Sunday, February 27, 2011

Captain Awesome

I got a bigger kick out of this video than I have anything I've seen on the internet in a while. Please watch.

Captain Awesome from The Animation Workshop on Vimeo.

Happy Sunday!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What's In a Name?

Imagine, if you will, a small but rapidly growing southern town in the 1890's. A young man, his nine-fingered girlfriend and an angry black man team up to wreak havoc on a local group of tough guys - only to find that sci fi weirdness awaits.

Sound awesomely awesome, right? Well, slightly lamer than awesome. But still, at least it's a story - and a finished one. So I'm doing final edits on it so I can send it out to be rejected and it dawns on me... I don't have a title. No problem, I'll just slap a name on it and I'm done. I'll call it:

Buster's Revenge

Er, aside from the fact that there is no one named Buster in the story, and no one is really seeking revenge, well, maybe in a general "I'm mad at the world" kind of way, but not specifically. I'm not sure it's appropriate. No biggie, I'll come up with something else.

The Cursed Coin of Caine Comes Calling

I love alliteration, probably because I can tell folks when I'm stuttering that I just enjoying alliterating. But again, who's Caine? Actually, it's pretty stupid. Even if there was a Caine in the story I would hate it. Forget that one.

Bang! That was my Gun... and It Shot You...With a Bullet

Ugh. And that's before alcohol got involved. I think I came up with around a dozen titles, each worse than the last. So, ah, not to imposition anyone or anything, but if anyone has an idea of a title I wouldn't be against using it.


Dead Men Don't Live... Unless They Do!

Oh god, someone please help me.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Award Winning at Last!

It's been a long time coming, but I've finally picked up my first ever Blogger Award. I didn't have time to read the fine print, but I'm pretty sure it's well deserved. I'd like thank everyone who nominated me.

Seriously, I guess it's may way of letting everyone who may have just started noticing my blog that I truly do suck. I have been picking up a lot more followers lately than I can easily handle. I'm so far behind in going back through to see who everyone is that I don't know if I'll ever catch up.

So, if you are a recent follower and  I've not acknowledged you, please be forgiving. I'm struggling managing my time and I'm a bit overwhelmed. I'll catch up.

In the meantime, my short story, er, novelette, is done. I've stamped it with my done stamp and it is over. I read it out loud in it's entirety and think I've knocked out all the little things, like typos and dropped words, that have plagued it.

Of course that hasn't addressed the major problems, like characters behaving like drunken ducks in a cyclone - doing things that no one could ever make sense of. But those sorts of problems mean very little to me at this point. This one is in the bag.

So, I celebrate for a few minutes, then go back to editing my crappy novel.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Is It All Just Wasted Time?

I've written before about how much of a procrastinator I can be. Today - thanks to the need for someone to be at the house when a contractor came by the house to give an estimate - I took off work. Oh the stuff I was going to get done today.

I also complained about how slow my wife has been about reading my would-be novel and how I've written a pretty long short story while I've been waiting... over 6k words long. Well, as I do everything I write, I loved it. What will happen soon though, I'll tweak it a bit before sending it off to try to get it published, then notice something I didn't like, change it, realized I screwed up the continuity, rewrite other portions, get bored with it, decide it needs more action, then realize its too dark, add a comedic sidekick. Eventually I'll have a mess.

But I'm not there yet. Right now I still love my story. So while I had the time and inclination I decided to do a sketch or two early on this morning to really give the story some oomph. I've been doing a lot of sketches and the like the past month or two because I am toying with the idea of releasing something - for free, or as cheap as the rules will allow - in various e-formats. I think I'm going to try to submit my novel for general traditional publication. But a short story isn't so much an investment in time that I couldn't try experiment by putting it out there.

So, with that in mind I was thinking of adding a picture or two with anything I release. I'm still toying with the idea and don't know if I'll do it... but that does serve as the inspiration for recent flurry of doodles I've been putting out.

Now, the short story I've written is set in the southern U.S. in the mid 1890's. In the story a Clint Eastwood type mysterious stranger shows up when things are just turning violent. I had in mind the fantastic movie The Unforgiven when Clint walks into the saloon with vengeance on his mind.

The difference I suppose is that my character is a black man. For 10 - 20 years right after the civil war black men in the south enjoyed more freedoms and luxuries than they would for the next century. The 1890's was when Jim Crow laws were really starting to be put into the books across the south, taking away many of those freedoms.

Also, I don't draw guns well.
This character is heavily scarred and none too pretty to look at. I thought it would  be great to capture something of him in one of the story's more dramatic moments. So I started with this rough draft:

I wanted to show several characters in the foreground and that classic Mexican standoff that the great Spaghetti Western's are known for. But I realized that I couldn't do that for a couple of reasons. 1) I suck at blocking things out. I would be positioning folks in stupid places and would end up ruining my picture, I just don't have the skill level to pull that sort of thing off well. 2) It would take forever to actually move that beyond a mere sketch. I would spend as much time trying to finish a scene as I did writing the story in the first place. I'm not prepared to dedicate that kind of time to it.

So, after deciding that was the wrong track I wanted to focus on the same part of the story, but to sketch the character a bit more dynamically  to see if that looks any better. I got this:
Wait. Wasn't he supposed to be black?

I like it a bit better, but it looks too comic booky to me. I wanted the end picture to look more like an oil painting, not a rogue from the Batman comics. I needed to up the ante and add some realism to the scene. Of course I can't really do that without some sort of reference photo or something. So I picked a photo of the internet and sketched this:

That cowboy hat got awfully wimpy looking.

Well, I did okay with the realism, but my issue is that I really need a live model to sketch something that looks real and like it has impending action... in other words. I wasted my day. Still, I do enjoy the creative process. I just wish I had more time and could work faster.

In the meantime, my wife has read the first five chapters of my novel. Only about 20 more to go and I can get it back and start making revisions.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

And While We Wait

My wife is finally reading my novel in earnest. I am sitting right beside her trying to look over her shoulder as she reads. Gee whiz it makes me nervous.

But I had this brilliant idea for a cover for my book... I know. I'm stupid. But still, in my head it's awesome. I sketched out my astronaut  guy that I was going to use...

Look ma! I have dis-proportionally large hands!

Aside from the fact that I was a much better artist when I was in fifth grade than I am now, this was still only intended to be a quick sketch. What this doesn't do is capture the feeling I wanted it too. So this most definitely won't get used in any mock-up of a book cover that I'll ever use.

I like my idea though, I'll sketch something better soon. Take a little more time to get the body language right (he looks like he's sneaking up on someone - not what I was going for) and then work on making it look good.

Still, I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for a good review from the missus.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It Wasn't Me. I Swear!

I received word about a lawyer who decided to give back to his community of Valentine's day this year. To do something special for the townspeople that he lived and worked among during his professional career. Like all of us, he donated what he could. In this case, his expertise. So he gave away one free divorce.

Yep, the man stood up, announced to the world that he was going to give away a divorce for Valentines Day. It may be one of the more tasteless things I've ever heard of someone doing. The worst part?

Apparently... that man is me!

Yes, a lawyer with my name has decided to do something that should make other lawyers put their heads down in shame. I apologize to the world as well. I feel like he has sullied my good name.

Regardless, as anyone who follows me on twitter may know. I've been taking a break from my crappy novel to let my wife read it for me. She's a pretty good beta reader and has already pointed out several problem points that I missed. My issue is that she is so slow. I'm not sure I can have this thing ready by March now or not. I think I've bugged her so much that she's ready to shoot me for not leaving her alone about it.

The part that worries me most though, isn't what flaws she finds, it's that she doesn't seem to have a great interest in reading it in the first place. Is she bored already? I could be in real trouble here.

Well, the short story I've been working on in the interim is pretty cool, although I'm getting dangerously close to Novelette territory now. I should get it wrapped up in another day or so. Then hopefully cleaned up and ready to submit somewhere by the end of the weekend. So, I do have that.

Oh well, still keeping the dream alive.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Wal Mart - The Next Borders?

I don't go to Wal-Mart much. Mostly because it's like Black Friday every day when I go there. I know it saves me nearly 30 additional cents on every ten dollars I spend, but it just isn't worth it for me to stand in line for 45 minutes so I can buy a gallon of milk for $5.19 instead of $5.29.

Also, every time I go there I witness something weird. I just don't like being there. Today of course I walked up and down the length of checkout lines hoping that I would find one without either 40 people standing in it waiting to purchase their goods, or with one person pulling two carts filled with items from every corner of the store. Either way, I know my precious day will be wasted standing in line. As it was I ended up spending 10 minutes searching for the line which I felt offered the shortest wait only to have the cashier drop a bottle of febreeze over the scanner and have it explode. The aisle filled with the scent of lavender and lilies and his scanner was ruined.


But because the missus needs some storage containers for her burgeoning stained glass empire and I couldn't think of any place else in town that not only has them, but has aisles dedicated to them. As I wondered through the store I thought I wouldn't mind checking out the latest season of the best show on TV (PSYCH , if you must know) and their DVD shelves were almost totally empty.  Like, nothing there at all. Seems weird to me to have aisles full of nothing. I wondered around there store some more, looking for other signs of spare real estate.

Wal-Mart: The gold standard in retail

I found some. (Edit - an actual picture taken by me today btw) I can't help but scratch my head and wonder if the fine folks that used to work at my local - soon to be bankrupt - Borders that used to present me with empty shelves there took over at Wal-Mart.

Borders: Those shelves don't seem so empty to me now
Empty shelves amaze me. I can see running out of an unexpectedly hot product, or having a supply truck break down, a vendor fail... that sort of stuff happens. But having entire aisles being empty confounds me to no end. How is that possible? Especially knowing at least a little of how Wal-Mart's supply chain works I can only imagine they had a complete meltdown somewhere.

Anyway, empty shelves don't seem to deter the crowds. It was packed in there like a rock concert. I can only guess it makes the crowd want to hurry up and buy everything else that isn't tied down before it disappears. It's like what my father used to tell me about how he would sell candy bars door to door when he was a kid. He would hid all the candy bars except for a couple and go knock on the door with a near empty box and tell the homeowner that he just needed to sell the last couple and he would be done. If he is to be believed then it worked like a charm.

So who knows, maybe they're geniuses.

Anyhow, time to get back to work on my crappy novel.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Stranger Than Fiction

I’m taking a break from the editing of my crappy novel and trying to get some perspective. Actually, I need to print out a copy of my crappy novel and have balked at using most of a ream of paper and who knows how much ink to do it. I used to print stuff at work but they have recently began frowning on that sort of behavior (meaning, they said stop doing it) so it's up to me. I checked out some print services and see that it'd cost me like $30 bucks to do it in town. Yikes. I sure as hell won't be doing that. So, I figure I'll suck it up and waste all my precious resources to print out my masterpiece at the house. It would probably be cheaper to just use Lulu and have them send it to me... at least then I could have a really cool looking cover or something.

So, while I'm dragging my feet I've been reading a great book of local history that has included stories of bodies buried inside buildings, shootouts involving the local business elite, of a local ice cream parlor that decided to serve oysters, and my personal favorite, the story of a guy who decided to build a street car line in the city without any permits or permission. When the cops showed up to stop the 300 strong labor force he’d hired a riot ensued which ended in with dead and injured men, and a standoff between city police and county deputies all trying to arrest each other. The guy who caused that ruckus ended up marrying Woodrow Wilson’s daughter and became Secretary of Treasury. 

But for a short time he sat in a small jail in Knoxville Tennessee for causing all that chaos. Great stuff. What irks me about all this is how ridiculously random all the events in the book seem to be, which I keep having to remind myself is just how real life is. So many of the real events that surround us are so implausible that if they were too happen in a book or movie then folks would quit reading or watching due to the stupidity of the plot. But then again, assuming we live in a world with around 6 billion people then those million to one occurrences must happen around 6000 times a day. 

Which of course means really implausible things happen all the time. 

I’ve received loads of advice on the topic before and the bottom line is - my character’s actions and circumstances must be much more logical than real life. Which really doesn’t make much sense considering that most writers are writing about unlikely things anyway. But then again, if my bad guy is walking his dog at night and gets ran over by a drunk driver and dies, I think a reader would feel cheated. Random stuff happens in real life, not in fiction. 

So if you want to read some really weird stuff, like the life of Tycho Brahe, then go read a history book. But make that guy the protagonist in your story and it’d be so weird that folks just wouldn’t be able to relate. If I wrote a story about a guy with a copper nose, who’s favorite pet elk was an alcoholic (that perished at a party after getting wasted and falling down the stairs) and that he died from either from poisoning, or from fear of urinating, then I think I’d have a sure fire rejection slip in my hand from every would be publisher in the world. It reminds me of those Sherlock Holmes vs T-Rex type movies that show up on the SyFY channel all the time now. A mishmash of ridiculous scenes that don’t really tell a story.

So, it's all a big lesson to me, I want to give the illusion of reality when I write, not actual reality. The real world is just too damn weird.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Crusaders Unite

I stumbled upon a blog post recently about an attempt to network blogging authors that write in the same genres. Sounds awesome.

Click here for the post on the topic.

So, if you write, if you want to see who else out there writes what you do - check it out.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Five Things You Never Want to Do. And Why I Do Them

The week’s been zooming by at an incredible pace. I’ve been plugging away at my hopeful novel (when I haven’t been either working or stealing a peek at an episode or two of PSYCH) and have come to the that horrid place where I’m pretty sure I can no longer judge the worth of what I’ve written. I edited down my previous version a bit, which makes it a svelte 67k words as it stands now. Less than I really want it to be – around 80k would have been better.

So how do I bump the size up to where I want it? I don’t know. Because of that itsy little problem of being so in the middle of the book that I have no idea what would make it better or worse. I keep getting these stupid ideas that I’m shoehorning in and am thinking I’m just screwing things up even worse. However, I did make a small list of items that that seem to crop up frequently enough that they worth mentioning.

  1. I can’t say what I mean. “Bob wanted lunch.” There, that wasn’t so hard was it? So why is it that when I write that sentence it comes out like “Bob just so wanted to have what the rest of the world would clearly describe as a lunch.”? Then I have to go back and try to whittle that down into something coherent. If it were only a sentence or two here or there I don’t think it would be too much of an issue. But paragraph after paragraph it goes on. It ends up being a LOT of work trying to clean up prose that is that ugly.
  2. They're, their, there. Sigh. Its, it's. To, two, too. Dammit! I know what they f#*&$ng mean. Why can't I use them properly.
  3. Commas are the bane of my existence. "The funny man, named Frank, was only funny, or so it seemed, when he, as he often did, thought of the word, Catapult." Extended portions of my writing looks like nothing but commas interspersed with the occasional word to break it up.
  4. Too many stupid people. "Hello, I'm Billy the FBI agent, I'm going to set my gun right beside you and then reveal that I'm crooked and will kill you - right after I get back from taking a piss." I hate that sort of stuff so much when I read it, so why does every character I put in my novel act that way? Beats me.
  5. And finally, and this is the worst, why in the world do I write a scene where two characters sit in a bar and TALK about how they just narrowly avoided death by bizarre circumstance? I could have actually written the scene where the do narrowly avoid death, it seems easier and I know it would be more exciting.
And that's only the five things that come to mind off the top of my head. I think I've lost all perspective. A few weeks ago I thought I had a gem that just needed a few touch ups to make it perfect. Now I'm wondering if it was written by a nine year old with drinking problem. Ugh. 

Regardless, I won't call it a lost cause yet. But it's getting damn close.

Stupid book