Writer People #1: The Prosaic/Poetic Info Dump Technique


I wrote this a while ago. Moving forward,I’m going to be using High Jinks Below Stares to think aloud from the writer’s perspective. Reblogging to prime the pump. See you soon– S

Originally posted on High Jinks Below Stares:

Today, I’m working on the Boston Story that I drafted as part of NaNoWriMo. It’s an urban-fantasy-time-travel epic that demands far more world building than anything I’ve ever done. It’s a pain in the ass.

It starts off as an almost claustrophobic locked room tale. Today, I hit the point where everything opens up, and it’s delicious. I’m plagued by wondering if that needs to happen sooner than 28,000 words in. Yet, if it opens up too soon, it won’t have enough impact.

Because of the need for world building, I think readers of speculative fiction tolerate a longer set up than readers of other genres, as long as characters are developing and you have compelling action all the way through.

The catch-22 with speculitive fiction is that info dumps have to happen, but they cannot feel like an info dump.  I don’t always nail this one. I once wrote a 45 minute PowerPoint presentation  that…

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Strength: A Mother’s Day Perspective

As mothers, we’ve all experienced the joy of holding our children max14_a-1smallerclose, carrying them when their legs are too weak or too tired. We’ve kissed their foreheads and smoothed back their errant curls, feeling the peace of their warm baby breath.

Yet, we’ve also experienced the ache of our own physical exhaustion. Our children grow so fast, and it’s easy to find, one day, that we simply can’t do what we once did. For most moms, this means saying “no” to a cranky toddler who wants “up.” We have to bear the whines and cries, but ultimately, we know we have to be strong in order to set them on the path to physical independence.

The path is a little bit more complicated for Deana Watson. Her son Max’s extremely rare genetic disorder means he is unable to walk or stand on his own. For most of his life, Deana and her husband Steve have picked up, carried, and transferred Max dozens of times each day.

Max is now ten, and he weighs just a few pounds less than his mom. He is not a cranky toddler. He is a ten-year-old boy who loves music, Batman, and bike rides. He’s opinionated and wants to go out and play. He also has frequent doctor and therapy visits.

The Watsons now have to depend on the technological strength of  a variety of assistance devices in order to help Max navigate his daily life. Getting in and out of the house is particularly challenging. Their existing ramp is too steep and has become dangerous as Max has grown.

Putting in a different ramp is not feasible, so they’ve invested their hope in the Scalamobile, a device that will propel Max’s wheelchair up and down stairs. While Max’s genetic disorder will never allow him physical independence, this device is a step toward greater mobility and freedom for a child whose body doesn’t serve the the active mind and spirit held within it.

Something every mother can understand.

Purchasing a Scalamobile for Max is the concrete goal of the Give Max a Lift benefit co-hosted by Defy! Crossfit and Angus Mohr on May 31st.  Come join us for music, fun, and maybe a surprise raffle item or two.


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All I’m saying is: if someone has chicken wire and a kiddie pool we could make this happen. I wrote this a few years ago. My life was very different then, but this post needed only a tiny bit of freshening to still be true.
Firechucking. Fills me with delight.

Come on in, 2014. I think we’re going to be good friends.

Originally posted on High Jinks Below Stares:

“We are born of the world and we are born of the stars.  None of our changing perspectives, religious or scientific, can change that fact.”

The above is an excerpt from astrophysicist Adam Frank’s recent post on NPR’s 13.7 blog, a lovely and well written piece, but if I may interpolate:

Between the world and the stars there is this–winter comes for us all. It’s not just the shiver, the fear of hunger, the barren branches. It’s the fundamental symbolism:  Cold is the corpse’s texture, white its complexion, inevitable and too soon its timing. As the land is, we will someday be.

No matter what happens after, if you don’t grieve the loss of this life, you are a fool. And not the Fool of the tarot, unmapped and awake to infinite possibility, either. The dumbass denial kind. That fool.

It sucks to realize we’re just stock characters on a crowded stage and all the…

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John McKenna’s New Blue Sky

But before we get to that–

You should be writing reviews. You like the freedom to choose books and music without some focus-group-driven-middleman telling you what’s “good?”  You enjoy the digital world’s capacity for instant gratification? You want to help that author or artist that stirred your soul?

Write. A. Damn. Review.

In the digital world, your word carries weight. You have clout. Use it.

Okay, now where was I…oh yeah.

John McKenna’s New Blue Sky–you guessed it–a review.NewBlue Sky front

John McKenna’s New Blue Sky represents what happens when hard rock’s passion grows up and develops, instead of becoming a parody of itself. An album that took seven years to record, filled with songs penned over the course of nearly twenty years, New Blue Sky’s music manages to show you where it’s been without giving up its soul.

I don’t know if the album will, as McKenna says, change your DNA, but listening to these songs feels damn good. When using digital technology to sketch landscapes for the ear, it’s easy to lose the balance between what can be done with technology and what should be done. Yet, on this album, every instrument, sound, and fill strikes the ear as natural and thoughtfully arranged.

Like all of McKenna’s work, New Blue Sky is a concept album. It begins by examining the price we’ve already paid by exchanging our dreams of love for the cold currency of emotional safety. It then sets about exploring the possibilities for reclaiming those dreams and making them real.

Track one, “End Game,” introduces a sacrificial hero prepared to come back and show you the way if he lives through his own journey. Because he will …take the chances you won’t take… he can teach you how to feel. In the next track, “The House,” the narrator’s opening lesson is that the past where you were born and chained is nothing more than paper and glass.

The first thing that saves the album’s concept from hubris is the flawed humanity of the narrating voice. The “Rainbow Train’s” imagery of blood and razors sheds light on the shadows that inspire one to reject institutions of prescribed thought and choose the path of introspection instead. That internal exploration begins with a symbolic death and emergent rebirth in “Buried Under Winter.”

The second thing that saves this album from hubris is that the narrator, after his sojourn through night and winter, may actually be able to deliver on his initial claim. The first time I tried to listen to the sixth track’s “Purple Music,” I was at work and had to turn it off. The song spoke so directly to who and how I have become that I could not surrender my initial experience with it to just a casual listen.

With “That Look” the narrator shares introspection’s discovery that figuring out how to feel means developing the capacity to feel entirely alone. “Maybe One Day” offers both a shared sense of vulnerability and the hope that we can dream the world into how it should be.

The climax of the concept’s narrative comes with “When you See Me.” The voices of the sacrificial hero and the flawed man are united with the listener in the common cause of our shared desire for agape, the absolute acceptance of spiritual love. And yet, with “Maybe Love” the narrator sacrifices his hero’s mantle, and agape circles back to the fragile uncertainty of eros. He finds peace by embracing the storms and tides of a more personal kind of love.

The album’s final song exhorts us to stop looking for an external hero to do for us that which we can only do for ourselves. It exhorts us to stand, open our hands, and bring the light simply by showing others that it can be done.




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Northern Colorado Flood Benefit with Angus Mohr

I didn’t even need to ask if they were going to do a flood benefit show. IRialtoBenefitPaul knew there would be one. Angus Mohr and family are the type of people who, when bad things happen, they try to balance the scales.

The details follow below:

 Saturday September 28th, at the Rialto Theater, we would like you to join us, Angus Mohr, in showing those who have lost so much that they do not stand alone. The show starts at 7:00 pm. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. We’ll be donating a portion of the money taken in to local organizations helping Northern Colorado’s flood victims. The more seats we fill, the more money we’ll give. We’ll also be donating a percentage of merchandise sales.


 On stage, we’ve long joked about whiskey being the water of life. However, when the waters of life rise, as they did for so many, it’s music that helps us climb to higher ground where we can all stand together. You don’t need to know the words to raise your voice; you don’t need to know the steps to dance. 


 You don’t need a roof either, but we are lucky enough to still have one at Loveland’s historic Rialto Theater. Our Rialto show has always been a celebration of our connection to other Front Range musicians. In addition to sharing the stage with acts like Skansen and Hanssen, Angus Mohr’s line-up always grows by a member or two the night of the Rialto Show. We still rock out, but it’s also a chance to get our art on. We’ll play songs rarely heard at festival or club shows that embody the fullest expression of who we are.

 So, come on, express yourself; come dance and sing along. Let’s do some good while having a good time. 

 Yours in appreciation (as always),

Angus Mohr


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When I Die, Please Send Flowers

The world does not need more practicality, more measured decisions, and sterile good sense like “in lieu of flowers.” The world needs beauty in all it’s extravagance.

I just finished reading Amy Stewart’s Flower Confidential. For a lot of the book, I felt conflicted. Cut flowers engineered to the point where they couldn’t reproduce, or give off scent, or survive without a host of chemical fungicides and pesticides. Stewart quotes one grower as saying, “I wouldn’t ever advise taking a bath in rose petals.” Not to mention the hazards these chemicals pose for the mostly underpaid and under-insured workers who employ them.

Yet, when I walk past mounds and bouquets of petals and green– lilies, orchids, tulips, gladiolas– and yes roses, of course, roses– something lifts in my soul. Maybe I wouldn’t be writing this paean to plant sex organs if it was summer and all the flowers I could want were just a mountain meadow away.

IMG_5414But it’s winter, and cold sucks the color from the ground and bleaches the sky. In the Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan wrote about the Dutch tulip craze, and throughout the book, he talks about how plants have turned us into their bees– except we don’t just pollinate, we propagate, nurture, and protect.

When it comes to cut flowers, we are generally not interested in anything practical– not nourishment, or investment return, or anything other than the way looking at it makes us feel. There is something deeply humanizing about being slaves to beauty for beauty’s own sake.

And the drawbacks– chemicals and bad working conditions. Those aren’t the flowers’ fault. Those are our misplaced and far too “practical” value systems at work– demanding the most from the plant, and the people, and the environment, without wanting to give much of anything in return. But we’re learning, we can vote with our wallets and choose ethical growers.

A flower’s beauty is more than petal deep. It represents that final blaze and thrill of vitality  before the sleep of seedpod and the death that brings about new life. When I die, that’s the image I want coming back to my children, my friends, and family– that existence is a brilliant joy, and its seeming transience is only because our essence is so deeply rooted that we can forget to see it.

So, hell yeah, when I die, send all the flowers you want– and while you’re at it, maybe pick up some for yourself tomorrow :).

Love you all.

I guess this is my Solstice post :).


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Lonigan’s Weekend

Back to back Angus Mohr shows. Their new album. Estes Park. Three reasons to love fall.

This is my shortest blog post ever.


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