Time for Implants

I realize there’s a fair chance a number of you read that and thought of a certain kind of implants, and wondered what in the world I was writing about today. Those aren’t the kind of implants we’ll be discussing today. Rather, I went to the dentist on Friday for my checkup, and I mentioned that a tooth had been giving me some problems on the lower left hand side of my mouth.

Not huge problems, mind you. A year ago it was sensitive to cold twice in the space of two days. And then that flared up a bit here and there over the course of the year. During the Super Bowl, it hurt when I was eating Doritos, of all things. But that’s about it.

So they decided to take a look. This is generally not followed by happy news when you’re at the dentist, in my experience . . .

First of all, they noticed that I had a huge hole in my wisdom tooth on that side of my mouth. (I’ve got a big mouth. I still have all my wisdom teeth, and they all pretty much fit fine.) Not a cavity. A hole. There’s no decay around it. It just looks like a chunk of tooth decided that it didn’t want to be there anymore, and so it went away. But it needs to be filled, just like a cavity.

Second, there’s some gum soreness in that area, which indicates I’m probably grinding my teeth on that side even more than normal. (I’m a grinder. I wear a nightguard every night, and I actually chewed through the first one I got.) Apparently the pandemic has been causing a real spike in grinding across the board, so that’s not too surprising.

Third, they took an X-ray of the tooth. The one I was complaining about seems fine, but the one next to it is still a baby tooth. (I never had a real tooth in that spot to replace it.) And it appears that its root has finally cracked. They’re going to double check it, but if that’s the case, then I have to start looking at, you guessed it, a tooth implant.

I’ve now made the mistake of googling what, exactly, the process is of getting a tooth implant. For a person with a mild phobia of dentists, this does not look like a Fun Experience. It’s enough to make me start wondering if I couldn’t just give that baby tooth a pep talk to get it to work with the team for a while longer. (Especially since I’ve got a baby tooth on the other side that might start getting ideas as well.)

So I wondered if any of you fine folks out there have gotten dental implants. If so, care to share your experience? Should I just settle down and accept the fact that I’m getting older, and more and more parts of my body are going to begin to fail on me? Are there any other alternatives I should look into? (To implants, not to getting older.) Any info from real people I know would be greatly appreciated.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Mid-Maine Youth Orchestra

Back in . . . September? October? I can no longer keep my dates straight. In any case, back in the fall, Tomas and Daniela decided that they’d like to try out of the Mid-Maine Youth Orchestra, on the off chance that the group would actually be able to do something this year. It’s a regional ensemble that Tomas had tried out for once before, but this time they had more time, and they figured they could put more work into the audition pieces.

After much practice and recording of their auditions, they were accepted into the group around December, as I recall. And in January, it was decided they could actually get the group together, though this year it would only be strings who could play. (Sorry, woodwinds.) Now, two months of weekly practices later, they’re set for their one performance, which will happen tonight at 7pm Eastern time on Facebook. (You can watch it here, if you’re so inclined.)

I’m glad they were able to do something, and I’m looking forward to watching and hearing how it all comes together. They had to follow COVID guidelines for Maine, which meant fewer than 50 people in the space at any one time, six feet apart, and lots of cleaning. But it’s been wonderful to have something approaching normalcy (and amazing to realize just how little it takes for that to qualify these days). I believe they’ve enjoyed it as well. At the very least, it’s given them something to do that’s not skiing, and it’s not like they can ski all day every day (no matter how much Denisa and they might wish that were otherwise.)

Anyway. Just thought I’d spread the word. Tune in with me tonight and watch for Tomas on violin and Daniela on cello. Great job, guys!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

My Current Take on Plotting a Novel

I’ve had a pretty wide range of approaches to plotting over the years. Back when I was first starting out, I avoided plots almost completely. I’d start off a new book with a general idea of what I wanted it to be about, almost no concept of the main characters at all, and I’d just discovery write my way through the entire novel. I felt like this kept the feeling of spontaneity for me. One of the main motivators I still have while writing is to find out what happens next. You’d think, as the author, I would already know, but I almost never did for the first 8 or 9 books I wrote.

On the one hand, this method got 8 or 9 books written, so it was successful in that measure. On the other, it meant that I had to revise those final books a whole ton to get them in any sort of shape where they were ready for other people to read them. VODNIK went through something like six or seven huge revisions, for example. Not that I mind the revision process (I actually think it’s one of my strengths, taking what’s already there and making it better), but that’s still a very inefficient way to write.

These days, I’ve come around on plots a great deal, to the point that I almost always write a general outline before I dive into the book. I try to have a better idea of who my characters are, what the main conflicts are, and what the shape of the book is going to be before I start the real writing. It’s a very broad description, however. Then, I’ve been treating each chapter like a new discovery writing exercise. I’ll sit down to write the chapter and check my notes to see what was supposed to happen in the chapter. Then I’ll free write about that, trying to figure out where it should happen, what else is going on in the background, who’s there, potential conflicts with what I’ve already written, etc. That usually ends up being about 2,000 words or so, and can take a day or two. Once I’ve got that in place, then I write the chapter itself and move onto the next one.

Is it perfect? No. In my latest book (I’m 54,000 words into THE AXEMAN at the moment), I’ve gotten to the point where what I had plotted out ahead of time no longer feels right to me. (Hard to describe that feeling. I just know that if I were to continue to stick to the plot, then I wouldn’t be happy with it. The characters don’t want to do that. It feels too contrived, etc.) So I’m free writing my way out of it. The good news is that I have a much better idea of the plot and the characters by now, so it’s much easier to know what the general ruleset is that I have to follow. (A plot, in the end, is the solution to a problem, constrained by restrictions put in place by the novel itself. It’s a puzzle: coming up with a satisfactory conclusion taking into account everything that’s come before. Thankfully, you can cheat. You just go back and fix things earlier in the book to make the ending match the beginning . .)

Anyway. That’s my general approach for now, and I’m happy with it. It still lets me feel like I’m discovering new things along the way, and it’s cut down on the number of revisions I (typically) have to make. Any of you writers out there want to share your own approaches? I’m always interested to hear everyone’s current takes.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

How Do You Treat Social Media?

I’ll admit I still don’t really understand the motivations behind the way some people use social media. The whole concept of trying to be an “influencer” eludes me, a fact that’s likely reflected by my very modest following on the blog and social media in general. I’ve never been one to try to aggressively market myself, even while I’ve seen other successfully do so to the point that they’ve been able to transition away from their full time jobs and make all their money from their blogging or podcasting or what have you.

Naturally, there are times that I question my reluctance. Maybe I should be more assertive. Maybe I should do more to try and get more people to read what I have to say. But each time I think about that, I follow it up with, “That sounds like way too much work.” It also goes against how I generally view social media.

To me, platforms like Facebook and Twitter are places where I can go and interact with good friends. I can find out what they’re doing, and they can see what I’m doing. We can discuss topics we each care about, and have a free exchange of ideas. When social media sticks to that level, I almost never have a problem with it, mainly because the people I’m good friends with aren’t the sort of people to be obnoxious on social media about things. They might disagree with me about something, and I might disagree with them, but we generally let people be how they’re going to be, unless we’re really passionate about something. (Of course, the past few years have given plenty of reasons to be really passionate about various things, so that’s broken down now and then, but it’s still largely true.)

The best real world comparison I can make is to a party where a bunch of my friends are in the room. I can go around, listen to what they’re saying, and join in if I feel inclined. But it stays friends talking to friends. If I see a friend talking to someone I know, I might listen in for a bit, but I’ll leave them be unless I’m introduced or something.

At the same time, I know there are many people who treat social media differently. To them, it’s a party where everyone’s talking, and everyone’s invited to come on up and speak their mind about a topic. I see more popular people on Twitter have to deal with strangers basically telling them what they feel they should be doing, or how they’re wrong about something, or foisting their opinions about X, Y, or Z on them. I can’t imagine putting up with that for too long, just because that’s not what social media has ever really been about for me. I’m not interested in hearing what the general public thinks about something. I’m not trying to make new friends. I just want to keep the relationships I already have.

(This also explains why I’ll hide someone from my feed if I feel like social media is making for a less positive relationship with that person. I don’t want Facebook or Twitter to make me like a person less than I would have otherwise, so I remove myself from that conversation if that’s the way it’s trending.)

Some of the more problematic interactions I’ve had on Facebook have come up because my posts are public. And the people involved in those interactions have justified them by saying, “Your post was public. If you didn’t want strangers commenting, you shouldn’t have it be public.” Which I can understand on the one hand, but I’ve always resisted for a number of reasons. First, I write what I write in the hopes that it’s read, obviously. I want it easily shareable, and setting it as public does that. Second, just because something’s public doesn’t mean I wash my hands of the ability to edit the comments. My wall, my rules. My blog, my rules.

None of this has ever really caused a problem for me, likely because I’m just not that big of a presence for it to matter. (Definitely a silver lining, there.) But I do wonder now and then if my perception of social media’s place is the common one, or if I’m in the minority. So . . . how do you view it?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

A Few More Dungeons & Dragons Presentation Thoughts (and a link to the presentation itself)

Now that my D&D presentation is behind me (huzzah!), I wanted to take a bit of time to look back at the process and detail a few things I would have done differently. The idea behind the presentation was pretty straightforward: I wanted to film the whole thing ahead of time, and then give the audience a series of choices about which way the presentation would go.

For a while, I thought I was going to have to do some sort of fancy editing to enable those choices, but I discovered YouTube has the ability to link to other YouTube videos at the end of each video you upload, so making those choices possible would be as simple as just mapping out how the videos could play out, and then being sure I linked everything the right way.

I learned a few things as I went:

  • To have those “links to other videos” at the end of a YouTube video, the video has to be at least 25 seconds long. There were a few snippet sequences I filmed that were much shorter than that, so I had to end up adding in some empty space at the end of those videos so there was enough time for the menu to pop up.
  • Actually, I had to individually edit each video to add blank space at the end, since the choice menu shows up over whatever is at the end of that video.
  • I used Quicktime to record myself at my laptop. I would then trim the beginning and ending portion of that recording from within Quicktime. I used iMovie to add in the space at the end of each video so I could have the choice menu pop up.
  • Somehow I had thought YouTube only let you have two linked videos at the end of its clips, but after I was into the innards of the interface, I saw you could have up to four links. I would have likely designed my presentation differently had I known about the extra capacity.
  • There were some sections where I wanted to splice YouTube clips into my presentation. I used MacX YouTube Downloader to get this done. It was super easy to do, and made for a seamless presentation.
  • I was impressed how far iMovie has come. Switching between audio tracks and video tracks is a simple process. So much better and more intuitive than it used to be.
  • Having a definite outline of what was going to happen when, and how everything would link together, was key. In the end, I uploaded the videos in reverse order, with the ones that happened at the end of the presentation being uploaded first. This way, I could link the videos that came before them properly once they were uploaded as well. (If that makes sense.)
  • It doesn’t take too much to give the perception of choice without actually having to film 1,000 different variations. For this, I filmed the lecture itself in several chunks. The choices then led to alternate takes that then funneled back to the core presentation each time. That said, if I were to really go all out on this, that could be done with more editing of the videos. It wouldn’t be hard, I don’t think. It would just involve more scripting, more recording, and a better decision tree map.
  • It would be fun to film an actual story this way, though I don’t know that I’ll ever justify the time it would take to do it . . .

With all that out of the way, I realize I linked the video of the presentation on Facebook, but I didn’t do it here. So if you’d like to see a 40 minute discussion about D&D and its impact on our society, check it out:

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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