#atozchallenge: P is for Alec Poe

Alec Poe - Keifer Sutherland

Q: What’s Alec’s origin?

A: Alec arrived the same day as Caren, on that very first day I started writing The Phoenix Effect.  I always make sure he and Caren are always standing on equal ground in whatever they do.  I based their work relationship a bit on Mulder and Scully from The X-Files, but more of it came from Kusanagi and Batou from Ghost in the Shell, as well as Deunan and Briareos from Appleseed.  They work extremely well together and are very close, and yet their personalities are quite different.
As for his name, I wanted one that sounded slightly out of fashion from everyone else’s.  He’s almost always referred to as “Poe” by Caren and his fellow agents.

Q: He’s got a Mendaihu name as well.  What’s that origin?

A: Alix Eiyashné [ey-YASH-ney] is not just a Mendaihu name, it’s his given birth name.  Alec was given up for adoption almost immediately after he was born.  His adoptive parents, Angela and Daniel Poe, are both academics and gave him a very robust education growing up.  He chose not to follow up with his birth parents and never met them, though his adoptive parents did keep in loose touch with them, if just to trade information on health issues and whatnot.  He finds out more about them, and himself, in The Persistence of Memories, much of it quite unexpected.
He very rarely uses his Mendaihu name, for very personal reasons.

Q: That’s Kiefer Sutherland in that picture.  Is Alec based on him?

A: Almost from the start, I envisioned him playing the role.  Strong but soft-spoken, good-looking but weathered by life.  Out of all the characters, Alec is the one that’s changed the least physically throughout the various drafts.  Whenever I wrote a scene with him, I pictured Sutherland acting it out so I’d be able to get the mannerisms down correctly.

Q: He certainly does seem to smoke a lot, doesn’t he?  People still smoke in the far future?

A: I’ll totally cop to the fact that I wrote most of Poe’s scenes for the first two books while I was a smoker back in the late 90s-early 00s.  I needed to give him a nervous twitch, and that was the first thing that came to mind.  He’s extremely aware of his habit and how it may bother some characters, so he’ll only light up if others around him don’t mind.  Caren isn’t the biggest fan of it, but she lets him do it anyway because it’s a release for him.

And yes, that’s a very good question!  You don’t see smokers as much as you did fifteen or so years ago, thanks to state laws forbidding it in certain public places, but back when I first wrote many of these scenes, it was rarely frowned upon.  It’s a habit/pastime that has evolved over the centuries but never quite went away.  Even now, vaping already has fans and detractors.  I chose to keep it in the Mendaihu Universe, having it still a thing.  It’s still not that healthy, but it’s not a taboo either.  It just is.

Q: He has a unique relationship with Akaina Shalei, the Mendaihu agent.  What’s with that?

A: This was a relationship that took me some time to figure out.  At first I was worried that I was forcing a match on him (after all, I’d put Caren and Anando together not that long before), but there was something about his first meeting with her that stuck with me, so I chose to play it out.  He’s quite the moody guy, and I wanted someone other than Caren to give him some kind of mental/spiritual stability and balance.  Kai is full of patience and positivity, and she immediately noticed Poe’s startling lack of it.  She willingly opened herself to him almost from the start, and he wasn’t used to that, at least not outside his immediate friends, which intrigued him and attracted him to her.  In the process, Kai learns calm her sometimes overexcitable spirit by learning to slow herself down when he’s around.  Poe changes the most in the trilogy, mainly because of Kai.

Q: Anything else?

A: He still lives in the same apartment that he grew up in with his adoptive family; he bought it from them when they moved north to New Boston Province.  His demeanor can be off-putting sometimes, especially when he’s distracted by his thoughts.  [His habit of not finishing a sentence is totally me, which drives my wife nuts!]  Like Christine Gorecki, he feels more comfortable being on the periphery than being the center of attention.  He’s a voracious reader, thanks to his adoptive parents.  He has an older brother in that family, David; he also had a blood-relation sister from his birth family but she died during the last Embodiment.  He’s quite the cook at home, when he has the time for it.  He might be a smokestack, but he rarely touches alcohol.  He loves both Caren and Denni like family, and will do anything for them.  Despite his gruff outer shell, he’s a big ol’ softy.

#atozchallenge: O is for the One of All Sacred

Writing a character trope such as a Chosen One can be tricky, because there are so many ways you can fall into the trap of being predictable.  Too often they end up as the reluctant hero (Neo in The Matrix, Katniss in The Hunger Games) or the easily distracted and imperfect person who needs to learn how to ascend in status (Daniel in The Karate Kid, Karou in Daughter of Smoke and Bone).  But they sell, and readers love them, so I won’t say it’s necessarily a bad thing.

With Denni Johnson, I wanted her to be all of that — a reluctant hero, easily distracted and imperfect.  But I also wanted her to be aware that she was being put into that situation as well.  That’s part of her role as the One of All Sacred: she’s aware.  Which ups the ante with internal and external conflict, doesn’t it?  How do you play the role of deity without being pigeonholed into the role of savior or superhero?  That was one of Denni’s first pronouncements, even as she was entering Moulding Warehouse for the first time: she was a deity, but she was a human, just like everyone else there.  Don’t expect miracles.

The role of the One of All Sacred within the Mendaihu Universe is that of overseer, really.  They don’t necessarily have to change the world or make it a better place…their role is really just to make sure its problems don’t spiral out of control.  The spirit of the One is resurrected every twenty to twenty-five years (roughly once a generation or so) to keep an eye on things, gauge where we are in our evolution, and make a few changes or tweaks if necessary.

Denni Johnson is the Ninth Embodiment on Earth.  [There were many embodiments prior to Earth’s, both on Mannaka and Meraladh, but that’s another storyline entirely.]  Right away she’d decided that instead of trying to play the expected role, she’d change it to something that made more sense to her.  That in turn changed the expectations of all the parties involved.  Her personal choices affected everyone else in the process.  Instead of turning off Nehalé Usarai’s awakening ritual, she kept it going.  She saw it as a way to start with a bit of a clean slate; no one was prepared for this move, so everyone’s on the same page and fumbling a bit, including her.

Giving her the awareness of her situation was quite the trick; in essence, she’s in a constant state of paying attention to what’s going on and having the ability to change events if necessary.  She needed to be able to think on the fly, accept that she may make mistakes, and know when to let nature and/or fate take its course instead.

On a more spiritual level, I had to make sure that she wasn’t exactly seen as The Goddess That Is (an analog to the main gods and goddesses of current religions, and who pretty much runs — not rulesthe known universes).  The One is more of an Earth Goddess, the one in charge of the planet.  The position has been held by all kinds of people; young, old, man, woman, Meraladian, Earther, and so on.  Each Embodiment had their own strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures.  What makes Denni different?  Well…you’ll need to read the books to find out!

 

And then there’s Saisshalé.

As I’d said previously, there’s a yin-yang to everything in the Mendaihu Universe.  Yes, even the Dearest One has an opposing force, one who embraces chaos just as the One of All Sacred embraces order.  More about him on Friday.

#atozchallenge: k is for kiralla

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Creator unknown, borrowed from fanpop.com

The kiralla was the answer to the question:  what does someone’s soul look like?

Or more to the point, what is the aspect of someone whose soul has achieved a divine level and balance of both Mendaihu and Shenaihu spirit?  The ultimate ascension, where they are able to control both sides of themselves without inner turmoil.  In the context of the Mendaihu Universe, the kiralla aspect is in ancestral memory: it’s what the purest Trisandi spirit looks like.  So in essence, if one is kiralla, either naturally or awakened through ritual, then they are considered to have truly returned to their spiritual roots.

[Yeah, I know, pretty heavy stuff there.]

The idea of the kiralla came to me during the 1995-6 season of me reading all kinds of New Age books.  I’d borrowed the idea of reptilians in fantasy and conspiracy (thank you David Icke) and the Pleiadians (thank you Barbara Marciniak) and played around with it for a while.  What if aliens were a normal and integral part of human reality?  I’d chosen dragons as the physical embodiment, aware of their mythical and mystical history.  I took out the conspiracy and the trope of aliens-as-villains (as well as its overused cousin, aliens-as-overlords-because-us-humans-are-ignorant-and-weak-insects) and re-introduced them as our long-forgotten ancestral kin.

Which ultimately means that we humans are also able to ascend enough to become kiralla as well.  This fact alone makes up quite an important part of the Bridgetown Trilogy and the Mendaihu Universe.

The strength of the kiralla is as fearsome as their presence.  Generally they are about thirty feet long from snout to tail tip, about ten to fifteen feet tall.  Their wingspan is about thirty to forty feet.  Their coloring, shape and physical attributes vary and are related to the Trisandi clan they come from.  They are social creatures, but they are just as fine being on their own for extended periods of time.  Their psionic abilities are unrivaled and immeasurable.  They are able to Lightwalk very long distances in a very short amount of time, either in kiralla or in human form.  The feel their highest responsibility is in keeping an unending, protective (yet rarely interactive) watch over humans and other spiritual kin.

And yes, we will be seeing a lot more of them in The Persistence of Memories and The Balance of Light!

* * * * * *

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Dragon by Honeck Sculpture

This little youngster here was my mascot for most of the writing of the trilogy, which I picked up at one of the Readercons I went to.  It was made by Honeck Sculpture. They make excellent statues of all sizes and are definitely worth checking out.

I named it after a character you’ll meet in The Persistence of Memories.

Returning Back to the Fold!

naruto dive
My life over the last month and a half.

FINALLY!

Yes, I have returned from the shadows and back to the land of the living!  I’ve been so busy as of late, it took me a few days to realize that I didn’t have any pressing OMG deadlines weighing me down!

The last few days have been spent mostly doing project clean-up and getting everything back to some semblance of order.  This meant an often precarious balance of Day Jobbery-related fires to put out (and there were many), doing the post-production and release prep for The Persistence of Memories, and generally just taking time to BREATHE again.

So now that it’s midweek and my brain has stopped spinning some, what do I have on tap for the close future?

Glad you asked!  A partial list:

The Persistence of Memories to be released in ebook on 4/15!  WOO!  It’s available directly from Smashwords in all kinds of formats, including Kindle, for $4.99.  And for a brief time, you can buy the first book ABSOLUTELY FREE!  Two for the price of one!  [Note: As before, since the formatting of the physical book takes more time, I’ll let you know as soon as I can when it’ll be available through CreateSpace/Amazon.]

— I shall be taking part in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge this year, here at WtBT!  It’s a fun blogging exercise that I’ve done a few years in the past on my LJ, and thought I’d give it a go here.  I was thinking of doing an A-to-Z of the Mendaihu Universe, partly to get me to talk about it more (as I’m sure you’re all wondering, what the hells is he talking about in these books?), and partly to get me back into the blogging habit.  Hope you enjoy what I have in store!

— And speaking of blogging, I’m still planning making good with my ‘alternate plan’ for the Walk in Silence project by turning it into an ongoing series over at the WiS blog.  This series will start the third full week of April (around the 20th or so).  Stay tuned!

— Returning to the whiteboard schedule.  I purposely put it aside a few months ago when I chose to focus solely on the TPoM revision/edit/remaster/release, and now it’s high time to return to it.  Which means more practice words at 750 Words, more WiS entries, and maybe even some words and music elsewhere.  Truly looking forward to that.

 

So yes!  Definitely looking forward to returning back to the writing and the other projects.  It’s going to be a fun and creative summer, that’s for sure!

naruto ramen
Ahh…now that everything’s back to nor–

TPoM: Cover Revealed! Coming Soon!

tpom bg b1a pm

It’ll look a bit better when I redo it with the real non-watermarked picture I just downloaded from Shutterstock not that long ago. The picture creator is Marcel Clemens, whose collection on that website is full of lovely spacey images.

The Persistence of Memories will be released mid-April! Stay tuned for more info as we get closer to the release date! 🙂

Year-End: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

2015 was definitely a banner year for me.  One of my best writing years in a long time.

I trunked a majority of dead story ideas and created a number of new ones to work on in the future.  That was a big move for me; finally letting go of stories that no longer sang to me, and making the decision not to revive them.  That’s always a tough move for a writer, but it has to be done to clean house, so to speak, to make way for newer and more robust ideas.  By retiring many of these stories, I’ve given myself more room to focus on the new Mendaihu Universe story, as well as others not in that universe.

I was more consistent with my other creative endeavors that aren’t exactly for public consumption (yet):  writing daily journal entries, photography, poetry, artwork, and playing guitar.  Are these ever going to be shared elsewhere?  Who knows…I’m not aiming to be a semipro poet, artist, photographer or musician for the moment, as these are personal and not professional projects.  Things I do purely for selfish enjoyment.  I’m able to push myself and get better at them without having an expected plateau to hit.

I hit one of my highest goals of seeing the trilogy out in the wild by self-releasing A Division of Souls as an e-book (and soon to be available as a trade paperback).   I was also included in Uniquely North Quabbin, a collection of essays about the area of Massachusetts where I grew up.   The trilogy was an extremely long term project for me (spanning over a decade, technically over two), so releasing it has very much given me a sense of closure.  I can finally move on to new projects, both within the MU and elsewhere.

 

So what does 2016 hold for me?

On the professional end of things, I’ve already made the choice to have at least three books to be self-released next year:  the second and third book of the trilogy, The Persistence of Memories and The Balance of Light; and my memoir/music book Walk in Silence.  I’ve been working on all three since October, just after I released A Division of Souls, so I’m still on schedule to see these come to fruition.  TPoM should arrive early next year, WiS sometime late spring or early summer, and TBoL by autumn.

After that, my writing calendar will be disturbingly, frighteningly clear for the first time in ages.

Which means that I should look for another project to focus on.  If I’ve learned anything from the trilogy project, it’s that I now understand the level of dedication and focus I should give to my writing.  Whatever project comes next will be given that same amount of dedication and focus.

Do I have ideas?  Yes I do!  There’s the new Mendaihu Universe novel that’s currently on pause while I get its related novels out.  This one probably won’t see the public eye until 2017.  Then there’s the musical family idea (aka The Lidwells Story) that’s also on the backburner.  That one’s a compact standalone, and a very rough draft has already been written via my daily words earlier this year, so this one could very well be another quick turnaround.

But other than that?  It’s wide open.  I’m as curious as you are about what I’ll write next.

Speaking of daily words, I’m hoping to return to writing them via the 750 Words website in the new year, especially now that I’ll have more time for them.  This is where many of my recent ideas have arrived on the scene, so I think I’d be remiss in passing it up.  The key is to not be stressed out about it.  The point is not to ensure I write 750 or more words on a daily basis, but to exercise my imagination and have fun with it.

I haven’t updated my whiteboard schedule yet, but I usually end up doing that on January 1, so you’ll see that post tomorrow.  Oh!  And speaking of updates…I plan to have a much tighter and more frequent schedule here at Welcome to Bridgetown as well as Walk in Silence.  Maybe one or two posts a week for starters, but I’d like to expand on that later on.  I’d like to expand on the subjects I write about as well.  As much as I love talking about college radio or how I write, I’d like to investigate different avenues related to writing and music.  Different genres, different processes, that sort of thing.

Other than that, I’m going to revel in the fact that the road looks much clearer than it has in years.  I want 2016 to be the Year of New Things.  I’m really looking forward to where it takes me.

Adventures in Self-Publishing: Seeing the Final Result

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Above: the MS Word document I’ve been carving away at for the last two months. Below: the final result in EPUB format on my Nook.  Lon Dubh the blackbird approves.

Two things that are Totally True when an author sees the galley/ARC/final result of their book:

–A mixture of elation and pride.  More often than not this is a project that has taken far too long for our liking, but still the author has a bit of a squee when they see it all bound in paper or in final ebook form.  Look at that!  I made a thing!  A professional thing!  A thing others will (hopefully) enjoy!

–The turnaround time from the above excitement to worry and mortification when typos and other mistakes reveal themselves when you’re checking out how pretty it all is:  +/- two hours.

 

Most of this weekend was spent working on the formatting of A Division of Souls, which was easier than I’d expected it to be.  Come to find out, most of it entailed highlighting blocks of text and adjusting a lot of Settings, which I do all the time anyway.  Saturday afternoon I cleaned up the end matter (glossary, acknowledgements, etc) and other easy bits.

Sunday was spent doing a lot of Style changing — primarily my old habit of hitting Tab at the start of every paragraph to a permanent 0.3″ paragraph start instead.  Ctrl+A was my best friend through most of this.

Creating a table of contents was shockingly easy.  Just a bit of bookmarking and hyperlinking, et voila!  I’m done.

There was also a good half hour of dithering about line spacing…single, 1.15, or 1.5?  Single looked too crowded to me, and though I liked 1.15 myself, A. (who reads more ebooks than I do) felt otherwise.  So 1.5 it was.

So by late afternoon, I was ready.  It was time.

Uploaded the file to the Meatgrinder at Smashwords (their quite apt name for the software that checks for errors and also translates it into multiple formats).  Waited for the scanning and the translating.  Waited for the email letting me know if there were any errors.

At 6:52pm PT, I got the email; no errors, everything was groovy, and it was now on its way to being available at all fine ebook retailers.  I’ve also added a ‘Buy Stuff’ tab up at the top of this blog to make it all official and stuff.

So yeah.  I can now finally say I’m a pro.  Go me!

 

Oh, and the typos and mistakes?  Thankfully just a few:
–Apparently epub doesn’t like accentuation marks in the glossary, so I’ll have to use caps instead.
–An event I’d decided to rename, that got missed a total of three times.  A bit of Find/Replace did the job.
–A few places where the carriage returns didn’t take.  Easy enough to clean up.

Yo ho ho, it’s a writer’s life for me. 🙂

On Worldbuilding: Fluid History

John: “Hey there, Jeremy, what do you know about holes?”

Jeremy HIllary Boob, PhD: “There are simply no holes in my education.”

–Yellow Submarine

If you’ve ever watched any kind of documentary or series, there’s always some element of “we’re not entirely sure what happened at this point in time, but we can make an educated guess by looking at the following clues” or some such.  The further back we go in time, the harder it is to pinpoint the date of an event; eventually the most we can say is “sometime during the [x] Era.”   Those are extreme examples, though.  Sometimes our view of history changes within a few decades, when we look at the events of a specific time with the eyes of a different generation, maybe even a different culture.

I started thinking about this sometime ago when I started writing the new Mendaihu Universe story.  One of the subplots deals with the events that took place in the original Bridgetown Trilogy, though this new story takes place about seventy years later. Without going into too much detail, our histories of our heroes in that trilogy have become somewhat embellished, even after so short a time.  Denni Johnson, the teenager who had ascended as the earthbound deity the One of All Sacred, is now viewed as a saint, complete with a marble statue that thousands flock to and pray at.  Her sister Caren and Caren’s ARU partner Alec Poe, who never ascended as far as Denni did, are seen as more than human; Caren is believed to be an angelic protector, and Poe is seen as a Mighty Warrior.

And yet, all three were merely human.  Gifted with psionic abilities, just like anyone else in the Mendaihu Universe who have gone through an awakening ritual, but still — they were just as human as the rest of us.

Part of the focus on this new story is how certain people and events in history get changed over the years.  We may have documents, we may have databases and videos, but it still boils down to how the person or event is seen by the viewer.  We put amazing people on pedestals, even if their personalities were less than stellar, because regardless of their infallibility, they changed the world in some way.  The same could be said of horrible people as well; their vileness goes down in history as a grim reminder (even if, on a personal level, they weren’t one hundred percent vile).  We rarely look at these things objectively; we always have some emotional attachment to them, however big or small.

The evolution of historical accuracy fluctuates a lot more than we’d like it to, quite often because of this emotional attachment.  In this new story, the views of the new devout (those who follow the steps of the One of All Sacred — that is, Denni — and hope to find clarity in their lives) have become reasonably established.  However, schisms have already broken out; there are those who see Denni as a savior, and others who see her as an ascended but flawed human.  There are the Elders, the spiritual leaders who have been around for centuries, who are also splitting: those who have embraced the evolution of belief, and those who want to retain the status quo.

It’s a bit of a mess, but that’s the fascinating part of history as it happens.  No one really knows what the hell is going to happen next until it does.

 

New MU Story Update: Where I Am and Where I’m Going

It’s a silly milestone, but a milestone nonetheless:  I’ve been writing this new story in a wide-ruled three-subject spiral bound notebook, and a short time ago I just hit the first of two subject tabs, which means I’m a third of the way through the notebook already.  With 120 pages in the notebook, this means I’ve used 40 of them so far, which means I’ve written at least 80 pages.  Woo! Go me!

Still no title for it yet, either, which is totally not me.  Usually I give a new project a temporary title soon after starting it — either a borrowed song title or a boring phrase as a placeholder — but at this point it’s still known as “New MU Story.”  And you know what?  I’m okay with that.  It means I’m focusing on the right things.

At this time it’s still longhand as well…I haven’t started with the transcription to Word yet.  I suppose I’ll do that soon, when the time comes for me to expand the initial first draft.  From past experience, that usually ends up being somewhere around halfway through Act II, when things start to get complicated plot-wise.  I do that for two reasons:  one, by that time I have a firmer grasp of the story as a whole and what may need adjustment; and two, the revisiting of the Story So Far gives me a good idea of where I need to go from there.  At this time I’m going to assume that I’ll start on the transcription sometime next month.

Is this going to be a single book, or will it be another trilogy?  That’s a good question, and one I’m not going to answer right away, not even to myself.  It’s definitely one of many in this universe, that’s for sure.  I’m not even sure when I’ll be finished. I’m just happy that it’s still going strong, and that’s good enough for me right now.

On Writing: Point of Viewpoint, Or Different Mindsets for Different Styles

You’ve heard me (and other writers) talk about being ‘in the mood’ or ‘in the right mindset’ to write whatever projects they’re working on.  In the past it’s ended up being a crutch; I’d waste a good twenty minutes digging through my music collection trying to find the perfect album to listen to for a particular writing session.  I used to be really bad with that, but I’ve gotten better.  Most of the time now I listen to whatever newer release I happen to have close at hand, or if a specific album if I want to give that one another listen.

Actually, this post isn’t about that.  It’s about something I was subconsciously aware of for years, but just recently started monitoring, and it’s kind of interesting.  At least to me, anyway.

This one’s about where my mind is while working on whatever project I have in front of me.  At present I’m letting my imagination run rampant within the confines of my created world for the new Mendaihu Universe story…I picture novels as one long story of character evolution, where the the only rules are that nothing remains static and that consequences just as important as the actions.  I tend to let myself get well and truly lost in my created world; that is, ‘lost’ in the sense that if my brain suddenly and unexpectedly comes up with a doozy of a plot twist and I know it’ll work as part of the whole, I’ll let it take center stage and not hold back.  I think of it as writing for an audience of myself, though with full expectation that others will want to read and understand it as well.

Writing nonfiction is somewhat similar, only the boundaries are much tighter…at least that’s been my experience with Walk in Silence.  The focus is on the subject matter’s evolution within the confines of reality…thus imagination is reined in considerably, only given to the prose itself.  This is also true with my blog posts.  Not counting the more personal entries over at my LJ where my writing is more freestyle, I try to give my writing at least a little bit of professionalism.  When I’m writing nonfiction, I’m writing for an audience other than myself.

Poetry and song lyrics are a different beast, where I tend to be more emotional with my style.  I started writing poetry and songs back in my late teens as a release, but also as a playground for words, where I’d let myself come up with odd metaphors and weird imagery.  There’s really no rules here…I just riff it from start to finish.  This stuff is totally a personal indulgence, though I’ve been told by listeners that my Flying Bohemians and jeb! lyrics were pretty cool, so I’m fine with that.

The fascinating thing is that, now that I’m working on the new MU story, writing blog entries and (soon) working on Walk in Silence again, I find myself conscious of how my mind will shift from one style to another.  It can be tricky, especially if you have a lot of disparate writing ideas milling about in your head, but after all these years I’ve managed to make it work.  I think part of it is what I call the ‘going in’ phase of the session.  For instance, if I’m about to write the MU story, even before I put pen to paper I’ll start thinking about the characters, get in their heads and emotions for a few minutes to remember where I was.

[Noted, this is where the writing session soundtrack often comes in, and why I’m often a sucker for a certain mood in the songs.  The music helps me set the tone of the section I’m writing.  This is also true for nonfiction, or at least with Walk in Silence; for that I’m actually listening to the music I’m writing about so I can connect with the subject more clearly and emotionally.]

I think now that I’ve made sense of how my creative mind shifts from project to project, I’ve become better at giving each project a tighter focus.  I know how I’m doing it, so I’m less worried about whether or not I’m doing it right…as long as I’m doing it my own logical way, then that’s all that matters.