Archived Messages from February 13, 1999 to February 18, 1999

Jack Beslanwitch Thu Feb 18 23:43:27 PST 1999

      This is still off topic and Y2K, but I finally saw something on CNN that chill my bones in terms of Y2K. The former Soviet Union or portions of Russia have not even a clue in terms of Y2K. With a host of dillapidated nuclear power plants running off of 286's with primitive bios and most of their military command and control infrastructure that manages their existing nuclear weapons in similar shape, does raise a few hackles. Apparrently a combination task force from here is heading over to assist. I really would not like to think that fail safes would snafu and nuclear missiles would start to fly. That would be a pain.

      As for suburban America being tender foots, I am not sure I can disagree except that depending on the area of the country and conditions loss of the power grid can be deadly. When we had ice storms a couple of years ago here in Seattle it did do in the power for some. In our own case, Fran and I have a fire place insert with a chord of wood ready just in case. However, there were many who did not have heat either because their heat was electrical or the natural gas heating was dependent on electricity for thermostat and blowers. All of this said, again, I think we are OK here in the US, Canada, western Europe, Japan and Australia. There has been a concerted effort and motivation to tackle the Y2K problem. Third world? Somewhat problematical, but they are probably more experienced with dealing with power outages and other similar infractructure breakdowns and snafus than our kneck of the woods. The Russians were one variable I had not even considered and I wonder a bit if the Chinese have been taking this seriously. Hopefully.

      In regard to creative types and school. I had a terrible time in high school, but college was quite cool. Especially since my first year was an experimental humanities program that was 12 credits per quarter and all pass fail. The focus was on giving us an exposure to everything from the Rig Veda and Genesis to Sartre and Camus. We even read and discussed the Report to the Council of Zurich by John Calvin that explained his theology and the logic behind pre-destination. If you are not aware of this bit of theological legerdemain, do not ask. It gives me a head ache trying to remember it. Point of this is that we got the chance to be creative as we pleased, make mistakes and swim in some of the more interesting bits of western and eastern civilization for a year and not have to worry about our grades. Thoroughly impractical, but one of the best experiences of my educational life. And, definitely one of the best ways to start out your college careers as well.

Toby B Thu Feb 18 22:33:52 PST 1999

I don't court my muse, I tell the bloody thing what to do...:)

I saw some of the Y2K postings. SKS, I would be interested to hear your take on it.

As for me, having been through 1)a war, and 2) several hurricanes in the Caribbean, I'm not all that impressed by dire prognistication. I've seen society fall apart for a few days, and looting and what not. But I've also seen how people pull together and work for the common good. I've seen humanity at its basic face, and whatever comes comes. Having lived in the US for three years now I know that most would consider it a disaster if cable were suspended for three days. I've been to places that haven't got power two years after the hurricanes still (this was horrifying to the American tourists)...I'm not trying to insult, but the reason any disturbance will be hard on Americans is because average life is remarkably placid for suburban America. Enough on that.

Re: the inability of creative types to get good grades. Yes. It's true. My average is 2.5. Yet, years after a class, I will comment on the material, and 4.0 students around me will not know what I am talking about. Sad. There is also no desire for students to go to the library and look up a subject just to learn about it for the heck of it. I find myself taking out books all the time that have absolutely nothing to do with class. It hurts me, as I spend hours reading them on top of everything else I have to do, but...I would rather it be that way than forced for the 4/5 years of college to read nothing but what is assigned to me by other people who have no idea what interests me. This is why my average is average. :)

Allein Thu Feb 18 19:47:31 PST 1999

Hi all. There was a show on last night but I couldn't watch it because of circumstances, so I taped it. NIE-way, there was this really cute quote on there that I'd like to share with you that expresses exactly how I feel about how the school system treats us.

"Oh me oh my a lovely day is dawning,
Oh what a joy I didn't wake up dead,
So I can go to school and then resume my yawning,
So I can sleep in class instead of in my bed."

Well, anyway, I thought it was cute. Just had that to share.
Bai bai for now,

Lena Thu Feb 18 18:57:22 PST 1999

Thomas - (blush) Thank you.

Jack - Hey, slow down with your muse there... we wouldn't want your wife to get jealous!

Hootie - Creative writing class is plodding around. We have not gotten past poetry, and have I mentioned how my poetic muse and I do not get along? However, I have come to enjoy class because we are allowed to do as we wish. Today I wrote down every image I could think of that reminded me of the colors grey and blue, for a poem in which we describe ourselves in terms of two different colors. I just put a poem up on the workbook I wrote for this class, also... feel free to check it out. It is called "Love-Lies-Bleeding."

I finally got around to contributing to the Round Robin! Oh, Goodweed, you would be so proud of me... and I would like to add to the plea to PLEASE participate in the Round Robin. The more, the merrier!

Two is company, three is a crowd,

Ashling Thu Feb 18 18:10:36 PST 1999

Hi all!

JACK --- Have a fabulous time at AussieCon III. Which author do you most hope to meet, maybe chat with a bit? No rush, you've got 6 months to think about it.

Up to my eyebrows in reading material, but will check out {Memory & Dreams} soonest ... Thanks. I did write one fantasy story a few years ago. It needs help, not sure how to proceed ... I'm very fond of it ... Can't bear putting it in my Dead Children file. Is 6,000 words too long to post on the Workbook?

HOOTIE --- Read an excellent story of yours, but it vanished. It's about a woman conversing with her husband's head -- severed in battle. Can you tell me the name so I look for it in Archives? I want to re-read before making a few minor suggestions.

XAVIER --- Thanks for mentioning Fear of Failure. Submitting gives me panic attacks. Last week, I chanted "They might accept me > If they do reject > They're not rejecting ME > Just rejecting my work > Okay, ONE PIECE of my work."

Did it help? Well, I emailed the article 2 hours after deadline. The Publishing Gods bestowed Mercy. The publisher emailed acknowledgment of receipt. My article will be considered along with literally thousands of other submissions. I may hear from them by "May of 2000." Sheesh! Maybe next time I'll get off my ass sooner.

S.N. ARLY --- Sounds like you've been reading the chapter "How to Keep and Feed a Muse" from Ray Bradbury's {Zen in the Art of Writing.} A good read, allows you to giggle and/or chuckle while learning.

AVATAR --- Good for you, keep at it! I would be grateful for a paragraph a day some months.

Tantalizing odors currently waft from the cuisine center into my study. A sorta-kinda poetic way of saying \green(My stomach's growling, gotta eat supper (now}.}

Teaching myself html code ... Hope above turned out okay. When I hit Edit button to review before sending --- My post was sucked into the ether - destination East Hell?!? Had to retype the whole thing. Okay, I feel better now ... just a small rant.


Take care,

Jack Beslanwitch Thu Feb 18 18:00:23 PST 1999

Litter: It is not that I dislike Encarta, just that I find EB more comprehensive :-). And that may not be true in the latest version of Encarta which I have not tried.

Avatar: One other place to check out is one that was included in the EB article on Castles, This has some rather extensive links to various castles, information and other tid bits that might prove useful. It also, I just noticed when I dug deeper, is cheerfully advertising Encarta Online with large banners. So, take your pick, but you might find this link useful in your questions.

Thu Feb 18 17:44:00 PST 1999

Litter Thu Feb 18 17:42:18 PST 1999

Avatar – A bit from Encarta (Sorry to those that don’t like :o)
Castle (Latin castellum, “small fortified place”), fortified residence of a feudal lord or monarch. Derived from the walled cities of ancient Rome and the fortified palaces of Byzantium, the castle became virtually ubiquitous in Western Europe during the wars of the late Middle Ages.
At first the castle consisted of a simple wooden structure on top of a mound, surrounded by a ditch. If a lord's domains were flat, he constructed an artificial mound, or motte. As medieval siegecraft developed, a wall or series of walls or palisades was raised around the motte and at a distance from it; the open area within these walls became known as the bailey. By the 11th century the motte-and-bailey form of castle was widely prevalent. Outer walls gradually became thicker and were topped with wide battlemented parapets.
The next step in the development of the castle was the addition by the Normans of a towering masonry keep, or donjon, within the bailey. The keep, often some 12 to 15 m (some 40 to 50 ft) high, had thick walls and small windows. The White Tower within the Tower of London is an example of a Norman keep. Wide, deep moats replaced the crude ditches; ideally filled with water but often dry, these moats were crossed by drawbridges that could be raised from within the castle. At the castle end of the drawbridge was an opening in the wall, containing a portcullis, a thick, iron-plated wooden door that could be raised to clear the entrance. Within the Norman keep were private apartments, a well for water, and everything else necessary to sustain the inhabitants of the castle through a long siege. At first the keep was rectangular; later, it was learned that a round keep was easier to defend. In the 13th century the castle became increasingly sophisticated. Living and administrative quarters were moved from the keep into new buildings raised within the bailey. The keep, made smaller and stronger, became the final defensive position within a series of battlements.
Me now!
There are a huge number of castles still around. Some are little more than Archaeology or ruins but many, some from as early as the 12/13th century are whole or almost whole. Many in Scotland, England Ireland and Wales are still used some of the larger ones still being Garrisoned. (from personal experience as I can’t speak for too much of Europe.) Edinburgh Castle for instance, houses the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny/Scone (On which the ancient Kings of Scotland and later Kings and Queens of Great Britain were crowned.) A full Battalion of Scots Guards is in residence charged with the care and safety of these items. The oldest part of the Castle dates back to the 12th century – The Chapel of St Margaret – although the castle rock has been used as a fortified position, in one form or another, for 3000 years, sitting as it does on a volcanic plug with the volcano eroded away from around it.

Hootie Thu Feb 18 17:07:57 PST 1999

Xavier -- Welcome to our little circle. Pull up a keyboard, share our stories, feel free to express your opinion through the mouth of a neighbor’s cat. Writing is often solitary, but here we can find solace in the triumphs and tragedies of others of our ilk.

Michelle—There’s an old saying that I always thought was particularly appropriate to any essay question, but especially in the realm of literature: “If you can’t dazzle them with your dexterity, baffle them with your BS.”

SNArly—CQD? Does that stand for Certified Quill Dipper?

On the subject of muses—if you are speaking about simple inspiration, then you court your muse by experience. Try something new, or describe something that is so natural that you’ve never thought about it before. Read often, write for the fun of making a beautiful sentence. Go out to a restaurant, savor the food, and observe all those around you. But when it is time to work on your story (book, poem, epic, whatever), your muse may have to take a back seat to the slave driver. After all, inspiration may provide a clue or two, but nagging problems like time lines often have to pounded out tediously (good luck, Lydia). My point is that the muse doesn’t control the writing. S/he may nudge it, or get it started, but the actual writing is going to be hard work if it’s done right. Face it, even Stephen King and Tom Clancy are underpaid for the effort it takes to produce a book. If we sit back and expect the story to just happen, then we will get a sore butt, and very few words written. Speaking of tedious work, how is the creative writing class going,

Lena? “If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.”

Jack Beslanwitch Thu Feb 18 17:05:04 PST 1999

Jai: Great. Fran and I will be getting in on the Tuesday before the con. I am trying to remember when day that is, but I am spacing at this point. I think that is like August 31st. Hopefully to try to get over our jet lag.

      Courting our muse? Not likely. I prefer sneaking up behind the little bugger, sand bagging him/her (changes depending on the project) and dragging him/her away for long intimate talks with iron maidens and other Marquee De Sade tools of persuasion easily at hand (You know the drill. laughing gas and ostrich feathers at forty paces, chocolate sauce optional) :-).

      Seriously, anything that disconnects the internal editor is useful in this. Keeping a dream journal and writing as soon as you wake up, turning off the screen and just start typing without thought or reflection, automatic writing. There are other techniques, but most involve this sort of thing. The other better way is to be so fired up with an idea that the little guy is jumping up and down on your shoulder until out of desperation you get words on screen or disk. However, in most case my muse is off sulking to the point that courting would be useless. Tickling him/her might work, though. Maybe seducing our muse might be a better way of thinking of it. Then again, that could get very very kinky.

Jai Jai@oolothrapnokripa Thu Feb 18 16:41:51 PST 1999


Jack - I am thinking of going to the Australian Worldcon, I haven't been to one before so I probably will. Would be great to meet some of the faces behind the posts.

My muse and I are still getting to know eachother, well I'm still getting to know her anyway. So I'll keep you all informed.

Jai, fly, pie, die, cry, sigh, tie, lie, try, fry, my, guy, dry, shy, I, hi
(I never got teased much as a kid, I think my name rymes with to many other words so the other kids just didn't know where to start)

My mothers pet name for me was - Jai the pie or Jaidy piedy

Avatar Thu Feb 18 15:30:49 PST 1999

My muse is currently sticking her tongue and saying, "I told you so!" Lets just say that I finally started writing a <-page-> of my novel a day and she's sort of smug. (Sigh)

Lydia- wish you all the luck in the world. Though it would be nice if all of us could go.

Depression strikes at the worst times. Although the good part is that I am surrounded by flu carriers, yet have not joined their ranks yet. It's only a matter of time, though. (Ack!)

We come not to praise Caesar but to bury him. Remind me to sleep with my back to the wall!
-Leon, CLOCKWORK- a play by Pat Cook

The above quote is in one of the plays we are doing on Monday evening. Three days, zero full rehearsals, two of our main characters are being cut out, and the script is being rewritten by our drama teacher. I'm going to panic now.


-Even if they didn't ask me I'd still write the darn thing


Thomas Thu Feb 18 14:37:08 PST 1999

Court your muse! Like all relationships, the one between a writer and his/her muse needs some separation now and again, to regroup the love and respect and, dare I say it, creative spark.


The way you express yourself on this notebook reveals wonderful thought patterns. Just wanted to tell you that.

So, we are now signing off with profound thoughts, heh!

"If they ask me, I could write a book."

Allein Thu Feb 18 14:30:48 PST 1999

Hey all!! Not much going on here. I've been writing more about Allein and his uncle, but my friend said it was rather depressing and she wants his uncle to get what he deserves (she also said she doesn't understand why everything bad happens to Allein). So, I have been thinking of ways to end this part of my story. If anyone has ideas - throw them on out. My best idea so far was to have Allein get an STD and then his parents would figure out that something was going on (since twelve-year-olds usually don't go around having sex - although, I'm sure that in this day and age you could find a few, but not too many).
But if anyone has a better idea, I'm up to listening.

Well, I suppose I should go. I have homework.
Bai, bai.

"Because I said so..."

Rhoda Thu Feb 18 12:47:38 PST 1999

Court my muse? Never. Maybe that is why I never have one stick around for long. Fortunately, these guys are a dime a dozen, so when one runs away, I acquire another.


I am thrilled for you. I love writer's conferences (I've only been to two). I am going to an RWA one in Boulder,CO at the end of April. We'll have to get together on ICQ or something after our conferences and compare notes. The only author I ever met at one of these two conferences that I had read previously, I didn't like her books. Of course, I never told her that. Conferences are a good place to discover new authors. Oftentimes you hear an author give a good talk or you have a good discussion with one over dinner. I buy at least one book by any author who impresses me on either a personal or professional level. I discovered Denise Domning that way. It means a lot to read something written by someone you have met.

"Better to be occasionally cheated than perpetually suspicious." B.C. Forbes


Lydia Sweet Thu Feb 18 12:04:33 PST 1999


Oh, my gosh! Just just realized a time line error!

Lydia Sweet Thu Feb 18 12:01:39 PST 1999


My muse left me for almost 3 months. I had begun to believe what I had written so far was just a fluke and I could never complete a story. That all my stories were just fantasies and that I was dumb enough to think I could put them on paper. I had just sent S.K.S. my last chapter and, as usual, he quickly responded with a parting shot of "ok woman, get writing". I was most embarassed that I had nothing more and opened my MS and gues what? Sure enough, there was my muse telling me "Let's get with it." I think the muses think they are quite humorous that way. Yeah, sure.


Lena Thu Feb 18 11:48:26 PST 1999

Court your muse? I like to bake mine some chocolate chip cookies, pour it a glass of milk, and read a good book (with my muse reading over my shoulder, of course). I am constantly analyzing and thinking as I read, and ideas and thoughts come to me.

SKS - Thank you much for your non-authorized opinion. (It's so hard to get those things authorized these days!)

Jack - I too believe the Y2K 'problem' is being blown up out of proportion, but it's probably best to expect the worse. That way, you can be pleasantly surprised when things turn out well.

Xavier - A fellow spirit! Welcome... (Xavier - Arabic, "bright or splendid")


S.N.Arly Thu Feb 18 11:06:45 PST 1999

Someday I'll be able to afford to go to a convention. Maybe. Till then, I just expect those who do go to give me all the dirt.

Ok, so we've been talking about how to start a story and how we write. I have another question: How do you court your muse? What do you do when s/he/it runs off? What do you do in those points of time where you don't even feel like editing or reading your previous stuff?


Michele Thu Feb 18 09:55:26 PST 1999

Hi !

Hootie - thanks... I got an English essay back today though and my critical analysis skills must have improved in the last few weeks because I got a B on this essay ! Funny thing was the tutor commented on my consistently perceptive analysis - when I wrote the essay I thought I was just making it all up ! Guess I was more consistently perceptive than I realised ! :-) Is it me or does this seem like a nonsense ? I think it's probably possible to make a text mean anything you like - and the more nonsense you write about symbolic stuff, the better the mark you get ! Weird !


Lydia Sweet Thu Feb 18 09:40:10 PST 1999

Hi all,

I've been really busy at work the last couple of days and although I have skimmed through the postings when I caught my breath, I didn't have time to respond.

S.K.S. In response to your "I want to speak to the Director" . I just thought I would point out that you ARE the director. TAKE CONTROL. (Grin)

Avatar Stories aren't written in the sense that you sit down and say "I think I'll write a story now. Where should I start?" They are born .

I have several stories started and strangely enough, that is exactly where they start, AT THE BEGINNING. I think becuase the beginning is the conception for me. From there my characters develop and new themes and events happen as the growth progresses. I think, perhaps, the words THE END are really the birth. At that point you have a fully developed entity. The rewrites are the grooming and coddling you give to a toddler. I suppose when and if you sell it, you could say it has reached adulthood and can stand on it's own in the world.

All - I feel very lucky. I was talking to a friend last night and she asked me if I was still writing. YES. She informed me RWA is having a 2 day conference in Memphis the latter part of March. I was beginning to despair of ever being able to attend a convention. They have 5 published authors speaking. Unfortunately, I haven't read any of their works. I will by the time the conference gets here. They are accepting Chapters or Synopsis for review by the authors. I had not heard of this being done before. I am hoping to make some good contacts during the conference. Wish me good luck!

Till later,


"You just missed me being brilliant", Garfield, the Cat.

Xavier Thu Feb 18 07:03:51 PST 1999

Hello again.
My, my, you sure do cover alot of topics here. From Politics, wine, religion (missed that one!), Y2K, favorite words, ect, ect... I think its kind of cool that this board is so diverse, as most writers are multi- layered in there interests and knowledge. I too am an aspiring novelist/writer, and find it very refreshing and comforting to find others with the same desires to create as me. I don't know many writers, and it is very difficult for my to work over ideas with other people, as most seem to lack the interest\grasp needed for constructive feedback. However, it seems I have found a place that people are both inclined and talented with the written word, and free to share their findings. I am currently working on several projects, and as another person posted, I often stop mid- way as once I have worked the story out, it's hard to finish the actual writing. Then I will get another flash of a plot for a different story and begin the cycle over again. Perhaps it is my fear of failure that truly stops my before I can finish, for if I failed as a writer, this gift of creation would quickly become a curse! What would be worse in life than to be bludgoned my creativity, never to share it with anyone?
By the way, someone asked if I was Spanish, actually I' an Irish/German mix, born in America.
Also thanks to Allien, for welcoming me here, I hope you feel better.


S.K.S. Perry Thu Feb 18 06:42:17 PST 1999

Hey all,

First, I did answer Lena's question on the Canadian Military and Y2K, but by private E-mail. I have neither the authority nor am I in the loop when it comes to such things. For that reason I think it unwise to voice my opinion about the matter in a public forum such as this. The last thing I need is for some media type quoting me in the paper as "an insider in the military," when I'm actually nothing more that a peon with an opinion. If anyone would like to hear my response to her, I'd be glad to send it to you as well--just let me know, and remember, it is only my opinion and does not reflect the policies or practices of the Canadian Military. All I will say is that I haven't heard anything officially about the matter.

As for Y2K itself, I seriously doubt it will be much of a problem here in North America. A recent study states that 70% of all problems that are failures will likely be fixed within hours, and 90% within three days. Y2K may present more of a problem in less developed nations. The latest statistics show that Canada and the U.S. are about 40% ahead of the other nations in preparing for the year 2000.

Be Well, Live Well.

Jack Beslanwitch Thu Feb 18 01:14:25 PST 1999

     Re the martial law and Y2K, lets be serious. Yes, there will be minor problems with Y2K, occasional brownouts and such. Nothing even close to the snow storm that hit Quebec, I believe, recently, and knocked out power for a host of people. Financial institutions are already Y2K compliant. They have to be, because the problems they would be having with Y2K are already springing up in Credit Cards with experiations after 2000 being refused. This has been fixed. So, too, with others. I'll make a prediction that the headlines sometime into January will be Y2K The Disaster That Never Happened. One definite possibility is that a host of people will withdraw money on December 31. This might cause a temporary overload of the system. And there is an issue of liquidity. However, at least the Federal Government in the US is printing 50 billion additional dollars to make sure that there is sufficient liquidity in the system. However, if you are asking will I be taking a sum of money out of the bank prior to 2000 and stocking up on a months worth of food and water. Yes, but only because I finally am doing what I should have been doing for earthquake preparedness.

     On other notes: I discovered via Britannica Online a book on the Mexican American War and ordered and got it today. This fills in a lot of holes in a novel project that I am working on. And we just took the plunged AND BOUGHT OUR TICKETS FOR AUSTRLIA. I was just wondering if anybody else here was going to be going to the Australian Worldcon in Melbourne. If so, maybe we could get together.

Lena Wed Feb 17 19:11:22 PST 1999

Greetings and felicitations all around,

I must say, I love the clever little quotes everyone includes on the bottom of their posts. Sometimes humorous, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes whimsical, but always interesting.

I was pondering today. I was staring out the bus window (I do quite a lot of that - I spend almost two hours on a bus every day) and thinking of our conversations on language and the meaning behind words, and it struck me that this could be a conversation on how to write description. Description is a weak point of mine, because I have trouble with finding a good balance between sufficient detail and a long-winded beating of a description to death. When you refer to a chair, do you want to tell the reader it is a metallic folding chair, a plush office chair, or an elaborately carved wooden throne? When is it enough to merely tell the reader that it is a chair, and let them fill in the details with their own imagination? Striking a balance between accurately describing a character and letting the reader fill in the gaps while still conforming to your vision... fascinating stuff.

SKS - I was talking with someone today about the whole Y2K situation, and she told me that several parts of Canada are going to be put under martial law for a while in the beginning of 2000. Any truth to this rumor?

Allein - Hope you feel better. I had a touch of something last week, and working as a camp counselor was quite interesting with a sore throat. I finally figured out that if I sang loud enough and kept a tight control of my singing, my voice stopped cracking and skipping octaves. I thought females weren't supposed to have that type of problem! Anyway, amazingly enough, I was cured by the time I left camp, which was strange because you would think little sleep and yelling at the top of your lungs would actually make me feel worse, but no. Perhaps you could try my remedy, and find your nearest camp to volunteer at!

Writing Slowly - I... am... an... extremely... slow... writer... who... writes... when... I... feel... like... it... which... fortunately... is... quite... often... :-)

Yet another reason I would never make it as a professional writer! Let me count the ways.

"I belong in the service of the Queen, I belong anywhere but in between. She's been dying, and I've been thinking that I am the Rain King." (Counting Crows, "Rain King")

Allein Wed Feb 17 17:02:20 PST 1999

Hootie - Never thought about that. Probably is, except there's no gunk in my lungs, so if it is, bad choice, huh?

Bai bai,

"Coffee is cheaper than Prozac."

Hootie Wed Feb 17 16:31:09 PST 1999

Michelle--Great job! As for the C, well, I wouldn't worry too much about it. Great writers, as well as other creative people, usually don't flourish in the confines of academia. Write your best, and then let someone doing a thesis determine what kind of symbology managed to sneak in there.

Allein--Check your cough syrup and make sure it's a suppresant, not an expectorant. I learned this the hard way, but an expectorant will make you cough more, because it's designed to loosen all the gunk in your lungs and get it out. So you might have 12 hours of coughing for your efforts. And that's my mother hen advice for the day.

"You are neurotic and depressed, it doesn't mean that you're sad." --Everclear

Allein Wed Feb 17 15:17:09 PST 1999

Jai - thanks.

Actually, I am not feeling so bad today. I still have a slight fever and this cough that will not leave me alone despite the cough syrup I took this morning that's SUPPOSED to last 12 hours. Actually, if anything, my cough has gotten worse. But my throat isn't so sore anymore.

Well, I have homework to do.
Keep smiling,

Michele Wed Feb 17 13:01:05 PST 1999

Hi all

Just thought that I'd let you all know that I got my official results through today for Semester One and I passed everything..... !!!!!!!!!!!!! Got 3 Bs and a C - the C was for English - writing critical analyses... and as I find it REALLY hard to read meanings into poems and novels (like SNArly and Lena) this is (to me) unsurprising !

BTW - SNArly - your teacher was right about the meaning of orgasm and it deriving from the Latin but I don't think that's a good enough excuse !

Oh well I am going to go and do some reading for my "Language Culture and Society" course.... talk to you all later.


PS Rhoda glad you came back.....

S.K.S. Perry Wed Feb 17 10:01:54 PST 1999

Hey all,

Lena, I believe my writing habits are pretty close to your own. I probably do most of my editing in my head before I ever type it out on my computer. For that reason, I'm lucky if I get two or three pages a day done. If I'm really inspired, I might get five. I have to agree with S.N. Arly, however, that sometimes you have to just keep writing, even if you're not sure where you're headed or your not certain of the track you're on. Sometimes you find the inspiration you needed in what you just wrote, and you can always go back and change it later. I have written one book, and probably the best advice I ever got was to not constantly go back and edit and re-edit, even if partway through you realise that things have taken an unexpected turn, or you've deviated from your original concept. Keep writing as though you've made those changes, finish the book, then go back and do whatever reconstruction is neccessary to make all the parts fit. Believe me, you're going to do enough editing once you figure you have a finished product.

If all the world's a stage, and we are merely players, I'd like to have a word with the director please.

Be Well, Live Well.

Thomas Wed Feb 17 09:35:35 PST 1999


On starting a novel -- or any writing piece, for that matter. I agree with what has been said already. You have to start somewhere, and each time it seems a beginning comes from the most unexpected places.

Just this morning I started, for the fourth time, a story I have wanted to write but have found every one of my beginnings to come up short. Disgusted, I would quit and get back to it later with a new, and equally disgusting beginning. The story is based on someone I grew up with and had a deeply close relationship with that was torn apart by external forces.

Until today, when I realized that the story I want to write is a love story between two close friends, my beginnings seemed flat and cold. But this morning I talked about that love and the story began to flower on my screen. Such a great feeling when you hit on the thing that makes the story propel. But you can't get there without just writing -- anything -- until it happens.

S.N.Arly Wed Feb 17 08:09:16 PST 1999

Lena - It's wonderful where inspiration can spring up, unexpected and all. I have more than one story that was started from a phrase in a song, something I saw (frozen forever as a still picture in my mind), or even from a single word. I have one story that came from the line, "The man in the loud pantsuit..." Unfortunately he eventually lost the pantsuit in a major overhaul of the story, which actually had nothing to do with loud pantsuits.

"And you're going to have to act just like them, so pay attention."

On novel starts - Hate to quote advertising, but for the most part I just do it. If it's not there, all the sitting and staring at my computer won't make it come. I think it may be easier for me, though because I don't expect or need things to be perfect on the first run through, and I think that's a hurdle that stops many writers before they're even through the gate. Sure some of my initial drafts will resemble a very rough raw jemstone; it's going to take some cutting and polishing to really see the shine. But I go ahead and run with it, knowing I can always come back and make changes (when the right word or turn of phrase finally makes its way out the synaptic door). I love editing. I do it constantly. I never know how many re-writes I'll need to do. I don't even try to keep count, because even on short stuff I don't wait unti it's done to start refining.

"I want to put my tender heart in a blender..."

Hootie MHooten@csw, Wed Feb 17 06:12:03 PST 1999

Novel starts—I’m with Jai in that I have more false starts than anything else, but the one novel I have finished started with a scene that I thought I was writing for another book (still unfinished). But when I went back over it, I realized that the characters were not who I thought they were. So I tried to figure out who they were and why they were in the situation I wrote, and I ended up with the story. From there, it was just a matter of working on it every day, just like Rhoda said.

I’m sort of like you, Lena—I constantly revise even while I’m on my first draft. I actually find this helps me to keep my interest, because I go back and remember why the story excited me in the first place. And if I really lose interest, then I just put it aside and work on something else for awhile. In writing, I think that ideas are the easiest part; there is always something to write, even if it’s just a post to the Notebook.

Jack—great word! And one that is seldom heard, more’s the pity.

Agsousa—Jon is right. Dividing literature into genres is most useful for publishers, allowing them to market a certain segment of the population. But I think that voracious readers (which I think most writers tend to be), cross genre lines constantly. Sure, a lot of us profess to write Science Fiction and Fantasy, but if we want to be remembered, we will have elements of mystery, romance (and Romanticism), poetry, and whatever else we think will further the story.

Writing in a genre gives you an audience that expects certain things. But writing between genres, or outside them, allows you to find new audiences. Deciding which route to go is matter of individual inclination.

Jai Tue Feb 16 21:13:41 PST 1999


Allein - Sure. You asked, I gave, use away.

Damn I'm tired, why is it only 4:11pm and not time to go home *moan* *moan*

Hope you get well Allein, though sickness is another experiance that may help you in your writing at some point. I try to be an optimist, sometimes I even sucseed.


Jack Beslanwitch Tue Feb 16 20:22:15 PST 1999

Beautiful Word:

In addition to the sound there is the meaning with surprises and laughter dripping all over it.

Allein Tue Feb 16 20:22:02 PST 1999

Jai - That is so cool. Mind if I use some of it - not all some. I can't write that kinda stuff.

Bai bai,

Lena Tue Feb 16 17:32:34 PST 1999

To continue my current narcissist trend, let me tell you how I came up with the idea for my novel/story/whatever. Hold in your enthusiasm, I can tell everyone is riveted!

There is a song by Counting Crows called "Rain King" that struck a note somewhere inside of me. Some beautiful images, a few catchy phrases. Just for fun, I began to write a descriptive paragraph of a scene in the song. Then I needed a character, and Corbin (the main character!) was created. So I had Corbin wandering around with no purpose... here a plot began to rear its ugly head, as I introduced a character that had been living in my mind for a few months. Corbin and Lia began to talk and a world was born... What can I say? It was an unplanned pregnancy (so to speak).

I just saw "Mulan." Nice movie. Definitely one of the better Disney movies, if only for the message and morals.

"They're disgusting!"
"They're men."

Jai Tue Feb 16 17:10:09 PST 1999


Lena - I also write slowly, don't worry about it. One of the best stories I've read was a story that took a whole life time to write - "The Bone People". Once a good story is started it won't let you leave it unfinished, you will always be coming back to it.

Beginnings - I tried twice to start a novel before I found one I liked and they where long starts to like 10 - 20 pages of writing, I still have them lieing around somewhere, perhaps I'll turn them into shorts or something. Just keep trying until you write something that feels good, that feels you or right. That's about the best advice I can offer.

Rape - shock, betrail, terror, anguish. My world was ripped usunder, my mind realing under the blows of terror and betrail that smashed through me with each roaring beat of my heart.

Beautiful word - I like the word 'muse' that has been used latly here on the workbook. Nine sister goddesse that presides over the arts and sciences. It has anchient roots and holds and interesting story as well as describing something, something that I cannot describe easily any other way.

Madness is the only true freedom,


Allein Tue Feb 16 16:34:05 PST 1999

Well, I finished the poem - quick, without intervention and I'm about to go see if I can place it in the workbook. Please feel free to go and check it out. Any suggestions, comments, questions are all welcome. I'd like some suggestions. It seems to be missing something. It's not up to my standards and that bothers me because I don't have standards (just kidding).

Well, I'll leave my two cents here and let someone else write.
Bai bai,

Allein Tue Feb 16 15:49:53 PST 1999

Hi, just thought I'd drop in and tell you that I am not dead yet (but I feel like dying). I had to go to school anyway today - no getting out of it.

I'm currently working on a poem right now. It deals with how Allein felt when he was raped. And since I'm not good with words and I'm too lazy to look in a thesauras (plus I don't think we have one) I want to ask you all what are some words, phrases, feelings that come to mind when you think about rape or hear the word (just words and stuff, no stories - I got all those when I wrote the story where Allein was raped). The poem is written from his point of view and only describes feelings and so forth (no graphic stuff).

Well, I'm going to lie down and die now.
Bai bai cruel world,

Rhoda Tue Feb 16 15:14:11 PST 1999


Have no fear. Instead of typing several pages, reading them back, deciding they are crap, and rewriting, you are saving yourself trouble and maybe time by staring at your screen and getting it right in your mind the first time. Everyone has their own way of writing and their own pace. As far as having so much story in your mind, I think that is normal. Don't worry that you will tire of it before you get it all onto paper, because the more you write the more interested in it you will get. By writing the story you will discover new themes and new twists. If you are like me, some of your characters and plot lines will change as you write and will become more interesting than before. I've never had a story come out in the final draft exactly like the one I had in my head before I wrote it.

If indeed you do tire of it before you finish, the best thing to do is force yourself to keep on writing it. As you write, your interest in the story will return.

Hope this helps,


Avatar Tue Feb 16 15:00:54 PST 1999

Cowering from the shadows the creature lurks, hungry. It delights in a feast but does not share anything in return, taking, for now. It stalks the foolhardy, and, given a chance, would approach and pounce upon the unsuspecting person that dared say something it disputed with....

i.e. the people who have a tendency to lurk and watch and wait for the right comment to come out before they say something (me included(grin))

Insanity is a word we do not usually use in my little group of friends. For one thing we each have a few people inside us which I tend to think are different sides of the same person, but we enjoy thinking it is a totally different person.
I also have a totally stupid, idiotic, lame-brained, power-hungry jerk named Dragerth, Lord of the Abyss holed up somewhere in my brain. He is currently lording over the rats in the dungeon (will he ever quit?) I have a feeling that he is a mixture of every character I have ever read about that struck me as dismally idiotic, or too stupid to live.
I suppose it comes from taking a part of a good book with me no matter where I go.

To all those who write novels here...How do YOU start your novels?

I think I have exhausted all wellsprings of information right now. (I just love that word! -wellsprings- have no idea why. Just like the sound of it)

Oh, yeah. For Litter, Agsousa and others with ancient European ancestry, where did castles come from and what types are there left?

For all those big and small,
Courage comes equally to enthrall,
With mighty forces held in spate,
And to our shame, often breached too late


S.K.S. Perry Tue Feb 16 13:21:32 PST 1999

Hey all,

Thomas, I have no problem with the subject of wine, it's the taste that kills me. And I am a firm believer that military service should be strictly voluntary, especially when one is forced to give up so many of the rights and freedoms that others take for granted, or called upon to do things that "civilised" or "sane" individuals never could. "Sir,We are here to defend democracy, not practice it, Sir."

I have been very fortunate in that I have been left alone to do what I do with next to no supervision--mostly because I get results, and because my superiors can't understand how I manage to accomplish the things I do, so how can they supervise them. Believe me, I work strictly outside the lines. Occasionally it gets me in trouble, but when you're a valuable commodity, you're allowed a certain amount of leeway.

Of course, I'm more or less retired from "active" duty, and we have found that you can't really teach the things I do instinctively, so the powers that be would really just rather forget about me. It seems they're happy to just let me work out my last couple of years of service, collect my pension, and hope I go away, which suits me fine too.

Have you ever noticed that the military tends to breed cynics?

Be Well, Live Well.

Lena Tue Feb 16 13:20:16 PST 1999

SKS - I think the term for a pessimist who still has hope for the future is a "optimistic realist." Or was that a "realistic optimist?" And thank you for the compliment on my ramblings about language. I was in a strange, fey mood yesterday... I think it had to do with lack of sleep.

Agrousa - Me thinks your muse is alive and well inside Jon the Cat's feline mind... give him some catnip and perhaps you will find yourself writing the Next Great Portuguese Novel!

Insanity, et all - I think an unstable pov is only as interesting as you write it.

Michelle, Snarly - I took American Literature last year, and one of the stories we read was "Winter Dreams" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I liked "Winter Dreams" quite a lot, and was a bit miffed when my teacher informed us in a no-nonsense voice that this was a story of obsession. I was the quiet, straight A student who sat in the back of the classroom, and I believe she was surprised that I raised my hand to comment. "I don't think this was a story of obsession," I said in a quivering voice, and her eyes got wide and red and she started to breath fire and she grew a forked tail and...

Well, you get the point. I only dared to disagree out loud one other time after that, on a story by William Faulkner ("The Bear," I believe) and I left that class with singe marks also. It just ain't worth it.

Thomas - I am glad you have Agousa to discuss wine with, as wine is one thing I have no opinion on. Well, actually I do have an opinion, but not much experience to back it up. I figure one day I'll wake up, be able to enjoy wine and coffee and ketchup, and join the adult world. Til that day...

When I sit down to write, I tend to do more thinking and staring at the screen then actual typing. I believe I average something like a few paragraphs per half-hour. Is this good or bad? The thing is, I don't get much at all written, but I do like what I write, but then I feel bad because the actual writing of my stories goes so slowly while my mind is working as fast as always. For example, on my current story (which I'm hoping might make it to novel length) I have only written ten pages, but it's probably the bloody well best ten pages I've ever written. But at this rate, I'm going to be a long time until I finish the whole story I have in my mind... thank goodness I'm young and have time! Only thing is, knowing myself, once I've "written" the whole story in my mind I will lose interest with actually writing it out for others. Any thoughts? I really, really, REALLY want to finish this story. One way I'm doing that is to tell others about it (like you guys!) so that I will have others counting on me to finish the story even when I get bogged down in the middle and become completely discouraged. Sigh.

Imagine all the people...

Thomas Tue Feb 16 12:27:57 PST 1999


For many years I have been known by friends and family as a major cynic, and likely they are correct -- what I call reality, they call cynicism. Anyway, I have a friend who tells me she believes that because I am a cynic, I am the true optimist. She says a cynic makes others think, and she can come up with no better definition of optimism than to make others think.

I suppose in my friend's view, the word cynic describes a pessimist with hope.

Perhaps you could learn to appreciate at least the subject of wine by tying it to the subject of history. Wine was there nearly in the beginning and it has traveled the road with humanity since. That it brings pleasure (to me, and I think to Agsousa) is simply a bounus.

To all,

We are all insane, if not always, at least once in a while. I relish my insanity; it keeps others on their toes; and it also keeps me unique. But then, as Hootie alluded to, to be a writer is to flirt with and sometimes succeed in reaching a true state of insanity.

To paraphrase, "out of the mouths of crazed comes great wisdom".

SKS, you will appreciate this story.

When I was in the US Air Force during the Vietnam War I spent neraly four years trying to get out of the Air Force. I succeeded but only because my time of service had finally reached its end. In the process, instead of throwing me out (and I won't tell you the things I did) the Air Force sent me to group therapy once a week (it also sent me for one year to Thule Greenland, which is where I think I truly lost my mind).

In the midst of a tour of duty at one of the Air Bases I spent time, the chief staff sargeant in charge of my unit once asked me why I go to group therapy every week. I looked at him intently, stuck one thumb in my ear and the other in an armpit and screamed "because I am nuts".

He was afraid of me after that; left me alone for the rest of my tour. Yet, I wanted not to be left alone; I wanted to let out.

I had two years to go, and I still wanted to be let out of the Air Force, but the fact that the sargeant left me alone after that incident gave me some freedom.

Thought for the day: "Sanity or the lack of it, is merely a state of mind."

S.K.S. Perry Tue Feb 16 11:31:06 PST 1999

Agsousa, it's the content. The language is fine. I think in truth it's not that I don't understand them, it's that they are unique--not quite like the others here in topic and form--I like that!

Thomas, by the way, I'm the non-drinker you wondered about earlier, not S.N. Arly. (Perhaps that is why sometimes you and Agsousa lose me--no common ground, at least not when it comes to wines and such.)

Be Well, Live Well.

S.N.Arly Tue Feb 16 11:26:21 PST 1999

Litter - I'm pretty sure I haven't maligned the Celts in any way, so I'm still confused on that one. Perhaps you misinterpreted my summary of a very old history text that I had included to show how bias can effect the telling of history. Those weren't my words. I was merely using them as an example. I OTH prefer to study the pre-christian Celts. More my style and my family.

Michele - Uh-huh. Been there, done that. I still think those who have dissected literary works were actually locked up in a dungeon until they came up with two pages worth of symbolism essay material for every one page of text. Couldn't Huck Finn have merely been a nice stroy? Why does everything have to symbolize something? I almost never use symbolism, but in the one creative writing class I took, my peers found tons in my stuff. None of it real, intentional or accurate. Ick. And I've heard the death/sex thing before, only I think it was a different poet. My teacher justifyed it by saying that orgasm in latin literally means to die a little death. Whatever.

On insanity - Who's to say there's anything really wrong with those who see things that the rest of us don't? Maybe those things are there and the rest of us are not performing to spec, therefore can't see them. Maybe those people are more evolved than the rest of us or have some psionic ability the rest of us don't comprehend. Perhaps it's all a matter of perception.

"When you're there, I sleep lengthwise
and when you're gone, I sleep diagonal in my bed."

agsousa Tue Feb 16 10:48:14 PST 1999

Hey, everybody:

I've posted the first paragraph of my second published novel in the Novel Workshop. Please run to read it. Don't be discouraged yet! I'm going to take my PowerBook to the Algarve — south of Portugal — and try to have the time and patience to type it in the computer. I may publish the whole book in the appropriate place of this site if I don't change my mind in the meantime. (It's a short novel — some 150 pages, no more).

Incidentally, wouldn't it be nice if there were here an essay section as well? I have got a fine article about Shakespere in Eça de Queirós — and it is in good English.

PERRY: you say you sometimes don't understand my posts. Is it because of the language or of the contents? Thanks for liking them. I also love yours.

S.K.S. Perry Tue Feb 16 10:09:10 PST 1999

Hey all,

Howard, you're right, you may be crazy, but you're in good company!:P Sometimes I wonder if the words "sanity" and "reality" might not be more interchangeable than we would like to believe. The concept (amoung other things)is something I attempted to explore in my short story "Need to Know," and perhaps a bit in the one I'm working on now.

Agsousa, I love your posts--I don't always understand them, but I love them. And I think the more we move towards a true Global Village, the better off we will be. It's when it is too easy to see others as "Them" instead of "Us" that we are at our worst. Of course, humankind will always try to find some niggling little distinction to try and set one group above the other, be it race, religion, or simply the colour of ones eyes. (Is there a word that describes a pessimist who still has hope for the future?)

Lydia, I received chapter 20 and will get back to you on it soon--promise.

And Caroline, I haven't forgotten about you either! By the way, I hope you're holidays are finished soon (selfish of me, isn't it) because I miss your input here. There are a lot of new voices here at the Notebook, and yours is lacking.

Be well, Live well.

Howard Tue Feb 16 09:24:44 PST 1999

I may be crazy, but I've been considering for several years now, the thought that perhaps insanity is the other way 'round. Maybe we, who deem unstable those people who claim to have playmates that we cannot see, or who see things that we "know" are not there, are the ones taking refuge from reality. Perhaps we've intentionally (conditionally?) outgrown such notions simply because it's widely accepted that Harvey really doesn't exist, therefore we refuse to acknowledge his presence.
What child has not enjoyed an "imaginary" playmate -- until a well-intentioned reality-conditioned "adult" convinced him that he's "too old" to play with Puff?
But (thankfully) sometimes Harvey and Puff refuse to be castoff into the "used-to-be" corner of our closets, and start creeping back into our hard, cold worlds. And sometimes they leave the door open a crack, and we look through, and see it's all in color out there!

agsousa Tue Feb 16 09:00:17 PST 1999

I asked Jon, my neighbour's cat, if I was not occupying precious room scribbling notes on a page mainly frequented by science-fiction and fantasy writers. Here's what he miaowed:
" That's something which only your friends can tell you. But isn't any division of literature in genres a bit artificial nowadays? Who can tell the difference between prose and poetry nowadays? Aren't your best pages poetic? Not that I like it, but that's the only thing I bare in your scribblings. Nowadays the trend is for unification and not division. Look at your wretched country: just a member of the EC, a state of Europeland, like Florida in relation to the USA, not the Portugal of yore, the country that gave *new worlds to the world* and all that rubbish. Nowadays the earth is just a global village and all the genres are just literature."
"Nowadays, Jon?"
"Well, now that I think of that, it is is already an oldish trend. Your best poet ever, Camões, wrote an epic poem, "The Lusiads", in which he mingled mythical pagan gods, like the Muses and the Nymphs, with historical characters, like Vasco da Gama. History mingled with Fantasy in the most shameless fashion. And the result was one of the greatest literary works of the 16th century."
"And nowadays, Jon?"
"What's nowadays? Nowadays can be "Alice in the Wonderland", boy, "The Brumes of Avalon", man, "1984", brother, "A Clockwork Orange", scum, "The Lord of the Rings", dreamer, "Space Odyssey", macaddict, and all those titles you keep on your bedside table together with "Finnegans Wake", "The Death of Virgil" or "The Metamorphosis". You like them all, don't you?
"Yes, I do."
I said and remembered an episode of my childhood. There was this little boy living around the corner, and I loved him very much because he was kind to me and used fascinating words in his speech. He was seven years old, and I more or less the same age, but he was at least 9 hours ahead of me, and I admired him very much. So one day he used a word which I did not know at all: "aliás". Meaning otherwise. He said "aliás" and I started using this word immediatelly, with such passion and joy that he was astounded and went away when I called him "aliás" as if that could be his first name.
Jon, the cold, pragmatic cat, who has not discovered yet that the most beautiful word in English is the compund "senseandsensibility" and not "money" as he keeps telling me, learned yesterday the word "nowadays", so he keeps repeating it all the time, sometimes wrongly. Last week it was the phrase "global village". I think that in a century's time he — or his descendants if he is not kinder to me — will be speaking the only language in the universe: miaowese.

Michele Tue Feb 16 08:38:23 PST 1999

HI all !

SNArly - I know what you mean about evil teachers telling you the meanings of books.... they also have a bad habit of telling you the meaning of poetry as well (Pleeeeassse !) - yesterday was a prime example... I was told death is a metaphor for sex in Keats and Donne - "WHAT" ?????!!!!!! Well I've read lots of Donne and a fair bit of Keats and sex never entered my head !!! Yuk !

Agsousa - I like Catcher in the Rye - I read it for English at school about 15 years ago, then bought a copy and re-read it as a student 10 years ago... I recently re-re-read it (!) and still enjoyed it.... can't be bad !

As to a beautiful word... mine has to be "friend"... as someone once said "Friend derives from a word meaning 'free'. A friend is someone who allows us the space and freedom to be." Then there was Cicero who said "Life is nothing without friendship." Or Francis Bacon "The worst solitude is to be destitute of sincere friendship." But Katherine Mansfield sums up my attitude best : "The truth is friendship is to me every bit as sacred as eternal marriage." The one thing that really annoys me is when single friends marry and forget their former friends !

I'll shut up now before I get on my soapbox.... Hayden will be buying several villas in France otherwise ! :-)


Hootie Tue Feb 16 06:37:28 PST 1999

I have a problem coming up with a single word that I prefer; as a writer, it’s the combination of words that is appealing, putting them together in new and different ways. Plus, English is such a diverse language that you need more than a single word to convey meaning. For instance, when I say chair, do you see a straight-backed wooden kitchen chair, a metal folding chair, or something that’s well padded and glides easily across the floor? The power of the written word has always been known, although we sometimes forget. But the American revolutionaries knew: freedom of speech was extremely important to them. The Russian revolutionaries knew it, too, and tried to forbid all but government approved publications. And for Litter, the ancient Celts forbade the written word for anything important, especially their religious beliefs. They knew that writing them down would remove power from the priests.

As for insanity, there is such a wide variety, from the obsessive way most of us need to create stories with words to the full blown schizophrenic. A lack of credibility is not necessarily insanity, though, especially with the first person POV, where the narrator’s view of the world my not be what is actually going on. And the author may choose to misdirect the reader, especially in mysteries. But true insanity is hard to define. Mostly we associate it with a way of thinking that is completely foreign to us, but that could be cultural, couldn’t it? As was pointed out, the Russians don’t have a concept of privacy, which is completely unreasonable to the American mind. And in Science Fiction, wouldn’t most aliens be insane by our POV?

S.N.Arly—I write mostly on the computer, but I find that altering that routine can help me figure out trouble spots. So I do a lot of long hand scribbles all over the place, mostly on a legal pad or mini notebook. But there was a time that I used huge sheets, about 2’ x 3’, which was fun, because I didn’t worry about how many pages I was writing. I just wrote, and wrote, until finally it was filled. That felt like a huge accomplishment, too.

Thomas Tue Feb 16 06:25:24 PST 1999


Far from being a Luddite myself (been working with computers since the days of keypunch) I still harbor a love-hate relationship with the beast, mainly for the reason you point out. I am completely unconvinced that even the mighty microchip is capable of doing anything as heroic as making my life better or simpler (now that's a joke).

As for the Internet, and its promise: seems to me many of the things being said about it were once said about the great innovation of television. We all know what happened to television when the hucksters got their hold on it; the internet seems to be heading in the same direction.

Speaking of Internet, has anyone heard of the move in Congress (United States, that is) toward imposing a tax on every Internet dial-up? We must fight it.

Merlot: You are so right. I have a barometer that effectively predicts the next wine fad in the U.S. As soon as a wine name begins to flourish throughout the movies and made-for-tv movies, it will become cheap, plentiful and terrible. Merlot is a noble grape, used to be the domain of the great domains of St. Emilion and Pomerol districts in France. Like Chardonnay, another once great reserve of France (this time Burgundy), Merlot has been cheapened and made a generic term rather than the great wine it could be.
The true benefit of Merlot is as a blending grape to soften Cabernet Sauvignon -- but don't get me started.

Insanity: I have had a few brushes with insanity, in the form of schizophrenia in a family member and one of my best friends when in my teens. I have been struggling to write an account of those experiences but find that whenever I write about the madness it seems surreal, and I seem detached. I believe the detached feeling is a survival mechanism -- not wanting to identify too closely with the subject. It is difficult to think and then to write what might be going on in an insane mind, and at the same time make it a credible account.

Many of you have cited the great insane characters of literature. Has anyone ever seen the movie The Ruling Class, with Peter O'Toole, circa 1970's? A marvelous study in insanity. I have looked for the book, if there is one, but have yet to locate it.

toby b Mon Feb 15 20:13:58 PST 1999

Insanity is a powerful and wonderful intoxicant, a brimming and delicious nectar that ever so often I enjoy dipping into. Funny that it should be mentioned, as my last story read for creative writing class featured a character very much on the edge of insanity.

But that is as it should be. It is a fine line between creative and insane, and I enjoy tiptoeing around with my characters.

Hell, if I can't be interested in what's going on, how can I can expect my reader to be?

Write lots...

Jack Mon Feb 15 20:10:40 PST 1999

That is the Britannica 99 DVD version that I was referring to.

Jack Beslanwitch Mon Feb 15 20:09:47 PST 1999

      Speaking of software that some find useful. After exposures to such utter flops as Encarta and Comptons CD Encyclopedias, I have recently purchased the Encyclopedia Britannica DVD version combined with a Britannica Online membership. This is a very useful combination and where I was sorely disappointed with the earlier interface for EB in the 98 version, the reviewers were right this version is rather nicely done. Having the complete text from the paper version of Encyclopedia Britannica does not heard either.

      As for insanity and Shakespeare, I think many of us teethed on Hamlet's self indulgent consideration of suicide or Lady Macbeth's Out out damnded spot. Then there is Cervantes Don Quixote. He is only at his best when he still subscribes to the delusion of being a night in shining armor. The tension of this with sanity is a central theme in the work. The musical version, Man of La Mancha highlights this very effectively. I had the privelege of seeing it done on stage here in Seattle.

      Then, again, insanity as a plot device is one element. Another, is the one question of one of the central components of the story is the change in the protagonist. Descent in madness and the reasons why could well be an interesting element of change. Depending, this could either be a triumph or a tragedy.

Howard Mon Feb 15 19:58:47 PST 1999

I did *not* post that twice! This beast must have the hiccups! Driving me inSANE, it is!
Speaking of which, several stories come to mind that use insanity (and the journey there) quite well: several by Poe, including "The Cask of Amontillado."
Then there's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," a few by Robert E. Howard, Stephen King's "The Shining," etc etc. And I think W. Shakespeare might have even use a touch of madness here and there.

howard Mon Feb 15 19:45:17 PST 1999

Litter -- Thanks for the pointer to the software. I will look it up and revisit the genre. (Can
we use genre to also describe a classification of software? Or is it limited to the arts?)

Thomas -- I am *not* a Luddite (he said in his best Nixon imitation) but merely anti
“technology-is-the-salvation-of-life-as-we-know-it.” I love to play with these infernal
machines, but I do not grovel before the gates of Gates. I guess I just haven’t heard a
satisfactory answer to a most important question: “Who’s gonna fix it when it breaks?”

Words? There are so many. Along with the usual suspects (like Mom, Dad, love) I like

Thomas again -- Perhaps you can answer this one: What did we do before merlot? It
almost seems (around here, anyway) that one is socially outcast unless one has laid in a
case or two of the stuff. And I can’t see the reason. Not that I’m a great wine-bibber you
understand -- I do like a glass of a decent chianti now and again, but I haven’t seen a
merlot that I’d drink again.


howard Mon Feb 15 19:44:54 PST 1999

Litter -- Thanks for the pointer to the software. I will look it up and revisit the genre. (Can
we use genre to also describe a classification of software? Or is it limited to the arts?)

Thomas -- I am *not* a Luddite (he said in his best Nixon imitation) but merely anti
“technology-is-the-salvation-of-life-as-we-know-it.” I love to play with these infernal
machines, but I do not grovel before the gates of Gates. I guess I just haven’t heard a
satisfactory answer to a most important question: “Who’s gonna fix it when it breaks?”

Words? There are so many. Along with the usual suspects (like Mom, Dad, love) I like

Thomas again -- Perhaps you can answer this one: What did we do before merlot? It
almost seems (around here, anyway) that one is socially outcast unless one has laid in a
case or two of the stuff. And I can’t see the reason. Not that I’m a great wine-bibber you
understand -- I do like a glass of a decent chianti now and again, but I haven’t seen a
merlot that I’d drink again.


Goodweed of the North Mon Feb 15 18:23:14 PST 1999

Jack: When I think of insanity in a book as of late, I think of "Them Bones". Though it is not truly insanity that afflicts those in Stassis, it could be close. Science fiction is always pushing the envelope of sanity. Think of the brilliant Harlan Ellison and his wonderful short "I have No Mouth and I Must Scream". Think also of Stephen R. Danloldsno's "Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever" series. And then we can look at fantasy. Can anyone say "Xanth"?

In classic heroic fantasy, we have "Elric of Melnibone", and the always tormented Mouser in Fritz Lieber's "Fafhard and the Grey Mouser" stories.

Even Marion Zimmer Bradley touches fingertips with madness in her incredible "Darkover" series.

I guess the point is, that most villains are a bit mad, whether it be for power, wealth, or just plain evil. They (and some times the hero as well) have to be a bit crazy to be so dangerous.

The other workbook story "As Darkness Descends" has a healthy dose of madness built in. It has become central to the story.

Finally; aren't we as writers a bit touched. We put in long (extemely long) hours with no gaurentee of monetary, or especially self empowering reward. If I write a story, there is no gaurantee that in three months, I won't hate it because of its endless mistakes (so far I still like my story).

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North

Litter Mon Feb 15 18:09:14 PST 1999

Sundry greetings,

Howard -

The program I have is called ‘StoryBuilder’ by Seven Valleys Sofware, Glen Rock, PA
Phone (717) 235-8929 Hours: 8am to 5pm M-F Eastern time

They do have a website but I’ve lost the URL.

SNArly -

Didn’t mean to lecture you, but it was prompted by something you posted about a week or so ago. Being a born and bred Celt I just like things relating to Celtic History to be right.

All –

The use of ‘Lunatic’ unstable or ‘mad’ narrators – Not all types of madness are obvious. Psychosis manifests itself in many ways and it is possible to have a calm, rational, lucid character who appears totally credible. Used to specific effect this can be a useful ploy, but to give credibility to the story as a whole it would have to be carefully tackled – much more so than a character in the story.

I once video taped a psychiatric patient for medical purposes, The purpose of the video was to show how lucid, credible and ‘normal’ a particular patient was during conversation. After 10 mins or so of smalltalk the psychologist present asked about the man’s hobby – which was collecting one of each type of weapon in the British Small Armaments Company catalogue (one of the main suppliers of weapons to the UK government), which ranged from pistols to missiles, mortars to field guns. The man in question was an ex-postman living on his own in a council house on state benefits. Pass him in the street you would never know. He came to medical attention when he hassled the company for failure to deliver the items he had ordered and then tried to sue the post office for retaining the mail orders he claimed to have sent to BSA.

I think, maybe I shall use this guy as a character?

Y’all be good now,


Thomas Mon Feb 15 17:24:02 PST 1999


You have not played my game. Indeed, you have conceded. I am deflated.

Yes, certainly, sherry came first. But port is more fun.

White port. We cannot get that wonderful product here. I had it once, fifteen years ago. Send me some and I will be your friend forever. Ah, I'll be your friend even if you do not send me white port (but a better friend I would be if you do).


Me thinks I detect and anti-techie. Welcome to my club. Sorry Jack, but we non-techies need an outlet too.

To no one in particular,

Words, words, words. What is the prettiest word to your ears? Is it love, joy, hope, money, writing, freedom? Is it travel, book, family, fame, music? Is it song, serve, serene, safe, self? Is it you, me, us, them, we? Is it why, when, how, who? Simple words, these, but they can also be pretty. Depends on how we say, hear and think of them.

Questions: We know the speed of light. What is the speed of dark? We are who we are, but who are we?

Yesterday I saw the movie, Shakespeare in Love, written by Tom Stoppard. Clever movie -- I quite liked it. Did anyone else like it?

I am dizzy tonight.

Allein Mon Feb 15 16:25:01 PST 1999

Agsousa - Thanks for visiting my page. But, could you e-mail the message to me - my guestbook doesn't work. I found that out a while ago and never got around to fixing it (or finding out what's wrong with it in the first place). I should do that sometime. I read "The Catcher in the Rye" when I was in ninth grade, but since it was required and my teacher usually had us read the most boring books, I never actually read it, I kinda skimmed through it. The writing seemed good and so did the story, but I can't really give much of an opinion.

Well, as much as I hate to keep this short - I'm sick and would much like to lay down and take a nap. ^.~
Bai bai,

agsousa Mon Feb 15 15:47:18 PST 1999

Lena wrote:

"I do not have a single word. I have a feeling inside of me that is waiting for a word to set it free."

Well, Lena, that is more or less the subject of a book I have been trying to write since a novelist I admired very much died. I think he would be able to write a remarkable novel with just that theme (not even characters, or plot — he was so good that he could very well dispense with that) but he died. And when he died, someone very dear to me said: "What is really painful is to know that we will not read any new book by him." He was a great friend of ours and we loved him. What she said was however the greatest homage to this writer I heard. So, I thought that I would like to please her and write the book this great novelist cannot write any more. It seems to be an impossible mission.

This discussion about words is extremely motivating to me, but we can speak about other things as well, if you like.

Thomas asked: sherry or port — which came first?
I don't know, Thomas. Perhaps sherry. I think Shakespeare already mentions Port wine but, being very unpatriotic today, I'd like the Spaniards to win at least one battle in their secular history of battles against the Portuguese. Sherry is originally Spanish, isn't it? We rarely drink it here. It was very popular as an appéritif in some colleges of British universities. I usually preferred water. But I would not miss a glass of Port after dinner. Do you know that here we drink *white* port as an appéritif? Much better than sherry.
À propos: isn't there a Xavier around? If you are Spanish, please post us something. I hear Barcelona beat Real Madrid 3-0 on Sunday. No wonder, the best Barcelona player is Figo, a Portuguese.

Do you see, my dear Americans, how we in Europe have so much competition going around among countries, sometimes as small as the state of New York, but rich in history and battles.

Sorry for this small talk, ye great writers. Cheers!

Howard Mon Feb 15 14:21:56 PST 1999

Now you have piqued my interest, Litter -- what software do you use? I was writing from early descriptions and wish-lists that we used to see in pc magazines. You know -- back when the Personal Computer was regarded as The Salvation Of Everything. Back then they looked forward to the day when an author would drop some alphabet into the hopper, and the trusty pc would deliver the next Pullet Surprise. Then there was the program that would enable the would-be composer (with no musical background whatever) to hum into a microphone and expect the quality of Liszt, or Mozart, or Billy Ray Cyrus to come booming out the "attached high quality stereophonic subwarp woofers."
I heard a demo once. Liked my tinnitis better.

Thomas Mon Feb 15 14:19:50 PST 1999


I now know why you do not choose to use your real name on the Internet -- you shall be placed at sea and made to drift and to drink sherry for the rest of your days should your king find out who you are; sherry not port. A question for you: which came first, sherry or port?

I agree about Internetese, and about techspeak. Whenever I am on the phone with a technical person to talk about my latest computer problem (and this is often) I stop the techie in his tracks as soon as he starts with the techspeak. "English," I shout, "speak English to me, or Italian, but do not speak techspeak." There is no emotion in techspeak.

Your reference to insane narrators is perfect. I, too, liked the Catcher in the Rye a long time ago (and I believe Holden was "touched"). I read it again about two months back; didn't find it as good as I remembered it. One of us has not withstood the test of time -- must be Salinger, can't be me.

S.K.S. Perry Mon Feb 15 14:08:50 PST 1999

Hey all,

Words. Is it no wonder the ancients believed that words have power? A few scribles in the sand; stick figures on papyrus; a verticle or horizontal slash here or there on a piece of paper in a particular pattern that others can recognise--suddenly we have put a name to something tangible or intangible. Whether it conjours to mind the image of a chair where there is none before you, or a picture of your smiling beloved even though they may be thousands of miles away, or a feeling of pride in your homeland--these simple marks create images, ideas, and worlds in the minds of those who bear witness to nothing more than set patterns. They transcend time; their power does not fade with age. To me, they will forever be something magical and mystical.

Lena, your earlier post on the subject was most beautifully stated, and inspired my own.

S.N. Arly, when I am inspired I can write anywhere on anything, in the midst of a maelstrom if need be. When I'm not, only complete silence and isolation will entice my muse to grace me with her presence.

Be Well, Live Well.

agsousa Mon Feb 15 12:40:40 PST 1999

HOPE. I won't forget. How sweet of you to have bothered thinking of beautiful and rich terms to answer my survey. Your nice words about the Portuguese language and people pleased me very much as well.

The Eddie French/Agsousa show yesterday night was a very solitaire game. Everybody seemed to be in the arms of Morpheus and I ended by trying to wake up this most excellent group of writers with a socio-political tirade about the Americans as Innocents Abroad. I'm glad no one took offence. By the way, do you know where a Portuguese puts his hand when listening to his/her national anthem? In the pocket of the European Community... Hey, compatriots, stop, I am one of you (last beautiful words, they have just killed me! ALLEIN! Help!)

Allein: I visited your site and left a little message there. The fact that, as a fiction character, you are supposed to be homosexual filled my heart with joy. Not that I am gay myself (I'm not, sorry), but that's a clever trick for a woman writer to deal with male characters. What do you think of "The Catcher in the Rye"? I loved that book in my salad days. I like to think of me as a kind of Salinger, as I hate interviews, vernissages, and so on. (Not that I am very much in demand!)

Thomas: Are you sure about the lack of emotion as a feature of (future) English? We must do something to avoid that. One good first step is perhaps to fight Internetese. Those little emoticons, for instance, get on my nerves. The Portuguese were never violent. It was just that there were so many blooded foreigners trying to stop us from filling our pockets. (Allein, help me again, please! My compatriots are calling me traitor to the king and his mistress. Oh, I forgot! We have no king anymore. My greatgrandparents killed the last one in 1908. Not that it was a violent act, no, much to the contrary.)

Jack: Insanity and narrator's unreliability in science fiction? Couldn't that topic cover *all* fiction? Some great names occur to me right away: Pirandello, Becket, Céline, even the delightful Marquis the Sade. And, in the wake of Sade, how about insanity and sex: I loved a book by the great French poet Apollinaire "Les Onze Mille Verges ou Les Amours d'un Hospodar." Some regard it as a crude sexual exercise (the author himself would think of it as such, I'm sure), but I admired Apollinaire's incredible imagination as far as sexual deviations are concerned, and I laughed a lot with such a terrible book. Complete craziness. Well, in sci.fiction, perhaps Hall (Space Odyssey) could fit into your suggestion. I never understood Arthur Clark's story, but I enjoyed the Kubrik's film very much (though I didn't understand the ending either).

Here's Apollinaire for you, people of the rain and winter:

Il pleut
Mon amour
C'est merveilleux
Je t'aime
Nous resterons à la maison
Rien ne nous plaît que nous même
Par ce temps d'arrière saison

(Who has the book? Please continue the poem. Valentine's day should be every day.)

Thomas Mon Feb 15 12:20:07 PST 1999


As awriter, I believe I must strive to find a word or words to express those inner feelings, or how will I move my reader? Also, your explanation of 1984 and Newspeak shows what can happen when expression is stymied. The one thing I admire about the Romance languages is the many times when the depth of a particular word brings up so much emotion in the people who understand the language, yet there is no corresponding word or concept in English.

Here's one for you. I know a fellow who interprets Russian. He told me the Russian language has no word or words for the concept of privacy. He says that is just one of the reasons it is easier for their political and monarchical regimes to exert control.


I understand the way you feel about someone standing over your shoulder when you write. That is exactly how I feel when I am on a deadline, whether or not someone physically stands behind me; there have been occasions in my career where I had to write with someone standing behind me, but most of those people met with an early demise!

As for where and under what conditions, I admit to being one of those who needs complete and total alone-ness for writing. I love music but do not even that going on around me when I write.

Writing is the only time when I truly feel I am at peace and one with the universe; I want little interruption.

Lena Mon Feb 15 11:41:04 PST 1999

In the book "1984" by George Orwell, the main character works in an office of the Ministry of Truth, editing past newspapers so that they might accurately reflect the present, so that the government might further control the minds of the people. Another job of the Ministry of Truth was to consolidate the language into Newspeak - a language in which there are no words for concepts such as joy, hope, freedom, and saudade. If there is not a word to express that vague stirring of something you feel inside, how can you discuss it with others? How can you even know it truly exists?

Words can have such power, and only the poets seem to realize this. Or rather, I should say, the words have power because they call up feelings and ideas inside of us. Does a dictionary truly define a word? No. Some words are best defined by the object... this is a hammer, but you need to see it to understand it... and some words are best defined by doing... that girl is running, watch her and see what running is... and some words are best defined by experience.

I do not have a single word. I have a feeling inside of me that is waiting for a word to set it free.

S.N.Arly Mon Feb 15 11:33:58 PST 1999

Litter - I think I write as quickly and efficiently as I can. And as a non-linear writer that sort of program would do me little good. I don't usually have an outline, and I honestly don't WANT one.

I guess I'm a little lost. Why the history lesson? Was it maybe intended for someone else?

Jack - Thanks for the update. Keep us informed so I can keep my bookmarks (and links) up to date.

Michele - I actually liked the Turn of the Screw, only I didn't realize the narrator wasn't quite with it on my first read through. Oops. Silly me. Though that was years ago when I didn't question what I read. I just read it. After my evil English teacher explained it, I think I liked the story a lot less.

Off topic - I admit the current topic doesn't thrill me, and I am curious, so I'll ask. How versatile are you as a writer? Do you need specific conditions to write or can you write any where, anytime, with any type of equipment? I know some people who can only write when the house is silent, no one else is home, and the muse has struck them with a great plan. I, on the other hand, can and will write just about anywhere at any time. Though I try not to do much at work, lest I should get canned for goofing off (gotta eat and pay those bills).

Sometimes I find it useful to actually get out of the house and go where there are people (mall, airport, zoo, park), especially if I'm trolling for ideas or working on character development. This said, I absolutely CAN'T write if someone is standing directly behind me or reading over my shoulder. Sorta stifles the ability to be creative since I become worrried about how stupid things may be perceived in the rough draft phase.

"All the things he lacks he makes up for in denial..."

Lydia Sweet Mon Feb 15 09:57:28 PST 1999


My word is HOPE. It is indeed one of the most simplistic of words, yet it can fill the sky, the ocean and the land. What is the heart or the soul without it.

Your beautiful word expressed from a beautiful language with an extensive history is romantic and derived of a passionate people.

I am an optomistic realist. Where would I be without my simple little four letter word?


Michele Mon Feb 15 09:42:01 PST 1999

Hi all

With regard to unreliable narrators, I've only read one book that has an instance of this... it's Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw"... now if you want an example of an non-SF book with an unreliable narrator I suggest you read it... I don't say it's good (personally I didn't enjoy it) but I had to read it last semester and it's weird and fits the bill. The reason I didn't enjoy it (apart from Henry James's unnecessary wordiness (apologies to fans of James)) was the very fact that the narrator was unreliable and the ending was unresolved (yuk !)


PS Thought I'd better contribute to save this turning into the Eddie French/Agsousa show..... :-) Just teasing you boys - I've had a long but interesting first day back at college after my mid-semester break and am in silly mode...

Thomas Mon Feb 15 08:32:07 PST 1999

The sotyr really is story.

Thomas Mon Feb 15 08:15:05 PST 1999

Oh, I forgot. I never drink coffee in mid day. Keeps me awake!

Thomas Mon Feb 15 08:12:46 PST 1999

Being the contrarian that I usually am, I want to know why an insane narrator is considered unreliable and a sane one is not? I mean, who judges the narrator, and who decides the unreliability? Isn't it the writer's task to create reliability in the narrator? or maybe the writer would like a sotyr based on an unreliable narrator? What is wrong with that?

Agsousa and Eddie,

Yes, many on this side of the Atlantic haven't a feel (or a clue) regarding the intricate connections among European countries; that situation speaks to our education system, not to mention our cultural values. But some of us do recognize history -- I place myself in that camp. For instance, ever since I signed on this notebook I have thought of the incongruity that Eddie's last name is the same as the name of one of England's greatest sparring partners. And, Portugal's often violent past does not escape me.

In America, Agsousa, we haven't words as powerful as latin-derived words. Passion is not a feature of the American version of English, and these days we are fast diminishing what passion we might have had in the language with words and phrases like: sort of (weakens resign); very (lessens impact of the word being modified); like (makes no sense); I would (separates from a definite stand); mistakes were made (take no responsibility).

The point is, our language seems heading in the direction of removing passion; in fact, we are removing human emotion.

Toby B Mon Feb 15 01:32:51 PST 1999

Too much caffeine in bloodstream:

Yup, here I am, it's five in the morning...I was working on a webpage for a company that pretty much is expecting something out of my lazy butt soon, but when I recieve their logos found out that they don't fit within the tri-frame design the customer and I discussed. I was kinda panicked, and here I am, up all night, starting all over from scratch :(

Fortunatly caffeine and sleep deprivation are good on the artistic muse, I came up with something that will work quite nicely, better than what I thought up before. I don't have much of the scut work done yet, but I can rest safer knowing basically what I have ahead.

On the other hand, I'm all keyed up with caffeine and raring to go. Might just go to breakfast...

Jack Beslanwitch Sun Feb 14 23:15:05 PST 1999

Then there are us folks who have way too much blood in our caffeine streams first thing in the morning :-)

Ashling: No, science fiction as with other genres of the written words frowns on the use of an unreliable narrator. That in itself, done right, makes it a thoroughly delicious surprise for the reader. The expectation is always there that your view point character is utter veracity incarnate. So, when Charles De Lint, an urban fantasy writer, uses this technique in a work called Memory & Dream to an awesomely effect the reader is taken by surprise and the depth of involvement in the story is increased thereby. I will not go any further into this, because I believe you will be quite delighted if you try this or any work by this wonderful author. I can see how this technique could be effectively exploited for a crime or mystery novel where the viewpoint character is sleuthing a particular crime that he actually did, for insteance. Or, perhaps, that he did and he does not realize he did. The possibility are many.

Allein Sun Feb 14 21:51:19 PST 1999

Insanity - well, I could name a few characters of mine who are insane. But then, that depends on what kind of insanity we're talking about. Are we talking the psychomaniac who likes to rape and kill young boys in alleyways? Are we talking about that girl who sits behind you in class, dresses funny, has outrageous makeup, multicolored hair and is kind of an airhead (although, this could also be expressing one's individuality, not insanity)? Are we talking about someone who is depressed to the brink of insanity that they try to kill themselves or when they get angry just grab anything in the room and throw it against the wall so it breaks - and if it doesn't break, they make darn sure it breaks? I believe there are different levels of insanity and different types. Infact, we all might be a little insane but some more than others. Or perhaps, those who are insane are sane and those who are sane are insane. And since I'm talking like I'm insane (which, many people will tell you that I am - even though I'm not, but then an insane person would never admit to being insane) I'll leave you all be.
Bai bai,

PS: I'm really not insane of course. I've just had too much caffeine and too little sleep. I guess, then, I'd better try getting some sleep before I really do go insane, huh? Bai bai. :)

Ashling Sun Feb 14 21:23:01 PST 1999

Hi all.

JACK -- Although I enjoy Sci-Fi movies, I don't write it & rarely read it ... Are you saying an unreliable POV character is an accepted practice in the Sci-Fi world?

In mainstream writing, making your POV narrator believable and reliable is sorta-kinda an unwritten law. If my main character is insane, I have to create them as a reliable narrator anyway. A delicious challenge ... if I couldn't meet it, I'd store the manuscript in my "Dead Children" File & consider it good practice.

Thanks for bringing this writing topic up ... It evokes intriguing possibilities for a true crime project I'm working on.

Take care,

Clyde Dixon Sun Feb 14 20:29:54 PST 1999

P. K. Dick sometimes has a main character who doubts their own sanity. He also has had a bunch of insane people who don't know that they are.

I have heard that he himself had some troubles with sanity. Perhaps that is the root of his interest in it.

Been pretty busy lately. Perhaps I'll have more time after this term is over.

Good Writing,

Jai Sun Feb 14 20:17:33 PST 1999


Interesting topic Jack, I don't think I could read a whole book from a madmans perpective. I to read a bit of that sort of thing however, like in fantasy or sci fi when something is messing with the main characters mind. I much preffer the subtle aproach that leaves you wondering exactly which thoughts belong the the character and which are implanted (or whatever) and when exactly the character did start acting strangly (since she seems to think everything is ok). I do think this addes additional complextion to the stroy and is very hard to write well, similar to deep intregue or religious/spiritual experiences.


agsousa Sun Feb 14 18:41:52 PST 1999

I've been disconnected anyway.

Jack Beslanwitch Sun Feb 14 18:17:09 PST 1999

        Let me throw out another possible topic for everyone's perusal and consideration. In the midst of my responsibilities for Westercon 52 as both programming the writers track and the science fiction literature track, I have had a proposed set of panels loosely surrounding the question of insanity in science fiction. Let's expand that notion and consider the whole question and use of insanity and mental disfunction in the course of character development and plot discussion.

        This could be expanded to the whole issues of the unreliable narrator. If you are unaware of this phenomena, it is where the view point protagonist that we come to have great sympathy for in a story turns out over the course of a story or novel to be unreliable and we have to begin to surmise what is really going on from the reactions of other characters in the story filtered through the viewpoint characters own prejudices and insanities. This is a particularly tricky bit of writing legerdemain. Still, the overall issue of incorporating dissociative neurosis or split personalities, manic depression or other disfunctions into a character without explicitly spelling it out to the reader except by the actions and internal dialog of the characters can be quite useful and potentially quite powerful. In a recent Lois McMaster Bujold Miles Verkossigan novel, the character of Mark Verkossigan survives a grueling torture sequence by employing his troops ala the book When Rabbit Howls by Trudi Chase, an auto biography of a multiple who makes peace with her multiple personalities not by coalescing into a single entity but by reaching an accomodation with the many different ones so that she, say, could turn on the house cleaning personality. At any rate, Bujold skillfully employs this approach in her Mirror Dance novelization. This just seems to be a particularly juicy topic for discussion. And, I will have to admit, one that ties in with my own education background with a degree is psychology. Take care everyone. Hasta mañana.

Eddie French Sun Feb 14 18:06:58 PST 1999

The times on this notebook are generaly 9 hours behind you and 8 hours behind me.
That is 3 hours behind Florida and New York, which are 5 & 6 hours behind me & you respectively.

Eddie French Sun Feb 14 17:53:41 PST 1999

Guess who I've just been 'chatting' to.
(There's no way I'm going to tell you so don't bother asking!)

Eddie French Sun Feb 14 17:50:27 PST 1999

Please stick to writing. Your talents as a diplomat are woefully lacking.
I'm not saying that you are wrong ....or that you are misinformed... I am just saying... DON'T GIVE UP YOUR DAY JOB! ( Old English saying)
I love you almost as much as I love Rhoda!

agsousa Sun Feb 14 17:37:19 PST 1999

North-Americans are (sometimes only, I hope) misinformed. Like in most relatively new countries, patriotism is still a major value for them. They put their right hand on their heart when they hear their national anthem... Beautiful, but.. I was living in the College of a university in England when they invaded Granada, some years ago. The reactions to that invasion were not exactly enthusiastic in Europe. Even newspapers like the Times were rather reticent about that. Some American scholars visited us. Most were sociologists, that is to say, people supposed to know better than the common American. I spoke to some of those sociologists, explaining to them that the whole world was not exactly aplauding their deed. I showed them The Guardian, Le Monde, Frankfurter Allgemeine, El Pays...To no avail. They had read The New York Times on the plane: they had read the bible. The most respected European newspapers were lying... This was not the land of the free... Then I talked to a Mexican (US) friend of mine. He spoke with a heavy Mexican accent, used an Apple computer, and was the most American fellow I have ever met. A very nice chap. I told him how surprised I was to see that Americans, even scholars, seemed to refuse to accept evidence. He answered me, with that wonderful accent I knew from "Gone with the Wind": "They are a bunch of ignorants and they like it that way. As for Granada, you'd better shut up if you don't want us to invade you as well." I laughed and shut up — we had reached a tricky position in our chess game and we needed to concentrate on what we were doing. But I thought that nothing very much had changed in America since, in the 19th century, Morphy had come here to play some games and had been received, back in America, in triumph, as if the USA had won the greatest of wars against the old Europeans! Parochialism? Not exactly: just a naive way of facing the world. That's why I love them.

Ed, thanks for the time. We've solved one of the trickest questions of the universe.

Eddie French Sun Feb 14 16:53:31 PST 1999

Sorry Agsousa, I forgot to do the time check with you.
I am 1 hour behind you! (And 1 hour late answering you)

eddie french Sun Feb 14 16:21:01 PST 1999

Thank you for those reassuring words. My fears are your fears, that is made obvious by your multi-lingual comments.
We live in dynamic times, I can only pray that we all have it right.
Thank you for your email response to my 'Poetic verse'. This is just the prologue to a novel of which 100 pages are now complete. If you wish, I will send more.(But you must realize that it it a fantasy novel and I know that you do not read this genre regularly)

On European politics:
IMHO. I think that we must always consider the sad fact that not all of our American friends fully appreciate the complexities of our traditional relationships and how serious the consequences of dissagreement can become.

Boy am I heavy tonight!!

Eddie french Sun Feb 14 15:59:39 PST 1999

Please cast your eyes over my latest offering on the short story workshop. This may well be transfered to the Novel Workshop if all goes well with it.
This is the story that was inspired by the recent religious debate. (Thanks Rhoda, for your passion.)
It is NOT a biography, (I value my life!)But it is written with experienced knowledge.
I have posted just the first thoughts of this story and I will edit and re-write as I see fit.
Please join me on this journey. We might all learn from it.
I will post as it comes to me.
(Am I setting myself up or what?)
I am doing this only because I trust you all.
'Ow about that then'

agsousa Sun Feb 14 15:56:58 PST 1999

Eddie, don't be afraid of Sebastianismo. It has nothing to do with war or religion. Just a sentimental trend that goes back to the XVIth century. A cultural myth. Does the word *vague-à-l´âme* tell anything to you? Or the Galician *morriña*? Well, try to give us some considerations about *nostalgia* and maybe you'll get close to *saudade*. As for Sebastianismo I'm sure the Irish traditions have something similar. I would like to know what exactly. The gist of the subsject is: what are the richest and most beautiful words in languages you may know? Just to forget about Valentine's day and all that...
I answered your email on Thursday. Did you get it? What time is it in your part of the world? Here it's 23:56. I get a bit lost with the times that are attached to these posts.

Eddie french Sun Feb 14 14:55:29 PST 1999

Sorry for getting political. But you have to live here to appreciate it.
(And all bar one of my children are on 72 hours notice for service in Kosovo)

Eddie french Sun Feb 14 14:51:50 PST 1999

This is a new word to me, but after reading Agsousa's definition of it I fear one more threat to the fragile balance of European peace.
There are so many disturbing permutations in the whole European theatre that I fear that we are ultimately racing headlong towards the unknown.
(Just a little shudder of unquiet I felt the need to share)

agsousa Sun Feb 14 12:36:39 PST 1999

Jon, my neighbour's cat, asked me this weekend:
"As you are a polyglot, tell me : what's the richest and most beautiful word in any language you know?"
"That's a subjective matter, Jon, and I really know only Portuguese. In Portuguese it's easy. That word is *saudade*. It means longing, earning, nostalgia and many other sometimes indefinable things. One may have *saudade* of one's childhood or of our national grandeur. When I miss you I say that I feel *saudades* of you, and when I write you a letter I may finish it by sending *saudades* to your girl-friend. *Soudade* is the title of a very melancholic song by the Cape Verdean singer Cesária de Évora (in creoule) and a poetic current, called *saudosismo*, led in the beginning of the century by the poet Teixeira de Pascoais. *Saudade* is the greatest myth of Portuguese culture — together with *Sebastianismo*, the longing of an entire people for a 14 year-old Portuguese king who was obsessed about taking Christianity to Africa and disappeared near Marocco in the battle of Al-Kacer-Kibir. It was the first time in five hundred centuries that the Portuguese lost an important battle, I think, but we have always been so fragile that just because we lost a battle we also lost our independence, for Spain. That was a long time ago, in the sixteenth century, but we have never forgotten that young dreamer of a king and we never put the onus on him for the lost of indepence for 60 years. We simply dream of him and hope he comes back home, on a foggy morning, to do no one knows what which will save us I don't know of what. As you see *Sebastianismo* is linked to *saudosismo*. They say this word *saudade* doesn't have any correspondence in any language of the world. I'm going to ask my friends in America if that's true or if they know of any word so rich and so beautiful as the Portuguese one *saudade*, a word which defines the soul of a people.

Allein Sun Feb 14 10:16:27 PST 1999


Hope everyone has a good one.

Xavier - Welcome. Hope you come back and leave more posts. :)

Well, bai bai all,

Michele Sun Feb 14 02:53:27 PST 1999

Hi there....

I've been reading the posts the last 2 days but I was away/busy the beginning of the week and so missed much of the discussion of religion... I don't want to bring it up again as so many wanted to move onto other topics, but I will say this, it was an interesting read, and I'm sorry that Rhoda has decided to quit posting here because of the perceived trend of the conversation. Rhoda - I think you misconstrued what was being said... I hope you're lurking out there reading even if not joining in.

On the topic of plotting software - I'd say that the program Litter uses sounds very useful... I myself use a paper-based database for my research (yes, it's old fashioned of me, I know !)... such a program would not help me much as a non-fiction writer but it sounds as if it could be useful for computer-literate (which I assume most of you are) fiction writers... as a trained programmer this kind of program would interest me from a programming pov even if not from a writing pov.

Anyway after 2 weeks of exams and 2 weeks of holiday (inter-semester break) I am looking forward to getting back to college tomorrow and studying...

Talk to you all later...


Jack Beslanwitch Sun Feb 14 01:43:49 PST 1999


   It is possible that when I archived you dropped through the cracks as I made the transition. I apologize if this was the case. Or, if it was the message you posted yesterday that I just archived, it is still available as the last archive.

Welcome Xavier. You and everyone else is welcomed to email me with your bios and post your ICQ address as well. Also, just for everyones information, I may move the location of the Notebook back to

while I am in the midst of moving everything on webwitch to a new server and making sure that the PERL script works effectively there. This will make sure that there are no down times for the Notebook. I will let everyone know when and if this happens. I will probably not be in a position to talk with until after Monday. At which point I will be moving to a new a much less expensive location. Take care everyone and keep the comments coming. Among the other advantage of moving is that I grow from 10 megs of space on the server to 50 or 150 depending on what option I elect to take. I am still considering my options.

Rachel Sun Feb 14 01:32:42 PST 1999

Welcome Xavier

This can be a very nice site. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. There are many interesting and wonderful people here that you can get to know. Have fun.

Jack - I posted something earlier and it appeares to have vanished.
This I assure you is not a great loss.

Rhoda - I hope you will come back. I get the feeling that you and I might not see eye to eye in the spritual world, but I would never want to say anyting to sway you from your faith. I wish you the greatest joy as you embrace the faith that has empowered you. If you go you will be missed. In the event that you do indeed leave us Fare Well and Write Well. My thoughts and good energy will be with you for now and always.


Xavier Sat Feb 13 20:09:46 PST 1999

Hello, fellow writers.
Being fairly new to the internet, I only just discovered this web site. Being an aspiring writer myself, it is nice to know that places such as this exist. It's often hard for me to find people who are of a like bent, and it can sometimes be a lonely experience. Sometimes, I begin to wonder if i'm crazy, being driven so strongly by the urge to create. The written word has had its hold over me for some time now, and its grip only seems to tighten with the passing years. Its nice to know that there IS a place with people just like me. Perhaps I'm not so crazy after all.

E-mail me, if your so inclined.

Jack Beslanwitch Sat Feb 13 18:34:17 PST 1999

One person noted via email that they were getting dropped before they could post and that this had happened before when the Notebook had reached close to 200k. So, I have archived to the first message today. This gives a very blank slate and I invite others to talk about plotting. Or, if you have some other writerly (is that a word?) topic or topics in mind, blast away.

Allein Sat Feb 13 17:59:12 PST 1999

And a tumbleweed blew across the desert plain. Allein lifted his head and looked around the ghost town. He brushed the hair from out of his eyes. 'I reckon I'm alone' he thought to himself.

Hi all!! Been kinda quiet 'round these parts. Thought I'd step in and lend a voice. I've just been lying around the house today - my fave Saturday afternoon activity. I drew a little bit, watched a video and began a Valentine's story (yeah, a little late - but if I finish it, I'll post it here tomorrow or Monday).

Well, see y'all around. Wishing everyone a happy Valentine's Day. :)

Bai bai,

Sat Feb 13 12:05:28 PST 1999

Litter Sat Feb 13 07:33:41 PST 1999

Hi People,

It seems much has been said regarding the evils of ‘Plotting’ software, from a position of ignorance as to what it really does. Jai is the only exception with the information from the article on the same.

I use such software and the one thing it doesn’t do is plot for you. It is a little more than a tutorial though – it is an integrated database which allows you to plan scenes, settings, problems conflicts and characters – their physical, emotional traits, relationships, etc., etc. – as well as a plethora of other stuff which sometimes includes such stuff as inspirations quotes from well known authors. The section on plot allows you to PLAN, in outline, how the plot will progress. The beauty of such a program is, like any database, it allows you to print selective résumés and reports. For me it ensure continuity of characterisation and, when the plot becomes convoluted, I can keep track of where the plot is and what is happening at any particular time. I have a terrible memory so I used to use copious notes and then lose the notes! For the same reason I welcome the section of prompts which asks you questions, NOT tells you the answers!

For those who still poo-poo the idea, how many of you make notes and refer to all sorts of reference work on writing and so forth? The program I use does this, but it does it very quickly and at the touch of a button or two. Like a note pad, it is merely an aid and like I said a few months ago – if you are a crap writer, it will let you write your crap faster and more efficiently, if you are a good writer, it will let you write your good stuff more efficiently and faster.

Not everybody’s cup of tea, but then people life Geoffrey Archer still use pencils and will not even approach a typewriter. Use software if you want, don’t use it if you don’t – same with spell-checkers and page formatters.

Snarly, meant to say this about a week ago, but I have been kind of busy:

There were three steams which brought Christianity to the UK – one of these three was indeed the Romans, or rather the Church of Rome (not the Roman Catholic Church of today). For the first three centuries AD the Romans will still slaughtering those professing Christianity, only some Romans professed such a faith.

On the point of the Saxons – they were brought to England BY the Romans as mercenaries in the 4th Century and got greedy, sending for their kinsfolk in mainland Europe in the 5th Century to drive the Romans from England and kill off/drive back those Christians there were left in England to the peripheries of what was the Roman Empire – Scotland, Ireland and Wales and Cornwall, in the UK.

The second stream was started in Ireland and was the evangelisation of the Celts by monk and priests inspired by the Desert Fathers, Ascetics from the Egyptian Deserts, independent of the Church of Rome. The third stream was the ‘official’ Christianisation of England by the Gregorian Mission, led by Augustine of Canterbury in 596/7.

Sorry to go on about this but if, as writers, we seek to use such information, it has to be as near to correct as makes no difference, within the wiles of history writers.

All Good Things,


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