Thursday, July 11, 2013

Break Time

Not for the first time, it's time to take a break.

I've been blogging regularly for a while. At first three days a week (sometimes more often) and then more recently only two days a week (though sometimes more often).

Having a blog is a lot of fun and I don't regret any of the time I've spent doing it, especially when I've had a lot to say. I don't want to give you the impression that I've run out of things to say - quite the contrary - but I'm running into saying things that don't need to be said on the blog or even on the Internet. These are things that are best discussed in person over a meal or drinks with people whose willingness to argue doesn't diminish friendship. So I've been editing myself a lot lately and deleting posts that seemed incongruous to the tone of the blog before you ever saw them.

Also, being honest, I've been using my self-imposed 'obligation to blog' to avoid writing other things. That's not cool. It's time I stopped that. I'm way out of balance in my writing time and beyond just the feelings of guilt at not writing I'm more than a little frustrated.

I need to get back to writing actual stories. Arguing my thoughts on any number of hot-button issues isn't in me right now. I'll be back with stories about writing stories after I've written more stories.

But I'm still on Twitter (more often) and I'll be on Facebook (less often). (And hey, that's my author page so give it a like if you would, please.) Also, I'll still be posting twice a month at The Confabulator Cafe (like our Facebook page here, if you are so inclined) - once on a topic of interest and once with a relatively short fiction piece. Sometimes 'flash' and sometimes longer. I'll let you know through the usual channels when that happens.

And I'll be back here before too long. When there's news.

Be good to each other. Stay in touch.


Monday, July 08, 2013

Novel Questions

One question I'd like to ask Stephen King is if he's been able to write all the novels he never thought he'd have time to write.

Thousands of nuggets exist in hundreds of forms all around me. Some on paper, some in digital files, others in notebooks. Lately several of them have been crashing together and coalescing into firmer pivots upon which to hang a plot or develop a character. Interestingly, some of these pivots are from nuggets that have been with me for twenty years. Roughly.

I've seen a couple other writers I follow on Twitter say similar things in the last week or so, too.

What allows me to feel like I'm making progress is that every idea, every nugget that I write down makes room in my head for another one. I've been writing these things down for roughly ten years as I pursue the possibility of becoming a published writer like King. Well, not like Stephen King because that kind of success is unlikely. Anyway. So making room by writing the stories and even just noting the ideas allows new ideas to come in.

And some of them collide with the older ideas and that's my process.

Does it work the same way for other writers?

Will any of us get to write all the stories we can dream up? Probably not so we'll have to pick the ones that interest us, drive us, possess us to write. In those instances the work almost takes me over and I can write with a great deal of focus. Even with all the things that demand my time (family, day job, cats, the work that needs to be done in the yard, is it time for an oil change?) if I'm focused on that story I can write in just about any situation.

This isn't whining. The goal is to be a full-time writer in the future so I'm juggling that job with the day job. It's tougher than it might appear. I mean, I get to spend time with fictional people doing rotten things. Some of them I like, some I don't. But they all have a personality and they all have ideas.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Losses

So I wasn't sure I wanted to write anything about the passing of James Gandolfini or Richard Matheson and I've been really thinking about both of them ever since the news broke.

Matheson's work has been with me longer. As a child I recognized his name from multiple episodes of The Twilight Zone. When I got older, I found that he'd written a bunch of books that had been made into movies and I made it a project to keep abreast of his work as best I could. That was a lot more difficult in the days before the Internet. I relied a great deal on the UHF channels that ran old science fiction movies on Saturday afternoons.

Fortunately Hollywood kept his work in the spotlight every few years. The recent I Am Legend film with Will Smith was pretty good and it inspired me to finally read the book. It's always true that the book is better than the movie, but I'd liked the film well enough so I was a bit trepidatious. I needn't've been. The book was fantastic.

If you've read any of the remembrances you've got the rundown of stories of his that were made into films. My favorite is probably What Dreams May Come, though. It's such a gut-wrenching tale and it's SO beautiful on the screen. It seemed to capture the magic and the spirit of the story as much as any adaptation can.

Anyway, his stories inspired me, terrified me, caused me to think. As an author, I can't think of anything more to aspire to than that. I will miss that there will be no more new stories from him. His passing is a deep, deep loss for science fiction, horror and fantasy readers.

As for Gandolfini, his performances may have made a more visceral impression on me. My wife and I came late to the Sopranos party, but once we got there we were as addicted as anyone. We didn't suffer the extra long wait between seasons 2 and 3 but the time in between each subsequent season was excruciatingly exquisite.

One night before we got hooked, I brought home a DVD of the first season from the movie rental store. (Remember those?) She was doubtful but I insisted we give it a try. I'd heard good things about the show.

When that disc was done she asked me how late the store was open and I was commanded to retrieve more. This was due, in large part, to Gandolfini's performance as Tony Soprano. As we watched I knew I'd seen him before in  other things but couldn't place my finger on it. Eventually I realized it was True Romance. That film had an effect on me, too. The level of violence in it was beyond disturbing and the violence in The Sopranos echoed that but somehow Tony was likeable for a true monster.

His voice in Where the Wild Things Are was part of what brought me to the theater to see that film. To hear him in that way, appearing as a monster (even though he didn't wear the suit) and actually being a real person is something that will stay with me forever. He imbued his characters with real heart and I often look at his performances to learn how to tell a story.

Which is what I got from both men. Whether it was flights of fancy or fomenting fear in others, both gave me a wealth of material to pull from when I need it. Nothing more could be asked of any storyteller.

I'll miss them both.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Rejections

'No' means 'Go' in my writing world.
Heads-up: there's some coarse language here. I make no apologies.

Do you like to hear the word 'no'? Me, either.

But I heard it last week from a publisher who sent me a form rejection for my novel. "Oh shit," I said when I saw the self-addressed, stamped envelope on the dining room table. My heart sank a little. I didn't have to open the thing to know what was inside.

A form rejection.

Oh, well.

Fuck it. Just means the publisher wasn't a right fit. It might mean that the book's no damn good, but one opinion contrary to what first readers have said doesn't mean 'boo'.

This is the attitude, now. I'm gonna find a home for this book. It's good. I know it is. It still needs some massaging but hey, what book by what author doesn't? Even the big time authors and their publishers aren't perfect. Remember I said that nothing is? Well, that applies to all work in all areas of society.

So I sent a query out, waiting to hear back on that one. In the meantime, I've got other books to finish editing, others to start writing. Time to double down, put my nose to the grindstone (jeez, how many tired cliches can I use?) and - as Chuck Wendig says - 'finish my shit'.

I realized I was holding my breath, waiting to hear back from the publisher. I'm still new enough at this that I stopped working effectively while the book was out on the street. It'll take some getting used-to, I'm sure, but I need to forget the thing's out there when it's out there. I need to focus on the project in front of me, and completing that, and not worry if someone else is going to like my stuff.

Someone will. I just have to keep trying.

And when that next SASE comes back or that email notification dings, I'll have a plan for the next try.