Procrastination Cessation …

Hello. I am a procrastinator. I sometimes can keep my head down and get things done, but over the last year I have really let a lot of things slip. I am going to rectify that.

I stumbled across an interesting meme here on the internet. It is called “101 Things to Do in 1001 Days“. The idea is to complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days. The tasks must be specific (i.e. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (i.e. represent some amount of work on my part). I realize that some of the tasks on my list may not seem to fit the requirements, but I think that even the most mundane ones will be stretching (and hopefully breaking) my procrastination. I like this meme because it gives focus like other “beating procrastination” exercises, but it also sets a time table that won’t cause panic or frustration. 1001 days is approximately 2.74059 years. That is a long time.

I am going to participate. But a lot can happen in 2 and three quarter years. Kids get married or graduate from college. There could be more grandkids. We could win the lottery. For this reason I am reserving the right to revise this list based on a major life event. I mean, if I win the lottery then fixing the van is not a stretching task anymore, right. A stretching task to replace the van task would be setting up trust funds for loved ones, or building them houses.

My list of 101 Things can be found on the sidebar as a sub-page under “About Me.” It contains such mundane things as taking care of all the broken door knobs in our house, and using and returning a power washer I borrowed from a friend over a year ago. It contains necessary things like doing my back exercises and and cleaning up my pack-rat messes (I am a hoarder of useless things. It’s genetic.) The task list has a few hard things like learning to read music (which I have failed at before), and important things like working with my parents and sister on formalizing the ownership of the family farm to protect it from seizure should my parents’ medical costs spiral out of control. It also has fun things for me, like going on a “get away” with just Doris (beach, cabin in the woods; something we have talked about for years), and reading all the Hugo Award winning novels that I have not yet read.

I took me the better part of a week to create the list. I strove hard to keep all the tasks realistic and important, even the fun ones. Don’t wish me luck, tell me “It’s about time!”

This gave me happy tears!

This is the best film of the year.

The creativity and talent of Justin just shines in this. But then he had wonderful, beautiful people to film. Owen and Trish. The song is “The First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes.

This is worth the wait if you don’t have broadband. Enjoy!

Owen Pembroke

My grandson Owen Pembroke Atkinson was born at 10:22AM this morning. He is perfect. He even has a polite cry. Trish is doing fine, even after 9-plus hours of labor. Justin says he is tired, too.

I remember how happy I was when Justin was born and never thought that I could feel that way again. I was right. This is a different feeling, yet just as powerful. I find my eyes brimming with tears of joy almost constantly.

I am really going to enjoy being a grandpa. Did I mention that Owen is perfect?

Naming Characters

I struggle with naming characters. It doesn’t matter if the character is for a story or for a role playing game. I struggle. I always have. But it is getting a little easier.

When I invent names out of thin air, they always seem fake to me. It could be that since I know they are fake that I just can’t get over that faked feeling. Every time I have started writing a story with one of these names I struggle because the character never becomes real for me. That imagination gear just doesn’t engage and I end up with a stiff and lifeless character in a stiff and boring story.

As a youngster I could invent stories about other people’s characters, because they seemed real to me. But there is not much of a future in writing about characters others have created. These days unless you are on the Star Trek pastiche bandwagon or are willing to ghostwrite, you have to be an established writer before you can get a mega media market deal. And from what I hear, even those deals are not great for the writer.

I really tried inventing names. Names that would rival Hari Seldon, R. Daneel Olivaw, Ender Wiggin, or Charles Wallace Murry, but every name I created seemed flat, dull and artificial. I really needed a solution to my dilemma. Then one day during the two years I went to college at Ohio State University I was faced with choosing a role playing character name instantly. Steve, my roommate, and I were trying to figure out how to generate characters for the new DragonQuest role playing system he’d picked up. Since I figured the first character I created would be a throwaway character, I just nabbed a name from the Fred Saberhagen novel Berserker’s Planet that I had just finished reading. Giles the Treacherous was born. The role playing character was nothing like the character in the book. The only attribute that they had in common was the moniker. The thing was the character felt real. Soon afterwards I created another character for the game. I liked another character in the Saberhagen novel, Thomas the Grabber. But I didn’t want to have another “so-and-so the something” character, so I attached Thorun as a surname. Thorun is a tribute to Thorin Oakensheild of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit. The character Thomas Thorun became real for me as well. I realized that if I had a character in mind I could use existing names or to build a name around the traits. Based on this insight I was able to create character names and write stories that (I thought) were not lifeless and boring. I never sold any of the stories I wrote during college and after a while, I stopped writing.

Recently when I decided to pick up the pen again I had forgotten all about my method for creating character names. I struggled. And then because I was into tracking down my family history I used Pembroke Somerset as a character name out of frustration over my inability to create character names that felt real. My great-great grandfather and great grandfather were both named Pembroke Somerset Atkinson. My great grandfather went by the nickname Bob. I have several science fiction stories penciled out with Pembroke “Bob” Somerset as the main character. One is nearly complete, although I haven’t looked at it for about ten months now. My point is that Pembroke Somerset feels like a real character to me.

I also decided to give my hand at an anthology that was requesting submissions. The anthology was about magic and machines and how they might interact and impact each other. I struggled with a good character name. I had a great world. (It is a fantasy steampunk alternate history world.) The magic system was all worked out. I even had ideas for other stories set in the same world. But I didn’t have a good character name and the story wasn’t flowing. It seemed, you guessed it, lifeless and boring. I was considering giving up on the story when the publisher of the anthology closed its doors. Problem solved.

Then I got an invitation to write a story that would be considered for an upcoming anthology from a new publisher, Carnivah House. The invite was based solely on the fact that one of the editors knows how creative my mind is. He just happens to be Steve, the Ohio State roommate that played DragonQuest. He is an up and coming author just hitting his stride.

My problem with the invite was that I couldn’t get this magic and machine theme world that I had created out of my head. I almost turned down the invitation to participate in the Carnivah House anthology. But why not use that world for the anthology and just create a totally different character? I had gnomes in the world, but I had not really thought much about them. New character, new race–that started the juices flowing. I knew immediately that I wanted to have the gnome’s surname to be a reflection of the silly names artists are giving garden gnomes here in the real world. Winklewisp, Merryweather, Hodgepodge and the like.

Childhood memories intervene. My sister created a name when we were kids. Safronsibauld Sebastian Thistlethwart, or “Sabby” for short. I stole Thistlethwart. It was perfect. And since I was back on a JRR Tolkien kick, I chose Noldor for his first name; he will be called “Nold” by those close to him. And if you are not a total Tolkien geek, you may not know that originally Tolkien originally called the Noldor race Gnomes, but changed it to avoid the stereotype that name already had. As soon as I had the name–the very instant I decided on the name, a story popped into my head. Even if it is not accepted, it had the effect of really getting my creative juices flowing.

Back in June I realized that the other story that I had started for the magic and machine anthology was a good story, but it was being told by the wrong character. It is Thistlethwart’s story. I have rewritten most of it and am going to send it off to a publisher that picked up the magic and machine anthology idea. It doesn’t precisely fit their guidelines which differ from the original publisher’s, but I figured I’d send it there first. Who knows, they may just like it enough to stretch their criteria a tad. There are other markets that I think would publish it, so I am not worried about it finding a home. Talk about creative juices flowing, how about that ego? I am already assuming (as an unpublished fiction author) that I will get a specific story published! Ah, the power of positive thinking.

Which brings me to my recent epiphany about character names. I relearned what I had forgotten. If I choose a name that seems familiar to me, and that might have some hint as to the inner workings of the character him/herself then the character will feel real to me and it becomes easier to write the story. I needed a musically inclined gnome supporting character for this magic and machine anthology story. I think Delp Entwhistle will do just fine. I just hope Brad Delp and John Entwistle are looking down from rock-n-roll heaven with approval.

Overview: Ohio Genealogical Society

Last year Doris and I visited the Ohio Genealogical Society (OGS) library in Mansfield, Ohio. We both were able to find new information on our ancestors, and were so pleased with the quality and quantity of the materials that we decided on the spot to join. We have not set a date, yet, but we both want to return to the OGS library. Having friends that live in the area is an extra bonus.

The OGS provides two quarterly publications for its membership. At first I was curious about this seeming redundancy. Once I perused each publication it became very evident that each served a very different purpose.
I’ll start with the older of the two, the Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly.
This publication is closer to the journals I am familiar with in the computer world. It contains data for the most part. The primary thrust of this journal is to publish abstracts of church, family, cemetery and court records. Society members that transcribe such records now have a place to share them. It occurs to me that the Pike Heritage Museum has in its collection a few business sales record ledgers, church attendance records and public school records. If the Pike County Genealogy Society, a chapter of the OGS, has not already availed itself of transcribing these resources, then perhaps I should. On days when no visitors show up at the museum, it would be a more useful activity than reading fiction.

The second publication is more like a magazine. The Ohio Genealogy News covers the day to day activities of the society. It also covers research topics that have a more general nature than simply publishing data abstracts. For example the Summer 2007 edition covered an interesting aspect of the War of 1812. In these modern times we tend to assume that women serving in front line positions in a new thing. It is not. And while I was aware that women served supporting roles throughout most of the military history of the United States, I did not realize that women specifically were recruited during the War of 1812 to provide laundry, medical and other services on the front lines. Additionally due to the nature of the War of 1812, many wives of the men stationed in forts saw active duty when those forts were under siege.

To date I have really enjoyed my membership in the Ohio Genealogical Society. There is an ongoing effort to build a new library and it appears as if it will be a reality very soon. I look forward to visiting it.