An Ode to Drinking Coffee in the Shower

Chocolate colored, steaming, so hot it burns your lips. Yup, I’m talking java. The liquid accelerant that slaps your mind every morning. Just the scent will get me out of bed.

Here’s the problem. Time. I like to indulge my coffee goodness. Gulping wastes the tawny-colored libation. Plus it’s liable to scorch the tongue. I typically brew up a liter to slurp in the am hours. So how do you have your proverbial cake and drink it too? The answer is combining tasks.

My second love is the shower. My wife says is swim in there. Truthfully I do my best problem solving under a piping-hot drenching. I’ve considered buying waterproof paper and pen, but that’d probably ruin the experience. It’s the fact that this is the one place I can’t write anything down which makes it the very reason so many ideas germinate there. So yeah, I take my time, swimming through my thoughts.

I used to slurp some coffee just before heading into the shower, only to return to a cooled cup. (Microwaves are none too kind to the brew.) One morning, I just took the mug o’joe in with me.

Now I’ve had plenty of people interrogate me on the logistics of this feat. Frankly, I hardly gave it much thought. My shower has sliding doors, so I simply set the cup on top, hooking the mug when I need a java boost. The whole experience reminds me of that episode where George Costanza eats his pastrami sandwich, watches TV, all while in bed (the perfect combination of three worlds). As to the logistics, it’s not like I face the water stream while I drink. That would dilute the coffee with water. I just sip now and then, enjoying the shower.

For all of you wanting a little slice of heaven, join us coffee shower drinkers (though at this point I might be the only one).

Tim Kane

Writer’s Paradox: The Less Time You Have, The Better You Write (Or How Writer’s Are Like Grape Vines)

Wannabe writers often bemoan that they can’t find the time to write. It’s not going to happen, they say. They’re too busy.

This reminds me of an adage I once heard: Want something done, ask someone who’s busy. On the surface, this doesn’t make sense. Busy people shouldn’t have time to get something done. But that’s exactly it. Busy people get things done.

Okay, I have to segue to the wine thing. What in the blue blazes does wine have to do with writing? (Other than it can sometimes help loosen the fingers for typing.) Glad you asked. It goes back to something a winemaker stuck in my head years ago. That is: stressed vines produce better grapes.

Here’s the science of it in a nutshell. A vine, like any other plant, wants to flourish. Give it plenty of water and rich soil and it will grow vigorously. Yet it’s fruit will be lackluster. This is because the vine is happy. Why put much effort into reproducing when everything’s so peachy.

Now put that same vine in rocky soil and cut down it’s water to a dribble. The vine will still live, but it’s freaked out now. It’s thinking, I need to find a better place to live. Alas, plants don’t have feet. So the best solution is to produce fruit that birds can eat. The seeds are spread, and the plant hopes to flourish on better soil. The worse the environment, the more the vine will want to search out better sites through reproduction.

The same applies to writing. Imagine you’re a writer with an easy life. You’re like those vineyards where the vines are laid out on flat, level plains with plenty of moisture. Heck, you can even use a machine to pick the grapes. This sort of writer doesn’t have a strong desire to produce work because life is so good.

Now the stressed writer only has a few precious hours a day to get the writing accomplished. No time to dilly dally about. You either write, or it doesn’t get done. Period.

I can’t say I wanted to choose the path of the stressed writer. Economics did it for me. Now, for any wannabe who still claims they have no time, let me illustrate my schedule. First off, I’m a school teacher. A damn good one. I don’t goof off at school. I commit myself to my students. And this takes a good chunk of my time. I get home around 3:30 or 4:00 each day. Then I switch to my family. My daughter usually hits the sack around 7:30, so the hours in between belong to her and my wife.

After that I get to write, correct? Not really. I have a second job (third if you count writing). This is creating test questions for various standardized tests. Remember those word problems about trains barreling toward each other on the SAT? I’m the chap who writes them. This takes usually two hours of my night, which puts me at about 9:30.

Something you need to know about me. I sleep easily. I can fall asleep driving, or reading, or even talking. No, I’m not narcoleptic, but my body shuts down when my brain isn’t stimulated. On long drives, I have my wife read me trivia questions to keep my brain functioning (so I won’t crash the car).

Thus by 9:30 I’m already winding down. I used to write during this time, but I found that I fell asleep on my keyboard after maybe thirty minutes. I still do a bit of writing, but it’s mostly blogging like this or critique work from my writing groups.

That leaves the morning. I set the alarm for 4:11 (What can I say? I like prime numbers). I hit the snooze at least once. But I’m usually up and caffeinated by five am. This gives me a solid hour to work. By six, my daughter is usually stirring and I have to get ready for teaching.

That’s not a lot of time. But I do it every day. Rain or shine. Sick or well. I’m able to produce about 75,000 words (typical novel length) of polished material in one year. Plus, I take weekends off (sort of) and write short stories.

So if you claim to have no time to write, ask yourself this: When will you have time? Stop thinking about what you will do someday, and get it done today. Right now.

Writing is my passion. My mind would starve without it.

Tim Kane

How Far Can a Hotel Soar? My Time at the Gaslamp Gathering Steampunk Convention

Today I had the privilege of traveling on the maiden voyage of the airship Z.R.A. Gaslight. (Ok, not exactly maiden). The inaugural flight was Friday, and I joined Saturday. And it’s not really an airship, but a steampunk convention, the first in San Diego.

This was my first steampunk convention. I’ve been to ComicCon for years. Even a Dark Shadows convention. I’ll have to say, these were the best attired conventioneers I’ve seen yet. Most of these things are a sea of T-shirts, sweat stains, and flip flops.

The steampunk denizens derive from a combination of costume makers, Victorian devotees, and Ren Faire folk. The costumes were intricately detailed. The aesthetic breeds on the excessively ornate. The time period, after all, is pseudo-Victorian. The exhibitor room was filled with vendors selling tiny baubles and pins, along with plenty of clothes.

Speaking of clothes, I feel that you shouldn’t go all cosplay unless you have a decent wardrobe to pull it off. Nothing’s worse than a half-assed attempt at costuming. That being said, I like to get in the theme a little. I wore a dress shirt under a multi-pocketed vest.

Now, I want to take a moment to stand in defense of vests. They rock. Mine had four tiny pockets on the front. I was able to tuck in my business cards, a few credit cards, a map, the parking ticket, and the new pocket watch I purchased at the convention. Everyone should wear a vest. They seriously need to come back in fashion.

Finally, I succumbed to the allure of the Victoriana and purchased a hat. In my defense, I plan to throw my daughter a Mad Hatter birthday party, so I’ll get more use out it. Now, partway through the convention, my wife and I broke for lunch. Over in the adjoining mall.

Filled with normal people.

There I was in a vest, with a pocket watch, and a tall felt hat. Yup, I blended in. But I was hungry, so I foraged ahead. I went to Nordie’s cafe and, like a respectable gentleman, I removed my hat. The lady behind the counter was amazed. She’d never seen anyone take off his hat in a restaurant before. Maybe the world needs a few more manners?

Ok, enough of me jawing at you. You want the pictures.

Steampunk Borg

League of Steam

The League of Steam is sort of like a ghostbusting team if they existed circa 1880. They “freed” my wife from a pesky ghost who had infested her. Oh, and they also had a pet zombie with a feeding tube and a buzzer to signal when he needed to be fed.

Zombie with a Fez

Amazing Steampunk fairy. Those wings are all carved from foamboard!

Tim Kane

Why Twitter Should Scare the Pants Off All Writers

My wife once worked in a casting office for a local theater. Sorting head shots and arranging casting calls for upcoming plays.

(Uh, Tim. What the heck does this have to do with writing?)

I’m getting to that.

I had to help her sort the head shots one time. There were stacks of them. Some so dusty they’d been there since Shakespeare was a midshipman. She once commented that all wannabe actors should work in a casting office for at least a month. It would show them just how many other talented performers were out there. Schlepping just like they were.

I tried to imagine it. I did. But it never really clicked. I didn’t want to act. So mostly I tucked that comment in the back of my brain as a nifty academic novelty.

Then I logged onto Twitter.

Okay, I’d been there before. Created the account way back in 2008. But only recently did I really try to use the service. Well, now I get what the hypothetical actors must have felt.

Thousands of other writers out there. Not just in other genres, but the exact same thing I write. Lots of them are published. Many aren’t. It scared me.

Sure. I always knew I wasn’t alone. It’s not like my query letters were the only ones agents received. I’d been to conferences. Heck, even a walk through a book store made it obvious how difficult this field is.

But it all still seemed academic. Those writers, after all, weren’t trying to write what I wrote. But on Twitter, I keep running into writer after writer doing the same sorts of things I’m doing. Struggling with the same issues on the page. It freaked me out a little.

Then I rallied.

The scary part about all these people is also the blessing. They’re a community. Their problems are also my problems. There are literally hundreds of writers, all at different points in the publishing process. Some copy editing their galleys. Some attempting to just get that first sale. Either way, they all have something meaningful to say.

So yes, it was a bit intimidating at first. Certainly a wake up call. But hey, writing is something you just do. If you have that bug in you, you’re not going to let it go just cause a few other people got infected too. Man up and accept the fact that it’s a steep hill to climb. It just makes getting to the top that much sweeter.

Tim Kane