Monday Muse: Editing

Hello, blog world! A, here. It’s been a rather long day of productivity (despite the brutal six day rehearsal week I just endured, and it being my only day off) so let’s keep at it with a good ol’ fashioned Monday Muse.

As you probably know by now, C and I have completed the first draft of our manuscript. It’s a beautifully bound bundle of joy, coming in at 150 pages (double sided) and approximately 150,000 words. We are very, very, very proud and, as all proud parents do, we are proceeding to rip our baby down so that it can be the best version of itself it possibly can be… Ok, maybe that’s not exactly how parenting works, but, in our case, we’re 50,000 words over the typical length of a first-time author’s allotted word count. That’s a lot of words. And I happen to be attached to every single one.

C worried that upon my approach to our deadline, I would go crazy trying to get out those last few chapters. In retrospect, that was nothing. Editing, however, is the stuff of my nightmares. Let me be very clear, C is the seasoned writer of our little duo. I’m a well-rounded artistic type, but I’ve never completed something of this scale. Let alone had to turn around and slaughter it. Oh sure, I’ve penned a short story or poem, and I write a mean research paper, but I’ll be damned if I’ve ever gone back, looked at a perfectly nice sentence and sentenced it to death.

The dreaded red pen was once the tool of overzealous AP teachers and college professors. What the hell am I doing with one?? How can I possibly tackle this without bias? Without wincing with every pen stroke? Without crying? (Ok, there haven’t been any uncontrollable tears yet, but it’s probably because I’m not cutting enough material.) Every word is important in my eyes. Every nuance, further enhancing the characters and settings we worked so hard to create. It’s just… So very disheartening.

I am literally finding other important shit to do in order to avoid editing… Remember when I said I had a productive day? Yeah, it was absurdly productive. I’m not procrastinating (I’d feel guilty doing something as overt as procrastinating) so I’m actually accomplishing all the random stuff I’ve lately set aside. And, truth be told, once this blog post is finished I’ve got no other obligations to save me. When I hit that upload button I will have no choice but to pick up my scary red pen and my beautiful first copy of Killing Mercutio, and make it bleed red ink.

So, yes, you’ve probably noticed this post is somewhat longer than what I typically pen. Also, somewhat rant-ier… At least I’m honest about it, right? But, yes, you’re right, that’s no excuse, and it’s time to do the dirty work. The dirty, miserable, wretched, depressing work…

So here I go.

I’m going.

It’s happening.

Right now.


Oh, for the love of cheese, someone just push the upload button for me!

Ok, ok I’m going. But, in all seriousness, if any of our reader/writer friends out there have any advice on overcoming the fear of editing, (or editing itself, for that matter) I’m all ears.

*heavy sigh*

I’m really going to go do this now.


See you on Friday for Boozy Books!



Silly Sunday: Let’s All Buy A House!

Hey, y’all! It’s Silly Sunday here in Cactus-land (which sounds like the WORST themepark idea in the world now that I’ve typed it, so A, we’ll have to scrap the rollercoaster)! My internet is down because Comcast might be working for Satan (actually, no, that’s insulting to Lucifer), so I’m sallying forth into the whole new world of doing this on my phone.

I do not like it as much.

Fortunately for you, it’ll keep today short. I heard those sighs of relief and, frankly, I am…totally aware I write too much. I edit when it counts, people.

Anyway, today’s Silly Sunday is…

Mr. Darcy’s house is up for sale! It can be yours for the low, low price of €7 million (plus 45 mil in repairs)! Quick, someone who’s good at math get me a conversion!

Now, I know we creative types aren’t usually flush with cash (go ahead and sing that a la Jean Ralphio, I know you want to), but I’m thinking we could make this work if we all pool it together. There’s 365 rooms. Quick, Math Person, how much is that per person?

Oh. Ok. Maybe we do a sort-of time share thing? Or…maybe Austenland? The movie’s a horrible guilty pleasure with us, but I think we could do it better. Don’t you, Nerd Cactus community? Yeah, I think we could, too.

Plus, the house is in super nice shape, so our redecorating montage set to harpsichord music would be really short and mostly involve furnishing the place. And that 45 million worth of repairs we’d pay other people to do. (No one needs weeks of harpsichord music. No one.)

Spread the word! (Please. This is our platform we’re in the process of building. Any of you who’ve gone through this process know what it’s like. Help us get Mercutio into the world! /shameless plea)

See y’all tomorrow for whatever A has got up her sleeve!


Shakespeare Saturday: Re-imagining Hamlet

Hello, friends, and welcome back to Shakespeare Saturday! Bet you thought we’d run out of material by now, eh? Well, so did we… But, wait, there’s more! Shakespeare has so engrained himself into our culture and language that it may actually be impossible to exhaust the subject (knock on wood). New productions are constantly mounted and re-imagined (whether in 1950s cuba or the far reaches of space), becoming a staple in many a theatrical season.

The Wilma Theatre in Pennsylvania is one such theatre. The Wilma is a professional production house which has been around since 1973, hosting a wealth of innovative/provocative shows. As a theatre that prides itself for pushing the envelope of expectations it is no wonder that their current production of Hamlet is raising some eyebrows.

Lemme ‘splain… The Wilma’s Danish Prince is being played by a black woman. Yup, you read that right. Hamlet is being portrayed by Zainab Jah who has been receiving remarkable praise and molding herself to portray Hamlet, the great Dane, as realistically as possible. The play has not changed, the character’s gender has not changed, and, no, it is not meant as a commentary on trans issues… It’s Shakespeare. It is a rethinking of something that has been seen and done a million times, exactly as written, but allowing a woman to tackle that most sought after of roles… HAMLET.

The biggest argument in favor of this casting choice has been: “well men played all the women during Shakespeare’s time”. And it’s also quite true that most of the really meaty rolls in theatre (musical theatre, Shakespeare, you name it…) are written for men. While this is indeed true (and a tiresome struggle for many actresses, including myself) it is petty to suggest that Jah was cast only for shock value.  What I loved reading was that the director of The Wilma’s production cast the role based on who she felt was the most transformative actor whom she could count on to commit to the role.

Will Jah’s performance be comparable to those of Ian McKellan or Kenneth Branagh? You know… I guess that remains to be seen. History will tell. Whatever the case, congratulations to Jah and The Wilma for trying something new with 400 year old material. That is always to be commended, because without the continued love of Shakespeare and the will to infuse it with a new piece of flair we’d have nothing to write about on Saturdays.

The Wilma’s production of Hamlet runs through May 2016.

Happy Saturday, readers and join us tomorrow for something silly!


Boozy Books: The Decameron

Hey, guys! Welcome to Boozy Books, where we get ya drunk and expand your minds at the same time! How many other things do that? Drinking and reading is the best sort of combination you can have. If more people drank and read, this world would be a better place. So…in case you haven’t made a resolution yet, maybe think about swearing to read a book whenever you drink. You’re a hell of a lot more likely to keep that one than ever use the gym membership, and you know it.

Anyway. Since it is the beginning of the year (I am aware New Year’s Day was a Friday, but this is *my* first Boozy Books of the year, so I’m doing what I want), I thought I’d start out with something challenging. We’re all in the haze of that resolution to read while we drink, determined to get some reading done and finish all that holiday-time wine, so why not impress your friends with that huge brain of yours? Seriously, it’s way more impressive than some biceps or abs…and infinitely more useful.

The Decameron, folks. It even sounds smart. Say it real slow, now…The De-ca-mer-on. Oh man, you must be super into philosophy and art. You must win all the pub trivia. I want to be friends with that kinda smart. Super cool.

OK, let’s get started. The Decameron is a group of stories (novellas) written by Giovanni Boccaccio in the years following an outbreak of plague in Florence. These novellas encompass 100 stories on various themes, all of which contribute to a sort-of mosaic reflecting life at that time. It is also written in the vernacular, one of the earliest major pieces to be written as such. (The Divine Comedy being one of the others, just for a “Now You Know” moment.) Even we historians get to read it, which is great because sometimes you really want a break from old dudes trying to determine if the Pope puts on his right sock first or his left. (You know, I could see historians arguing about that, with a sort of Catholic v Protestant spin. If the Pope puts on his right sock first, he is correct and good and, well, right. If, however, the Pope puts on his left sock first, he is secretly a servant of the Devil and not the real authority. Seriously, guys, historians do this shit all the time. It’s kind of annoying.)

Anyway. Moving on. The Decameron begins with seven young women and three young men fleeing to the countryside outside of Florence in order to escape the plague. They decide to each take turns telling stories every night, with the exception of one day a week for chores and the Sabbath. Thus, there are ten days of ten stories, equaling 100. Each night, one person is selected King or Queen of that session and gets to choose the theme, and everyone (with the exception of Dioneo, who goes last, and is exempted by dint of his wit) has to tell a story around that theme. These include love that ends well, love that ends tragically, stories where wit saves the day, stories of virtue, etc. A great many of the stories are notably filthy (Chaucer was undoubtedly influenced), funny, and thought-provoking. These stories also often end up referencing one another, building into a narrative that makes a great deal of sense as a whole. It is for this reason that The Decameron is not considered a collection of stories, but a single whole.

The themes on display in T.D. (I’m tired of typing it) are of great import beyond the literary crowd. Boccaccio enjoys a place within the historiography of urbanization and the end of Feudalism (yes, the two are connected) because so many of the stories contained within T.D. are based within a society that is increasingly urban. Italy at this time (mid-1300s) is moving away from Feudalism and toward urbanization and a monetized economic system (it is at this point that great families like the Medici are beginning to rise in influence due to their place in banking). Thus, the virtues of wit, sophistication, and intelligence–associated with the urban movement–are espoused within T.D., while the Church and its methods are often lampooned. (It must be noted that the plague brought about widespread discontent with the Church. It’s almost as if prayer and sin had nothing to do with whether someone got sick, or something.) Oh, yeah, and Boccaccio was totes cool with sex; none of this, “oh, I am not worthy…these base desires” nonsense here.

Seriously, guys. The book is great. A lot of the themes contained are as timeless as they are a period of their time, and the stories are both entertaining and meaningful. You’ll enjoy reading it AND impress your friends with how super smart you are. Not to mention, it’ll make reading Shakespeare a lot more fun, and you know how we here at Nerd Cactus feel about Shakespeare. There’s a translation from 2013 by Wayne Rebhorn that is remarkably accessible, so there won’t be any difficulty in understanding and enjoying the stories. GO. DO IT.

What to drink? Well…if you’re anything like me, there’s some leftover booze from the holidays (mostly because I don’t drink much). But, in case you aren’t thisclose to teetotalism, I’m recommending a Chianti (liver and fava beans optional). Chianti is sort of the “signature” wine of the region…well, actually, it *is* the signature wine of the region, as all Chiantis must come from the Chianti region in Tuscany. Chiantis are a bold, flavorful red wine with typically fruity flavors, and they pair well with complex palates (or, again, liver and fava beans. Seriously, does anyone NOT immediately go there when they hear the word Chianti). Given the rich complexity and depth of The Decameron, I think it is a perfect match.

OK, that’s it for me today! We’ll see you tomorrow with the Shakespeare Update.



Monday Muse: Finish What You Start

Hey, guys! Welcome to the inaugural Monday Muse of 2016! (Note: I did not type 2015 on accident! I am so proud of myself right now.)  Today is going to be short, but sweet:

You have got to finish what you start.

Yeah. That’s really it.

It’s fun to start. You get this amazing flash of genius and, in the haze of creative euphoria that is the honeymoon period, everything just seems to flow from your fingertips like a river of coffee. Delicious, beautiful, production-inducing coffee. Planning, research, character sketches, and note cards. So many note cards. Or, you know, whatever people use in the 21st century. You begin to bleed words onto the page, hour after hour of this amazing story pouring from you as if the gods themselves have decreed it to be so.

And then the euphoria wears off and the voice of the gods fades away. The words slow to a trickle, a slow trudge uphill (both ways!) against the twin specters of procrastination and B.P.S. (Blank Page Syndrome). You’re still bleeding words, but this time it feels like you’re a vampire squeezing the last drops out of a completely drained vein. It’s not fun anymore; now it feels like pulling teeth. So you put the project aside, and your grand plan is no more. Oh, you say you’ll go back later…but you probably won’t. And so another great idea is left to rot.

That shit is sad. That is the saddest thing in the writing world. A bunch of half-formed stories, plotted and begun, but never, ever reaching their end. What a waste.

Thing is, you gotta finish. You’ve got to push through the doldrums and the periods where being creative feels like work. Because even the most creative endeavor needs work, and is work. It wouldn’t be worth it if it weren’t work. So, if you really want it all to mean something–if you want to have a thing in this world that’s all yours–you’ve got to finish what you start.

Just like us. Oh yeah…did I mention we finished our draft? Yeah. We did. Did I write this entire Muse just to get to this point? Perhaps. Do you want proof? Here it is!


Yes. Along with the delicious glass of cider, that is two pages of the most beautiful thing I have ever created in my life. Double-sided printing got it down to 125 pages. Currently, it sits at 151,000 words of amazingly beautiful everything. Will I have to murder large swathes of it to make it better? Yes, I will. But will I take today to bask in the glory of what A and I made? You bet your ass. This is an amazing thing. And why is it amazing?

Because we damn well finished it! And you should finish your projects, too.

It’s totally worth it.


Silly Sunday: GIF of the day

Happy Silly Sunday! Yes, I’m about twenty minutes late to post, but I’ve been doing last minute edits all evening. So, please, try not to judge my tardiness. Avert your judge-y eyes, dammit!

Today, all I’ve got for you is a simple, wonderful GIF. I for one, couldn’t stop watching it. Thank goodness for loops, amiright? I giggled for several minutes straight because what’s not to love about penguins and “derp”iness?



Shakespeare Saturday: Celebration!

OK…this post is a bit of a cop-out. I apologize. But I’m also super excited.


Nerd Cactus totally made its (entirely self-imposed) New Year’s Deadline for the first draft of Killing Mercutio. We’re on our way to publishing.

It’s one of the best (and worst) feelings to finish a draft. And now we’re into edits. So, that’s exciting!

I need to thank Shakespeare for this. His characters appear en masse (from more than just Romeo and Juliet), his quotes slide in both unbidden and very bidden (I enjoyed weaving subtle references…and really obvious ones…into the story), and, of course, the whole novel is a spin on one of his plays. Minus the parts we hated.

Romeo and Juliet was not one of our favorite plays. I’m a huge fan of Hamlet these days, having seen a number of amazing performances, as well as The Taming of the Shrew (for the same reason and also a breakthrough I had some months ago that I totally wrote about here multiple times). I love many of Shakespeare’s plays; two annoying teens thinking their hormone-fest is love is not one of them.

But I admit I have a soft spot for it now, if only because it’s the inspiration for some of my favorite characters ever.

So, everyone, raise a glass to Nerd Cactus! We’re on our way to being professionals!


Boozy Books: Mystery Mania!

Happy Friday and Happy New Year, readers! Welcome to the first Nerd Cactus post of 2016 (aka: the year a C and I drowned in editing). I kid. It promises to be a very exciting year for Team Nerd Cactus as our novel timeline is picking up speed toward the submission process, and, of course, we’ll be continuing the blog and returning to the Stratford Festival in August. Yay! 2016 is looking up!

PBS is doing their part to make 2016 awesome with tonight’s Sherlock special. I’m so ready! Now, we’ve already covered the works of Arthur Conan Doyle here at Boozy Books so tonight we’re sort of honoring the early mystery genre. I found a great listicle from the Huffington Post that puts together a great selection of mystery stories that are on par with the Sherlock Holmes stories. I haven’t read all these myself so I’m excited to pick up a few (particularly The Moonstone).

As for the ones I have read… I recommend Edgar Allan Poe’s first Dupin story, The Murders in the Rue Morgue. Not only am I partial to Poe, but this story is considered the very first of the detective/mystery genre. In fact, the setup of the character is not unlike the opening of A Study in Scarlet. If you’ve read one you’ll notice the similarities in the other right off the bat. Holmes was certainly influenced by the character of Dupin and I love reading with the knowledge that the story influenced another great author. The greatest of artists tend to borrow, do they not?

Because these are the kinds of mysteries that keep you guessing as you try to piece the puzzle together, I am pairing this genre (let’s call it Victorian mystery) with cognac. It’s heavy in alcohol content and made for sipping so you can sip and sleuth, mulling over the mystery of the story as well as the flavors of this complex brandy. Also, being a French alcohol, it is absolutely something Dupin (a Frenchman) would drink.

So here’s to you and 2016! May the New year bring you plenty of books and booze… Starting with this!