Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On Baseball

I just got done watching The Tenth Inning, the follow-up by Ken Burns to his brilliant Baseball documentary of the 90s.  I'm a fan of Burns, a fan of baseball and a loyal supporter of the Kansas City Royals.

My first Royals game was in 1978, the night that Cookie Rojas retired as a player from baseball.  I went back to Kauffman Stadium pretty regularly from then through the 1994 season. I've been back since then maybe three times. Maybe four or five. The '94 strike really hurt me. My team was competitive in '94 and in the hunt for a wild card spot. I got to see Ken Griffey Jr. play in KC that year. The team was actually pretty good and certainly a helluva lotta fun to watch.

But the strike killed me. I thought everyone involved was being greedy and not considering the game. The Game of Baseball is what I meant to say. I watch the stats every year for the first two, maybe three months, then I lose interest in the game as the Royals head for the cellar and I don't really care about any other team. I mean, I hate the Yankees like any other baseball fan and I hate the trend that Barry Bonds started of strutting down the first base line to watch his homers sail out of the park. I don't hate a lot of things, but those I hate. (Actually by 'hate' I mean 'really dislike'. I don't expend the energy to really 'hate'.)

I grew up playing baseball with friends and briefly in the local Parks & Rec league. I played until I got 'traded'. Yep, traded in the Parks & Recreation league. I tried to be a pitcher, but center field was my real home on the field. My only home run came when I hit a ball beyond the lights during a night game and the center fielder was too scared to go out into the shadows to get it. I chugged around the base path while the left fielder came over to get it and make the throw back in. I quit playing soon after in any sort of organized league.

My love of the game came from my grandfather, who played professionally in the 50s. I've told that story elsewhere, but one of the things I always looked forward to was talking to him about the Royals. We knew, every year, that there was a chance they could be good and that it would likely be squandered but we connected through baseball. He had a million great stories about being a player back then and so that was probably where I got my inclination to want to tell stories, too.

Burns' series is brilliant, I said that above. More importantly, it's unflinching in its look at the game I love. The Tenth Inning is brutal about all that's wrong with the game but also celebrates what makes it great. It's a terrific balance between the dark and the light and if you love the game you need to watch it.

I remember Monday Night Baseball on network TV. I remember Nolan Ryan and Robin Yount and Graig Nettles and all those guys who made the game so GOOD. I was disappointed that my Royals haven't been good enough over the last fifteen years to merit much of a mention in Burns' update, but I understood their omission. There's been so much since Burns' 1994 original that needs to be talked about.

In the end, it's really about Baseball the Game. My team isn't one of the good ones, isn't even in the same league as the Cubs or the Padres or the Giants. It's a small market team and we've only had one star, George Brett, who made an impact. Lots of others have passed through on their way to greater recognition (Johnny Damon, David Cone, Tom Gordon, Jermaine Dye and so many others) but no one says Kansas City like Brett. He stayed here for his entire career. At times, it's looked like the Royals are really a farm team for the rest of the major leagues.

So those are my thoughts on Baseball for now. If you're inclined, tell me what you think about your team or Ken Burns or just baseball in general.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Influence Map meme


Based on the template here. I'll give you some insights and all the names later on, but I want to see how many you can figure out for yourself. You should be able to click on it for a larger view.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Kind of Announcement

So I mentioned in several tweets that I was writing a 'very cool story'. I can tell you now that it's a new series for Actionopolis but there's an official announcement coming later on as to the title and content of my work so we'll keep that under wraps for now. Here is a press release that was picked up by a lot of folks, including Publisher's Weekly.

I'm REALLY excited to be doing this. I've been keeping you updated on my progress on Twitter and just a little bit here.  I can tell you that I've made several rookie mistakes that the editor is guiding me through. The first batch of notes stung a little, but once I got over it (about ten minutes later) I started learning and made my writing BETTER. With each batch of notes I learn more about structure, about plotting and about tension (as I mentioned below).

So, even though for a year I put a story each month up here for you to enjoy and haven't put anything up for a while now, I've been busy and you'll get to see the fruits of it in (I hope!) not too long a while. Stay tuned for more.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


So I acquired a copy of Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook because Borders didn't have a copy of Writing the Breakout Novel this weekend.  I started reading yesterday and doing the exercises as I go along and I already can see where I can make the story I'm working on BETTER in significant ways.

In order to have some backup material to digest in between chapters, I also bought Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and in the first chapter alone I've been schooled on scenes.

It helps that I know a little and have done some research on my own, but if you've heard of these books and you're waiting for reviews of them, consider this my endorsement of the two titles. These are really workshops disguised as books and if you're serious about the craft, then go ahead and buy them. We'll see how it goes as I'm revising my current story, but the notes I got back about 'increase the tension' definitely make more sense and I know HOW they make sense, not just WHY.

Back to the grindstone.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Pitfall of Being a New Writer

One of the things I've had to learn and have had a very difficult time in running this blog is that I really shouldn't make promises.

Not that I don't want to keep them, it's just that I get excited and want you to know that something's coming. Then real life gets in the way.

My latest failure is finishing sharing The Stone Man. What's happened is that I can't find pages for the second half of the story that will scan decently.  It's not much of an excuse, but combine that with the fact that my day job kicked into high gear as it always does during the second week of August and that's what's happened.  I know that at least one person is probably disappointed and for that I'm sorry.  I didn't get any comments on the first twelve pages of the story (not that that's at all unusual for this blog) and so I ascribed the lack of attention to a general lack of interest.

I'm a writer, sure, but I also have a day job. I spend as much time as I can writing and there are things I'm working on that I really want to tell you about, but I can't. The reason I can't is that what I'm working on is a Work For Hire and it's very cool. (I promise! Uh oh, wait a second...)

So I won't promise anything to you any more.  I will tell you that what I'm looking at is a tentative schedule to resume regular updating on Wednesdays in October.  I'm taking September to really get my feet back under me while I'm working the WFH stories.  It's my intention to drop in once a week to give you some tidbit of information or say something pithy just to keep my blog up on your reading list.

There's a lot to come; I just need to finish a couple of things first.