Saturday, October 10, 2009

8 Days until the marathon

Still here!

Between the end of the internship, marathon training, and the start of the semester, time has just slipped out from under me.

I still haven't bothered to start the editing of The Rider, but it's coming soon. I'm getting restless, and the levity of having finished the first draft is once again becoming the burden of having an unrefined draft. I've read about 20 pages of it, and I'm already aware of major major redrafting that I will be doing especially with chapter one (More on that in the next post).

School's started back up, and is actually (as I'm posting this) already well into the semester. I know for one thing that the light at the end of the tunnel is definitely real now, and that kind of victory tastes so sweet. I'm enjoying a lot of what I'm doing this semester, except the aptly numbered SI 666 the cataloging class. The cataloging skill is becoming more and more outdated for most librarians with companies like Baker and Taylor doing most of the cataloging beforehand, and leaving whatever we have to do just being minor markups to adjust a record for appropriate collections. I'm also in video games and learning, which is a great education theory course, which made me realize more than anything else that I love education theory.

The marathon is next sunday. Part of the route passes through Canada, over the bridge to Canada, and back through the tunnel, making it the only underwater marathon in the world (check out the route here). It also meant that I needed a passport or passport card to actually do the race. I applied for one past the redline of the 4 week application process, and was starting to get nervous by the end of this last week about whether or not it would actually come. Then, today, while working with my dad on my poor dying jeep, the mail came. My dad had one of his ESP moments where out of the blue he looked up and said, "You should go check the mail, I bet it came today." Lo and Behold there it was!

Lastly I'm getting pumped to try my hand on NaNoWriMo this November. Last year I started a story about a Rock God (read about it here). It didn't get finished, but the chunk that I got done I was really proud of. This year I figured out my story already, I have 21 days to plot and play and think and relax, and then, November 1st it's game on!

Now it's back to pretending to do homework, and waste time before the Michigan vs Iowa game.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

MHAL Closing Protest

In an earlier post this summer I mentioned the executive order that abolished the Michigan Department of Histories Arts and Libraries. In the days that followed things appeared surprisingly quiet. In the next week word trickled down to many of my fellow students at the School of Information and there were a lot of questions being asked about what could be done about this. And until recently it appeared like not much at all. Then I was forwarded this message that I wanted to share with anyone who has been reading this:

“On Wednesday the 5th of August, let's assemble at the State Capitol, on the lawn. We have reserved the North and South lawns, and the steps. Time, 9:45 a.m. The State Senate goes into session at 10 a.m., the only time in the next few weeks we can be certain our legislators will be assembled at Lansing. At 10:30 a.m., we will process/march over to the Michigan Historical Center and form our *Hands Around the Library* -- in hopes of good media coverage! Since the perimeter of the building is a round 1800 feet, it is obvious we can use as many genealogists or friends of libraries/history of all types as possible. Please definitely let your local Society know you are coming for sure, since you can see that we need coverage - flags and ribbons can be held between people as well as hands and arms. We'll stay around the building probably 20 minutes starting at 11:00 a.m. -- then off to lunch, research, or museum viewing!”

Further information can be found at Michigan Genealogical Society's website as well as their official press release which contains the above statement and some more information. While feelings behind the scenes are mixed about MHAL closing (it is helping to streamline some parts), the general inclination is that the implications of this loss will only continue the decay of important social programs in Michigan.

Please again, pass this information along and help get the word out. I hope to see as many people as we can muster at the capitol tomorrow.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Marathon Training Day 47

Ok...have to admit. Today's training should've been 3 miles. But I skipped it...I also skipped yesterdays training (a 5 miler).

So my total mileage should be 115, but really i'm at 107. I'm making up one of the missed runs later today (a 5 miler). And then hopefully doing a twelve miler either saturday around richmond, or sunday once i get back into town.

Anyways, I'm down in Richmond, Indiana staying with my friends Justine and Nate. I road tripped down here with James to see Dave Matthews for two nights at Verizon Center just north of Indianapolis in a place called Noblesville. It's about an hour and a half from here. Usually James and I see Dave in Wisconsin at the Alpine Valley shows, but that show fell on the same weekend as the wedding of the Wisconsin people we stay with (ironic).

Justine and Nate are great people. She was originally supposed to be flying out to San Francisco tonight, but weather delayed and then cancelled a flight, and Nate ended up having to head back out to pick her up from the airport moments before we arrived at their house. They're pet people, and if my numbers are correct they have 12 pets in the house. 4 dogs, and 8 cats (that seems pretty close, but the litter of kittens with the flu was rather squirmy and hard to headcount). We played Stratego waiting for them to get back, and then went out and grabbed some Steak and Shake (the five miler is definitely important to do now). Now I've climbed into bed, and am having to duke it out with a not declawed cat for bedspace. James is down in their living room sleeping on their couch, not something I envy him of (not so much the couch, but their main floor smells rather of the 12 pets they have in the house.

The upstairs room puts me in the mind of the time when Shadow stayed with Jacquel and Ibis in Cairo. The vintage room. The smell of old house, and the furniture and light fixtures that make it all feel just timeless. It also reminds me that I need to soon continue my run on the American Gods roadtrip entries I've been doing.

Anyways, more tomorrow I'm sure. I've got an idea for a post after reading Gaiman's essay about gender and stories about how I perceive my stories (I see less gender because I have a hard time writing females, and more seasons). Now to fend off the cat with four wheel drive and go to bed.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Marathon Training Day 44

Today's Training: 3 Miles

Total Mileage: 104 Miles (Not counting the 3 tonight)

Pleasant surprise this morning: Got in to work and checked my work email only to discover that we have our first submission for the Teen Literary Magazine. A couple of poems. This is great, but with the deadline looming (Aug 5) only a week away, I'm concerned about having enough stuff to publish. To help fight against it the marketing department has been extremely supportive and giving in their time and energy to help get the word out. From whipping together fliers to getting an article in the Lansing State Journal, as well as on their website, myspace, and twitter, they've done everything in their power to get the word out to area teens, and now it just falls on the very talented youth to show us what they've got.

When I say talented, it's not an exaggeration. So far I've had two of the writers workshops (July 3, and July 22) 6 were at the first, and 4 at the second (3 returners). All of the participants were girls (of the middle school variety) and there was not a single rehashing of the Twilight plot. As far as that goes, I consider it a win. That is to say, I have nothing wrong with Twilight. I think Kevin Smith in his comments at Comic Con this year nailed the sentiment we should be feeling:

It's definitely something that I've found myself doing in the past (back during Harry Potter I was guilty for it until I read it, and loved it). But beyond that, as far as the writers workshop goes, it pleases me to see people being original with their fiction, and I've been finding that the more original the teens are being with their writing, the better it tends to be.

I've not been doing much on the writerly front as I should be lately. A few measely story starts, reading about 200 pages of the Rider (it's around 520 typed pages). I've been talking a lot about it with friends (writing, and the rider), but it's been one of those dead sort of things of late. Last I checked my spreadsheet (the one tracking all of my short story submissions) everything I've sent out has been rejected. There were a couple close calls, and one story is sitting in the hands (or slush pile) of an editor somewhere, but for the most part I'm being lazy with no excuse.

It's this point in the blog where I should be making platitudinal oaths to write a thousand words a day, or edit my novel by some insanely close date, or submit things, but I wont. Suffice it to say those things I should be doing, and if this writing career is something I want to be doing, I'll start thinking seriously about actually doing it. Really what I should do is just try finishing a brand new short story. Maybe I'll hop on that this afternoon after work and a run.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Marathon Training Day 30

Today's Training: 3 Miles

Total Mileage : 62Miles (Not counting the 3 tonight)

This post is actually far less about the marathon training and more about an interesting development happening over at the Library of Michigan just a little west of my internship at the Capital Area District Library. It appears that as of October 1st, 2009 the MHAL (Michigan Department of History Arts and Libraries) will no longer be its own entity.

Yesterday (7/13/09) at 3:42 PM Jennifer Granholm signed Executive Order 2009-36. This abolishes MHAL and disperses the library collection and staff. It appears that the majority of the staff will be put under the Michigan Department of Education. Others will find themselves elsewhere (Dept. of Information Technology, Services for the Blind will go to the the Dept. of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth's Commission for the Blind). More details will become available as the budget for Fiscal Year 2010 gets hammered out. The rumor floating around right now is that much of the collection maintenance will be handled by Michigan State University.

Along with the abolishment of MHAL as a department, EO 2009-36 establishes the Michigan Center for Innovation and Reinvention Board. From the sounds of things they'll be occupying the Library of Michigan building as they figure out what to do with much of the remaining library resources, buildings and personnel.

One thing that remains unaddressed that was raised by one of my coworkers is how this will affect the Michigan Electronic Library (MEL).

And on that note it's back to work. Creating instructional handouts for the Microsoft Access Database I made for the business librarian. Writing post to come soon.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Marathon Training Day 16

Today's Training: 3 Miles
Total Mileage : 31 Miles (Not counting the 3 tonight)

It seems that the service I am providing at the library where I am interning, Book-a-Librarian, is starting to become recognized by the public. Tomorrow for the hour which it's open, 9-10, it's booked solid! Two very different questions should test the range of the service.

I'm starting to feel the itch of not writing now. I've produced maybe 500 words in the past week, and it's frustrating, having come off of the grand-slam swing for the fence that I did when I finished the novel (something like 13,000 words over 2 days). The ideas are floating about. I'm thinking of maybe trying a golden age of science fiction esque short story to send to the eMag, Ray Gun Revival, or maybe a second short story set around the Society of the Miracle Workers (The first of which I read at Twilight Tales last July), or maybe restart the post-apocalyptic stoner comedy novel I've been occasionally writing on, called Bombed! We'll see what the day brings. Really I should be running drafts over some of my short stories, repackaging them and sending them out.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Marathon Training Day 8

So I'd been intending to update this sooner after the first day of marathon training, and do a sort of day to day update of "this is how much I ran," "this is how much Ihurt," "this is how far I have to go." But that clearly is not the case as it's been a week since my last update. But you know what? I have a great excuse this time! I finished the novel!

Yes, that's right, you read it here, and you read it clear. I finished writing my first novel on Sunday after a really good 6 hour session of sitting at Starbucks that resulted in about 8,000 words getting written (that's not including the 5,ooo that were added the day before at the same Starbucks). This marathon weekend of writing ended me with a completed book. The Rider (as it's being called for now) is about 117,000 words long (which is about 520 typed pages for those who need a better reference). There are still two scenes (roughly) that need to get added in, but in order to do that properly I need to rewrite about 50 pages of the book, so I figure I'll be getting on that here in the next week or so.

This is the part that I was very excited to get to. Gone (at least as far as The Rider is concerned) is the day to day "the writing was good!" or "the writing was shit...why am I even doing this?" sorts of posts. Putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard as it were, is interesting only so far. It's something that we all know how to do. And Stephen King said it best in his book, On Writing (an absolute masterwork of the craft, and a must read):

"A radio talk-show host asked me how I wrote. My reply--"one word at a time"

(King, 151)

That's all writing really comes down to. Just putting one word after another. Story on the other hand takes editing, and a story that really works takes the fine-tuning and discerning eye. Examination under a microscope. And above all else, editing takes time.

The first question I was asked when I finished the novel (other than my friend James who called shotgun in my post-published private jet, to which I told him he clearly didn't know any authors, and could gladly call basket seat in my post-published private bicycle) was when's it going to be published, now that it's done?

"It's not done," I tell them, and they look at me perplexed (especially my dad).

"I thought you said you finished it," they say.

"I did," I say. "Now begins the editing process."

"How long is that going to take?"

"I dunno," I say, "six months?"

"You're crazy," they say.

And irregardless of my sanity, it is this part of the writing process which I find more exciting than anything else. I've mounded up all the clay into a very rough, vaguely elephant-shaped statue. But really it doesn't look like an elephant yet. Now I get to work the clay, chipping away the parts I don't need. Detailing the finer points. Refining the story down until that mound of clay I've piled up looks like a damn realistic elephant. It's here where the real craft begins, and I have the feeling that it is here where I'm going to learn the most about writing.

While that's happening of course, I'm getting started on my next project(s). I'm taking a couple days to oggle stories that I've started and left unfinished. I've got a project with my friend Duke, where we're writing each other stories, and challenging each other to push a cohesive narrative forward. It's steeped in the New Weird (think China Mielville) genre, and it's a very interesting exercise in world-building, and thinking on the fly. I'm also looking at a story of which I have about 100 pages done (most of which are in serious need of a reexamination) called Bombed! I think I've talked about it here before. It's Harold and Kumar meets the Road. Superbad meets Fallout. A post-apocalyptic-stoner-buddy-roadtrip-comedy. Something far lighter than The Rider, which sounds nice after dealing with such a heavy, heavy topic as The Rider was. We'll see what piques my interest.

And on to the Marathon training for the end of this exorbitantly long post.

It's day 8 of training (see the blogpost title). My current mileage is 15 miles. They've been far more grueling than I'd thought they would be (especially the 6 miler on Saturday). I also have rediscovered the importance of hydrating (something I seem to rediscover every time I start running regularly).

Tonight was supposed to be a night off, but because I took yesterday off to finish the novel, tonight is an hour of crosstraining (walking the dog, riding my bike, punching bag, or whatever). Tomorrow is another three miler.

And on that note i need to attempt some more productivity at my internship. More to come later!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Marathon Training Day 1

"Monday is always a day of rest...Let's begin this Monday, the first day of your marathon journey, by contemplating the training that will begin tomorrow."
I'm not kidding you. That's what it says under the Monday slot of the marathon training program (follow the link above if you don't believe me). Best marathon training ever.
For those of you who don't know, I made a point of in my first of the year post about how I was going to train for the Chicago Marathon. Sadly that fell through, as the Chicago Marathon was sold out when I went to register for it in April. So after a quick search of US Marathons in Wikipedia, I discovered that Detroit has a marathon and that, for starters, it is marginally cheaper than Chicago's (Detroit is 75, Chicago is 125), and that there are still spots available. I also managed to convince my friend Kate (who has now run two, maybe three marathons) that she should train out in LA, and then we should run it together (and I was successful). So now begins my mad dash towards the gloried 26.2.
That's not the only big news.
Yesterday I hit 100,000 words in the novel. I'd thought when I set out to finish this thing, that this would be the end, but it's shaping up to be about 110-120k...Not a great prospect, but for a first time novel, I'm ok with that. The goal now (after many sad revisions) is that I can squeak out the first draft sometime this week. Then begins the fun editing process...
And on that note I've got to start focusing again back on the internship.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Internships, Novelling, and Other Summery Things

I'm sitting in the office of my internship, taking a few moments to update the blog while waiting for my boss to get out of a meeting so we can figure out the structure of my internship. The folks at CADL are pretty laid back about the whole thing. I guess that comes with free labor eh? They've got me working on a series of projects.

  • Book-A-Librarian has me figuring out the ins and outs of the reference interview, how we can set aside a couple librarians for 1 on 1 time with the patrons helping with things like in depth research, or technology assistance similar to my old job at the Knowledge Navigation Center.
  • I'm working on figuring out how to implement a teen literary magazine that will be designed, edited, and basically run by teens but facilitated by the library.
  • I'm also working with English Discoveries Online, a web based ESL program that doesn't get much use by the patrons. Outreach Services has me designing and preparing a proposal for a 20-40 minute class teaching non-native patrons how to use it.
My internship mentor, Jim Maclean, is really intent on giving me a working hands-on approach to the behind the scenes of library outreach services, and not sticking me with dead desk time (like time to update my blog...). We've also spent a bit of the downtime I do have, especially later in the day discussing the future of libraries, something he has a very cynical outlook on.

The internship is interesting, and while I am still excited about libraries, it has worn on me a bit, which brings me to the writing.

Last update here I was at 76k. I'd wanted the novel done by summer. It didn't happen. Now it's June and I'm at 92k. A nice fruitful jump, but not hard or fast enough to bring the book quite to a conclusion. I figure I've got roughly 10-15k more to go before I've finished it. I'm hoping to knock it out this weekend.

I've also made a pact with myself to up my daily writing dosage to 1000 words a weekday, and 5000 for the whole weekends. That output I figure will guarantee novels being knocked out at a regular pace, and short stories by the load. I don't expect everything to be good, but it's time to refine the craft.

Boss just got out of his meeting, so I've got to go. Next up is summer trips, weddings, marathon training, and hopefully the next part of the American Gods Road Trip

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Peeking My Head Above the Parapet

Hello Blogosphere!

It's me, Nathan.

I know it's been a while. It's summer now. I am blissfully out of school. Less blissfully, I'm not getting paid. This comes from the wonderful collegiate institution of internships, coupled with the equally as wonderful flagging economy. But I just have to sit back and keep telling myself that "it's for the greater good!" and "it'll pay off in the long run!" So, with those two thoughts in mind I'm getting ready to begin my summer internship at the Capitol Area District Library. One of said requirements for the internship is a blog, which I'll be setting up soon (not sure if I'll do it here or at another location (seems like a cheap and amusing way of boosting readership)). I go in Tuesday for a meeting with the folks at CADL to hammer out the last of the details needed to get this internship off the ground.

Needless to say, I'm not exactly rushing to get this thing going (as far as I see it I can either not get paid to work, or not get paid to not work (the latter of which leaves me time to write)).

And speaking of writing, I didn't reach my goal of finishing my novel by summer. It has me rather frustrated, that I broke a big goal, but I'm doing what I can to make amends to myself. A quick run on the calculator informed me that I should be able to crank out 10,000 words in just over two hours of straight writing at my average typing speed. While I know this would mean I would have to be in utter prolific mode, where everything that comes out of my fingers is gold that I don't want to lose (a thing that never happens, and never will), the thought of being able to make that kind of push and see that kind of headway with balls-to-the-wall writing is rather tantalizing, and tomorrow, after I do a fair amount of unpacking and a little bit of intern prepping, I'll give a shot at.

I'm at about 76,000 words. I'm thinking the rough draft, when it finally cycles to an ending here is going to be close to 95-100,000 words. A pretty solid rough draft according to most professionals I've talked to. Hopefully (if I can pick it up) I want to have it done by the end of May.

In the news of unpacking, my friend pointed out to me (as we sat around talking about comics and video games) that I am yet again 23 and living in my parents' basement. Not a very empowering thought, until I realize that it is strictly a money saver until I graduate next May. And that's the whole point. After becoming endlessly fed up of my roommates (the ones who smoked in the house, and liked to practice their wicked DJing skills at full bore at 3 in the morning) I pushed for my lease to end, found a sublessor for May, and moved back home. Now I'm in the agonizingly slow state of unpacking. The end result (albeit in my parents' basement) is going to be pretty sweet.

The promised American Gods Road Trip post is in draft right now, and will be finished when I ahve the time to finish fine-tuning it. Still thinking of maybe doing it next spring break (that is unless of course I'm out in LA). It will happen soon though.

On that note I am going to pack it in for the night, read a bit of Soon I Will Be Invincible, which has been so-so, but definitely amusing (especially the evil-doer's story).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Settled Back In

I took one look at the title I just wrote for this blogpost and realized how horrible of a lie that is. There's nothing settled in about now and the next month or so that's left of school. Projects abound. Traveling back to Lansing probably every weekend. Finding an internship (I've got a line on one at the Canton Public Library). The insanity will ensue, and will keep me from finishing my novel before the end of the semester, and I am very angry about that. Now...a breakdown of things missed:


Los Angeles:

By far one of the best and most busy weeks I've spent in the city of angels yet.

Early flight out of Detroit to Minneapolis. Then straight out to Los Angeles. Spent day 1 in Burbank. That town or neighborhood, or whatever you want to call it, was one giant mall more or less, but it was fun meeting everyone Kate worked with. Day 2 I was able to hook up with my friend Sam for lunch and then hiking Griffith Park up near the Hollywood sign, though I didn't see it. Day 3 was a walk out to the La Brea tar pits and Page Museum. Day 4 was intended to be a mad dash out to Las Vegas with Kate, but Ben, Kate's husband, put the kebosh on that (tee hee). Instead we drove down to San Diego and the wineries out there, finished off with a stop at Stone Brewery. That night was a joke made into a party called St. Nathan's Day (it was Ben's idea). Day 5 was mostly loafing around the house in La Mirada. Day 6 was out to Santa Monica with lunch at an "authentic" british pub. Day 7 was a failed attempt at homework. Day 8 was a walk out to Hollywood, followed by a ridiculous short film festival. And then on day 9 it was an early flight to Atlanta and then up to Detroit.

I got back to Michigan and spent Thursday and Friday in Ann Arbor before swinging home for the weekend to see my family and friends, and The Watchmen (which I didn't enjoy very much).

Back to school for a few days, and then last friday, went to Kalamazoo, and then to Chicago Saturday morning, back to Lansing sunday night, and back to Ann Arbor monday afternoon.

Now it's Wednesday. I'm in Ann Arbor until Friday and then it's up to Lansing for a spaghetti dinner with my buddy Duke and some other folk.

I tell this timeline to people and they look at me like I'm insane, but really this is the one thing keeping me sane.


In terms of writing I heard back from GUD, another dud (I'm a poet and I don't know it). I've put maybe a couple hundred more words on the novel, but that's it...It's really frustrating, but we can't do everything I suppose. I keep trying to remember to go look for a short story I'd written a while back that no longer exists on my harddrive but every time I'm home it's usually long enough to do homework and pass out before waking up and hitting the ground running again.

That's all I've got for now. Next post will definitely be the House on the Rock post of the American Gods roadtrip

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Travels and Travails

I've been on a near constant move since Spring Break (between Los Angeles, Lansing Ann Arbor, and Chicago this weekend). A full post is coming soon with pictures and thoughts and all, and then a post on The House on the Rock, continuing my American Gods Road Trip planning. Until then I leave you with a little snippet I started writing on the flight back from Los Angeles to Atlanta. Dunno what it's going to become.


You put on your toothy customer-service smile and while the prerecorded voice dispenses advice that no one listens to, you go through the motions that no one watches. Point to the exits. Two to the side. Two to the rear. Fasten the mock safety belt, tighten it down. Always smiling. Put on the mock oxygen mask and give it one good, bag-swelling breath for show. Then the captain, who always souds like a failed radio personality assures everyone about the weather, the plane and the arrival time. Then you take your seat with all electronic devices off and seats and trays in their upright and locked positions for take off. Always smiling.

The girls like to talk. About their kids, always just in college. About their husbands. About some prime time TV show, or the new Oprah Book Club book. Not me. I sit and read. Mysteries, sometimes classics, maybe some science fiction. Anything I can get my hands on between flights. Mostly I keep to myself.

Home is a duffel bag with some casual clothes and an extra set of work clothes. If pressed about where I'm from I'll say I pay state taxes in Illinois, but the last time I was there was a stopover in Chicago before a redeye to Portland.

I live in a constant state of limbo. Shifting time zones and perpetual jetlag. Everything at a distance. The ground far beow me. The people at arms length. Always smiling. It's the closest thing to living off the grid without having to exert any real effort to hide. If I'm not flying I get a hotel to get me through the night, and if I have a couple day's layover--something they force on me from timme to time--I go for long walks.

It's not much of a life, but it passes the time.


And with that I'm going back to paying attention in class, and trying to catch up on homework. Real post soon.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Spring Break - Day Thre

Already it is just day three of spring break, and I'm going to declare this the utmost of break victories.

This weekend I chipped away 2500 words on my novel, leaving me at about 68,000-ish. Just about got Edmund out of the frustratingly slow situation he was in and back on the road where he should be. Spent most of this time hunched over my laptop at the Magic Johnson Starbucks in East Lansing.

Saturday night I went with my friend James out to the kick off party for an up and coming nonprofit called SCOUT BANANA (Serving Citizens Of Uganda Today Because Africa Needs A New Ambulance). Their website can be found here. It makes me extra happy because it is the continuation of an Eagle Scout project, helping to build necessary medical and educational infrastructure in Uganda. For the educational/informational part I put them in touch with the Community Informatics Corp, a student organization through SI interested in spreading information technology and infrastructure to communities both domestically and abroad. CIC's website can be found here. Best part of the kick off party was a guy in a banana suit rapping. I guess his rapper name was Philthy...

I've been able to enjoy some time to read also. Finished Neil Gaiman's The Sandman for the second time ever, and enjoying it even more this time than I did the first time. I'm also working my way through Alan Moore's Watchmen again in preparation for the movie. Early reviews I've read have said good things, but I still can't shake the nervousness of this so perfect and epic comic becoming another flub on the screen (see all of the comic to movie creations of Alan Moore's others, with the exception of V, which became a fun thing of its own).

Tomorrow morning bright and early (probably not even bright, judging by the departure time) I'll be flying out Los Angeles for the rest of the week, and most of next week. Out there I'll be writing, and relaxing and carousing with friends. Blog updates and pictures and twitters definitely to follow.

Now I have to pack up for lunch with my friend Scott from the Capitol Area District Library about a potential summer internship. More to come.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

American Gods Road Trip: Lakeside, Wisconsin

Back in mid-November I made a post titled "American Gods Road Trip: A Proposal." The idea, in a nutshell was to plan out and execute a road trip that loosely recaps the major locations of the book. The trip wouldn't necessarily adhere to the chronology of American Gods, but instead would distill all the major locations in one massive north to south run.

The problem with road trips gleaned from works of fiction goes hand in hand with the first rule of storytelling, "Never let truth get in the way of a good story." And Mr. Gaiman gladly accepts that rule, and freely admits it at the beginning of his novel in a "Caveat, and Warning for Travelers" :

"This is a work of fiction, not a guide book. While the geography of the United States of America in this tale is not entirely imaginary--many of the landmarks in this book can be visited, paths can be followed, ways can be mapped--I have taken liberties. Fewer liberties than you might imagine, but liberties none the less...

"I have obscured the location of several of the places in this book: the town of Lakeside, for example, and the farm with the ash tree an hour south of Blacksburg. You may look for them if you wish. You might even find them."

Gaiman, Neil. American Gods. New York: Harper Perennial, 2001.

The problem presents itself almost immediately with the northernmost stop of the trip, Lakeside.

A quick search of Google, and of Wikipedia places Lakeside, Wisconsin about as far north and about as far west as it is possible to get in Wisconsin. The Website, Only the Gods are Real, works from this premise, and for what it's worth, the thought process makes sense, but that didn't stop a niggling doubt in the back of my mind. My doubt was confirmed by the quote "But this is the farthest south and east of the yoopie you can get pasties" (Gaiman, 266). A further search of the text revealed these facts:

  • Lakeside is south of Rhinelander and Eagle River.
    • "'Up north of Rhinelander? Nope, that's Eagle River" (Gaiman, 295).
  • While there is a White Pine River in Minnesota, around 35 miles from the actual Lakeside, Wisconsin, There is a Pine River south of Rhinelander, and near a few of the locations I will later propose as the factual Lakeside.
    • "On one memorable occasion he watched an eagle snatch a silver fish from the middle of the White Pine River" (Gaiman, 363).
  • It's west of County Road Q.
    • "She refilled his coffee. 'You ever gone east on County Q?'" (Gaiman, 366).
  • It's 20 Miles east of Camden, a nonexistent town. There is a Crandon, WI.
    • "'Darren managed the Motel American over in Camden, twenty miles west of here'" (Gaiman, 299).
  • South of Ironwood. North of Green Bay
    • "'I reckon he was driving up to Ironwood, maybe down to Green Bay'" (Gaiman, 299)
  • North of UW: Stevens Point.
    • "'Darren Olsen met Marge at U.W. Stevens Point and he brought her back north to Lakeside'" (Gaiman, 299)
Building from these facts alone (I'm sure there are more that I've overlooked) I've narrowed down roughly three towns.
  1. Pelican Lake
    1. which fits most all of the facts
  2. Pine Lake
  3. Parrish
    1. which fits many of the above facts, but doesn't have a lake..
These are, of course, not the only options. Certain glances make me wonder if Elcho, or Enterprise, or maybe some other place that I am missing may be the actual Lakeside. Or could this fictional town be (as most fictional towns are) an amalgamation of many of these towns, created solely to tell the story that Gaiman wanted to.

In the next installment of this series I'll be examining The House on the Rock, providing a brief history, and from there to Madison, Wisconsin.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Comings and The Goings

My job is better than yours (at least for any college students reading this). Tonight, so far, I've been paid to do Monday's crossword in the NYT (finished it), figure out the homework I'm not going to do, and surf the blogosphere for other blogs I read (such as Gaiman, Mike Doughty, Janet, and Duke Kimball). Plans for the rest of the evening include working on the novel, and working on homework. And I'm getting paid for this.

After a brief stint of almost banging my head against the wall with my novel, I've managed to work out the kinks (at least for a first draft) of a scene I've been sitting on for a couple weeks now. The rider, my force of nature ball of energy character has been locked up in a cell, and mum's the word. He's been interrogated by just about anyone within arm's length and is playing the big strong silent type, meaning the scenes, which I'm convinced right now, have to be in there. The scenes are, for the most part, boring. But now, after a long weekend at home there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Some action and adventure and intrigue again. And the end is getting ever closer.

Next week I go out to Los Angeles. I fly out Tuesday, and will be out there until Wednesday. Long needed escape from the never ending winter. This will be year three of the tradition. Year One never got properly blogged. Year two is here, here, and the return trip here. Because I'll be missing St. Patty's day, Ben and Kate are throwing a St. Nathan's day party.

And for amusement here is a picture of one of the Fairy Doors of Ann Arbor I found.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Birthday Blog

Holy crap!

I totally missed the birthday post for this thing. We are now 2 (as of February 5th).

12 Days until California.

Haven't touched the novel (school is swallowing my soul).

All is still quiet on the Western Front.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

One of Those Rambly Going Nowhere Posts

Sitting in Starbucks, dealing with slow internet. Figured I'd make a blog post because I've hit a wall with the writing.

The novel is currently hovering around 64,000 words. The writing was good tonight. I've been sitting on a scene with Loki, and Daniel, and the Freewalkers for a week or so now, and it's almost finished. I know this kind of thing is rather cryptic to talk about. Bantering names for a story that not many people know a lot about. Maybe it's enticing.

I came back to Haslett this weekend to learn how to do taxes with my mom, hang out with the guys, and get ready to dive into the homestretch before spring break (18 days until I fly out). Last night was a banana pancake dinner, with eggs, and sausage, and rum and orange juice (a new fun combination). Then we watched Dumb and Dumber. Also saw Coraline, which was very very good.

Tomorrow is pack up and back to school. Going to be very glad when it's done done done.

Right. Starbucks is closing. Time to pack it up and head back home to watch Arrested Development, read Graveyard Book, and sleep.

Friday, February 06, 2009

More Library Things

It is historically understood that library use increases in times of financial need. The library represents the communities access to the information infrastructure, and now with internet being so necessary and prevelant the need for libraries is increasing. With that in mind I got this note from ALA HQ, and figured I'd pass it on again.

Calls to ALL Senators are needed IMMEDIATELY to protect $200 million for libraries, community computing centers and related institutions in the original language of the Senate stimulus bill, H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. We have just been advised that Senators Kent Conrad (ND-D) and Lindsey Graham (SC-R) are expected to introduce Senate Amendment 501 which would strip funding for libraries and broadband to put additional funding in FDIC. If introduced, the vote could take place this afternoon.

The message is: keep the $200 million for libraries and broadband in H.R. 1 - defeat amendment 501. Libraries provide information on jobs, employment skills, and all other types of job-seeking information. More people are using libraries during these difficult times and the demand for broadband is greater than ever.

ALA Office of Government Relations will keep you updated as the stimulus debate continues on the Senate floor. Please watch the District Dispatch for updates.

Please if you feel so inclined, call your senators! Whether or not you are a regular user, for many who are feeling the blows of this financial crisis, the library is a lifeline to necessary programs.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Learning Experience

I suspect that it may be the case with all first novels, but The Rider (tentative title of my first novel) has been one epic humbling and learning experience. It was started with the same gusto and blind excitement that I'm sure every first novel is started with. It's been through ups and downs. And now, almost two years later I'm seeing that light at the end of the tunnel.

I've got under 30,000 words to go if things continue on the course they are now. It's around this point where suddenly everything has to start coming together. This is a very frightening experience. I get the sense that I made everything a lot easier on myself by just tossing everyone towards a big showdown in one location. A whole bunch of forces are about to collide and I already have a sense of who is supposed to come through. It's like cheating.

In early draft's I'd had a character Loki, and his buddy, a boy, Daniel, who got slashed back in October when I was trying to really figure out the essence of the story. Now a few months later it turns out that they are necessary for the story. It's funny how it was like I almost knew what I was doing. Maybe that is the inevitability of the story driving itself.

There was a point, I suspect it was October when the heavy thinking took place, where I'd reached the point where just slinging ideas together was no longer going to cut it, and bringing it to a close was important. It resulted in sweeping cuts, some of which are still happening. Over winter break I chopped about 10,000 words off, which I, only a couple weeks ago, made back up.

By far the greatest strength, which wasn't utilized in the early sections of the novel, was journaling. This feels a bit like eating my own words, because I was always terrible and angry at journaling. By just having a notebook that I could work thoughts out on paper gave me a concordance and commentary that I could draw from, and an understanding of exactly what I was thinking at the time. This is becoming endlessly important facing down the climactic battle of Beulah which is just before the denoument of the story.

I'll be blogging more about this sort of thing I suspect in the coming weeks as I really start to bring this beast in for a landing.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

10 Albums of 2008

I'd been meaning to do a post on music for a while. The ten albums (not necessarily) from 2008 that really made the year for me. It was going to be written over break, but then I never actually got around to it. So here at long last is Nathan's list of the 10 albums that made 2008 for me.

We'll start at the beginning of the year with a little promo that I got from my friend Duke. Jason Anderson's sophomore release, Tonight actually came out in 2007. With only 8 tracks one would think it's a light release, but he breathlessly plays out pop gems that run almost 10 minutes each. His sound (supposedly a marked departure from his more stripped down acoustic) verges on motown and classic songs of the later 50s. Favorite song is "July 4, 2004"

Following not long on those heals was a release I'd been dearly waiting for. Mike Doughty's fourth release (Fifth if you count Smofe + Smang) post-Soul Coughing "Golden Delicious." Following his first two albums, Skittish and Rockity Roll, Mike filled out his sound with a band reminiscent of the Dave Matthews Band minus the horn section. Scrap on Bass and Pete on drums, and from time to time other artists. For this album they added a fourth, Dan Chen on keys. Favorite Song is "I Just Want the Girl in the Blue Dress to Keep on Dancing"

Earlier last year Mike Doughty started a record label The Snack Bar. The first band he signed to it was a little group called the Panderers. I don't know much about them other than that they are the most badass sounding group I've ever heard, and I wish I could find more. They have a self released album called "Songs That Bang" that I've never heard, and from what I've found is nearly impossible to get a hold of. But their 4 song EP, Hotshot's Boy, has been rocking my iPod for a year. Their song Shane is the inspiration for one of the bad guys in my novel. It's also my favorite song from the album.

Duke plugged me into Cloud Cult with their album, The Meaning of 8, but it didn't stick with me. While his brain was exploding over interesting lyrics and even more interesting instrumentation I was left hanging and saying "ok, now what?" Then this last year he tossed me "Feel Good Ghosts (Tea Partying Through Tornadoes)." My brain finally exploded and I learned a real appreciation for this band. And it's more than just their music that hooks me. They are the most "green" band I've ever heard of, conscious of the environmental footprint they make and managing to reduce it to zero. Check out "No One Said it Would Be Easy."

Regina Spektor is one of those discoveries of a lifetime for me. I'd vaguely heard her those few times I listen to pop radio, but never actively. Then over spring break while out in LA I heard her album "Begin to Hope" on an 8 hour drive north to San Francisco. Back in Chicago I sought out the rest of her sound, and it's now a staple of my iPod. My favorite song is not off this album actually, but is still good "Us"

I have a large music collection. It makes every listening a discovery. This is true for the next two artists who I discovered on my iPod during my week up at Houghton Lake. The first is the Dear Hunter. This is the side project of the former frontman of The Recieving End of Sirens, this is a massive undertaking to make a 6 album concept with an overarching story. The sounds range from Beach Boys harmony, to the post punk sound that is popular on many alternative stations, to dabblings in Sergeant Pepper's brilliance. I couldn't pick an individual album of the first two acts that are out because they are such a cohesive unit. I eagerly await Act 3, due out sometimes soon. Song to check out is "Smiling Swine" off of Act 2.

The other artist I discovered was equally as sporadic with his sound. Magnet is the moniker of Norwegian born Even Johansen. Also discovered on my iPod during my week at Houghton Lake. His sound ranges from a very Jason Mraz-esque folk rock sound, to covers of Bob Marley and dabblings in an almost Rat Pack jazz. Off of his album, The Simple Life, definitely check out the opening track, "The Gospel Song.

There isn't really a whole lot more that I can say about Coldplay's recent release Viva La Vida. It's been topping the charts. It's the best album they've put out yet, filling out their airy synths with more textured and full string sections. I'm in love with the title track.

I recently saw Frightened Rabbit in concert at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. They played most of their entire album, The Midnight Organ Fight. The first time I heard the album I fell in love with the first track, "The Modern Leper," but in listening to the album in preparation for the concert my favorite song would have to be "Good Arms vs. Bad Arms." The singer has a very unique voice flavored by his thick scotish accent.

Snow Patrol has created a sound that I've been in love with since I started college and was introduced to their album, Final Straw. Eyes Open, their sophomore big label release blew my mind with the sort of title song "Open Your Eyes." Now on their third major release, A Hundred Million Suns, they have reached a level of awesomeness, building on the sound they were perfecting in Eyes Open. Their ability to texture and layer and create slowly swelling songs that turn into sweeping arena epics are second to none. My favorite song is the first movement of their big CD closing epic, "The Lighting Strikes: (1) What if this Storm Ends?"

And that is the 10 albums that moved me through 2008. Download them. Love them. Let me know what you think.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Less Writing More Spaghetti

This is one of those "how's the writing" posts that can be kind of boring, because when it's good it's good, and when it's bad it's bad. And short of just doing it on a regular enough basis there is nothing else you can do, but just deal with it when it's bad and hope that getting something...anything on paper will allow you to get to the good stuff.

A great example of when it's good was when I wrote "I'm Just A Boatman," a short story that is currently (hopefully) on somebody's desk at Doorways magazine to get either published or rejected. The story started as an exercise in Tina Jens's fantasy writing class my last semester at Columbia. She brought a whole range of fantasy reference books, mythology dictionaries and what not, laid them out on a table and said, "ok, grab a book, find something interesting and start a short story." I managed to stumble across the article about Charon, the boatman who ferries the dead across the river styx. Across the table a friend was reading the Zombie Survival Handbook, and somehow the two ideas coalesced into a short story. In a few short hours after class I'd hammered out a complete first draft. Concieved, written, and finished in one massive sitting.

Then there are days like today. Sitting around this morning, an idea hit me for the climax of the novel, which is probably still about 10-15k words away. I get in front of a computer stoked to start working and then BAM! Brick wall. I managed to squeak out about 1200 words, but very few of which I'm happy with.

I am about to start a two hour shift at work that will undoubtedly be dead as a doornail, and that being so, I'll probably end up just working on it there, hopefully working out the issues.


In other news:

I had a spaghetti dinner this weekend. Good turn out, good times. My boss was among them, which was massively awkward, and also funny. Especially when she walked away with my dirty martini...

Friday was spiffy. This blog got mentioned on Gaiman's blog. You can read the original post here.

And that about wraps it up for now. If writing gets boring at work, I'll probably make the post I've been meaning to make about Lakeside from Neil Gaiman's novel, American Gods, and the road trip I'm planning. You can read the first post about it here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Scary Library Shit

I just got this note through my email and it's very important so I figured I'd post it here and try to help spread awareness. I twittered about it earlier.

January 22, 2009

Dear Nathaniel,

A public meeting was held January 22, and Cheryl Falvey, General Counsel for the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), stated that a decision should be made by the first week of February regarding libraries. She advised libraries not to take any action at this time, and we are hopeful that the Commission’s decision will exempt libraries.

Even with her assurances, we must let the CPSC know how important an issue this is to libraries. Please call the Acting Commissioner, Nancy Nord, at (301) 504-7923. When you call this number, wait for the automated directory to give you directions to reach Nancy Nord’s office. Explain to the Commission that it is simply impossible for libraries to remove all children’s books from the shelves and/or ban children under 12 from the library and still provide the level of service that is needed.

As always, thank you for all that you do. The only way we will be successful in ensuring that children will have access to safe books is with a strong grassroots effort. Your comments to the CPSC need to be submitted as soon as possible, so please tell all your friends and family – we need as many people as possible to communicate that this oversight could have lasting ramifications on our children and our communities.

  • The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 has been interpreted to include books as a product that must be tested for lead. While it is understandable that the CPSC must protect children from toxic materials, publishers have already tested the book components and found that the lead levels are lower than the regulations require three years from now. Additionally, all book recalls in the last two decades have been because of toys attached to the books that posed a choking hazard, not the books themselves.
  • Making these testing regulations retroactive would require both school and public libraries to take drastic steps to come into compliance. They either would have to ban children from their libraries or pull every book intended for children under the age of 12 from their bookshelves at the time children are fostering a lifelong love of learning and reading.
  • In order to allow children and families to continue accessing critical library materials, please either exempt books from the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, accept the component tests that have already been done, or exempt all books currently in school and public libraries. This will ensure that our children continue to have access to safe and educational library materials.

Thank you for your continued support of libraries!

Kristin Murphy
Government Relations Specialist
American Library Association - Washington Office
1615 New Hampshire Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20009-2520
Phone Number: 202.628.8410
Fax: 202.628.8419

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dreaming of Manifest Destiny

Listening to Mike Doughty makes me want spring time something fierce.

I'm 34 days from heading out to Los Angeles again. The need for it is starting to grow in me something fierce.

One thing that I've been trying to do (and thus far failing miserably at) is to write every day, to maybe have my novel done by spring break. 34 days means I have to write about 900 words a day to hit the rough word count that I was aiming for. It's one of those tasks that make it all seem so doable, yet I keep putting it off.

I've got a rough direction, and while I've got a couple stumbly scenes to figure out between now and the end, I've got a pretty solid direction.

It's sort of scary. The idea that I am really now teetering at the end. That all the pieces are set. That all the players are moving towards the big show down, the big shoot out, and after that the denouement or requiem or whatever you want to call it.

I've also got to rip out something to send Duke's way for our monthly writing challenge that we've set for ourselves.

I'm already slacking my way through the semester. This is both not surprising and endlessly frustrating.

Ok so, I put a break where I was at, and picked up where I wanted to. I can always go back in and fill in the blanks. Anything to get this story done.

And back to the writing I go.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I just got a number from a girl in the bar...

Now let me justify this:

I go to Old Town with my friend Bryan (he's a winter admit to SI) to get a couple brews, shoot the breeze. A nice end of the week unwind.

I'm just getting done with my first beer, and Bryan orders a second round. A little while later the waitress approaches with one beer, a second round that looks more like my Labatts and less like his Bell's Winter Ale. And she sets it down in front of me.

"It's for you," she says. "From the redhead in the corner."

And I'm thinking that this has to be some sort of a joke, because this never happens to me, and never happens in bars. Right?

Of course I turn to look and see who is scoping me out, and I realize right away that I'm completely unattracted to her.

So my friend and I laugh about it. He gives me hell because this never happens to him, and he's a handsome looking dude.

Then towards the end of the night redhead gets up with her friend to leave. They walk over to the table and she slides me her number and says:

"I've seen you around. My friend and I are leaving, but I wanted to make the first move." She smiles, maybe a little curtsy, maybe not, I've had a few beers at this point. And then she leaves.

And I'm thinking "Holy shit that never happens in a bar in the real world. This never happens to me," and "how the hell could she see me about? I'm a hermit most of the time..."

So that was that.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

So This is the New Year

Wrote the title and then stopped, went back to my blog, checked last year's first post and realized that I'd also titled it "So This is the New Year." And then I sat down to read over what I'd written a year ago and see where things are.

I was thinking of doing another resolution post today. List the goals, talk about them, you know the drill. And last years post I did the exact same thing. So instead here is what didn't happen:

I didn't finish the novel
I didn't get lastingly in shape
I didn't give up soda
I didn't spend less

So we'll reset those goals and try again.

Now about the novel. It got as far as 60,000 words last December, and then a sudden realization of the story I was telling after a conversation with my friend Duke (his blog here) cost me about 10,000 words, of which I've recovered about 5,000. So the approximate word count (without actually looking at the document) is around 55,000 words. I'm figuring that by the end we're going to be looking at something close to 80-90,000 words.

For those of you who hear word count and have no idea what that means here are some references:

The Lord Of The Rings (~470,000 words)
The Hobbit (95,022 words)
The Gunslinger (55,376 words)
American Gods (183, 222 words)

So ~85,000 seems a pretty acceptable venture for a first time novel (that and there is no point in pushing the story further than it wants to go.

I've also decided that (after years of being wishy washy) that this year is the one for doing the Chicago Marathon. Going into training for that as soon as I have an understanding of my schedule (next week).

Duke and I started a sort of accountability on writing to ensure that we get stuff done. The goal is one short story a month. At the end of each month we send that short story to each other to do a first edit as we begin on next month's short story.

Should be good. And with that back to work and to class