Tuesday, December 21, 2010

At Death's Door Stand the Bold

It's with trembling hands that I type this. I'm not nervous, but ridiculously ill. My skin hurts, as do my bones. I cannot swallow without pain. My adam's apple feels like it has swollen to the size of an actual apple. Oh god, the horror.

An artist's impression of the battle going on inside my body

What's wrong? I have no idea, my general plan of action when I get sick is to lie in bed and let others tend to me. I've had the double whammy of having my wife be out of the country and my son get sick as well. All I got to help me is my stupid dog, whom I love, but totally sucks at nursing.

I ask her to bring me some medicine and she starts rummaging through the trash. I tell her that I don't need the used medicine and to get me the stuff from the medicine cabinet. She stares at me like I'm the dumb one. Sigh. She just doesn't get it.

It's funny to me that I recall bragging to someone at work just last week that I can't remember the last time I got really sick. I'm just too damn healthy for an infection, those little buggers pass me by for easier prey. That's what I get for talking smack to the microscopic biota nearby. I think they took it personal.

So I'm in bed, where I've been for the past few days. I'll try to get myself picked back up and go to work later this afternoon if I can, but I don't know how much I could expect to accomplish at the office the way I am right now. My ability to ramble incoherently seems to work independently of my overall heath, so co-workers might think I'm normal. But I can tell. And of course my superiors would be able to tell too. I'm pretty sure whimpering then falling asleep on my desk would raise some red flags.

The horrid thing for me is what could be next the next stage of this illness. I've petered around Google and Wikipedia this morning checking out my symptoms and all I can see for sure is that I may have something... frightening

That said, It may just be that I have read way too many zombie stories in the past few weeks. I think I'm nervous about what I'll be when I wake up. If my next blog is all about how good and tasty brains are then look out. I've already been changed.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Procrastination: Thy Name is Rusty

It's true. It doesn't matter how important it is. If I have something to do, no matter how important or urgent, I will put it off.

Why do I do that? I don't know. If I intend to clean, I'll have to piddle on the internet first. If I want to write, I'll have to read just one more chapter before I do. If I want to read, then I'll have to watch a few minutes of TV first. If I have to be go to work, I'll just have to take a picture of the sunrise.

Sigh. It goes on and on. If I set out to take a picture, I'll decide I need to draw a picture to get in the right frame of mind. It's a rare gift, or at least it is on the level I demonstrate it, but man does it have a tendency to throw my life into havoc at times. That's the real reason I struggle with Nanowrimo every year. And it confounds my wife to no end trying to figure out how I can carve out a block of time to write for several hours and come away with 19 words written but a killer guitar riff to show off.

So what has been my diversion today? Well, I set out to write some this evening on one of my always in various stages of editing novels and I starting thinking of titles. My working title was something stupid of course, like, The Dead Man Who Lives... To Die!, or maybe, Ricky's Rockin Rampage of Reclusive Reflexology.  In other words, aside for my love of alliteration - I've got nothing.

So I was thinking on the topic of titles, knowing full well if a miracle occurred and a publisher just waltzed up to my front door and said they'd publish me that they would really not care about what my title was... and even less so about my cover.

But I also harbor a secret desire to be graphic designer. So book covers are totally something I'd dig creating. It seems like folks have homemade covers before they write a single word of prose. Well, to avoid writing this evening I decided to work on a cover of my own. My title still sucks something awful, and I can't really think of how it even applies to what my story is about. Regardless - here it is:


So there it is. My attempt at another book cover. I really have a fancy to try a space opera or something hand drawn but something like that would take some time and effort to produce. To make one actually look good would require skills I just don't possess.

But I still think it's fun.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oh What a Crapfest

Christmas is a difficult time for me. It doesn't help that my lovely wife had an opportunity to go home for the first time in 20 years or so and just couldn't pass up the chance. Therefore she has gone and the house feels really empty.

The weather sucks. It's snowed, sleeted, iced over, and we've had record low temperatures for this time of year. The kids haven't been going to school because of it and its wreaked havoc with my work schedule.

Even my poor dog has been depressed. At the time my wife was trying to say goodbye to her our beloved dog was too caught up in licking her crotch to notice. Now she wonders the house looking sad and trying to find my wife. Look who's sorry now.

But life goes on. I stood in line at the grocery store today for 10 minutes, watching in utter fascination as a young lady went through the self-checkout line and acted like each article must be carefully inspected before attempting to scan it. She bagged each can of ravioli like it was precious glassware that needed cushioned support before it could be placed in a bag for transport. I certainly appreciated her thoroughness, but the whole thing was surreal.

But when I'm not noting the idiosyncrasies of strangers I'm trying to cope with my own issues. I was thinking that while the missus was away I'd get to read and write much more than usual. So far I've written nothing. I'm too tired to muster up anything more than a passing thought of trying to produce some prose. Of course I am reading, currently I'm working my way through a short story collection that has as its theme the Fermi Paradox. One of my favorite distractions in life is to ponder the mystery and try to come up with my own solution. So far my best possible solution is that Alien civilizations are actively trying to hide from us. They've seen the whupass we can unleash when we feel like it.

But so far the book has been a pretty big disappointment. I'm nearly done and only a few of the stories stand out as exceptional. There was even one or two that I thought were embarrassingly bad  - how does stuff like that get published?

Anyway, I'll try to shake that melancholy mood and get back to my chipper self. I think it'll take me a few days to get in the mindset of being alone and then I'll start feeling all creative again.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Better Than the Comics!

I divide my childhood into blocs of time based on what superhero I was most enamored with at the time. For example, my earliest memories of even being aware of superheroes was the old black and white George Reeves Superman shows I would watch every afternoon after school - Kindergarten I suppose - most likely around '76 or so.

I would try to tuck towels inside my t-shirts and jump around the furniture pretending I could fly. He could bend steel bars, see through walls. He did it all. My mom or dad would come home with the occasional Superman comic and I would read them over and over. Reliving each panel, trying to draw him in various poses and otherwise try to be him - I probably got more of a sense of my adult values from him than real person I ever knew.

Of course the movie came out around that time, after I was exposed to him for sure, but not too much longer. I'd suspect that the TV show was airing at that time in a mischievous plot by studio execs to get me excited about the movie before I knew it was coming out.

Not so long afterwards though I moved on to bigger and better things. I don't know when the Incredible Hulk television show hit the airwaves. But that was all it took for me to have a new favorite hero. I must have been six or seven and found that when my parents would bring home a comic book version of the show that I loved that the comics were even more awesome. From that point on I think I actually preferred the comic book version of all my heroes.

So went the second era of my life, reading the Hulk led me to other marvel characters, Spider-Man, the X-Men, and eventually... Thor!

Thor was my favorite comic book character for years, I felt so anti-establishment. I mean, he had long hair, had a big hammer that he beat people with. He spoke in Jacobian english and he drank alcohol. He was a bad man. I suppose he was Superman with an attitude.

One could probably learn a lot about my personal issues considering I chose the most powerful heroes ever imagined to idolize growing up. But still, Thor was my third era of childhood, and lasted probably from the age of 10 or 11 up until I quit comics all together when I was around 15.

So now that I'm an adult and special effects in movies have gotten several orders of magnitude better superheroes have really gotten their due in the past decade. The child in me rejoices. Imagine my unmitigated joy upon seeing the trailer of the upcoming epic based on Marvel's Thor.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Boom. I Shot You.

"Frank Lester stared at the hyper-influx emulsifiers and knew the cobalt infused preon compressors wouldn't work."

Is that drama? I've been thinking about opening lines lately and have wondered about how important they really are. I mean, if I were to work my tail off comprising the greatest story told in the last fifty years and it had a so-so first line does that mean it's a lost cause.


I recall being told once from a friend that when an agent was critiquing work in public that they took the first page from someone's work, put it on a projector (for the crowd, it was a conference) and said that they knew from the first sentence that they wouldn't want to represent that author. Ouch.

I've read often about how important it is to have a great first sentence. So I thought I would thumb through my library and pick a few at random and see how they look. Kind of a top 10 list of first sentences from novels I've found lying around the house.

Now, I'm of the opinion that one's first sentence is irrelevant. The first paragraph is a bit relevant, the first page is damned relevant. And it all culminates with the first four or five pages - which better be masterful.

So my personal opinion on the topic is something I came up with more or less off the top of my head. But I think it makes enough sense without thinking too much about it. I know when I'm browsing a the bookstore I won't make any real judgement on the quality of a book at least until I've read the first several paragraphs, a lone sentence means nothing.

However, I'm not going to reproduce several paragraphs of prose from several books on this blog. So I'll just do that with the first sentences. Why? To see if any sort of theme begins to emerge.

Now, the breakdown of books I chose looks like this:

Sci-fi - 3
Fantasy - 2
Horror - 1
Chic lit - 1
Literary/Mainstream - 2
Thriller - 1

I lied about them being random, but I did try to select from a good mix of different styles of writing and see what happened. I'll withhold the names of the books and authors for the sake of my precious little experiment, although I would think some will be pretty recognizable. Some will be pretty obscure (I'll post the author and title info in the comments section.)

  1. Before she became the Girl from Nowhere - the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years - she was just a little girl in Iowa, named Amy.
  2. " No, I don't want the mangosteen."
  3. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privit Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
  4. In the beginning was a graph, more like diamond than graphite.
  5. Even at the moment she was born she knew something was wrong.
  6. The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
  7. Sophie Dempsey didn't like Temptation even before the Garveys smashed into her '86 Civic, broke her sister's sunglasses, and confirmed all her worst suspicions about people from small towns who drove beige Cadillacs.
  8. IT WAS A KNOCKOUT BLOW - a punch so overwhelming that I didn't get back on my feet for fourteen years.
  9. ON A GRAY, FOGGY MORNING, THEY CAME, rising on the cold north winds from the icy peaks, sweeping across the timberland into the gray, misty valleys of the Black Forest... baby sounds!
  10. The building was on fire, and it wasn't my fault.
What did I learn? I learned that sometimes a single sentence tells you nothing, like when it was dialogue (#2). I've learned that some folks decide to go all caps for the first several words of the opening sentence. I learned that at least in a few of the examples above, the book as a whole had its tone nicely indicated by the opening line (#'s 3,4 & 10). And I learned that at least in one particular case, a great first line leads to a rather shitty novel (#6).

I have a suspicion that the more established the writer, the less emphasis they put into their opening moments of the novel. I'm sure there are numerous examples of new and established authors that show both types of openings so I doubt anything will ever be concrete. Which of course is great, because that means I can't be proven wrong.

Regardless, I do like powerful beginnings. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Greatest Internet Giveaway of All Time!

I think I'm odd in many ways. I'm somewhat solitary of a person by nature and generally find that my interests don't line up terribly well with most folks I meet in the real world. I love science fiction. I love to read. I write. I enjoy photography, art, I play a mean (er, mediocre) guitar. I try to keep up with the latest in science news and at least the occasional historical tidbit. Hell, I even enjoy the major sports. I find that I have more interests than I have time.

So why is it that I feel so damned uncomfortable around people, real people, internet people, made up people? I think I'm a pretty good communicator, I speak well, I don't have a fear of crowds or public speaking. I just don't get me. 

It seems the internet is made for me then. I can express myself with like minded folks and finally find a community that I'm at ease with. Nope. I find I'd rather stand in my own corner of the internet and mind my own business just like I do in the real world.  I'd rather lurk than contribute. 

The main reason I started this blog was to try to force myself to become more sociable. So how do I get people to want to pay attention to me when I'm not even sure I can muster up the will to really try? Well, I found myself wondering around the store the other day and I stumbled upon this sign:

A whole penny off? I'll take 10!

That's right, the regular price for the product is $1.89. No way a simple working man like me can afford that. But wait! They are slashing prices and the new, super low price is $1.88. Man, imagine my luck, if I'd come any other day of the week I might have missed that super sale. Black friday has nothing on Kroger's my local grocery store.

In all seriousness, I guess they're hoping that I'll  see the big yellow sale tag and fill up my cart with every available item on the shelf.

Huh, there's an idea. So let's try it.

I believe in the upper right had corner of my blog I've got a picture of an anthology that I contributed a couple of stories to once upon a time. Well guess what folks. I'm going to give a copy away. Yep. For free.

What do you have to do to win? Be the first to ask me for a copy. I'll send it to you. You have to live in the continental U.S. (I'm just not going to pay for international postage). So ask for it first and let the good times roll.

*Edit * I should have asked that the person should request their FREE copy of the anthology by asking for it in the comments section.