Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Open Comment Week

Use the comments section to discuss anything of interest to you that is related to the writing life.

I’ll begin…

And now for something completely different.

Four billion years ago, the bit of iron pictured above was part of a larger chunk in the asteroid belt. Sometime between 160,000 and 90,000 years ago, homo sapiens sapiens evolved and began imagining things.

Quite recently -February 12, 1947, actually- H. s. sapiens noted 200,000 pounds of that iron arriving on earth and wondered what it was and where it had come from. The resulting fireball was brighter than the sun. The artist Pyotr Medvedev, who at that moment was painting a landscape on the street, opened his mouth in amazement. “We thought it was an explosion of the American atomic bomb, since it happened shortly after the Americans dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.”

The event was significant because it marked the end of the iron bit’s natural history. H. s. sapiens imagined many scenarios and eventually they calculated the physical laws that whimsically sent it here, they analyzed it (93% iron, 5.9% nickel, 0.42% cobalt, 0.46% phosphorus, and 0.28% sulfur, with trace amounts of germanium and iridium; minerals present include taenite, plessite, troilite, chromite, kamacite, and schreibersite, if you must know) and they even figured out its origin and then they displayed it in their space travel gift shop on a deliberately unnaturalized beach they called Cape Canaveral. One H. s. sapien, me, had it mounted for wearing on a chain around his neck.

This piece of iron is no longer subject merely to the universal laws of physics. It now also wears according to the whims of one H. s. sapien who began his novel, The Phoenix Diary, by stating,
“The consequences of the Big Bang should have flowed like rows of falling dominoes; the physical universe should be predictable. But it ain’t, because intelligent life forms are messing with it.”
This piece of iron is proof of that statement. The H. s. sapien feels vindicated.

Sikhote-Alin Meteorite
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51 thoughts on “Open Comment Week

  1. mimispeike says:

    My next Showcase piece is out of book two of Sly. I am now thinking about my timeline weather-wise. I’ve spent the morning googling the following – anyone have any info on any of this?

    Winter temperatures in France. Would a traveling street show have put up in winter quarters or headed south to warmer climes? Heading south is no good for my purposes.

    Would a small coal-burning stove been feasible on a ship in the captain’s cabin? I’m looking up coal. It was used, in the late sixteenth century, mainly for industrial purposes, but was beginning to be used in homes. It must be vented properly (carbon monoxide and other gases) – it gives off an unpleasant odor, says one source. Another says the odor is no more unpleasant than tobacco.

    It would have been used sparingly. The climate of coastal France is temperate, compared to the US, those seamen were hardy folks, and the captain, Spanish aristocrat as he was, would not have wanted to appear prissy to his men.

    Sly needs to land in England with spring well along. (That part of the story is long written.) I have to cobble some bits of business that explain why he’s so long getting there. Thus, I’m thinking winter quarters for the street show in which he and Pedro hide out from pursuers.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Mimi! Research is one of my favorite past-times (pastimes? pasttimes? clearly not in the area of grammar though…) At any rate for answers to your coal in the cabin question, perhaps look to the vikings. They did those crazy voyages from Scandinavia to the British Isles and elsewhere in their open deck boats.
      I have a story about St. Nicolas (third century monk that inspires 19th/20th/21st century people to believe in a jolly red fat man that travels the world in a single night slinging a bag of presents around). Did you know that at that period in history, there was no genuflecting and sign of the cross? Who knew! At any rate, I needed to know what kind of ships, or boats crossed the water from Myra Turkey to Alexandria Egypt. Google was a great jump off point, but I had to find texts that talked about ancient boats and what the catholic church was up to at that time.
      I know they used something to heat themselves in chillier moments out in the water, but I didn’t bother to find out how. I’m sure the info is there.
      At any rate, I look forward to reading about Sly, the more you talk about him, the more I want to read!

      Liked by 3 people

      • mimispeike says:

        Thank you! Yes, I have many points about the layout of my two ships still to learn about. And I’ve done years of reading already. The designs of the English ships made them faster and easier to handle. My Spanish cargo ship is a flat-bottomed Dutch flyte, to access the shallow harbors of France’s Atlantic coast.

        Read my next Showcase: A Deal. A Heel. A Pearl. An Earl. to see what I’m doing.

        To anyone who has read book one (that would be GD): in book two the back-stabbing is even more intricate.

        After not looking at it for probably three years, it holds up swell. But I need to simplify the intertwined nonsense a bit. In some areas, I admit it is hard to follow.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. MamaSquid says:

    That is super cool, GD! I find the vastness of the universe comforting, as what happens on this infinitesimal speck of rock is inconsequential at the cosmic scale. I try to keep that in mind whenever I’m stressed about something. I do find humanity somewhat predictable, though. I used to believe there was no free will, but as I now understand it, entropy injects randomness into everything. Still, we can study humans at the population level to make reasonable guesses about what they’re going to do in a variety of contexts. At the individual level, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. This is actually the kind of science I’m most interested in – how people behave and why. I like to catch myself in my own behavioral patterns so that I can make more rational choices.

    Liked by 3 people

    • And when you decide whether to trust people, it’s best to remember that trust is not whether the person will have your best interests at heart, but rather trust that a person will behave true to their own nature and behavior. It saves a lot of heartache when writing characters too.

      Liked by 6 people

        • Too trusting? Naw, I think it’s how you trust. For me, it’s like looking at people and wondering how their apparent weaknesses can actually be strengths I just don’t understand … yet. That is where I find trust to lie.

          Liked by 2 people

        • I think “too trusting” would be accepting without question that everything anyone says to you is true; that if you share a confidence, they will keep it to themselves and not use it against you; that if you depend on them, they will not let you down; that if you bear your soul, they will not hurt you.

          Youthful naïveté is sweet and endearing, and has taught me a few truths I can hold without cynicism: People will tell you exactly what they want you to believe; if it isn’t true, you will learn much about them if you can understand why they want you to believe that lie. Sharing a confidence without knowing it will stay confidential isn’t trusting, it’s being willing to make a losing bet. If someone lets you down more than once, that behavior probably will not change. I think there is truth to the saying, “Fool me once, shame on me…” I’m sure you know the rest.

          I’m not sure we decide to trust other people. We take chances we know we might result in hurt, but real trust grows slowly and is borne out by repeated trustworthy behavior. Maybe the greatest trust we have to develop is trust in our own instincts, our own judgement, our own experience.

          Liked by 6 people

          • MamaSquid says:

            Beautifully put, Sue! I think being willing to make a losing bet describes my attitude toward relationships in general. I give it my all, sometimes I get burned, it’s all worth it to me, I move on.

            But when my husband says I’m “too trusting” he is mostly worried about me being harmed or scammed by strangers. I miss red flags pretty easily with new people.

            Liked by 3 people

  3. mimispeike says:

    “taenite, plessite, troilite, chromite, kamacite, and schreibersite …”

    I’d say you’ve done a good bit of research yourself. Or is this made up?

    OK, I see you’ve done your research.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. MamaSquid says:

    I read a book that I predict is going to make a big difference in my writing life. It’s called “Mind Management Not Time Management: Productivity When Creativity Matters” by David Kadavy. Kadavy doesn’t go heavily into the research about creativity, but his work is certainly informed by it, as he’s drawing from creativity researchers to formulate the different phases and mindsets required to do productive work. This guy’s life circumstances are not something I will ever relate to – he moved to Colombia and has 100% control over his daily schedule, however I began to see beyond the specifics of his circumstances into ways I can apply these concepts to my actual writing life. The big takeaway is about what is needed to produce creative work consistently and how we can find our creative sweet spots – the times and places we are most able to do generative creative work – while building in time for research, preparation, incubation, insight, etc. I feel like it could take a year to experiment with all the information in there.

    I’m very excited, because I get stuck a LOT in my writing, sometimes writing for weeks and weeks and getting nowhere, and this might really help me create systems to produce work more consistently. The old advice to just write poorly to break through blocks never worked for me. I need to feel in my gut that a scene works before I move on. Kadavy’s proposed system makes use of the default mode network, working memory, etc. to solve creative problems. I’m a big fan of the default mode network for problem solving, but left unattended, my mind often veers toward distressing thoughts. Usually I try to shut it down by going to do something else. But the other day I had this insight – what if this is just necessary for the creative process? Maybe thinking about these things, however distressing, is helping me make connections needed to produce creative work. By trying to shut down my thoughts, I’ve been shutting down my creative energy. I’m less distressed by those thoughts ever since. Now when such a thought shows up, I’m like, “Hey — maybe you can help me with my novel!”

    Liked by 5 people

    • This is awesome MamaS … I love hearing the process a person goes through to realize their creative well. My mom (she’s nearly 80 now) was a graphics artist and now one of my best sources on my own artwork when I get stuck in my paintings. We have these creative process conversations a lot, which has helped both of us understand how to get more from that well. I appreciate you sharing the your resources too.
      I retired from my day job in October of 2020 (Two months later than I wanted because of Covid keeping on the job). It took me a year and a half to really get comfortable with the life of a creative. The first 6 months I agonized over what was expected of me, until I realized the only expectations came from me. That of course is the watered down version of what I went through. It is nice to know there is some research out there that can help. Definitely plan on checking out Kadavy’s work. Again, I appreciate the share!

      Liked by 5 people

    • “I need to feel in my gut that a scene works before I move on.”
      Me too, MAMASQUID. And while some scenes work because they’re accurate and I move on, they nag at me. I -eventually- tweak the sentences until I’m happy with how the scene reads.

      Not sure what that means, “happy with how the scene reads,” but I know it when I feel it.

      Liked by 6 people

  5. GD, Your star rock is fabulous.
    I love rocks. I even bought a rock tumbler (which I wore out and want a better one now).
    I also love how you throw us out as wide as the universe and draw us in to a single point. Which reminds me I have been meaning to ask, is there any other way to get a copy of your Phoenix Diary, besides Nook? I saw the excerpt. I want to read it! I prefer electronic reading, but I will buy the actually book if I must lol

    Liked by 2 people

  6. mimispeike says:

    I asked Google the question – was corn shipped overseas in the sixteenth century packed in barrels or sacks?

    I haven’t found an answer, but I found this: a 200-page paper.

    The Overseas Trade of Bristol in the Sixteenth Century.

    I bet I find something in here I can use. Bopping around the web, you don’t know what you’ll find.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Look up corn exchange, and trade, In fact The corn exchange in Manchester England may help you … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn_Exchange,_Manchester
      If I remember my research correctly, third century Egypt had a grain exchange. They were important to trade and commerce. To me when researching human history there are “pillars” of society that seem to shape the human journey. Religion and politics definitely, but trade runs through it all. Follow the money, so to speak, when trying to figure out why humans do what they do.

      Liked by 3 people

      • mimispeike says:

        In 1583 or 4 (don’t remember which) corn was shipped to northern Spain from England to relieve famine conditions, in a fleet of ships.

        The king, over a perceived injury to his interests in the low countries, ordered the ships seized and the men arrested. One ship in the convoy escaped.

        I’ve woven that into my story. My English privateer, that took off after a Spanish trading vessel with a duke on board, is the ship that escaped.

        I weave a lot of close-to-true history into my tale.

        Liked by 3 people

  7. mimispeike says:

    I’ve been hunting info on the possibility of a small coal-burning stove in the captain’s cabin for the last two hours. All answers Google has given me say NO! No stoves onboard a ship but for one in the galley. Too dangerous.

    I’ve found a photo of HMS Warrior, built for the Royal Navy in 1859–1861, a wooden hull, ironclad, but still of wood. It’s on display in Portsmouth, England. There is a small stove in the captain’s cabin!

    My Spanish aristocrat captain had a small stove. He’s part owner of his ship. He had it built the way he wanted. I’m going with this until I change my mind.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Ah, déjà vu, GD. Now I know what happened to the vanishing comment.

    Hooray for free will! But surely it isn’t the sole province of human beings or other top-of-the-food-chain sentient beings throughout the universes. Surely a cow has the free will to poop wherever it can wander, and introduce an element of chance or chaos into the quality of whatever grows there. Ooo — like magic mushrooms! (Which is why the signs in Haleakala NP instruct you not to eat the stems.)

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Open comments week, eh? Here’s what’s on my mind:

    1.) I’m still altering decades-old stories preparatory to a consolidated collection being released by a weird tales publisher next year. Nearing age 60, it would appear I still haven’t whipped these stories into “perfect” form. I should be chagrined; instead I’m strangely heartened: If I can still see areas for improvement my mental faculties haven’t entirely ossified. Yet. (Of course, I’m still working on new stories and poems as well.)

    2.) I’ve now been on Facebook for all of two weeks. Still struggling to understand how best to curate my page; at present I’m offering up a mixture of stuff: links to past work, reposted factoids noting interesting current events/historical facts, bits of humor. (Thank you, Mimi, for posting/clicking there!) As to FB in general: I am unfriending dozens-upon-dozens of “flood-in” characters who “befriended” me only to flog their own latest writing project, apparently. (These characters never comment on what I’ve posted or attempt to interact in any meaningful way, if only a single sentence/click in response to something I’ve posted on my FB page or to one of their general FB comments.) Initial impression: FB is one great, carnivalesque, sound-and-fury-signifying-nothing, vast but shallow, compulsive rat-clicks-the-lever-for-reward commercial vehicle for mindless hucksterism, vapid commentary and wholesale whoring of pet projects. (Also: everyone else has a life but me, apparently. Heh! Friends, family, lovers. Money for food, travel, entertainment. This isn’t self-pity, just a rueful observation: I now understand how people grow depressed binging on social media. This ain’t the “feel good about yourself” app for the working class, folks.) Facebook: a mirror to the world and the people we know (and don’t know), for better or for worse. As Spock might say: “Fascinating.”

    Liked by 5 people

    • mimispeike says:

      You’re right, Carl. I don’t know what FB is really good for except for connecting with people from your past. And asking questions in a few specialized groups. I post my art there, so long-out-of-touch friends and relations can see that I didn’t totally waste my art school education.

      Book promotion? I haven’t gone at that seriously yet, so I can’t say.

      Liked by 4 people

    • “compulsive rat-clicks-the-lever-for-reward”
      Yup. that’s social media.

      I spent a couple years on Facebook to better familiarize myself with writers, editors, publishers, etc. & did get sucked into it. Until everything I’d seen there repeated.

      It was like sitting at a sidewalk cafe on Mainstreet Earth. Eventually, the faces and behaviors were predictable. Time to leave. Nothing more to see.

      That said, it was rewarding to learn more about writing, editing & publishing from others. (Just gotta watch where you step.😏)

      Liked by 4 people

    • MamaSquid says:

      I’ve been off Facebook for a couple of years. Mainly I left because I liked myself less when I was on it. I was more volatile, angry and preachy, and used it too often as an excuse not to substantively address the issues I was angry about. It appeals to the lowest common denominator of human nature and it exploits people with mental health problems. I wouldn’t say it does that exclusively. There is a group or two that I’ve missed. But I’ve learned about the impact of surveillance capitalism on the social fabric, and those algorithms are tremendously destructive. For me it was cult-like, in the sense that it was difficult to leave, and once I was out, I could never unsee the manipulation tactics employed by Zuckerberg et al. I may eventually, grudgingly, start a Twitter account to engage with my readers (hypothetical readers, I should say.) But I wouldn’t want it for anything but professional reasons. And I don’t care if it makes me old; I’m never going on TikTok. It’s a tool for the Chinese to spy on the US and I’m not making that up.

      Liked by 5 people

    • I love how you nailed facebook. My personal reason for getting on to facebook in the first place, was to be able to stalk my kids in a socially acceptable way. Of the four kids, two of them have weak pulses left on the platform and the other two say facebook is dead to them. They are all grown with thriving lives and a great command of texting me regularly. So why do I stick around? About ten years ago I was a union rep at work. FB was a great way to connect with other reps and other coworkers (I worked for an airline … so my coworkers were global). Now as I settle into the writer phase of my life … I really hate facebook. For me, it hangs on by a thread. I hate twitter, and find Instagram still ok. But social media in general is as you put it
      “FB is one great, carnivalesque, sound-and-fury-signifying-nothing, vast but shallow, compulsive rat-clicks-the-lever-for-reward commercial vehicle for mindless hucksterism, vapid commentary and wholesale whoring of pet projects.”
      I think I’ll ‘post-it-note’ this viewpoint to my desk, when I need a reminder why I deep sigh looking at my newsfeed.
      At the moment I keep my personal profile and my author page, to simply let people know when I have updated my blog. Eventually, when I reach a healthy amount of email subscribers, I will jettison facebook to the digital ether. Considering the speed at which I acquire subscribers … it will be a long time before that happens!🤣

      Liked by 4 people

    • And going backwards here … to your first point Carl … I love that you find yourself heartened by the thought of reworking your work. I love dusting off things I have shelved and falling in love with old ideas. Since they were shelved you find that you’ve grown and changed and now “perfecting” them is a joy rather than a drudgery. Is it perhaps, because of your personal changes, you now have the right ‘tools’ to perfect them?
      They say time heals, but it also hones skill and as long as you have continued to work the craft, you have to think you can now see the fallibility in your own work that wasn’t apparent before. Past files are treasure troves of time capsule, or if you want to go sci-fi … you placed your work in cryo-stasis until the technology is available to prepare them for life. (test tube baby stories! hahaha I slay myself!)

      Liked by 3 people

      • Indeed! How well I know a story can never be “perfected” (If it could would any of us ever write again?) but rather improved: better grammar (not more proper but more precise) and deeper characterization employed in the articulation/illustration of theme. Who taught me best most recently? Women writers: Sontag, Alice Sheldon, Toni Morrison, Anne Rice, Ursula K. Le Guin, Shirley Jackson, Patricia Highsmith, Daphne du Maurier, Joyce Carol Oates. Unlike many male writers I never catch a whiff of pedantry or hyper-polished euphonous phrasing in their prose meant to be wolf-whistled at by readers, the better to stroke the author’s ego. No, the women writers I’ve enumerated above and recently reread have instructed me in the power of precision, deft characterization (rich, realistic psychology and the avoidance of police-blotter description) and the pitch-perfect control of narrative flow and tone as theme emerges from one masterfully constructed scene after another. Perhaps I sound like a reverse- or female-chauvinist now, but I am telling it as direct and straight as I know how: I sense many male writers urging “look at me; look at me!” in my ear as I read their texts (Updike, Mailer, Roth, Harlan Ellison, Salinger, Chandler, Vonnegut) whereas preternaturally gifted and accomplished female writers ofttimes vanish into the words and worlds they so artfully, simply, devastatingly construct.

        Liked by 3 people

          • Yeah, it was one of her favorites. That and the adjectival phrase “goat’s milk white.” Every writer leaves their unique grammatical fingerprint on their texts. PS. Robert E. Howard fell in love with Shakespeare’s austerely beautiful phrase: “the sere and yellow leaf”.

            Liked by 2 people

    • The mirror is warped, Carl. You just can’t be sure how much. People are usually particular about which photos to post — especially selfies. Have you ever watched people take selfies, either of themselves alone or with friends or “celebrities”? The wildly happy expressions disappear almost always as soon as the shutter closes.

      I’ve backed away from FB a few times. This time it’s lasted a year, and I don’t feel any need to ever look at it again.

      Twitter is an angry cesspool of confrontation or a mud puddle of confirmation bias. Or a cheap method of promoting your products. Now I visit only if historian Heather Cox Richardson or a legitimate news source links to a significant video or insight.

      Instagram can be inspirational — I follow a wide range of professional photographers and artists, as well as NASA and the ISS, and gardeners just to see beautiful images. I don’t follow back anyone who posts only/mostly selfies — especially strangers who follow as many people as possible, hoping to increase their own number of followers. But I am more and more reluctant to lose an hour scrolling through it every day, so it lies fallow on my phone, too.

      It would be interesting to know if unpublished or newly published authors increase their audience or their sales on any of those platforms. I suspect they support those who are already successful and have something new to sell.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I have read a few articles on marketing published work, and it seems the general consensus is social media is virtually useless for promoting work.
        I tend to agree from the stand point of other “writer” sites I have joined, on social media (in the effort to have meaningful discussions about writing … thankfully I landed here) have all ended up being whiny complaints about other posters … whether they post spam, or self promote, or just troll the rest of the group.
        I have no use for any of that.
        I find social media mentally and emotionally exhausting and that’s from just glancing at the icon! lol

        Liked by 5 people

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