated) friends would comment on my work.

Seeing my word count not quite meet what I thought it would, I began to worry. Then, for shits and giggles, I pasted everything I’d written for NFTF into OpenOffice and did a word count. As of November, 2012, I was well over 250,000 words. I’ll be honest: I seriously considered taking down the blog, putting Down With Dogs on a back burner, and sneakily replacing it with NFTF. However, my approach to ethics is tinged with remnants of my training as a Boy Scout. That tinge creeps in to much of what I do. Not everything, but a fair amount. So, rather than falsify my results, I let Down With Dogs languish (I did eventually write and post some of the first chapter, which the curious reader may find here). I had Thanksgiving upon which to focus, anyway: preparing two turkeys plus stuffing and gravy for 40 people, with basically no help in the kitchen whatsoever. AND a bunch of people arriving with dishes that required “just fifteen minutes” in the oven or on the (single, four-burner) stove. Which, for the record, TOTALLY FUCKS WITH THE TIMING OF GETTING THE TURKEY TO THE TABLE.  (More idiot me for not demanding Kitchen Minions.) And, while the turkeys were tasty, I believe that much of the food was cold by the time it reached the table. Big, drafty loft + no food warmers + no kitchen help + 5 last-minute warm-ups = cold Thanksgiving dinner.

By this time, I was deep into planning for The Three Musketeers at Solano College Theatre. Or, as the Administration of Solano Community College would prefer it to be called, some random classes at Solano Community College that don’t actually matter. When I am acting or directing, the project takes over my life. Which would be awesome if it always paid a living wage or was close enough to home to make it financially viable. Long story short: I poured my heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into that production. No longer under the thumb of uber-controlling Solano Youth Theatre, I intended it to be a masterpiece. It very nearly was. However, it was not enough to convince anyone that I was the right guy for the Full-Time Theatre Faculty position recently vacated by George Maguire. Within a couple weeks of the show closing I learned that I had so vastly failed at just about everything that I was not even considered worthy of a second interview. So, there you go: my talent is not enough to get me in; the only thing that matters is whether or not I have a MFA or a PhD. So, rather than having a neatly finished NFTF to show to the world, I was surviving on tiny unemployment checks as I applied for menial jobs. Every potential employer has rejected my applications, assuring me that I am either over-qualified or utterly unqualified.

An amusing example: I am unqualified to work at Orchard Supply Hardware (hereafter OSH). Here’s the response I received:

“Dear Edward,

Thank you for your job application for the Sales Associate position received on 9/22/2013.  We regret to inform you that after reviewing your application, we have decided to pursue other candidates.

Thank you for your interest in Orchard Supply Hardware.

Talent Acquisition Team”

When I went to OSH several times last week in preparation for our annual Hallowe’en party, I was unable to find anyone who could answer my questions or help me. The one person who did almost assist me was vague, uncertain, never made direct eye contact, then promised to find the answer I sought. He left and never returned. I waited for twenty minutes. But I, with twenty-five years experience as an actor and director, a superior grasp of the English language, and direct eye contact galore, I am not worthy of pursuit by the Talent Acquisition Team.

Same with REI. Same with everywhere else I’ve applied.

So, fuck it. I’m doing NaNoWriMo. We’ve nicked a financial artery and we’re bleeding out, but fuck it. I’m putting all my eggs in this basket, blissfully typing away as my car needs repairs I can’t afford, we’re weeks late on rent, Veronica is taking out monthly paycheck loans to get groceries and make car payments and pay medical bills and insurance. Lovely. Fuck it. This is what I’ve got right now.

I finished Notes From The Future on October 14, 2013. My final post received 4 +1’s via Google, two comments via Blogspot, and absolutely no shares via Facebook or Twitter. Somehow, as of today, I have 16,732 pageviews of that blog, but only 237 comments. The pageviews and comments are for all entries, for all the time I’ve been posting there, not just for NFTF. However, the majority of the comments are for NFTF. And most of those are from three people who know me. So. Here’s hoping that what I produce in November is better than NFTF.

Which brings me to my NaNoWriMo project for 2013: The Faerie Garden. I am writing 1,667 words, minimum, per day, no matter what. There will be some days when I am unable to do so: November 6, 7, 8; November 11; November 28. In preparation for those days, I write double the amount needed: 3,334 words per day, minimum, on November 3, 4, 5, 10, 27. During the next month, I am focused almost entirely on this project. The almost is reserved for Thanksgiving and a couple other slight distractions: a callback for a short film movie-musical about time travel; a medical appointment; a day of prep for that appointment; a day when an old friend is in town from Europe.

I am also leaving time open for the only thing I can see as an earning option at the moment: Tarot readings. I’m pretty darn good at this. And I really need money. So if you’re interested, I’ll charge one dollar per card for your first reading; this can be either a 3, 5 or 10-card draw. Your second reading — as in, the second set of cards drawn — is $25.00. I don’t have a working car at the moment, so you need to come to me for this. I can walk to a local coffee shop if you think that this is all a clever ruse to lure you into my house and murder you, cleverly posted publicly on my website where no one will see. Muah-ha-ha-ha, he wrote, wondering if this would actually scare away business but kind of not caring, because anyone stupid enough to fear that I will murder them is probably not the ideal candidate for a Tarot reading. Then again, I really need the money. Dilemma. Resolution: I promise not to murder you and will walk to the closest coffee shop. No murder. I promise.

Share your thoughts and reactions in the comments, please. Messages on Facebook or via e-mail are disheartening to this lowly writer, who wonders why his blog is not good enough to warrant your direct commentary thereupon.



Fascinating Bots

In Uncategorized on October 7, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Every like and follow I’ve had on here seems to be a bot.

Am I wrong? Are you real?

Comment, please.

Searching for Sibley

In Uncategorized on October 7, 2013 at 7:12 am

My nephew came with my fiancee and I yesterday in search of Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. In my mind, it was in Berkeley somewhere above the Lawrence Hall of Science. I don’t trust my GPS to get me to the right spot these days, so I thought I should ignore it and ask my nephew, a Berkeley High (keyword: high) alumnus. He said he knew how to get there. So we went to Berkeley, took a right on Claremont and climbed the tiny, winding, steep streets in the fiancee’s 2010 Honda Civic until the nephew deemed it appropriate to turn left. This initial left turning was at the intersection of Claremont Avenue, Fish Ranch Road and Grizzly Peak Blvd.

Locals will know that we were wrong. Chuckle at our expense as you read further: it seemed to me that we were headed in the right direction. However, at the moment when the nephew said to turn right and we’d be there, I couldn’t help but notice that we were driving into Tilden. Not Sibley.

My first clue came from the sign that said STEAM TRAINS, before we even reached the official entrance. There is only one park with Steam Trains in the East Bay Hills: Tilden. We drove toward the golf course, ended up back on Grizzly Peak Blvd., and I realized that we were indeed in the wrong region. “Take Grizzly Peak,” I said. “Back toward that crossroads where we left Claremont. I know where to go, now.”

The fiancee did just that. I followed our progress on the GPS. It told me, eventually, that we were inside Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. I watched us drive over the double red lines of the Caldecott Tunnel. Right around the time that we reached the intersection of Grizzly Peak and Skyline, I became frustrated and re-set the GPS to take us to Sibley. Following its instructions, we then took a circuitous, labyrinthine course through the residential streets below Grizzly Peak and Skyline, eventually ending up back on Grizzly Peak, heading back to the first crossroads of Claremont, Fish Ranch and Grizzly Peak. This time, still following the GPS instructions, we turned right on Fish Ranch Road. It took us down the back side of the ridge to the Orinda side of the Caldecott Tunnel, over the tunnel to … a creepy back entrance to the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. We followed the road a little further past a parking area on what I have since learned was the eastern approach of the original tunnel, known variously as the Kennedy Tunnel, the Inter-County Tunnel or the Broadway Tunnel. Before seeing that road and getting curious about it, I had been told — and believed — that this tunnel was originally part of the pre-BART Key System.

The Key System, for those of you who don’t know, was a system of electronic trains and streetcars that served the East Bay and, to the best of my knowledge, connected with various other local electric streetcars and trains in the greater Bay Area (I’ll update this as I learn more). The lower deck of the Bay Bridge originally had two railroad tracks on the south side for this specific purpose. (My mother used to take those trains to San Francisco with her friend Barbara. They smoked cigarettes and were tres tres chic.) GM pulled some major shenanigans in the late 1950’s, basically buying the Key System through a front company, replacing its board of directors with GM cronies, and cutting back service until they’d replaced everything with buses. For a more detailed history, check here. Guess who fought this transition? Every city council in the East Bay. Guess who won?

If you’re the kind of person who likes moving pictures (and if I have whetted your appetite with all these words of electric trains), you might enjoy this short film.

So: the old tunnel is said to have been open to pedestrians after the Caldecott Tunnel opened in 1937, but closed in 1947 for safety reasons. This is fascinating to me, because I know that my older brothers were exploring the old tunnel as recently as the early 1970’s. Apparently the western end has been completely sealed — we drove right past it in our GPS-led wild goose chase — but the exact condition of the eastern end of the old tunnel remains, as of this writing, a mystery.

Attentive readers will ask the question, “How is it a mystery if you were on the eastern side of the ridge, on Old Tunnel Road?” Thank you for being attentive, attentive readers. The answer is simple: the approach to the tunnel is fenced off, as that area is controlled by the East Bay Regional Parks District. And since the original purpose of our quest was to explore the Sibley Volcanic Preserve, we parked near that back entrance and started walking up a very well-paved road.

Friends, sometimes I have trouble breathing. This was the case a ways up that road, so we turned back to the car and I talked the nephew and the fiancee into indulging me: “You have to pee, I’ve got a bee in my bonnet, let’s find the entrance I was actually looking for.” By the time we reached the Skyline Boulevard entrance to Sibley, my lungs were doing just fine. Here’s the kicker: when I reverted to the GPS for directions at the intersection of Grizzly Peak and Skyline an hour or so before, we were literally a couple hundred yards from the Skyline entrance to Sibley. Annoyed as I was at having chased the wild goose via my fuckmook GPS, I now know many things of which I was previously unaware. Thanks, Garmin! You suck, but it’s educational.

I felt amazing after our sunset hike, but the entire reason that I wanted to go to Sibley was to do some research for Notes From The Future. There is a specific entry that uses Sibley, but I had never actually been there before yesterday. I had used the Interwebs to get a view of Mt. Diablo from the Berkeley / Oakland hills, and thanks to our friends at Google Maps, I was able to get a general idea of how things would look.

Specificity is preferable to generalization. And, while we made quite a nice bit of progress into Sibley, we were forced to return to the car when the sun had set. I was unable to reach the spot I sought, thanks in large part to the educational tour led by our GPS. So I will be heading back there this week, with plenty of water for Maxwell and a camera for tasty goodness. Any local geologists care to join me? I’m just a little bit obsessed with geology and volcanology and will make you talk for hours.

[Update: Apparently there is a separate tunnel, known as the Train Tunnel, somewhere on or near Pinehurst Road. I have yet to see or even approach either end of that tunnel, but will make a point of exploring a bit next time I’m in the vicinity. Perhaps that was the tunnel my brothers explored. From what I understand, it is just as thoroughly sealed as the Kennedy Tunnel.]

Specific Exploration

In Uncategorized on October 5, 2013 at 8:54 pm

It’s a warm early October day here in Livermore. My nephew came out here from Oakland yesterday and spent the night. We’ve been drinking espresso and eating breakfast and discussing new Magic decks while listening to John Lewis’ J.S. Bach: Preludes and Fugues. Various obligations we’ve had for the day have evaporated and as of now (1:08 pm), it seems that all of our horizons are clear and we are free to do whatever we please. It’s a bit of a shock, actually. The general consensus is, “Now what?”

I have something I want to do, and my plan is to talk the fiancee and the nephew into it. The main obstacle is the price of gas. Getting the fiancee to commit to any leisure activity that requires major expenditures for gasoline is problematic, at best. I can’t use the argument that it’s research for my blog — which it definitely is — because I don’t earn any money from the blog. You would think, with over sixteen thousand pageviews, I could earn some money. But Google hath decreed that my blog is adult in nature (because my characters and I all swear a great deal), and that I am therefore ineligible for monetization of the blog. So that argument is not going to work. I’ll have to come up with something else.

What I want to do is go for a drive. On a very specific road, South of Livermore. It’s an incredibly beautiful drive, and I’d be able to take some pictures for reference. Maybe that’s the argument. I could also show her some spots of which I’ve spoken to her in the past, places she’s never seen, on a road branching off of the main road. I can honestly tell you that she will not be terribly interested in these things. Maybe I can convince her to let me take the nephew on this journey of discovery. That might be just the tactic, but it again involves gas, which means money. Right now, things are tight.

The fiancee never wants me to write about our financial status. It makes her very angry. I’m supposed to “just not mention it,” even though it is absolutely central to every single thing we do, central to my decision to turn down every theatrical job I’m offered that doesn’t pay a living wage (which is all of them), central to every moment of our lives. It’s the source of the tension which causes her to grind her teeth in her sleep, the source of the tension which has wound around our relationship like a creeping, choking vine — strangling light, happiness, comfort and overall pleasant demeanor. She broods about money. Broods about it. I’ve always felt that a positive attitude will get one further than dark, angry obsessing. Perhaps I’m wrong. But she has yet to embrace my approach, and I always manage to pull money out of a hat at the last possible moment when we’re desperate.

I’ve got some writing plans that could expand into other areas of late, but of course they require attention and completion. Getting these sorts of things done can be tricky while socializing. I’ve begun to feel that I am losing too much time during the day if I’m not writing something. (I have this time right now because the nephew is in the shower.) There was a time when I would meet three days a week with some filmmaker cohorts, but since they moved in together we basically never meet. And since many of those meetings ended up being nothing more than pleasant, coffee-fueled debates, I look back on them with the distinct feeling of opportunity missed.

To be clear: I do not begrudge the nephew or the fiancee or anyone else my social time. I simply ache to get something written, to get at least 2,000 words of fiction saved, before I go and do something else. I also understand that balance is essential — one needs to get out of the house and do other things. I have been the charismatic housebound introvert for months, now. Perhaps a day simply out and about is all I need.

Here’s an idea: I’ll record the day. An audio recording to be transcribed and fictionalized, adapted to one or more 2,000 word short stories. Then it’s totally justifiable. Which, ah, now opens my mind to the possibilities I’d forgotten in these last months: every social interaction is a possible short story. I’ve been holed up here in front of this computer or my typewriter since May. It hasn’t been healthy, but it has occasionally been productive.

I need to go to some parties. Preferably raging topless bacchanalia. I’ll add that to the shopping list.


Rejected Fiction

In Intent on October 4, 2013 at 5:13 am

I recently found a Craigslist ad looking for original, unpublished short stories between 1000 and 2000 words. They pay $100.00 per story. I’ve submitted one story so far. It has been received but has yet to be rejected or accepted. I do not expect it to be accepted, but we shall see; I have a clever plan, explained below. The name of the publication is JOEY magazine, and here’s what they say about submissions:

“We are looking for original short stories. Submissions should be previously unpublished both in print and on the internet (including blogs).

For the types of stories we publish, see www.joeymagazine.com.

JOEY magazine acquires first publication rights. The stories are yours to reprint in books or anthologies but we respectfully request you mention the story was first published in JOEY magazine.

We pay $100 for each story accepted for publication.”

So here’s my plan: every day, after I write an episode of Notes From the Future, I’m going to write an additional 2,000 word short story. The short story will be submitted to JOEY.

If JOEY rejects the story, I will submit it to three other places.

If all four reject any one of my stories, I will then post it herein on a special page called Shameful Rejections.

If you are a publisher and interested in publishing my stuff before I post it, contact me.

And here are the important parts of this post:

1. If you’re a writer and you have worked with JOEY, what was it like?

2. Share: what are your best and worst experiences getting your work published by someone other than yourself or Amazon?

3. How awesome is it that the US Copyright Office is currently closed because of the Government Shutdown? Know any fun shortcuts? [Note: Political rage rants and their incestuous ilk will not be tolerated here. Civil discourse is your only option, and if you cannot engage without rage then I will block you, ban you and cast you into the bowels of the Balrog where you belong.]

My Other Blog

In Uncategorized on October 2, 2013 at 9:39 pm

So I have another blog, on another site. That blog is made up of three things:

1. The remnants of my MySpace blog which, for obvious reasons, I am no longer writing.

2. Pieces about Theatre, be they fictionalized or embarrassingly specific.

3. Notes From The Future (NFTF), a novel I’ve been sharing episodically since April, 2012.

Here’s where you can find my blog: http://ewhightower.blogspot.com

I write about this here because the whole reason I started a WordPress blog was so that I could transfer NFTF to what I feel is a better platform. (If you follow the link at the bottom of the first episode of Notes From The Future on my home page, you will find the rest of the series. Be warned: they are interspersed with further musings on theatre and art and such.) The logical question at this point is: why haven’t I transferred NFTF here, yet?

There are a couple of reasons, both centered around laziness. The first is that I’m lazy, and the second is that I’m almost finished with what I would call Part I of NFTF, and it is my intention, once finished, to remove NFTF from the Interwebs and sing a juicy song as I edit it for actual printed novel form. Editing = rewriting, and having to cut and paste the whole thing into WordPress and then take it down to rewrite seems like a large task this late in the game. Essentially, laziness strikes again.

I’m keeping this note brief so that I can focus on finishing Part I (I have four episodes to go! Woo-hoo!), but I welcome your thoughts, O Readers: where would you put your energy at this point? Do you have anything tasty to sip that you’d like to bring over and brew up for me while I write? Are you OCD and would you clean my house just for the privilege of listening to me type all day? Do you think I’m a talentless fuck who should keep applying for day jobs and stop writing this instant? (If that’s so, you’re wrong and can fuck off. Ha. I’m laughing at you fucking off.) Should I just have more sex and forget about writing or employment?

Okay, my Sparklies. Back to work.