Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!











My resolution for the year is this:

Stop judging. Understand context. Read more.

Also, I will do my best to be more social but not just on social media. I hope to see you all out in the world more this coming year. As well I will work hard to be more diligent. There will be more words from me. Good ones.

I wish all the good things for all of you. Be good to each other.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Life

Writers are filled with fear and doubt. It comes with the territory, I suppose. If I could wish away anything about me, it would be insecurity. Here's an example:



So yeah. 10,000 words into a page one rewrite of my long-developing novel I've dumped everything I'd done so far.

DUMPED.

Because I was right. I was just beginning to approach the real beginning of the story. AND I'd done all the work I'd done just to get there. That's a lot of just-ing, isn't it?

This made me nervous. Was I right? Really? How many times would I have to go back and forth to finally get where I needed to be? See - I thought I was right, and then I wasn't and I started over. Then I thought about it after doing the work and figured out that I was right to do the work I was doing but I wasn't doing it in the right place. So I was wrong again. Then I saw how I was right.



Jeez, are you as confused as I am? Do you think writing is easy? Fuhgeddaboutit.

A little off the top and a refill later, I came to the realization of where the actual beginning of the story is. And I needn't actually dump the work I'd done over the last few weeks. It will inform flashbacks and could conceivably be used as it is. Or with a little editing.

Speaking of which, I'm not tossing out anything my editor friend said about this story. It's foremost in my mind. So with that in mind:



Okay. Ducking back out now. I've got writing to do.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Good Year

It would be easy to complain. In fact I seem to do it a lot. Recently the question of what I think my social media presence would tell others about me came up. I thought about it for a moment and in front of the group I said 'cranky SOB'. 

Which is, to some extent, true. I believe that there are injustices in the world and pointing to them and saying "this is crap" is a good thing. Cranky sometimes, yes, but all things being equal it's a good thing. I wish more people did this and then we all did something about whatever it is that cranks us up like that.

Anyway, hello. Thanks for stopping by.

I'm not doing a year-end wrap up or anything like that here today. Rather I'm in that vacation period between how things went and how I hope things will go.

I self-published my first short story and had two successful appearances at local comicons. A novel I wrote got pretty far in the submission process before being rejected and a short story submitted garnered some excellent feedback and encouragement. There was a promotion at work. My son is in college. I read a lot of really great books, watched some interesting films and attended my first live show in years. There was a period where I lost a good amount of weight, too.

But I struggle with keeping it off and that's where I have to start looking forward.

Eating and drinking are things I do well. Too well. So in the new year I have to change some habits and lose a bunch of weight. That's not a resolution, either. It's a requirement.

Also required is continuing to read authors who aren't white men. I'm getting much more comfortable with living in stories set in worlds that I don't automatically understand. It's been easier with music to step outside my comfort zone but I'm actively looking for books by writers I've never read. This has helped expand my worldview a bit and inform my writing. Really, reading helps your writing.

Which I hope will make my con appearances this year even better. We'll see. Stay tuned for updates.

And that makes up a year in a nutshell.

So I wish you and yours a merry celebration, whichever your family chooses to recognize. If you don't celebrate any holidays, then have a happy day anyway. Turn the lights on and keep the darkness at bay. You know what to do.

See you in the New Year.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Impetus

I spent my evening drinking, eating and playing cards with my Comic Book Brothers from Other Mothers which is great and doesn't happen nearly often enough. Early in the proceedings I was reminded that I had been given great advice about making comics:

Don't talk. Show your work. 

I've heard this any number of times and I always heed it as great advice. It always moves me toward finishing whatever project I'm working on. Just to prove that I'm who I say I am as a creative.

Watch the sidebar for progress on the Cold Distance re-write. I'm aiming to finish the damn thing and get the process rolling on putting it out into the world. Sooner rather than later. I expect you, yes you reading this, to hold me accountable. Ask me about it on Twitter, badger me on Facebook, text me if you have my phone number, stop me and ask "How's the writing?"

This earns you a huge thank you in the book when it's out in the world. 

And a huge thank you now for playing along.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Long Road


Three years ago this week I finished the first draft of my novel, The Cold Distance. A year and a half ago I started shopping it to agents and publishers having done major edits and expansions and cuts and all the things that a writer is supposed to do to a book in progress.

I got a couple of interested bites but ultimately nothing came of it.

Last  month I began rewriting the story from scratch based on an informed reading by a very good friend who is also an editor. If you follow the blog here you know all this.

What  I've been struggling with is the pitch for this new product, this new book. This  morning, three years after starting this damn project, it hit me like a 16 ton wrecking ball. I know who my main character is, I know why she's important and I know EXACTLY  how it all fits together and WHY.

The light has gone on and I'm surveying the wreckage of wasted time over the last three years where I could have been writing THIS fucking book and not all the other stuff I've written in the meantime.

Except, he said with humility, that I had to travel all those other roads before I could get to this one. Or whatever metaphor floats your boat. Either way, I had to do all that other work to figure out why Dee was special to this story, this universe. I have the word that identifies her and makes her a nearly complete character now.

All  because it took so much damned time to marinate in the back of my head. 

As it dawned on me this morning on my commute, I was angry at myself for not seeing it so clearly before. What the hell was wrong with me that I couldn't have made this leap before?

I don't know. Maybe it would have hit me sooner if I'd spent more time with the characters and actively pursued the questions that I've been looking at over the last four weeks. Maybe not. 

And that's what makes this whole writing thing beautiful, this act of creation that requires inspiration to shudder forward. It takes time and energy put together in sometimes very complicated ways before results are evident. False positives abound. 

Regardless, the novel is moving along and my excitement is in direct proportion to my having finally figured out what I needed to know long ago. Expect regular updates over the coming weeks as I turn this treatment into a series of novels. I'm all in on this one again. While you're waiting breathlessly (because I know you are) enjoy this:


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thoughts on X-Men: Days of Future Past

This film is based on the iconic story from Chris Claremont and John Byrne (with Terry Austin, Tom Orzechowski and Glynis Wein). It's a story I was old enough to read in single issue form as it arrived in the mail wrapped in brown paper. That's my history with the story in the spirit of full disclosure.

DoFP is the sequel to X-Men: First Class, which I liked well enough. The cast is pretty near pitch-perfect between the two films and the writing is interesting. Set in (roughly) 1973, the premise is that - well, you probably know all this already. If you don't you can check out the film's IMDB page as easily as anyone else.

The world of the future (ten years ahead) as we know it is not just apocalyptic, it's dying. The armies of Sentinels are more than formidable and there's a distinct sense of doom to go with the gloom. Mutants who haven't appeared before are the last hope of any kind of salvation. They have a plan and it's a holding action at best. Anyway, Logan is launched back in time and the story begins.

These two films, First Class and Future Past, are really Raven Darkholme/Mystique's story as much as they're about the dynamic between Charles and Erik. Despite major changes in the players from comic to film the movie story rolls right along. This movie is a comic book in nearly every aspect, connecting to all other X-films in meaningful ways. Lots of things are right about this and it's easy to get sucked into the story.

Hanging on the abilities of Kitty Pryde and using characters in ways that they never were in the comics, Future Past excels at updating and combining X history in interesting ways. Everyone in the film is incredulous when confronted with the time traveling aspect of the story despite the fact that they live in a world where genetic mutation creates super powers. The biggest moments of the comic story play out in new and interesting ways. This may be the best X-movie of them all.

Don't expect perfection, though. It's got its moments of whoa wait a second (at the end especially) but overall it's the kind of film I dreamed of as a kid getting my copies of Uncanny X-Men in the mail all those years ago.

If you're a fan of the X-Men this is a worthwhile investment of your time.




Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

And I'm thankful to be entertained
but silly things. Aren't you?
I'm thankful for the doctors and nurses who work every day of the year regardless of what else is going on in the world. They sacrifice everything regarding their families to help people like me in their worst moments. The people who kept me alive are foremost in my mind but this one goes out to all the medical professionals in my life and those of people I love.

I'm thankful for good police who work every day of the year too. They get lost in the clamor and rancor over the situations that aren't always a result of bad police. Too many people do really good work to keep our lives and property safe and they genuinely care about the law. I know some good police and they are good people too.

I'm thankful that I live in a place where I can consider these things and rail against greed and corruption. This gratitude is year round but especially today it's important to be grateful for all the things I have that others don't. I remember that not everyone has the luxuries I do; that not everyone in my town, or my neighborhood, has everything I have.

I'm thankful for so much more too: my wife, the kids, a good job, enough money to pay the bills, books to read, things to watch, food to eat, art, music... The list goes on and on.

If I were to go out today to shop or see a movie or interact with anyone outside of my family I would remember to say thank you for them being there. I won't be out there with the throngs but if you are, be genuine and sincere and show your gratitude with a smile and 'thanks'. They'll appreciate it.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Thoughts on Interstellar

I felt like this nearly the entire film. Short version, I loved it.
I don't know why it took me three weekends to get to the theater to see Christopher Nolan's epic Interstellar, but it did. I finally went, suspending my disbelief and anxious to be entertained.

This film is 2 hours and 49 minutes long. Jeez, am I going into the wormhole myself? I thought on the way over to the theater. Also, how's the science? I've heard Neil deGrasse Tyson kind of say some things that led me to believe that it might not be as accurate as possible. And despite trying mightily to avoid spoilers on the Internet I've seen a few criticisms that could have lessened my enjoyment of the film.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm a fan of Nolan's. I like the principal actors, all of them. I bought the soundtrack before I saw the film so I'm a fan of Hans Zimmer's too. I've been eagerly anticipating this film since the first teaser trailer too. I wanted to like this movie.

And I did.

Without giving away major spoilers I was satisfied by the story, the science and the visual aspects. As a piece of fiction, it made me laugh, cry and walk out of the theater pleased to have spent my time so enjoyably.

The music, as always in the collaborations between Zimmer and Nolan, is integral to the film. It adds weight when it needs to and increases my sense of wonder. There's a food crisis that has changed the world significantly. There are no armies or marines any more. Drones are flying around aimlessly and crops are dying of blight. The new dust bowl is terrifying too. The family dynamic is well played and interesting. Nolan trusts the viewer to put the pieces together as he reveals them. Everything is there as far as I can tell after one viewing.

There are time shifts that the viewer has to keep up with, and not every emotionally charged scene is effective. The recruitment scenes are perhaps a little clumsy and even Michael Caine can't quite sell them but they're important to moving the plot forward so I forgave them and just let myself be immersed in the story.

Let me go back to the world of the story. It's important and it's easy to forget it once they launch and head out of the solar system. There's A LOT THERE but it gets left behind. The things that are going on ground the story in a reality that may be hard for us to conceive of. Official texts have been changed, robots are managing the heavy work of the farms, colleges are taking fewer and fewer students. This stuff is important and it colors every decision Matthew McConaughey's character Cooper makes in the film. He's got a lot of weight in there when he's floating around in zero gravity.

Okay, enough digression. Is the science perfect? No. Is the story perfect? No. But it's entertaining as both a distraction and a social commentary. I enjoyed the film from the start. TARS and CASE are interesting as artifacts in the story and as characters for comic relief. All the characters are well drawn, or at least drawn well enough to believe in. If you're planning on seeing it - go. Suspend your disbelief and look at it as a piece of fiction created with love and attention to detail.

I could be a lot more critical, but it's not my baby. I didn't create it, didn't shepherd it into being.  I don't have a stake in it other than wanting to be entertained. What I had was a great time at the theater and I didn't feel like I'd been watching a movie for nearly three hours.

That's the reason to go.

Friday, November 21, 2014

What's Happening

(Here's the tl;dr: the novel isn't a novel, 
it's essentially an outline for three novels. 
After three years of working on it I 
could give up but I'm not going to.)
Just in case anyone is still stopping by on occasion, here's an update.

I lost most of September and nearly all of October to stress and doubt about my writing among other things. But some really great things have happened during that time and I'm back on track.

The big thing is that the novel that I wrote starting back in 2011 during NaNoWriMo (with lots and lots and lots of revisions) is still here without representation or any publishing offers. I got a couple of requests for partials and one request for a full manuscript but ultimately everyone has passed on it.

I shared the book with my very good friend and sometime editor Sara who came back with nearly novel-length notes (not really there were a lot) even though she said she'd read for pleasure and I just asked for an opinion. You know, did you like it?

Well, she did like it which is consistent with the feedback I've gotten from other readers. But in her notes Sara told me that what I had wasn't really a novel. It's actually a detailed outline for three novels. I hadn't put enough detail in and glossed over some potentially interesting character development things. I hadn't built a world effectively enough. I assumed the reader knew things that I hadn't explicitly put into the manuscript.

So while agents and editors considered the book, they didn't get the whole story. Despite the fact that there were over 100,000 words there, it wasn't a novel. It was an outline.

My god, I thought, she's right. Absolutely right.

The hard lesson here is to not give up. It would be so easy to toss the whole damn thing out and start over on something new taking all the critique into consideration. After all I have tons of ideas.

But dammit, I believe in this story. I love these characters. I think this is a good book. Well, three good books now, right?

Add in that I visited a new writer's group in the beginning of September courtesy of my friend Holly where I got detailed and terribly useful critiques of a short story. That group gave me insights into my work similar to the things Sara had later on. It would be easy to give up on that story too. But rather than do that, I've realized I'm on the right track.

I'm trying to apply all this to all the things I've got in some state of 'done' and it's a bit overwhelming. Plus I've started a new job in the last month with increased responsibilities and new systems to learn...

Which I could use as further excuse to give up. I could use all of the criticisms to just let go, start over or quit completely.

That's what I'm saying here: don't give up. Even when you think you're done with something and it's not connecting with your audience, don't give up. If it's good you'll get there. I know I will. Even after three full years of working on this novel I'm not giving up. I'm trying to balance working on other things too but I'm not quitting this one.

I owe some folks a couple of things and I have to focus on those while I'm spending time rewriting. Look, if you believe in your work, don't quit. Make it better. Find a way.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Beamed Upon

So most of September and all of October have been lost. I've done so little writing it's embarrassing.

Which is why I'm calling myself out on it here. There have been distractions (baseball, work, more...) and I let them get the better of me. There was a lot of stress both professional and personal. It seems those bits are mostly gone. And there's doubt about my own abilities. That's constant.

But I was told something last night that encourages me. Now that the distractions and stress are less and less I'm diving back in. There are revisions to be done on a short story, a novella and the novel I've been shopping around. That's how I'm spending my November instead of NaNoWrimo, in revisions and editing. Yay.

That's how it's got to be done, though. That's how I'll get the writing groove back. The chair leg of truth has willed it to be so. It is wise and terrible and I fear it.

So watch for updates. I'm aiming at revising at least 7 pages a day. Or more. I'll let you know.

Thanks for staying tuned and being interested.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

No NaNo

I'm not participating in NaNoWriMo this year.

Settle down, settle down. The world is not going to end because I'm not trying to bang out 50K words in 30 days.

But here's why I'm not doing it:

I'm already elbow-deep in a new novel and I want to take my time with it so it's not a candidate for finishing during NaNo. In order for me to start up a new novel, I'd have to shelve the one I'm working on and also ignore the short story and novella I need to edit. I've got a lot on my plate right now and the day job has been sucking up my will to write. Well, also there's been a lot going on in my personal life too (nothing to get amped up about though, it's all normal stuff). PLUS my team is in the baseball World Series for the first time in 29 years. THAT'S pretty exciting and warrants my attention.

What I am going to do during November is edit. As noted above there are two things to edit and a novel to revise again. There's a lot of writing stuff to do besides the writing I actually need to get into.  Things will slow down a little in November and then in December I have to take a week long trip for work and oh yeah - the Holidays. Oh and I'll be at the Free State show this coming Saturday.

My writer's group is doing its usual thing and I will hang out with them as often as I can so I can focus on the things that need done. I will support the entire cohort however I can by exhorting them to contort themselves into writing. (I don't think that worked but I'm leaving it anyway. Eh.)

So I'm with your in spirit, fellow writers. I leave you with this directive:



And if that's not enough, here's Neil Gaiman with a special message just for you:




Saturday, October 18, 2014

Where To Find Me 10/25




I'll be doing Velocity Readouts on commission and hanging around to chat. Hope to see you all there.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The KC Royals Are In The World Series


Back a while ago, I tweeted this:



Then I went to dinner with my family.















Later that night...



The next morning:



And ever since the Kansas City Royals have been on a tear, winning 8 games in a row and heading to the World Series for the first time in 29 years. As a long suffering supporter/fan of the team I'm over the moon about this wild ride. Even my wife and son are watching with me.

I dunno if my wish had anything to do with this, but here's hoping it's not over yet.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

I Know It's Only...

So the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees are announced:

Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Chic
Green Day (1st year of eligibility)
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Kraftwerk
The Marvelettes
NWA
Nine Inch Nails (1st year of eligibility)
Lou Reed
Sting (1st year of eligibility)
The Smiths (1st year of eligibility)
The Spinners
Stevie Ray Vaughan (1st year of eligibility)
WAR
Bill Withers (1st time on the ballot)

Hm. I like all these acts. Gonna be a tough choice. Lou Reed and Sting are already in with their bands. Who's got the most influence, though? In that respect alone, SRV deserves to be in easily. The Rock Hall, though, likes to be very weird and take things besides influence and sales into account. That leads me to think that The Marvelettes will be in easily, too. That could knock The Spinnners out because the hall likes to have each class look diverse.

So that might allow Kraftwerk to slide in but I think Chic might trump them a little. They're higher profile, they're American and disco comes and goes in popularity. In addition Nile Rodgers is a force to be reckoned with in the industry. He's one helluva producer so that might give them a +1 in influence.

Green Day is interesting and they've been on the stage the last couple of years inducting people so that could work in their favor. I think NIN has a better chance. Trent is a darling in Hollywood (who'd'a thunk?) and he's really, really interesting as a musician if not on Twitter.

I would be pleased to see NWA get in even though I don't like their music that much. That said, Cube certainly has parlayed those early days into quite a career and that's definitely a +1 for influence. They've got sales on their side, too. Add in that Public Enemy is already in the hall and I think they have a terrific chance.

I'd love to see Paul Butterfield Blues Band get in but I believe it's a tossup between them and WAR and Bill Withers. Not for any other reason than that WAR is the most recognizable of the three but Withers has some cache too. I think one of them will make it in to keep the class diverse.

As much as it pains me, Joan Jett probably won't make it in. Neither will The Smiths.

Of course, I could be wrong. Really wrong. But my picks are Stevie Ray Vaughan, Chic, NWA, The Marvelettes and Lou Reed. If I had my druthers, then Deep Purple would be in there somewhere.

Feel free to disagree with me.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tweets about Battlestar Galactica

I'm late to the BSG party but I'm gonna get through them all. From earlier today:




























Dear SiriusXM...

Dear SiriusXM Radio,

I'm upset that the Bob Edwards Show is ending today. Really upset.

Bob is easily the best interviewer in radio. If he only ever interviewed big names that would be enough. But when he spends an hour with an author and explores not just the themes of the book but the process the writer went through to write it, it's amazing. When he visits with John Feinstein about sports or Dave Zirin, it's interesting and compelling. His conversations with musicians are fantastic. Filmmakers really open up to him, too.

In short, he can hold his own with any interviewer on TV or print. His long years of experience in news reporting are reassuring and invite confidence from his subject. How can you let him go? How can you have cancelled his show?

Ah, money. Money money money.

I suppose you must care on some level that he's done stellar work. That the show won awards probably doesn't matter. The respect Bob has earned for the quality of his work showed in the quality of guests on the show. You realize that, don't you?

I'm sure you do. After all you gave him the freedom to do what he wanted for ten years and look what you got. The best interview program on radio anywhere. ANYwhere.

So it's about money is it? What does my fee go to? I know you can pull up the numbers of people who listened and we are all subscribers so we paid to hear him and his show. You know how many of us there are and you know what other channels we're listening to. So a quality program that employs ten people, that wins awards and covers subjects with a depth that NPR and PBS can only dream of, is ending because --- well, I can't fathom a real answer. Is your company in financial trouble? I suppose I shouldn't be upset. Things change. Shows get canceled. It happens, I know.

But I am upset. I'm disappointed that you seem to think that the Bob Edwards Show is disposable. It's not.

Please bring it back. Please do the right thing and continue the excellence. I bought XM radio back in the day because Bob was on it. While it's true that I've come to love satellite radio, I am sad that you seem not to care that when money gets tight again, it will be easier to consider dropping my two subscriptions.

Sincerely,

Jason Arnett
subscriber since 2005

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The New Things

I'm struggling a little with the pitch for a new novel. It came to me yesterday almost fully formed but there's a line that I'm not happy with because it's cliched beyond belief. Still, it's accurate. So I'm working that out.

In the meantime I've written the first chapter of the book, even gotten into chapter two. (You won't believe how many commas I've already killed. I'm a victim of 'use commas as a pause' from days gone by. Digressing.) Taking a much more steady, studied approach to writing this new book. That's kind of why I'm spending time refining the pitch for a second day. I'm not procrastinating. Nope. I'm not. I'm not. I PROMISE.

So the pitch is informing the outline, too. There are a bunch of little ideas floating around the big one. Fitting them all together, stitching them all together, is the real challenge of this one. The big idea is not wholly original, though I hope it will be by the time it's revealed in the story. For now it's an obvious trope. It's workable. The way this book seems to be going I'm confident it'll solve itself.

If not, I'll take an axe to something.

Such is the writer's life.

Oh, yeah, I suppose I should say this out loud: I won't be participating in NaNoWriMo this year. At least not as of now. I've got this new book and a bunch of short stories I'm working and I have another novel to edit and the novella too. I'm the only one stressing about any of this so that's not bad but I do want to get all this more in process. Plus we're heading into the busy season at work.

So as much as I want to flat out write in November, I'm gonna write and edit and support my group in their own writing endeavors. We'll see if I miss it or not.

All right, so I need to stay focused. Wish me luck.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Where To Find Me March 2015


I will have a table in Artist's Alley, doing my thing and hawking new stories.
Can't wait.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

As Of Yesterday...

This is what I posted on Twitter:
Jason Arnett @ajasont 
For now I'm putting this novel in the trunk. I'm not done trying to get it out in the world, I just need a break.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Instructive Criticism

Pulling this from The 46 Rules of Genius by Marty Neumeier. It's subtitled 'an innovator's guide to creativity' but it's got several useful items for those who are already creative and maybe haven't explored or just don't know why they do what they do or even how.

Anyway, we're all familiar with constructive criticism and likely even ask for it. I like the definitions Neumeier uses. This is from page 102 of the book:

The best cure for logic blindness is to seek regular feedback from people who can critique your ideas instructively rather than constructively. It's your job to be constructive - you're the maker. What you need from them is a clear view from the outside. Ideal critics are those will:
  1. Listen to your idea, ask questions, and not react too quickly.
  1. Strive to judge your idea against your specific intent.
  1. Summarize your idea in a way that seems fair and even insightful.
  1. Identify any aspects of your idea that they agree with or appreciate.
  1. Finally, identify aspects they they question or find lacking. 
In the real world, however, the feedback you get may be reactive, subjective, negative, or less than insightful. 


So what I'm doing going forward is to make my queries much more clear about my idea and my intent. That means that I have to actually know what my idea IS when I go into the story. Then I must execute the story with a kind of precision that shows I know what I'm doing. I suspect that will generate responses from agents/editors/others who will tell me what they like and ask questions. 

I don't think it's a foolproof way to get published but maybe it is. Certainly when I have folks beta read things now I'm going to be better about making sure they know what I'm going for to look for that in my stories. The rest is craft that I can only improve through repetition and practice.

Back to writing.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Saturday, September 06, 2014

The Dream Doesn't Die

Look in the rearview mirror, what do you see?

Me, I see a lot of things I could have pursued a little more. Education, relationships, music, comics and lots and lots of other things. What's not there is regret.

Determination keeps me going. I have to be that creative person I've always been or I will go crazy. That's a fact of my DNA without dispute. I've got too much in my life that I value to spend any time on being crazy. Because crazy leads to destruction in my case. Can't have that.

So when a rejection comes in it's a sign that I need to double down on the creative. Time to get better in another way. Keep the stories coming, keep sending them out, collect those rejections. File them all away.

Never give up, never surrender. Even if I and a few close friends are the only ones who ever read my stories, at least they'll be here. They exist because I didn't give up.

And I won't. The dream of a being a published science fiction author is too strong. I won't let it go.

Watch.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Those Photographs

Are you familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of Need?

Well, you should be.

It's time that society grew up and progressed beyond adolescence into adulthood. In many ways it's happening but in so many more, so many BASIC ways it's not.

Take a look at the bottom layer of Maslow's ideas: how many people in the world don't have food and water? How many people in your community? Far too many. As a matter of fact, people who work to ensure that everyone has something to eat and clean water to drink are often diminished and ridiculed for fighting for such things. Labeled as liberals and activists and other, worse things. Have you done that? Ridiculed or diminished someone for their beliefs?

Then it's time to grow and leave such childish behaviors behind.

On the second layer up, there's a list of things that people need to feel secure about: their body, their job, their health, their resources. Are you able to walk in public without being harassed by someone trying to diminish or ridicule you? Do you have insurance so that when you get sick you can be treated? Is your cell phone safe from asshats who want to download your information and share it with the rest of the world?

Are you an asshat who wants to feel better about yourself by making someone else feel lesser? Then it's time to grow up. I bet that you don't feel as secure about the basic things as you think. Look at that chart hen do what you can for you and those you love. It's time to actually look closely at yourself and figure that shit out.

Hacking someone's phone to make money by inappropriately sharing STOLEN information is wrong. You're an asshat. If you pay for and publish that information then you're an asshat. If you seek that information out and comment on it, then share it with others you're an asshat. It's time to grow and leave such childish behaviors behind.

You don't deserve to have that information. It's not yours. It wasn't shared with you by the person from whom it was stolen. You are not a journalist doing your job by hacking a celebrity's phone, or indeed ANYone's phone. You're an asshat. You should feel bad about that. You're lowest common denominator and you should want to be more than that. After all we're exceptional here in America, aren't we?

I'm calling you names because your behavior is such that I believe you won't understand anything else. Don't be an asshat.

Don't click on those headlines, don't encourage the behavior. Don't look at those photographs, they're absolutely none of your business. Yes, I mean you. And YOU.

DO believe you're better than that. DO work to ensure your own security and that of others. You'll be better for it. So will your community.

Stop being an asshat. It's not cool any more. It's time to grow.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Just Keep

Blastoff.
I felt sorry for myself earlier this evening and drowned my sorrows for a while. This is normal.

Given that I boldly stated that I was essentially a happy person a couple of days ago,  it's time to resume that most fleeting and desired state of being. The event that caused the down feelings is gone, the feelings are past and hey - it's a new day tomorrow.

Sometimes it's easy to move forward and sometimes it's not. That slope is slippery and if it's been raining then the possibility of a terrible mudslide makes moving forward an adventure, doesn't it? It wasn't the two beers per se, but the time spent sipping them that allowed the feelings to pass. Time is the cure for the I don't wanna do this any more blues.

For me at least. In this case.

Still, frustration will dig its grubby little double-barbed, rusty hooks in if I let it. Can't do that. Gotta let it go like water off a duck's back.

Don't let the bastards grind you down. Punch back. Kick hard. Stab for all you're worth. Never give up. (Never surrender!)

Heh.

Tomorrow before sunrise I stand, ready to be knocked down again. C'mon, who's with me?

The Pile

The desk is calling to me.
Good ol' Chuck Wendig popped into my head this morning on my daily walk:

Finish your shit.

But I have, I tell the ghostly voice in my head. I've got a novella, a novel, three or four short stories that are done. The drafts are finished. They're almost ready to go out to my trusted beta readers.

Fiiiiiniiiiishhh yoooooouuuuurrrrr shiiiiiit.

Dammit.

He's right. He caught the 'almost' I threw in there. I've got the write as fast as you can part down. I'm pretty good at that. I've even got editing my stuff into a readable draft covered. But actually 'finishing', meaning taking that story to a level where it's really ready to run naked out into the world, well - that I'm not so good at yet.

This requires a good deal of focus. What gets in the way are all the other ideas that have been waiting patiently in the green room of my head to get on stage. They're all clamoring for time in the light and time is the commodity I have little of. Of course, that's an excuse. I could find more time to write if I watched less TV, spent less time noodling around on Facebook and Twitter and playing Words With Friends.

All my excuses suck. I guess I haven't figured that part out yet.

Time to finish my shit.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Behemoth

It seems to me that there's a larger disconnect in the Amazon v. Hachette brouhaha than just books. I may be delusional in the end, so bear that in mind.

The online world is so programmed to shop at Amazon first that it appears - and this is with only minimal research - that there are no successful self-publishers who have not used Amazon. Hybrid authors also offer direct from their websites DRM-free PDFs of their books but they are also listed on the online giant's books pages. In short, Amazon is the be-all, end-all online shopping experience no matter what anyone wants to believe.

This isn't Amazon's fault. It is one of their successes but it troubles me. With the demise of locally-owned video, record, and book stores over the last 15 years as well as the desire of people to shop without pants, we are heading for a scary future ala Wall-E with the online behemoth standing in for the Buy n Large Corporation.

A lot of control is in the hands of Amazon. It dominates in a way that has been forecast for decades, eating up small shops and sites and developers with impunity.

And I'm part of the problem, too. I acknowledge that I've bought a great deal of merchandise from Amazon because the discounts were too good to ignore. The convenience they offer is intoxicating and I've often bemoaned the loss of local book stores and music stores. I miss talking to the staffs at these places who would get to know me and my tastes a little. They were so much more fun than the "Other people who bought this also bought..." lines at the bottom of every page I visit on Amazon.

In the end, Amazon should just be one more retailer in a world filled with retailers. It shouldn't be the one-stop shopping experience that even grocery stores have tried to be. It's good for people to move about in the world. Yes, we're busy but to be honest we could probably spend less time watching streaming tv and film, right? Would it hurt to analyze how much screen time one spends each day?

Maybe priorities are skewed. Determine what's more important. It's up to the individual. For my own part, I don't want to be essentially confined to a moving chair on a star ship looking for a new planet to ruin. Maybe I'll spend more money on particular items and maybe it'll take longer to get to me if I buy online. That's okay. I don't mind.

Because I'll try to support creators I like as directly as possible. If someone chooses to self-publish and offer their stuff directly I'll try that first. Then I'll head to other online retailers than Amazon.

Or maybe I'll have to put on some pants and head out to a bricks and mortar store with real live people in it. What a concept.

Monday, August 18, 2014

From the Glad to Be Alive Dept.: One Year Later

(This post contains frank language that may offend some delicate, shell-like ears. That's your warning.)

This week last year I nearly died.

That's not an exaggeration. Every doctor I've talked to ever since has remarked at how close I was to dying. At first I was all "they're just saying that" to "holy shit it was way worse than I thought" to "how the hell do I avoid this happening again".

I'm not going to preach to you about taking care of yourself. You'll either do that or you won't and I don't judge you one way or the other. I will only point out that if you sit for more than an hour you need to get up and walk around. And that the 10,000 steps a day thing isn't bullshit.

The update is that I weigh less now than I did at this time last year. My blood pressure's good. The ulcerative colitis is very much under control. In short, I'm as healthy as I've ever been. I am still working on losing more weight just so I can keep feeling better and better. I am diligently monitoring everything I can, changing lifelong habits slowly but surely. I hope.

And the real point of this post is look back and note the things that were warning signs. For instance:

  • From about mid-March I'd had an occasional, often really painful, stitch in my left side, like I'd been running a quarter mile at top speed. Which is something I haven't done since junior high and would never dream of doing even now. That stitch was apparently a large clot on my left side. The doctors told me that the heaviest burden was on my left. It hurt like a bastard my first night in the hospital. 
  • There were other little pains that added up and added up in retrospect. In my legs, my shoulders, my chest. I went for a walk early in May and had a terrible time breathing. I hadn't been walking in a while back then so I figured I was just really, really out of shape. I was out of shape, but I didn't recognize that sucking for air on a brisk walk over even ground should have really shocked me.
  • The Sunday before I landed in the hospital, I mowed the yard. In increments. Normally it takes about an hour to mow the entire yard and I had to stop and catch my breath four times. I actually sat down for that. Still, I thought maybe it was something more to do with my heart than with my lungs. My chest hurt but I was going to get my heart tested in two days so I didn't worry too much. But I should have been terrified.
  • I went to my son's open house at school and made it through exactly two classes. I was out of breath, sluggish and sweating. No way was I going to go up stairs. Feeling awful for missing the chance to talk to his teachers and feeling bad physically are not a good combination. I was going to the heart test the next morning. I would tell them about that night.
  • After the heart test - 6 minutes on a 10% grade - I was completely incapacitated. The next morning would be when I would go down hard. I called in sick and spent the day on the couch and then in bed. I felt the worst I'd ever felt.
Until the next day, the worst day of my life.

So I'm watching everything, waiting for those little signs to amount to something less than half what I remember from the experience before. I can't go through that again. I won't.

And if you notice aches and pains that are out of the ordinary, go get 'em checked out. Don't wait for these things to add up. Really, don't.

All this applies to every aspect of your health. Don't be afraid to ask for help. 

Finally, I've been appreciative of you putting up with all these health updates. I've survived a year beyond nearly checking out, that's enough. Things are good, stable. So I expect this'll be the final update on my health. Unless something else happens we'll return to occasional posts here about writing, entertainments, politics, or whatever may be on my mind. Thanks for reading.

I'm glad you've been here, as much as I'm glad to still be here, too.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Systems

Here's some really great writing advice courtesy of NYT bestselling author Alex Grecian:

Do not follow systems that tell you how to write a book. Just write a book. Write a book every day. Always write. That's the actual system.

It was good to see that as I was contemplating actually going ahead with a new novel. I really want to do it differently than the last two which I started on November 1 in 2011 and November 1, 2013, respectively. (The 2012 NaNoWriMo book is only about half baked. It is desperate need of a page one rewrite but that's neither here nor there for now. Suffice to say it's on my list to complete.)

Whisky, notes and music. I'm all set.
All writers have at least one shelf full of books on how to write, including a couple that promise to let you in on the 'secret' of writing. In my experience, the 'secret' in those books is that it was written well enough to sucker you into buying it with the hope that the particular system contained therein is one that will work for you.

Grecian's advice to "always write" is the real secret. The more you write the better you get. All it takes is practice, practice, practice. There's no easy way to write unless you discover it for yourself.

While it's true that some of the things in some of the books on my shelf of writing advice have helped me, I've adapted each of them to my specific needs of the moment. The same things do not work the same ways twice. The constant for me to this point has been NaNo. The support of my local group has been invaluable. It's possible that I'll still be writing this book as NaNo starts, in fact it's likely. But I don't know that I'll be an official participant this year. We'll see.

At this point, I have to get better as a writer and blasting out pure story without worry - which is the point of NaNo - means more work later on. Now I want to write with distinct purpose, editing as I go along, watching for the things that always trip me up when I start editing a completed NaNo book. I have a list of those things in the Scrivener file with the story so I have them close to hand if I want to check something or think I need a reminder. Dunno if it'll work or not, but I'm going to give it a try and see what happens.

I'm gonna use the actual system advocated by Grecian and write every day. No matter how long it takes to get to the end. (Which I know, by the way.)

Friday, August 15, 2014

No, YOU Stop It

I'm done with the angry articles that tell Hollywood or celebrities or writers that endlessly repeating themselves is stupid. Well website editors, so is endlessly repeating essentially the same article over and over and over with only slightly different focus or subject.

So YOU stop it first. And stop it right now.

I mean, come on. So what - you don't like the trope. Get over it. Move on. Stop mentioning it, stop grousing about it. Move on. Stop it. Better yet, write your own story or create your own art or make your own TV show without the tropes you despise.

No, really.

While I'm at it, quit it with the lists of things "You Didn't Know" about everything. The truth is YOU didn't know, Dear Writer, and you're headlining link bait. Done. Stop it.

For all our sakes, please find something else to write about. Stop being angry that you didn't know everything. Stop being angry that you do know everything and no one is listening to you. You're boring.

Really.

Find a lot more positive things to write about will you? Please?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Day Later

Still a lot of strong, deep feelings this morning. Another sort of rambling post to come, I suppose.

Outrage and horror and sadness at what's going on it Ferguson, Missouri. Reporters being shot with rubber bullets then told to evacuate the area so it can be cleaned up, residents being gassed, police officers in full military gear standing off peaceful protesters with dogs and this is 2014 in America. Something is just not clicking somewhere. Police are supposed to be here to help people - 'to serve and protect'.

These actions in Ferguson are going a long way to further separate the majority of Americans from what the police are supposed to do: 'protect and serve'. That said, looting and rioting are not helpful, either, and I don't endorse criminal actions on either side. There are opportunists in both camps and they're the ones that get picked up by the media and used as justification for reprehensible actions.

I thought America was more grown up than that.

Deep, deep sadness at the news of Robin Williams' death. He hit at the exact right time for me to be influenced by his manic style of comedy and improv. I learned every line of Reality... What a Concept! inside out. I watched Mork & Mindy every week and saw all his movies. When he stretched into dramatic acting with The World According to Garp and Moscow on the Hudson, I thought it was brave. I learned later on that comedians often make excellent dramatic actors but it doesn't necessarily work the other way 'round. I went to see Aladdin in the theater because hey, Robin Williams as a manic cartoon genie? SOLD. It didn't matter that I didn't have a child at the time. I was there.

He gave me (and everyone) soooo many hours of joy. We all quoted all his lines from Good Morning, Vietnam. We all riffed like he did in Aladdin. And when I saw him in One Hour Photo and Insomnia, he was the consummate actor. Those two performances were so unlike anything I'd seen from him before. I was blown away.

Reports are repeating endlessly that he was depressed and we all know he battled with addiction. This terrible combination isn't a weakness, it's a disease. We who don't feel it to the extent that he and far too many others do shouldn't be judgmental. I've had my own bouts of depression with thoughts of suicide. I held the very sharp boning knife and all I had to do was lean into it and it would have all been over. I didn't because of the love I knew there was for me in my world and because the pain - as bad as it was - wouldn't last forever. None of us know exactly what Mr. Williams felt or was going through but that doesn't stop traditional and social media from speculating.

That does no one any good. What should be repeated over and over and over is that there are resources for fighting back depression. We all have friends who struggle and we all need to let them know they are loved by us. To you, my friends, I am glad to know you and though I don't see you often enough I think about you and I want you to be happy.

I want us all to be happy.

In the midst of all the horrible fucking things happening in the world including the mess in Ukraine, the stupidity in Gaza, the terror in Iraq, the totally preventable awfulness in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and Nigeria, there's a ray of sunlight in my world. My baseball team, the Kansas City Royals, are in first place in August for the first time since I think 1993. Their current winning streak (8 games!) and the way their season is going is something to appreciate. Look up the Royals to find out why this is a big deal. And the win last night that put them in sole possession of first place in their division was something that did, indeed, make me happy last night. I needed it.

So the fear that drives the chain of command in Missouri is debilitating. Having power doesn't mean you're not scared so it's essential to look at exactly why you're scared. The over militarized police with their insanely big weapons are afraid of average people expressing their own fear and outrage. The fear that drives someone to end his life because he just can't see any other way out is harder to control. Sometimes control eludes us. All the time that loss is tragic.

But sometimes, if you believe enough and work enough, things fall together and your team comes through. It takes all of us believing and working together. Don't let your friends pull back.

Reach out, overcome your own fear.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Statement

So I've been pursuing writing prose pretty seriously for several years now. You've followed my journeys through several NaNoWriMos and if we interact in the world (or on Twitter or Facebook) you know I'm always talking about this or that story. Always mentioning how many words I've written in a day and so on and so forth.

I'm a writer. I've had a couple of things published and there's more to come. But I've yet to find a way to break through in a larger fashion. I wrote a novel that's been read by a handful of people and there's acknowledgement from those readers that it's good. Maybe it's the best thing I've written yet. I don't know.

Thinking about it, I have started wondering where the ideas behind my stories are falling. Are they wholly original? Not quite. Some of them not at all. Is my voice original? I don't know. I hope so but I don't think I'm the person to be able to say that. I'm confident, though. I can say at least that much.

Yeah, I've been doing some soul searching, looking introspectively at my work and writing habits in an effort to determine what it is I write.

I can call it science fiction all I want, and it is, but that's not all it is. There are elements of fantasy to it, like Star Wars. There's romance to my writing as well, like Firefly is romantic not like Harlequin bodice rippers. And when I really think about it, there's not as much science as there is in the kind of SF stories I like best.

People need to be able to categorize one's work. Scientific Romances were actual things though now they're archaic. I like Science Fantasy but I don't want that label to dismiss the interactions between people that are so important to great stories. Of which I've written none. Like I mentioned above, some of my stories are okay, maybe good. Not great. Not yet.

As I write more I gain confidence. My saving throws for stories lately haven't been what I need and that discouraged me for a bit, but I still gained experience points. Every so often I'll level up. One of these days I'll get there.

I'm science-literate but not fluent. I need to work on that. I suppose that will inform more stories, too, and allow me to find if not original ideas then at least original takes on them.

Knowing that I'm not as good as I want to be is something but not everything. It's not a mistake to think that I'm a decent writer. Not wholly original but competent and with enough knowledge and experience to show promise. So instead of dwelling on the downside of competent, I endeavored to figure out what I do well. That's the Venn diagram above. That's the reminder I need to help me focus and improve.

So that's what's next. Feedback is the important step here. I need all I can get: good, bad or ugly. It won't hurt my feelings and I'll try mightily to keep from becoming discouraged but the feedback is essential.

Okay, long, rambly post has to end here. I've got writing to do.


Friday, August 01, 2014

Bot Calls

So the first day I was on vacation, while my wife and I drove across Missouri, my cell phone rang. When we stopped, I checked it and didn't know the number. We drove on.

Not thirty minutes later, it rang again. I ignored it until we stopped again. Same number. No message. What the hell? Could it be someone from work? It wouldn't be anyone else.

It was several hours later the phone rang again while we were driving. (Now we were somewhere in eastern Illinois.) When we stopped for the night I looked at it was, once more, the same number that had called me twice before. And no message.

So I Googled the phone number and found it was a bot where no one ever left a message, no one ever spoke if the receiver of the call actually answered. Lots of complaints against this number.

Just weird. The phone rang again and guess what number it was?

I slept, not worried at all any more about the bot.

It called again the next day. Three more times. I formulated a plan to answer the thing with "You do not have the right to use my voice for any purposes. Now what the fuck do you want?" Didn't implement it, though. We drove on.

It has, however, given me an idea for a short story. So I'm signing off here for today to put some more thought and effort into that story. I recommend Googling things rather than trying to use a reverse phone number lookup. I got a lot more information a lot more quickly and without paying anything.

More later.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Back

We were here for the Calvin & Hobbes exhibit yesterday and now we're home. Columbus, OH, seems like a nice city. Will write up the trip soonish. 


Friday, July 18, 2014

Meetings Meetings Meetings

The initial meeting is always the most interesting.

Everyone has an agenda, even if it's to get the hell out of the meeting and on to the real work. The fun meetings (an all too rare occasion) are the ones that go on the longest and thus can actually do some real damage in one's day if the attendees are not paying attention to the clock. Meetings are not bad things. Most aren't. It can take longer some days to schedule a meeting than it can to actually get the information disseminated and then listen for feedback.

Or I could just play "I Feel Fine" and move on with the day.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Thoughts on Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

I saw this yesterday and it's sticking with me. Going in, I had heard that Andy Serkis is to movies these days what Lon Chaney, Sr. was to movies in the early 20th century. With that I heartily agree. There's a great deal of excellent acting going on in the film by the motion capture actors and the CGI was not something that I even really noticed.

The humans were good and I like Jason Clarke a lot, ever since I saw him in Zero Dark Thirty. He's interesting.

But all this aside, it's the story that holds the viewer's attention. Parallel stories of ape and human both wanting the same thing: peaceful existence. Of course that's impossible because one side wants more than the other and that's the conflict.

There's a lot of frowning, a tremendous amount of anger in the film which is reflected in the posters and promotional materials. Any viewer shouldn't get too caught up in that, though. There are real emotional moments that flit past quickly but which give the film a great deal of depth if one pays attention. While the characters are all fairly under drawn with the exception of Caesar, the story works and works well.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes isn't just a strong science fiction film, it's a strong film. It's laced with a deep theme of trust and leadership and the costs of both. Caesar is troubled, Jason Clarke's Malcolm is troubled, too, and neither makes very good decisions in the beginning of the film. Yet they both try hard to be good people. Very hard.

And that's why it's a very good film. It's imbued with a sense of honor, and a reality check of the times it was created in. Coming away having seen it as an incredible, tense, anti-war statement may not be the popular view. There are other views embedded there: anti-gun is one that's permeating the Internet as of this writing but a sense of family and what one does to protect it is there, too. The aforementioned trust is central to the conflict between human and ape.

Within the 2 hours and 10 minutes are a great deal of things to think about. It's a worthy investment to spend the time in the theater now and think about it on the way home. It's a worthy investment to talk about the themes with friends over drinks, too.

As a matter of fact, it's worth your time to go see it again, too. Don't miss this one.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Bundle of Nerves

...the relatively insecure writer is just a mass of raw nerve ends. Unfavorable criticism, to be of any use to him at all, must be couched in thoughtful language, temperate tones, and so phrased that he can use it to do better next time. If he is simply lashed, ridiculed, held up to scorn, it does him no good at all -- on the contrary it is likely to make it impossible for him to write for days on end.
I suggest that it never helps anyone to tell a mother that her baby is ugly.

--- Robert A. Heinlein in a letter to Lester Del Rey 04/15/57

This is true on a number of levels but at the same time, we writers have to develop that thick skin that makes it so that we can endure the  slings and arrows aimed at us when we write something out of our comfort zone. It would be so easy to simply sink our heads in the metaphorical sand when we are criticized, or rather that our writing is criticized so meanly that it becomes personal.

When I played in a local band, we got one such review and the group never really recovered from it, disbanding shortly afterwards despite all our desires to continue.

I've abandoned projects because someone has said something disparaging about them. Upon further examination it wasn't the seemingly harsh words but my own doubts about the projects themselves that caused my abandonment. So I think I'm okay hearing that as a creator my baby, my writing, may be not quite as up to snuff as I want it to be. But continual improvement is quite a good tonic in such cases. So I have a thick skin most days and I keep writing though I may not go back to a project for a time.

All that matters is the writing. That's how one gets better. Critique, criticism - harsh or otherwise - should be taken as cues to improve. Of course, this is my view. Your mileage may vary.

And it should. But if you see beauty where others see none, hang onto that image. It'll get you through.