Thursday, August 19, 2010

I Can't Write!

For someone who aspires to be a professional author I've realized that I can't write worth shit. I've spent the past few days going over previous posts of mine and realized that for the most part, lots of random sentences that don't have anything to do with the point I'm trying to make, lots of incomplete thoughts and tons of poorly argued... um, arguments, litter my posts.

It doesn't worry me though. Someone famous, Larry Niven perhaps, said he was an awful writer, but was great at revision. See, no need to worry. I can fix all those mistakes later.

My problem? I generally don't edit or revise before I post here. What comes out of my fingers is what I post. Oops. For some reason, the blogging world seems to frown on going back and fixing mistakes, so there it is. Crappy posts that make no sense and I can't fix them for ethical reasons... I mean, I could use all those strikethroughs and italicized text to indicate changes, but that just looks stupid.

So reader be warned. I'm just too damn lazy to do it right the first time.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Look Who's E-reading Now!

That's right folks. This is a summer of self-discovery for me. For some it happens in their teens or early 20's. For me, it hits right at the tail end of my 30's. Better late than never I suppose.

Actually, I think I'm a funny consumer, I'm an early adopter in some things, while in others I'm damn near a Luddite. I was years late to the whole MP3 thing. I hated the sound quality, was frustrated my the transient nature of the format (I've lost enough electronic devices in the past to know that what you store on them won't last either) and I enjoyed the format of the CD itself, the art, printed lyrics, even thank yous.

But I made peace with those shortcomings and instead embraced the good things about the new format, my exposure to new kinds of music (or, as fate would have it, podcasts), the convenience of having a gigantic library at my fingertips. And now I can't easily really recall the last time I bought a CD, I see them now as pieces of nostalgia from our previous age.

But books, that is a different story. I love my books. I quick glance at my downstairs den shows just what I've managed to put together in the past 6 or 7 years as I realized that I was purchasing the same books over an over again without noticing until I got a few chapters in that I'd already read whatever it was I'd just purchased. My epiphany is probably the single best reason book sales have gone down across the board during this time. I wasn't buying a copy of Rendezvous With Rama every 18 months any more.
I need something over my fireplace

Needless to say, I have been leery about e-readers for some time now. How am I supposed to slap a finished book on my shelves it I have it as a digital file? Regardless, I found myself with a shiny new iPad in my lap that my beloved gave to me.

I got a quick lesson in the pluses and minuses of ebooks right away. They are certainly beautiful. The iPad screen is impressive. I tried the iBook app, the B&N app and the Kindle app right away. I immediately found a few things annoying.

Aside from my aforementioned frustration of not being able to place a finished book on my shelves at home. I also have to deal with book covers that look like this:

WTF? I'm pretty sure someone in the art department needs to get fired over this one. That looks like total shit. I didn't really realize how often I flip to the cover to see if a particular scene, character or moment is captured. Compare with the actual cover:
I don't especially care for the real world cover any more than most other books, but if I just paid the same (or possibly more) for the right to read a DRM laden, and non shelvable, version. What gives?

Problem two - prices, the experience of reading on the device is actually not bad. Lying in bed at night while my wife sleeps comfortably just wasn't possible before if I wanted to read. Now, I dim the brightness and off we go.

But does the cost really need to be that high? I mentioned reading The Dresden Files - about half the books were read on my iPad. I could run down to Borders, use a weekly coupon, and get a copy of one of the books for around $5. For some reason, they were $9 for digital copies. Have I mentioned the covers?

Another plus, the whole whispersync thing with the Kindle app is pretty awesome, if I didn't care to take my iPad with me I could read on my phone. An acceptable compromise if I felt nervous about hauling my way too expensive iPad around town. My iPhone has had all sorts of problems upgrading to ios4 so I can't use the iBooks app. Looks like Kindle won the battle of e-reader apps... for now at least.

One of the things I liked, alot, was the ability to take notes... see below:

Looking things up, taking notes, bookmarking, all that stuff is pretty awesome. The only thing I seem to use the notes function for was to point out typos and continuity errors. Something which thrills me to no end.

Here is my proposal to the publishing industry as a whole... fix the pricing thing. You are being very greedy. I've read some pretty lengthy arguments regarding the pricing thing from both sides. But the bottom line is this: The e-versions are missing just enough that I feel like I'm getting ripped off. If you have to protect the hardback market then I'm ok with that. Leave those expensive. But those mass market paperbacks that are in some cases 40% more than the paper equivalent. Without the costs associated with printing, shipping, warehousing - the only real cost is bandwidth. They can rant all they want about the expenses, I don't believe them. I'm being ripped off.

How about this? If I go buy the physical book - let me download it for a huge discount. A coupon or something so I have my digital copy for an additional dollar or something. As nonchalantly as I make my request I am serious, that seems fair.

C'mon publishers, you can do it. Don't be evil.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Productive Day

As promised, I'm writing again. Still feeling rusty (heh heh) and the writing is... awkward. I am trying to wrap the first draft of my future best seller and I've had a bit of a tough time getting revved up. I have to make my hero stand up to impossible odds where his life is likely going to be forfeit, and his love interest is going to die too.

So how do I really kick start this violent and potentially lethal finish? By starting a side story about rabbits. Brilliant! It's so great in retrospect that I should have been adding rabbits throughout the story. I'm a genius.

Sigh. I'm truly hopeless.

Rabbits. Geez.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Never Blog Angry

Last night I posted a pretty ugly rant against the unfairness of traffic cams writing tickets. Today I decided that it was wrong of me to do so. So I've taken the post down and replaced it with this. This totally has nothing to do with the fact that I watched the video of the infraction this morning. That is entirely irrelevant. All I have done is have a change of heart.

The moral of the story - don't blog angry.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Writing Life

Look at me, nary a post in months and then two in a little more than a week. Looks like I'm on a roll.

I have found myself thinking about writing again. My fatal flaw is my lack of consistency. I'll write in these weeks long marathon sessions that infuriates my loved ones and runs me into the ground. Then, after hundreds of hours of work and on the verge of a breakdown, I'll produce a (generally) readable manuscript with a somewhat comprehensible plot. In other words, a good first draft.

If past experience is any indicator of future actions then this is what will happen: I'll set my manuscript aside for a few weeks and think about in constantly. I'll try to catch up on the life I let pass me by and repair whatever damages I've caused to my relationships. After enough time has passed I'll pick it up again and start the long slog of the second draft... then things start falling apart.

I'll think about how I haven't been reading as much as I want to. I'll decide to read a new book, it may even be a book about writing, but the point is - I'll start doing other things.

So life has been pretty busy for the past year or two and writing just hasn't been a priority. Of late however, I've found that I've got more free time than I've had in a while. So writing comes to mind again.

Over this past weekend I read a first draft of a novel I wrote for nanowrimo a few years ago (07 I think) and what did I find? Damn. I'm good. I could see that the story could use some tweaking here or there, I need to correct some confusing dialog or action in some scenes, unclear or ambiguous motivations for some characters, but all in all, probably the best first draft I've ever done. To say I was inspired after reading it would be an understatement. Having just finished a string of 15 or so of the most enjoyable books I've read in a while I was stunned at how much I enjoyed reading my own work. I would have thought it would have suffered mightily by comparison.

However, the story wasn't complete. I had stopped writing before I could end the story, not too big a deal, the climax and denouement was the only thing left. 40 pages or so. I know where I was going with the story. The logical thing for me to do would be to wrap up the first draft so I could really pour my heart and soul into a second draft, fixing the obvious mistakes, cleaning up the rough spots, making the story flow - all that stuff.

I don't know if writing is more like riding a bike or mastering golf. I hope it's like riding a bike, that sort of stuff isn't easily forgotten. You just hop right in without missing a beat. However, if I were to take the time and effort necessary to excel at golf and then not play at all for a few years I would expect a disaster when I started up again. Judging from my attempts to wrap up that first draft I would think the golfing analogy is better. It's a finely honed skill that doesn't age well if it remains unused.

I recall Stephen King, in his book on the subject of writing. mentioning how torturous it was to begin writing again after his near fatal accident about a decade ago. He was experiencing physical pain from trying to write, but also his long layoff during his recovery caused him some frustration as well. Getting back in the habit after a long time away is difficult. The words just don't want to come out and when they do they're awkward and clunky.

But I'm dusting off my equipment, I thinking of stories again and will make every effort to get back into the groove.

Happy writing.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Doggy Days of Summer

Hello friends.

You ever have that sinking feeling that you've waited too long to ask someone their name? Perhaps you've seen them every day for a long time, at work or school, and you've had a few short conversations even. Then you see them out at the mall or bookstore and you want to introduce them to someone you're with and you realize you have no idea what their name is.

I've had to live that ugly experience several times in my life. I don't envy anyone who finds themselves in that situation. Learn peoples names. It can't hurt.

That icky feeling that pulls at your gut when you realize you didn't bother to learn someone's name after having a months long relationship with them is similar to how I feel about this blog. It's been so long since I've posted that I almost feel too embarrassed to show my face.

But much like real life, you just got to trudge on through it... now matter how bad it feels.

I have much on my mind that I'd like to share, but I don't think I'll get to much today. I'm just dipping my toes in the water again to make sure it's still warm.

I will say this quickly just in case anyone out there has been waiting with baited breath for the past few months waiting to hear about the fourth book I read in the spring that was so awesome. I'll save you any further suspense:

It was a great read. I loved, loved, loved the book. But that was months ago. I've moved on.

I just spent the past three weeks blowing through The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. This amazes me for multiple reasons. I'll list them here:

1) I hate fantasy.

In fact, I think I've posted about it before. Wizards, swords, fairies, elves, and trolls. I roll my eyes at the thought of it all. This book series has all that and much more. It's so full of magical whatnots that suspension of disbelief is necessary to get past the foreword.

All that adds up to me loving these books about as much as any series I've ever read. It is no small irony to me that I also fell deeply in love with the Harry Potter books several years ago. I'm a man of contradictions.

2)  I hate series.

That is, I hate books ending in cliffhangers and the lack of resolution I feel when reading books of a series. Now, it's a bit of stretch to say that these books end in cliffhangers because they don't. Or at least mostly they don't. But there are generally enough dangling plot threads that you feel like you need to continue to find out how it ends.

I think my mental makeup is as one who just wants to put all his energy into one thing in a huge marathon session and then be done. I'm like that in most things I do. Reading is no different. If I am going to plow through 5000 pages of text over a few weeks then I want to be done with them when I put the final book down. As it stands now I believe that there are plans for another dozen novels or so in the Dresden series. Damn. It'll take another decade to get those finished.

3) I hate making myself a liar.

I guess in certain circumstances I can not only like fantasy, but love it. I don't even know who I am anymore.

All hail the king I suppose: Harry Dresden