Friday, September 30, 2011

Look! A List

As was mentioned earlier in the week, I’ve been sick. Being sick is a curious thing, as apparently it makes me watch Star Wars. After the worst part past - that would be the part where I was near death, seeing visions from the spirit world and wondering if each thought was going to be my last - yeah, after all that was over and I was just normal sick, like where I mope around and complain to everyone about how crappy life is, and how the universe is actively trying to kill me by disease, I sat down and watched some Star Wars.

I saw A New Hope on Saturday actually, before the worst hit, but whatever, I was feeling bad by then. When I watched it, I realized it was the first time in several years I’d seen it. I picked up the old trilogy on Blu Ray last week out of my morbid curiosity to see what else got tinkered with since the last time I watched it. Honestly, I don’t know. Best I could tell it looked the same. I did notice however, that many of the fx that were update in the 90’s looked very… gaudy maybe, when compared to the rest of the film. It forced me to decide that the updates need some updates. You know, to make the fx look better. I just found that funny.

Well, truth be told, the dog fight sequences don’t bother me at all, those were fine, the planetside updates though, the added creatures and people. Ugh.

Still like the movie though.

I watched Empire Wednesday night. Always my favorite, as it is most everyone’s I thought, until my step son said lots of people say episode III is sorta the popular choice for best SW movie.


I did manage to ask him if anyone over the age of 20 has ever placed a vote for that one. He shrugged, as if to say, ‘it isn’t my opinion. I’m just sharing with you what I’ve heard.’ All I can say is he has stupid friends. 

Well, I watched Empire and was pretty impressed. It’s a beautiful movie, and the Hoth sequence it still wow inducing. I mean, if I saw it for the first time today, when those AT-AT Walkers come waddling around and shooting with those laser mandible things, I think I’d just about wet myself with excitement. And it’s 30 years old. Damn.

So, in honor of that moment, I’ve decided to give you, beloved reader, a list of the five most amazing fx shots I’ve ever seen in my life. I don’t know crap about level of difficulty, if it’s ripped off from something else, and I don’t care if it hasn’t aged very well. These are things that made me freak out, that made my heart race, or, in one occasion, actually cry upon first viewing.

5. AT-AT Walkers crushing shit in The Empire Strikes Back: I know. I just got done talking about this one. It isn’t higher for me probably because I couldn’t separate that sequence from the movie as a whole at the time. However, I can’t think of anything before this moment in film history where I could watch something so ridiculously implausible was depicted so realistically. Again, might deserve to be higher, but this list is really about me, not about the fx. For me, it’s just number 5. I mean, when I was a kid I didn't really pay much attention to fx, so it didn't move me like it would have had I been older. For awhile there it was a toss up between Empire and Battle From Beyond the Stars for my favorite movie... I didn't quite have the perspective I have now.

If I was building those things, I'd add more guns

4. Crazy tentacle thing from The Abyss: I'm not sure when I became aware of digital fx in movies, but I recall seeing the thing mimic whatshername's face and I went home trying my damnedest to figure out how they did that. I just couldn't figure it out. My best guess at the time was they had real aliens perform the role of movie aliens - at least for that scene. 

Remember, if you ever meet an alien, don't poke it in the eye

3. T-1000 rising from the floor in T2: That movie is 20 years old and I guarantee if a movie were made today attempting to utilize the same shot that it would look cheesy. The T-1000 would come flying out of the floor, the camera would shake a lot, I’d see the inside of someone’s nostrils for a second, and then blood would splatter onto the camera lens… and I wouldn’t know what the crap just happened. I couldn't breathe when I saw this shot for the first time. Really. Couldn't breathe. I'm still stunned when I watch it.

I wish my floor could do that

2. T-Rex destroying jeeps in Jurassic Park: Came out about 2 years after T2 did and man, at that point I truly believed there were no limits to what could be filmed. My imagination at least, was tapped out on the idea that something was truly unfilmable.

Hey! Is he looking at me?

1. Bridge destroyed and Jamie Lee Curtis gets lifted from car in True Lies: Ha! Didn't see that one coming, did you? I, no joke, cried during that scene. At that time, I honestly thought they really destroyed that bridge going to the Keys. Then that rescue where they pulled her out of the sunroof of the car right before it crashed into the water. Daaaaammmn.

Yep. That Really Happened.

If I had to throw in an honorable mention (or two) I'd have to say either the cave troll sequence from The Fellowship of the Ring, um, or maybe the battle with Sauron during the opening of the same movie. I had never scene crowds done before like that. It caught me off guard and blew me away. In a movie full of some very subtle fx, those sequences made me forget everything (upon subsequent viewings) for just a moment, and freak out about how awesome the fx were. It was great movie, and some of the things that wowed me then have aged a bit. But at the time. Damn.

Also, in ID4, I can't watch that movie now, but when it came out, those impossibly large ships breaking through the atmosphere were breathtaking. Real wow moment. Ah, memories.

And there you have it. Definitive. Unarguable. Mathematical. Happy Friday.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sick Sick Sick

Yep - all weekend was me huddled in a ball and whimpering. I don't know what happened for the past few days, whether it was a zombie apocalypse or alien invasion, I was oblivious. I was out. I still am, but I'm so heavily medicated at the moment that I feel well enough to post something.

During my illness I had that malady that not only saps your strength, will to live, and ability to enjoy anything. But the most curious thing is that it makes my eyes feel like they are on fire. I can't look at a screen, be it TV, Laptop, iPad, iPhone, or what have you. It feels like someone is poking my eyes with a hot poker.

So what is a man to do? Well, I did two things, one, my wife is a huge audible listener, and has a huge library of books for me to choose from, I just pick the one I want and listen away. Thank goodness I talked her into downloading The Dresden Files books a while back, well a couple of them anyway. So I closed my eyes and listened to Harry get in all sorts of scrapes and jams while the hours of misery melted away.

But I can only keep my eyes closed for so long, in those brief interludes when I had my fiery eyes open I found I could read a book. A real life, non-digitized, honest to god, book. Funny that I had just received one in the mail. So that was my second thing.

Anyone who followed either my blog, or Andrew's, knows that I helped him with the cover a few months back. He, without any request from me by the way, was kind enough to send me a hard copy with a fantastic inscription on the inside. I spent some time admiring the feel of the book for a bit, and carried it around for a day or two, looking at it, flipping it over, wondering why I did some of  the things I did in the design, wondering what I could have done better, all that sort of stuff.

Now, I have posted before about my unease in regards to reviewing books from Indie authors - I had read some Indie books that I enjoyed, some that I managed to read but not feel very strongly about, and one in particular that I thought was a travesty to the written word (I promise that one was from someone who has never visited this blog). I have tried to keep pretty silent about how I feel about what I've read. I mean, If I were to give Cindy Borgne a glowing review of her book, Vallar and then read and dislike someone else's book then what do I do? Rip them to shreds publicly? I mean, someone who pours their heart and soul into something like you have to in order to write a novel doesn't deserve to be beaten up by another author, it feels like a conflict of interest. I can lie and say I loved it, or I can never mention it and hope they don't think I am ignoring them. Which is why I have tried to not review any Indie books. Understood?

So, Andrew asked if I would be willing to give this a review. I wrote him an email and told him my concerns, he wrote back and said something that... well, I don't actually recall what he wrote, and I'm too tired to go back through my emails to find it, but he essentially said that his fear is not bad reviews, it's obscurity. He said he'd rather I be honest, and talk about the book, than never mention it. So, after getting permission from him to be honest, here are my thoughts:

Andrew Leon's novel, The House on the Corner whisked me away to when I was kid. Specifically, at an age when I thought I was going to find a Tyrannosaurus Rex skull just under the dirt at my feet if I would just dig a little deeper, or that I would discover a secret formula for super strength by mixing my mom's household cleaners together in a mad chemistry experiment (didn't work FYI - but I did discover a powerful grass killer). That's what this book is, it's a big what if. What if something amazing like that really did happen? What if that feeling we all had when we were kids wasn't just an overactive imagination, what if there really was something waiting to be discovered? I get it. And I loved it.

To be honest, it left me sighing with relief. I know Andrew well enough that I was afraid I might not like it - and was struggling to try to think of a way to put a positive spin on something I might not enjoy. But when I got sick just as I was starting it meant I ended up in bed with nothing else to do for the most part. I read the whole thing in about two extended reading sessions while cooped up and hidden from the world.

The story is set pretty firmly in the summer and fall of 1983, not too long after Return of the Jedi hit the theaters. It's the story of three siblings, Tom, the eldest, Sam, the middle child, and Ruth, the youngest, as they move into their new home that a few of the neighbors think is haunted.

The author has clearly made this novel a heartfelt homage to his youth, and his influences. I haven't read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, since I was probably 9, but even I got excited when the kids found a wardrobe in the attic and they got their hopes up that they would be transported to another world. I loved the references to Star Wars, to D&D, to everything a boy would have loved at that time. For a while, I was living through those kids as they discovered what was really going on with the house.

It was refreshing to read about an entire family that all loved one another, the kids weren't orphans, abused, or runaways. It was a family that was full of love for one another, and how they relied on one another when it mattered. We alternate POV's from chapter to chapter with each of the children. Tom's POV was my favorite. He was the most conflicted of the three siblings and had the most baggage to deal with. It was him that I latched onto and I really felt anchored me to the larger story.

But, the story wasn't perfect, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a couple of things.

1) The pacing. I think it took too long to really start getting into the meat of the plot. As much as I loved Tom, Sam, and Ruth, after a while I was losing faith that anything at all was going to happen. Part of the story's charm is the siblings interaction with one another, but at the same time, that lack of a conflict, at least early on, makes it hard to sustain the story while they explore and learn about their new home.Yes, they bickered, a lot, but I never got that there was anything menacing or threatening as an undercurrent, it was just kids being kids. So part of that charm I mentioned earlier is also part of the pacing problem. There isn't a real sense of physical danger, or emotional turmoil, at least not enough to carry the story as long as it did. I think I understand why the author chose to reveal so slowly, it was after all, an exploration novel more than anything, but as a reader, I'm not sure it worked as effectively as he intended.

2) This is more of quibble, but through the book a theme of trust that the family has with one another was developed, the mother and father were the kind of parents every child should dream of having. They paid attention to their kids, they spent as much time together as they could. They loved being parents and loved their children, they addressed their kids with respect and were honest with them. Then, in my opinion, that was betrayed, I thought, late in the book. I won't spoil it but giving away details, but the scene leading up to the climax of the novel left me a bit flummoxed, as I couldn't understand why the adults would do what they did to the children. I understand their motivations, but again, I thought it was woefully out of character for everyone. It left me a bit frustrated.

But those are not show stoppers. My second complaint might be alleviated if there had been a rationale put forward to explain - a rationale I could believe given the characters as they were established earlier in the book.This was a marvelous novel and had a magical feel to it, as soon as I finished I wanted to go watch E.T., The Goonies, and any other 80's flick I could think of about kids discovering that the world was stranger than anyone ever dreamed of.

It was a great novel and belongs in everyone's library. Especially  if you grew up as a child of the 80's.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday... Things

Hey all, just a note that I'm sorry that I've not been around very much lately. I figure a short explanation is due. Recently, we've had some houseguests, er, that isn't quite true, we've had some tenants. Yep, real live people, come to live with us.

Now, my house isn't huge, and three new people, including a toddler and a kindergartner, kind of crowds things up. A lot. Sigh. I find that my evenings that used to be quiet and uneventful, are not full of screaming kids, breaking glass, and discovering anything smaller than a grape is fair game for being swallowed.

Deep breath.

When I have time, I write posts for here. Which means I'll do a week or so in advance and schedule them
(except this one, which I'm doing Thursday night). Something I never did before, mostly because I couldn't get it to work, but I'm not actually spending very much time actually online. I'm grabbing moments here and there and doing the best I can. But I've not been responding to comments to my posts very well, or at all, and have been late, or spotty about visiting others.

It'll take me a bit to find a new equilibrium. I wasn't the best at doing those things anyway, and this has only magnified my problem. So, there are things you can do to help.

1) If you can make your blogs cell phone friendly that would really help. When I pull up my blog on my phone it looks like the picture here. It's easy to navigate and eliminates all that stuff on the sidebars that is fine when I'm on a computer, but pure torture when I'm out and trying to look at stuff from my phone. It's really easy, in blogger all you have to do is enable mobile viewing from your settings... it's like a single button.

I thank you in advance.

2) Only post when I'm ready for you to.

3) Since I do get email notifications to comments from others, I think I'll try responding that way for a while. I receive them from others like that and I really dig it. I'm curious if anyone has opinions on that they care to share?

4) Don't think I'm being snooty, I realize everyone who stops by is doing so to support me as a fellow writer, or at least as a fellow blogger. I doubt any of my words are so golden that any feels they are incomplete for not reading them. I understand that, and I thank everyone for being  so generous with their time by stopping by as often as they do. I super promise that I... wait, I better rephrase that... I really hope to find a way to make sure everyone understands how much I appreciate it.

Since I suck at expressing myself in any way that resembles sincerity, I'll try not to screw it up.

Unrelated Question

Anyone besides me think this FTL neutrino thing (I found the actual paper... here) will prove to be a big bunch of BS? I've got a bet with Danette riding on the outcome.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bad Karma

Once upon a time I bought a house. Well, my wife and I did. When we moved in we saw something of a dream come true, the place was dated and in need of some work, but we thought it would be fun slowly shaping it into the place we wanted it to be. By the end we envisioned the stately, modern home, beautiful and charming and all that. I couldn’t wait to get my hands dirty.

I immediately ripped up the floor downstairs and put in hardwood, I ripped out the built in bookshelves in order to put in bigger ones, and I took out the florescent lights and put in track lighting. I scraped the popcorn finish from the downstairs ceiling and knocked down walls between rooms upstairs, I put up a nice wooden fence in the back yard, had a large bay window put in…. I was going to make this place awesome.

Fast forward a few years, I still need to put up baseboards where I put in the hardwood, as well as transitions where the new and old sections meet. I’ve got unfinished areas where I removed walls. The area behind the fridge was a pantry before I started changing everything, it looks pretty rough back there now – I have portions where there isn’t even any drywall.

I could go on for days about how I managed to half-ass all my projects in some way. Somewhere along the way I decided that I don’t want to renovate my home anymore. Can I not just watch a movie or read a book instead? At the pace we’ve been going, we’ll never be finished, ever. And if we did manage to get things done in another decade or two, as soon as we wrapped everything up we’d probably need to start over again. I mean, 20 year old, half-assed renovations might not be as awesome then as they are now.

Ugh. Next time I’m buying a new house, one that already looks how I want it to.

My wife, believe it or not, has had her own struggles. She turned a large chunk of our real estate into flower beds. I haven’t figured out the square footage, but it’s a lot. So much in fact, that she is outside every evening working in them, and on weekends she has been forced to sometimes spend 20 hours or so doing nothing but work on flower beds. She’ll get a section perfect, move on to something else, and within a few days that first section has weeds, dying plants, and the most frustrating part – signs of sabotage.

Seriously, someone is killing my wife’s plants.

Now, my first thought was it was one of our crazy, Desperate Housewife inspired neighbors. As funny as that would be, I don't think that's the case. Our neighborhood isn’t so unlike a lot of others, we’ve got folks who keep their place as neat and pretty as possible, and we’ve got others that don’t.  There are a few retired folks around, two young(ish) couples, some new people I’ve only seen at a distance, (a young man from that whole Goth subculture out mowing the lawn while in costume is a sight to behold, I don’t think I’d want all that dangling metal and chain so close to moving lawnmower blades, but whatever) and of course, we’ve got tons of pet owners.

Our place is the end house in the cul de sac, and previous ownership never had much in the way of excess dirt, as all those flower beds were only grass at the time. Now, every feral cat (of which there are several) and unattended dog (a few) sees our place as their personal playground/toilet. I’m always chasing animals away. I mean, if I’m not going to let my own pets shit in my dirt, I don’t know why I should be expected to allow everyone else’s pets to do it.

And it’s not just the poo, the cats are quick and silent, I find evidence of their activity in the mornings usually. It’s the damned dogs pissing on everything in sight that really irks me. That’s what’s killing my wife’s plants. I think one day I’m going to sit on my roof with a pellet gun and some night vision goggles and fire away at everything that crosses my property line that isn’t human.

The truth of it is that those flower beds are a black hole for money, time, labor, and life. The amount of work that is necessary to maintain them when compared to the amount of time spends admiring them is pretty small. But it makes my wife happy, really happy. And she doesn’t give me too much crap for having my Peyton Manning dolls, Green Lantern comics, or a Netflix queue full of TV shows like Farscape, Pawn Stars, and The Incredible Hulk. And she doesn’t even complain after I spent couple thousand dollars turning the downstairs den into a library, that I have, at last count, close to a hundred books in our bedroom because I ran out of shelf space down there. It’s a give and take.

So everyone, please, if you’re going to let your animals run wild, train them to go to the bathroom at their own home. Before I have to shoot them.

Monday, September 19, 2011

All My Brain Learning - For Your Enjoyment

I created a spreadsheet of places to submit my would-be novel to recently. I put all the big publishing houses on there and several mid-sized houses along with a couple of small ones. I didn’t go overboard, I just put up a dozen or so. Putting them all together like that, complete with notes that indicate their submission guidelines made for interesting reading. I learned a few things that way.

·         Several big houses are open to direct submissions

Tor is famous for it, but others that I thought requested agented submissions only a few years ago said no such thing now. I wonder if a lot of new talent is forgoing traditional publishing in hopes of making a name for themselves doing it on their own? Those traditional publishers are making it a bit easier perhaps?

·         No one likes simultaneous submissions.

That one confuses me, as I thought it was more or less accepted that when you submitted a novel to a house that you would have it at other places as well. Again, I wonder if this is the publisher trying to prevent a bidding war, those rare occasions when an agent makes a first sale for an author sometimes that novel will have received offers from numerous houses, and really drive that advance way up – I don’t think they want to do that. I guess it’s the price you pay for dealing with a large corporation.

·         Some of them are the same people.

Anyone who spends more than a few minutes looking at imprints of large houses knows this. But what I didn’t expect to see is imprints for the same parent company that appear to be covering the exact same genre… what gives? Look at DAW and ACE for example. Different editors, different submission guidelines, same address, same market. Weird.

·         Some places still demand hard copy submissions.

Seriously. Print and send. I can think only that they believe it will dissuade people who aren’t serious, I guess. I wanted to save money the last time I printed out a hard copy of my novel to do an editing pass so I went to Staples to have them do it… they charged $30. I told them nevermind. I’ll do it myself.

I could pay $7 and send it to Lulu or something and get my copy that way. Complete with a cool cover. Regardless, it’s stupid to insist on getting a hard copy. When I’m waffling on what I want to do with my stuff, making me jump through all these submission hoops gets tiring, especially if I can see no logic in it.

But I do have options, I may submit first to the places that have the simplest submission guidelines… then wait, and wait, and wait. Until finally, after another six months or so I get another rejection… You know, it could take years to make the rounds that way.

So I’ve been formulating a plan. I have two universes I will play in. One will be a universe set aside for attempts at traditional publishing and the second will be reserved for my self-publishing efforts. I’ll try to put my best foot forward for both, but still keep them separate.

I’ll let you know how that goes.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Award Season

I did manage to pick up a generous award from the great Alex J Cavanaugh – it’s his throw-Rusty-a-bone-award-for-seriously-disturbed-online-buddies, I thank him for it.

It is the 7 x 7 Link award... I don't know what that is. But, I promised myself that I would not ignore the next one that was given to me, and I mean to honor that promise. I'd hate to label myself a liar. 

Part of the rules is to link to seven of my own posts that... oh... I get it now.... uh, where was I? Let's see, link to seven of my own posts that are:

Most Beautiful: Easy, the one were I posted a doodle and then compared myself to Leonardo Da Vinci. Seriously. How's that for confidence?

Most Helpful: Well, there was the one post where I explained why any aliens that visit earth would be itching to wipe us all away. How is that helpful? I don't know.

Most Popular: By pageviews it's that youtube video about the necronomicon. And that's in a huge landslide, nothing else is even close. My most commented was this months Insecure Writer's Support Group post that was born from the mind of Alex J Cananaugh, of course.

Most Controversial: Still sitting in my draft folder, I haven't the balls to post it. It's sitting there, mocking me for being such a big sissy. 

Most Surprisingly Successful: I guess my post about a typical day of me editing.

Most Underrated: Well, I've got years of posts that no one has ever read, I did enjoy rereading the month of September of 09 when I went on a diet... it starts here

Most Prideworthy: Have I ever written a Prideworthy post? I doubt it, but I do think this one was cool.

I had fun going back and re reading so many of my old posts. I used to rant about technology run amok a lot. Weird. Anyway, thanks Alex. 

I'm to pass this award along to others now. Well, let's see. I'll choose three folks that I think all deserve way more attention than they get. Whether or not they care about this award coming from me is irrelevant, please go visit these guys:

They all make me think about stuff. And I appreciate them for it. 

By the way, if anyone has ever wondered what Alex looks like, I did some checking and no one knows. So I've posted an artist's rendition based on clues he's left about the internet.

I am Alex! Hear me Rock!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Do I Have to Title Every Post?

I was out and about today in my lovely downtown perusing my lovely city for dark and dangerous looking places. It was a great day for it, as it rained most of the morning and was very dark all day. Not that cloudy ‘it might rain’ sort of dark, but that ‘the world is ending today’ kind of dark. The ground was wet, the wind was blowing and the sky threatened disaster.

My city, or large town, whatever you like to call it, has a great feel to it, and I set a lot of what I write not only here, but within a couple of blocks of what has traditionally been our town center. My novelette I released and ranted about last month was set in my city as it was at the end of the 19th century. I’ve got a near future novel (mostly written) set in the same locale.

I think it’s because days like today have a surreal quality about them that is often lacking when the skies are blue. When I went outside today, with tens of thousands of people working around me, I pretty much had run of the place… all of downtown was my playground.

So I took a few pictures, nominally for an art project I’m working on, but mostly because I want to experience the weirdness the day was offering.

The rain held off for the hour or so I was out, and I felt a bit like I was the lone survivor of the apocalypse  Pretty cool.

I'm not really that tall - I was looking out my office window

Okay, just a quick point of order, Rogue Mutt mentioned in his post yesterday… maybe it was the day before, something about marketing. Well, as I was catching up on podcasts I’d missed over the past few weeks while I was listening to a book I hit upon episode 187 of The Dead Robots Society with guest Robin Sullivan. She is the editor/marketer for Ridan publishing, which is built on the back of her husband, whose self-published novels routinely sell in the range of 10,000 copies per month or more. They got a six figure deal from Orbit books to reprint those same books. Astounding.

She has guested on the podcast before, and I get excited every time I realize I’m about to hear her talk about publishing. This lady gives a nice breakdown of all the things she did to contribute to her husband’s success, as well as the other authors that that are now part of her fledgling publishing house – from a previous interview I believe she said all of Ridan authors write full time because they all earn enough income from their books to do so – I don’t think any other publishing house can say the same, period.

It’s a ton of knowledge, and all of us dipping our toes in the self-publishing market should probably listen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I have been Missing in Action of Late, what have I been doing? Not blogging - that’s for sure. I didn’t intend on taking a break this week. I kinda did that last week. I think what happened was that I took my break then and found I liked it, so I did it again. Also, I finished that draft of my novella and haven’t bothered to even turn on my laptop for the most part for a while. Sorry if anyone has felt neglected. Although, my bets are on most folks not realizing I’ve not been around.

Anyhow – I’ve been watching Arrested Development with my son. He was too young to watch when the show was on air, but now that he’s older and can perceive a lot of the subtleties and nuances in the show he’s enjoying as much as I do.  What I think I love most about the show is how intricate the subplots of the show culminate by the final act into a large clusterf**k of disaster. It was as cleverly done as the best of Seinfeld and was consistently great. I'm sad it's gone. 

Unlike Seinfeld, this show never developed the fanbase to carry it to commercial success, I think the lack of a laugh track hurt (were there sitcoms before that didn’t use laugh tracks? I know several that don’t now), and they made irony the backbone of the humor.

Recipe for disaster. Oh, and I’m going off on a tangent, let me try to reel this back in.

It has me going back to plotting and how much I think I’ve missed out by not doing this in the past. I tried to write a novel last year, another seat of my pants story, and it had multiple viewpoint characters and several interwoven plot threads – and I had no idea where any of them were going.

It was as real test of faith for me, putting my belief system on the line. Stephen King, a huge proponent of the ‘pantser’ philosophy of writing has preached that your subconscious will sort all that out and you’ll get to where you need to in the end. I liked where that method had taken me in the past, but as I wanted to try more complicated stories I found that it was getting tougher and tougher for me to write anything. I got into a habit of introducing characters and having them say something vaguely cryptic and the rest of the cast looking to one another and asking one another what’s going on.

By the time I figured it out, I had so much rewriting to do that the only logical thing to do was to scrap everything I had and start over – which means that whole first draft was really a giant brainstorming session… mostly unnecessary.

I recall the first time I noticed, and I mean really noticed, how amazingly things seem to come together in an episode of Seinfeld. It was the episode where George was pretending to be a Marine Biologist to impress a girl. During the episode there was a subplot about Kramer and his desire to hit golf balls into the ocean.

If there are a few people who haven’t seen the episode, and still want to, I’m about to give it away here, so stop reading now if you don’t want the spoilers. Although, I think there is really no reason for me to avoid spoiling it, as this episode aired well over 15 years ago… it’s a long time to keep something on your DVR unwatched. Anyway – the episode ends when George and his girl are walking along the beach and find a crowd surrounding a beached whale. Someone in the crowd desperately cries out for a Marine Biologist – of course, George must continue his charade if he wants the girl so he agrees to help out…. Of course the big reveal is that the cause of whale’s problem was one of Kramer’s golf balls being wedged in its blow hole.

Now, that isn’t to say that this episode is more special than a thousand others that have been done before, or better, in other shows, movies or books, but it was when I first had my epiphany about storytelling.

I was an adult at the time, and was a pretty hearty reader then too, but I never considered why a story might work, or about how different elements might come together to tell a bigger story.  I had tried my hand at writing then, but never took any writing advice, never read anything about what makes a compelling story, never did much except write. I don’t even recall taking a course on writing prose before then.

So, I’d never thought about it. And when it hit me, it hit me hard. The writers had to have worked out the ending first, and worked backwards from there.

Wow. It never occurred to me you could do that before then. Get an ending you wanted, and go backwards to work on the beginning.

I was on my way to being a writer. Too bad I didn’t actually implement that revelation into practice. I kept thinking about it though, I got better, somewhat, at writing drafts that seem like they’re going somewhere, even when they’re not. 

But watching Arrested Development, at least at the level of a single episode, has reminded me how a story so tightly worked out can be enormously satisfying. All the jokes and gags early in an episode that may fall flat have been building to a larger finale.

It’s pure genius. I’m going to start work plotting out my next novel length POS soon. I can’t wait.  

Friday, September 9, 2011

Update Time

If anyone has wondered why I've been such a looser about commenting, either here or at the blogs of others, lately. I apologize. I've been writing these posts in advance and not really been spending much time online this week. I'll try really hard to catch up this weekend.

Anyway, in an effort to be entirely open. I figure it's been long enough to throw out another update on my sales for A Dead God's Wrath.

Amazon:         15
Amazon UK:    2
B&N:               4
Smashwords:    1
Total:              22

I can't recall when I dropped my update last, but it wasn't too long ago. Regardless, I think I had something like 16 total sales at the time. I haven't continued at that type of pace, but I do find it interesting that there have been at least a sale or two to people I've never heard of. That's awesome.

Anyway, for the most part, it's been 22 sales to people who stop by this blog and read what I have to say on a pretty regular basis. For that, I thank you all.

The Fire Sale going on at Borders right now has meant that I've gotten a to be read pile that is at least waist high sitting next to my bed. Too bad I've already piddled away so much of my vacation time this year. It would great to do nothing but read for a week or two.

If you have one near you, run down there quick before they close the doors, books are so cheap I'm buying stuff I hate just because I can. I hope I don't warp my sense of value because of this, I could get used to paying $2 for a new book.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

All Done

Fini. Done. Complete.

Yep, my short story novelette novella is now complete. Not the one I released to the wider world last month, but instead one I’ve been working on, believe it or not, for the better part of the summer.

Now, when I say finished, I, of course, really mean I finished the first draft. Although the first draft of this is probably closer to what a second draft would have been on most of my works, since I actually plotted this one out in pretty good detail first. But it will probably require some heavy editing before it’s ready for… well, whatever I intend to do with it. I’m not sure if there are many professional markets for 25 thousand word stories, but I’ll at least look.

If I have a structural issue with it, it would be that I wanted to write an epistolary story. It started out that way and I loved it. But telling a story that way (fyi – for those who might not know, epistolary stories are those that are told solely through correspondence, i.e., letters or… epistles) can be tough, real tough.

I have a great fondness for that type of novel, I must have written a half dozen stories that centered on someone finding a notebook, or letter, or artifact, and slowly piecing together how it’s relevant for whatever predicament the characters find themselves embroiled. So I thought I would forego the framing element and just let the letters tell the tale.

Big mistake.

Don’t get me wrong, I like it. It feels like the kind of thing I would enjoy reading. But at the same time it’s limiting. I write in first person sometimes, and that form for storytelling can be constricting too - especially if things are happening off stage that your viewpoint character doesn’t have knowledge of. But those are limitations I’ve been dealing with for a long time. I might not be a master, but I’m comfortable enough that I can usually get enough out through dialog that I don’t worry too much about those limits. Well, telling a story through correspondence is difficult because it not only magnifies the problems inherent in any first person story, but also makes the whole ‘rising tension’ thing a bit more difficult to pull off.  I mean, you generally don’t read a letter where the person writing is saying, “There is a guy right behind me with a knife.” Although the mental image of someone running for their life and penning a letter at the same time is pretty funny, it’s not great for that feel of imminent doom I wanted.

About halfway through the story I just switched over to standard first person and carried on.

So, I have one story, half told through correspondence, the other told through typical first person narrative. Yep, it may need a bit of work to make that consistent. I like both parts, and will need to do a bit of work to smooth all that out.

Other than that, I’ll need to do a pass to fix the numerous smaller problems, baby sized plot holes, reeling the info dumps back a bit, making the narrator’s voice consistent throughout. Grammar, typos - all sorts of stuff like that - It should keep me busy for a while.

So I’ll go back and work on the obvious stuff, then put it away for a bit. I mentioned last week that I don’t think I can accurately gauge where I’m at with its quality, but during the writing I went from thinking ‘this is interesting’ to, ‘this is awful’, to ‘this is awesome’. I’ll look forward to reading it again in a few weeks and see what my opinion of it is then.

What is it? Well, another historical sci fi adventure I suppose. This one set firmly in the 1730’s – a man sent to track down and execute an escaped slave that caused a revolt finds someone much different than what he expected when their paths finally cross – and learns that this escaped slave might be the world’s only hope for survival.  Plus zombies!

Or something like that, I need to work on my elevator pitch.

So while that one stews on the pot a bit, I’ll pick up on the sequel to my still unpublished novel that I complained about yesterday. I don’t care if the whole lot is unsellable and unwanted. I started that sequel back in, yikes, I think it was 2006. Might be about time to start wrapping that one up too.

Once finished, I’ll start trying to plot for NanoWriMo. Wow. I’ve pretty much got my year all booked, go figure. Maybe I can shoehorn a real short story in there somewhere. I still haven’t managed to write one of those since 2009.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Where Am I?

Alex Cavanaugh, the guy who happens to be everywhere, has recently started the Insecure Writer's Support Group. It's a group created for folks just like me, that is, folks who are a wee bit insecure about what they're doing with this whole 'writing' thing. So far, I think something like a million people have signed up. Please follow the link above to read stories from all the fragile writer's out there.

Sigh. So many writers, and I count myself among them, have this fragile confidence about what they are doing and how they are doing it. And what the final product looks like. In fact, if I were to use myself as a guide, I'd say that the internal debate I have is often whether or not I should just quit.

But I'll be thinking that while I'm writing away. So I'm not sure it matters.

Imagine you spend months, er, years, working on a single book, having it finished, then scrapping it, starting over, finishing it, then editing it half a dozen times, realizing that there is a major plot hole, rewriting again. And again. And again. Well, I did all of those things, partially because the novel I'm discussing was my first novel I ever wrote, and it needed a bunch of work to make it readable.

Now, what happens when you, after the better part of a decade of constant reworking your manuscript,  pick up a book and find out it is so similar to yours that it might make yours deemed a rip off should it ever see the light of day?

Cause I read a book last week that was sorta that way for me. It, well, it gave me a bit of weird feeling. I kinda reviewed it here and didn't get into any of why it gave me a such an icky feeling. Mostly because that feeling I got had nothing to do with the book itself, but instead of what it reminded me of.

It reminded me of my unpublished novel... a lot. After reading it I got this sinking feeling that if my book ever gets published folks who have read them both might think I was copying plot elements straight over. I figured I could do a quick checklist to see if I'm right.

Present/near future? Check
NASA centric? Check
Hastily thrown together mission to NEO (near earth object)? Check
NEO is Alien artifact? Check.
Astronauts explore artifact? Check
Misguided Astronauts sabotage mission? Check
Folks get stranded on NEO? Check

I could keep going here. There are other similarities that are apparent to me, but those get deeper into the plot twists area that I'd rather not get into now. Now, there are differences, the book I read was a multi-veiwpoint thrid person and mine is a first person narrative. There's is a pretty big difference in main characters. In fact, lots of that sort of stuff is very different. In fact, when I look at character arcs, the stories aren't alike at all.

But it got me thinking about how many similarities two works can have before people start crying foul. I'm reading a book now that is clearly a retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo, I read a book last year that was clearly a retelling of Shakespeare's, Hamlet. Folks generally think doing that is brilliant. But there the characters are essentially the same and the settings are changed. What my story has is the same setting, but with different characters.

Is there a difference? Is one more acceptable than the other? I don't know. I do know that science fiction is a genre that has lots and lots of stories that are similar to one another.

All I can do, I guess, in the end, is to  let other people tell me if I'm ripping someone else off.

But that won't stop me from worrying about it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Say it ain't So

I hope everyone on the internet sees this at least one time. Especially if you've seen that Captain Planet cartoon from the 90's. Wow. Hide the kids for this one though. It gets a little rough.

I hope everyone in the States had a good labor day, and didn't have to work. It did nothing but rain here, hard. I didn't do a damn thing. I can get used to that. I had intended to do lots and lots of stuff, both inside and out. Didn't happen. I'll catch up on all that this week.

Friday, September 2, 2011

I Love You George Lucas!

Star Wars. You've heard of it, right? The Interwebs are afoot with the sounds of excitement. You see, Star Wars is coming to Blue Ray.

I know, you must be thinking something along the lines of, "So?" 

I understand. I really do. However, to entice you to purchase it, Mr. Lucas has decided to add something to the movies yet again. Does anyone remember this scene from Return of the Jedi?

Well, apparently, we will get an added line of dialog as Vader tosses the beloved Emperor over the railing. If the rumors are true - which they are, as Lucasfilm has confirmed them, after all - Somewhere in that video above, and I guess it's going to be around the 1:10 mark, Vader will now utter this line:


Wow. That isn't the only change, I think he's making the Ewoks blink, for whatever that's worth. I think all the complaints about Ewoks ruining Jedi will go away after seeing that they blink. Awesome.

Actually, I wouldn't care a bit for all these changes one way or another if the originals were still available for me to have. But I don't want to go there, that's something for another day. The truth is that I probably wouldn't notice some of the more subtle changes, as I don't watch the films very often any more. But I just get a kick out of the constant tinkering that these films have gone through over the past 15 years. I think he really is like a writer that just can't leave his manuscript alone.

Here is a link to the story about some of the latest changes.

Okay, so say Lucas called you and said, "I need a single line of dialog for Vader to say as he tosses Palpatine over the rail."

What line would you give him?