30 August 2011

The Novel, Day Thirty

The novel is finished!
It took way too many late nights (and if I say late night, we're talking four in the morning) but I finished it!
According to Pages, it's 50,615 words long. According to the site counter (which I've always harboured a special fondness for), it's 50,815 words long.
The plot isn't much -- in fact, considering what I'd had in my head before starting, my plot is worse than horrible -- but the goal is to write 50k or more and that's what I did.
Having said that, I'm seriously debating whether or not I'll participate in the official contest in November. Usually there would be no question about it, but this month was the most difficult writing month I've ever experienced and to tell the truth I've been creatively drained (at least on the writing side of things) since April. I had hoped writing another novel this month even though I'd had some apprehension about it would get my writing brain back but apparently it didn't work. I rather feel I've wasted a month of my life. I've never felt that before. Maybe this isn't what I'm meant to be doing.
Or maybe I just need to take a long break from fiction writing and let the proverbial batteries recharge.
I do have a good idea for November, but I really don't know at this point if I'll have the energy to pull it off.
In any case, for September and October I'm planning on focusing my creative efforts on dance and choreography. I've gotten together a few of my dance friends and we're planning on meeting after classes throughout the dance year (which starts next week) and doing what one of them called 'dance jam sessions.' Quite looking forward to that. Perhaps the change of pace might even help my writing...

28 August 2011


I only just realised I completely forgot Music Day this week. Terribly sorry -- my entire week has gone out from under me and I've lost track of what day it is (staying up till three in the morning most of the week may or may not have had something to do with it...).
Providing I don't forget again, Music Day will continue as scheduled on Friday, 2 September. (September already? Good grief.)

23 August 2011

Roadblock Identified: Everest On Road

(Don't try too hard to make sense of that title; I'm not in writer mode...)

Since I feel so inadequate about writing down the brilliant (I wish) choreography in my head and being utterly unable to read it back later and figure out my own work, the other day I Googled 'ballet choreography notation.' I didn't hold out much hope as I'd done this several times before with no notable results.

This time though, I found a couple of decent sites (no, not Wikipedia).

Or at least they looked decent.

There was this one site that was really making sense. I looked at their preview lessons and was actually beginning to understand it (typically it takes me about three years to pick up on complex things like when someone says they hate you that means they don't want you around). However, the writer of the preview lessons said it was highly advisable to learn the official, more detailed version of notation before moving on to the shorthand (which was what I was viewing). Conveniently, this was also available on their website... somewhere.

More than an hour later I finally came to the conclusion (like I said, I'm slow) that this 'original' version of the notation system was apparently intelligence on par with the highest of Cold War-era US Naval Defence secrets* or something because it was NOWHERE TO BE FOUND. It appeared the site had a grand total of three pages and they all linked to each other and back and no matter what you clicked you ended up cycling through the same three pages over and over and over again.

So I went back to the original Google search results page and ended up on the official Royal Academy of Dance website. Perfect.

I went to the shop and clicked on 'books,' since that seemed the most likely to have something that would help me. There were a few books, but no summary of whether they contained famous dances written in said notation or if the books would actually help me learn to write the notation myself.

So I looked for software choreography programs. There were several that looked quite good -- for a cool grand I could order a sort of 'word-processor-like' program. (That term wasn't really explained, but as the previous computer program I looked at required a doctorate in nuclear-phycisist-level math just to place one hand, 'word-processor-like' sounded attainable.)

I would have actually considered the 'word-processor-like' programs too (thousand dollars and all), until I looked at the all-important system requirements: 64MB RAM (check), CD ROM drive (check), hard disk space (amount not specified but if you're asking for only 64MB RAM I have enough hard drive space to correspond to that), 233 MHz processor or more (check), printer (check), Windows 95, 98, or 2000.


(It got better: 'Windows 95, 98 and 2000. Untested on Windows ME and XP; NT is not supported. The [software] will run on Windows 95 but the platform is now obsolete.' Then why bother keeping it up?)

I knew software for the Mac OS is harder to find but given Apple's huge advertising push (and the exposure they get from the iDevices) over the past few years and the fact that now everyone probably knows at least one person with a Mac, you'd think that Mac software would now be almost as easy to find as software for the Windows PC.

Alas, apparently this is not yet the case.

I went back to Google search and looked for 'benesh notation' which, I've heard, is the most-used system for such things.

Nothing. At least, nothing on how to learn to write it -- but plenty of articles lamenting how almost no one -- dancers and choreographers alike -- can read choreography notation of any kind.

Well... it would certainly help the case if the materials were available, wouldn't it? I mean, I'm not the sharpest petal on the rose but it makes sense (at least to me anyway) that if you want people to learn this, making it readily available to them would go a long way to accomplishing that goal.

Just a thought.

But if any of you happen to find some kind of a book on learning to write Benesh movement notation (not famous dances written in Benesh notation), do let me know, because it seems my brain will refuse to thaw and let me do this until I can make it understand that yes, I will be able to later understand what I wrote.

*I realise the US Navy might not have been a big player in the Cold War, but the term 'US Naval Defence secrets' in conjunction with nuclear threats sounds very impressive and probably very accurately describes the secretive state of this elusive choreography notation system.

19 August 2011

Music Day

AAAAAHH! Look what I found!

We bought this on cassette tape when it was first released just after Larry-Boy and the Rumour Weed had started to seriously take over the homes of parents with young children everywhere. I distinctly remember the first time listening to it in our little emerald-green Dodge Spirit and my mother, sister and I laughing our heads off at the Bumblyburg Groove Remix and the Superhero Slim-Down Remix as we sat in the parking lot of a gas station that no longer exists (I can't remember why we were there, but I do remember my father seeming to take forever doing whatever it was. Then again, I was a little kid. Everything takes forever when you're little).

My sister and I quickly claimed it as our favourite and even our Barbie dolls were made to dance to it as we flipped the cassette over and over (why listen to it only once when you can listen to it three times and have three times as much fun?).

Eventually though, the Spirit was totaled and replaced with a minivan with a CD player. We had cassette players in the house, of course, but I've noticed that whatever player is in your vehicle ends up being the primary music player in your possession. Whatever's getting decent rotation in the vehicle at the moment is what you listen to in the house until you get sick of it and go dig up something else.

Over the years as the CD collection grew, this particular cassette was left in a drawer and all but forgotten. Somewhere along the way, it picked up something awfully sticky that managed to get inside the cassette and attach the tape quite firmly to the casing, making it impossible for the spools to turn, therefore rendering it unplayable.

Some time later, EMI released the soundtrack album again -- this time updated with scenes from the then-recent release Larry-Boy and the Bad Apple. However the Bad Apple scenes (which weren't very good in the first place in comparison to the first two episodes according to me) were included at the expense of some of the greatest moments on the original release -- Larry-Boy's (almost) classic line about needing a doughnut, the entire introduction of and performance from the W's, Alfred's dramatic quotations of poetry, et cetera. I was sorely disappointed.


Yesterday I got thinking about Bob the Tomato and VeggieTales in general and on a lark (like I have nothing better to do -- it's not like I'm trying to write a novel and prepare for a potential career in dance or anything) searched 'veggietales' on the iTunes Store. Finding nothing but their post-Jonah tripe, I searched 'larry-boy.'

And found this, the original version of the soundtrack, the one I remembered from my childhood, unadulterated by the forced stereotypical superhero flick that is Larry-Boy and the Bad Apple. Note that below is the link to the whole album, but if you're on a budget (although $6.93 Canadian is pretty bargain already), at least buy Look Who's Here To Help, Bumblyburg Groove Remix, Superhero Slim-Down Mix, It's The W's! and The Rumour Weed Song (as performed by the W's).

Album Title: Larry-Boy: The Soundtrack
Artist: VeggieTales
Year: 1999
Label: Big Idea
iTunes here.

Note: It should be blatantly obvious by the name VeggieTales (not to mention Bob the Tomato) that yes, this is about talking (and singing) vegetables. Yes, it's technically children's material. No, it's not deep and serious and talking about either how crappy life is or about some girl like 'grown-up' music does... this is just funny. No toilet humour (save the image of the plunger ears and one use of the word 'underwear' in the The Superhero Slim-Down Mix), just cheesy puns and innocent goofiness.
Let your inner child out here (Alfred even addresses the listeners as 'boys and girls'). Laugh a little. It's okay. :-)

16 August 2011

Unstuck! (Or The Novel, Day Sixteen)

I've finally figured it out!
After sixteen days of fighting and just barely staying only one day behind my word count, a whole new vein has opened up. I can't wait to start it (don't worry, I've written it down so I won't forget).
The problem here was that I wanted to focus almost exclusively on Rudy, but since he's stuck in his circumstances there isn't much for him to do. To get through Week Two, I simply got his friends high and had them play a four-person game of Mafia (one of players on the phone).
If you're not familiar with Mafia, it's kind of a role-playing game where you kill each other off in your imaginary little town, but it requires a group of at least eight to work well. Also, the killing is done by pointing and nonverbal signals while everyone else's eyes are closed -- having one of the players on the phone lets everyone know who's being killed by whom, meaning your game pretty much lasts one round instead of a dozen or so.

Anyway, I've discovered that while Rudy is the pivotal character -- all the action in the book is as a direct result of who he was and what happened to him -- the book is more about Preston than anyone else (at least right now).
I knew Clayton and Preston's reactions would be a big part of the book but I can't let Clayton recover too easily (after all, he was Rudy's best friend) and I was planning on Preston being the rock through the whole situation. My problem though was that I was trying to keep Preston too neutral about the whole thing... a little shocked maybe, but not much more than that.
But something like this would rock his world. It would take his faith and turn it on its head. It would bring him to question everything he's strived for.

So as of today I'm introducing a new character -- Preston's friend Jon. I think Jon is going to be more of the 'rock' character than Preston, since he's fairly removed from the whole situation... his only connection is Preston, who himself wasn't directly involved. (Also, Jon's a Lecrae fan... music in the story tends to help it along, I've found.)

My statistics so far (note that I haven't written anything today yet):
Goal for Day Sixteen: 25,806
Word count so far: 24,007
I'm not out of this contest yet!

13 August 2011


So the power just flickered (again... for about the ten billionth time this summer and there isn't even a storm...).
As usual, I was on the computer. But I didn't lose anything.

I love having a MacBook.

I know, a PC laptop would have switched to battery power right away also. But I don't have a PC laptop. It's not a slight against PC users, it's just a fact.
Also, in case you're wondering, I already did an hour of choreography today so yes, I can be on the computer now. It's the novel I need to catch up on, but I need the computer for that.

12 August 2011

Music Day

Title: Seventy Times Seven
Artist: David Meece
Album: Chronology
Year: 1986 (or 1988; my sources are conflicted)
Label: Word Records
iTunes here, YouTube here.

10 August 2011

The Desert

I loathe more than anything the feeling of not having an idea for something.
Whether writing, photography, dance... I've always had an idea for something at almost any given moment. My problem as an artist never used to be getting an idea, it was keeping up with the overabundance of ideas. In approximately twelve years of artist-like endeavours, I have never once run dry for more than maybe a week. Even then I'm usually working off such a backlog of previous ideas that I barely notice.
There's always something -- real life presents so many 'plot' twists and characters for writing, so many beautiful scenes and intricate detail for your camera to capture, so many movements for the human body to mimic. How can one possibly run out of ideas?
I have been reduced to counting. Counting out music 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4... Wanting to be able to say I've accomplished something that brings me closer to my dream of dance but in reality I'm just putting it off in a more sneaky way.
I need a bigger practice space. I need to move out because my family screams at each other at the slightest provocation if any at all and it screws up my concentration. I need to learn the real names of the steps so I can write it down more accurately. I need this, I need that...
No -- what I need is to get off my lazy backside, shove the headphones in, and dance. Breaking it down can come later. Dance the same steps over and over again, memorise it -- then attempt to write it down. Scream along to the White Heart or Flyleaf if need be but dance.
I have this chance wide open in front of me. Ability, training, some talent (I hope) -- all right here for the taking. I've been incredibly blessed in almost every way you could ask for a career in dance.
But I won't have it forever. There is no guarantee -- the human body is fragile. I know I have to do as much of it as I can before something happens that might disable me, but apparently the 'action' side of my brain hasn't figured that out. It's figured out (much to my decidedly not-artist family's consternation) that I'm not going to do anything else with my life, but it appears to have a problem with if you're not doing anything else, then actually get up and do the one thing you have decided you will. Seriously, have I really become this lazy?
I've already come to the conclusion that I'm going to set aside some time every day to work on choreography. At first I thought maybe fifteen minutes would be sufficient, but after putting that into practice I've discovered that the resulting fragmentation of the thought process means I would be better off not bothering. I really should know by now there's no way to get a quality result if you only work on something in fifteen-minute bursts.
So I'm going to look at my schedule and see if I can't pull together an hour every day, at least. It's going to be difficult here in August with the novel, but really, if I have time to write a novel, I have an extra hour somewhere that doesn't require Facebook in it.
So if I start posting rants about Facebook, it means I'm on Facebook instead of dancing and for that I hereby give you full permission to scold me. Facebook will always be there but my body will not always be young.

07 August 2011

The Novel, Day Seven

Racing through plot at insane pace. What should have taken me a good fifty thousand words to write has petered out at 12,600 (the story would be done by now except I'm trying not to use up my entire plot before I hit fifteen thousand words).
Have made a decision though that hopefully should take up lots of words.
But first, the story so far.
We've met Rudy and there is a brief description of two separate drunken parties which he and his friends throw. From one Rudy arrives home safely (if hung over). We meet his Christian neighbour Preston at that point. Naturally Rudy can't stand him.
Then after the second party, Rudy attempts to drive home like he always does. On the way, though, all the drugs and alcohol team up and render him unconscious at the wheel, which causes a nasty accident.
A few hours later he dies in the hospital of a drug overdose, although the injuries from the accident didn't help matters.
Here's where I've been stuck for over six thousand words already. Rudy's argued with a whole bunch of people in Hell over the same thing over and over and over. Preston grapples with the fact that despite his fervent prayers Rudy never accepted Jesus, and Rudy's best friend (and drug supplier) Clayton struggles with the news that Rudy is dead.
So now, in the interest of creating words without using up my entire story before Week One even ends, I have decided that Clayton is going to get high on something and does... any number of stupid random things I can think of (so far the list of potential props involves pickles, post-it note animation, a broken lawn chair, water balloons, and possibly a game of Mafia). If you have any more suggestions, do comment -- no idea is too bizarre for consideration, trust me. I really don't need to revisit the main plot until at least the 25,000 mark (30k more likely).

Also, for you eighties rock fans out there -- you might enjoy this. It's is a video of one of the concerts released as the live Petra album Captured In Time & Space in 1986 -- the last release that featured Greg X Volz on vocals. You can buy the album on iTunes here. The album is slightly different though -- Computer Brains (one of the best on the album in my opinion) is missing from the video.

05 August 2011

Music Day

Today we're finally going back to old-school after a few weeks of post-2000 material.
Believe it or not, this song was one of my mother's top favourites when she was a teenager (the cassette I imported it from has the stretched tape to prove it). I can't really blame her though. It's got great shock value if nothing else -- not a lot of people know that eighties Christian metal even exists and it's even funnier when they're introduced to it by the quiet innocent one. (You know, the homeschooled one who wears skirts all the time and has six little siblings and didn't see Star Wars until age seventeen.)
If you like this song, I recommend that you request the entire album from the iTunes Store (also you might enjoy the album Powerhouse by the same band).

Title: Bye Bye Babylon
Artist: White Heart
Album: Freedom
Year: 1989
Label: Sparrow Records
iTunes here, YouTube here (live version on YouTube here).

01 August 2011

The Novel, Day One

Before 3 pm
Progress of plot: What plot? I'm connecting short stories more than advancing a plot.
Words so far: 1,060/1,667 (day) 1,060/50,000 (month)
Things accomplished: I figured out Titus' last name (Kelton). He also has been given a pregnant wife (Sierra). Major Wazhefeyss has been introduced and has asked Titus to participate in this weapon test. Lyle has also been introduced.

3.13 pm
Previous plot scrapped. Synopsis of new plot published to personal Camp NaNoWriMo profile. New folder made, new Pages file opened. Forty-five words so far. Very much anticipating writing this idea.

4.51 pm
342 words in new plot. Keep forgetting MC's name.

8.39 pm
Eating raspberries!

11.34 pm
Finally reached 1,678 words! And just in time to start on tomorrow's quota.
Current music: The Man With The Nail Scars -- David Meece, 1989 (Learning To Trust; Star Song) (The song does not match the mood of the novel at all, but whatever...)