Friday, October 31, 2008
If I could coalesce it all into one salient observation, it would be on account of discipline. And what does this mean exactly? Well simple:
Before 2006, I thought writing followed a formula of: 10% discipline, and 90% creative talent.
2 years later, I realize this is utterly simplistic, let alone wrong. Writing well enough to publish takes, in my opinion, about: 20% discipline, 10% creativity -- and 70% stubbornness!
If you notice, there's a pretty interesting paradigm shift at work here. Before I knew anything at all about the business, I held a rather romanticized view of writing fiction. I assumed that talent was everything. That good ideas and good natural writing ability was the most important thing to it, and how you went about the actual mechanics of writing was secondary. In other words, if you had the talent, that's all you needed. The stories would all but write themselves.
Boy, how stupid was I?
These days, while I'm still no more publishable than I was 2 years ago, I've learned that talent amounts for squat if you don't have the discipline and tenacity to see your work through. And it's not just through my own writing that I've learned this lesson, but through listening to other writers and their journeys as well.
The wittiest, most popular, most prolific writers out there all have the same thing in common -- and that is that they were rejected hundreds, if not thousands, of times before one of their pieces sold, or before they started selling regularly. Because that's the key right there; not just selling something once, but being able to keep on selling.
These weren't writers who just emerged out of the blue one day with the Hugo award-winning novel under their arms -- they actually *sucked* at some point. Which is not to say they did not possess innate talent (because, of course, talent is sorta necessary if you want to be successful, no?), but that they did not yet possess the discipline to make that talent shine.
The true test of a new writer, therefore, is how much knocking about he can take until pay dirt is reached. Can he withstand the countless rejections, withering critiques, and constant nitpicking and still keep on writing day-in and day-out? The new writer has to be able to eat shit and keep on smiling, because the dream is too big to give up on.
So after learning all this, and spending even just 2 years with my nose to the grindstone, I have come to this one saving conclusion: That all writers are stubborn assholes.
And it would do me well to emulate them their assholery. :)
Anyway, as if I needed yet another reason to be green with envy at San Diego people, I've discovered this really cool bookstore I wish I could visit. It's a genre bookshop catering exclusively to Sci Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, and some Horror books. It's called Mysterious Galaxy, and is located in the Kearny Mesa section of San Diego. I found out about the store through one of the hosts of AISP's podcasts, Sam Wynns, who works there. She seems like a really cool person who has done a lot to promote the store's advocacy of children's reading and learning programs. In addition to its wonderful genre offerings, Mysterious Galaxy also promotes juvenile and young adult fiction. The store seems to be pretty active with author readings, signings, and promotions. Wow! If I resided in the area, I would so live at this place!
Just because I don't grin like an idiot at every person I meet or go out of my way to introduce myself does not make me shy. And just because I can't *stand* making small talk and asking you about things I really don't care about (hey, how bout them Giants?) doesn't mean I'm some uncaring bastard who doesn't like making friends.
I like friends. I have a bunch, and they're all cool people. Most of my friends are folks who, for one reason or another, have been able to instantly look past my quietude and see that I'm actually a decent person. So they don't see me as cold at all. But even most of my friends think of me as shy. I don't get it. I'm actually the opposite of shy. I'll stand in your face and tell you off if you cross me, and I've always surprised people with my public speaking ability. Just because I don't talk doesn't mean I don't know how to, or to do so LOUDLY. There's few things I'm afraid of in this world, and other people's opinions are not on that list.
I'm usually not one to strike up a conversation. But if you talk to me, I will converse back. I'm never rude like truly socially inept people are. When I'm by myself, I'm actually lost in furious thought. What I mean is, there are a thousand things going on in my head at any given time. Quite often, if you see me sitting down staring off into space -- I'm not ignoring you. I'm working on two separate story ideas; or revising my grocery list; or pondering the thought of growing old; or marveling at why kids are so care free and full of life (and why can't we be more like them?)
You see, sometimes I have so much to think about that I actually *forget* there are other people around me. If you're not speaking to me directly, my brain switches to another gear and entertains itself. :)
Anyway, now you know. There was no particular reason for me to write all this, just that I noticed on the elevator ride up to the office that people fidget and shift around me when trying to come up with something--ANYTHING--to talk about. And I just want to say: relax, man. Why can't you just stand still and enjoy the elevator ride in peace?
Are people so afraid to be left alone with their own thoughts?
Thursday, October 30, 2008
This first video is the original version, with the original track.
The next is the same video, but using a different recorded track and lyrics. It's a "literal video," meaning someone made up words to go along with the exact images appearing in the video, to hilarious effect. It aired on Attack of the Show, so it's not like I discovered this or anything. :)
"This guy's gonna get an ass full of pipe wrench!"
LOL! I'm sorry, but that part just killed it for me. Who comes up with this stuff?
The Reporter also announced that Sam Jackson was in likely talks to portray the character of Sho'nuff this time around, with no word yet on who would play the lead. I hope like the original they get an unknown, real martial artist. Because this will be a modern update, I'm sure they'll eventually go with a mixed martial artist. I'm plenty sick of the whole MMA craze that has been sweeping the nation as of late, but this is the way things are today so I can't complain too loudly. I'd rather they'd get a gong-fu practitioner, though I'd settle for the ubiquitous Taekwondo since it is flashier on film. Capoeira would be ideal, imo, and would more easily incorporate into Brazilian jujitsu if they plan to go the MMA route.
I'm not so sure how happy I am to see Sam in the role. Although, on second thought, I guess he really is the best candidate for what is essentially a loud-mouthed, over-the-top caricature (on purpose). I just wish they left the movie alone to begin with. It's a cult classic for a reason--i.e., it doesn't NEED to be remade!
This update is set to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Motown Records' founding, with Berry Gordy's son, Kerry, onboard as one of the producers, and RZA co-producing. Well, at least we know the music will be tight!
I leave you now with a clip of the campy, but oh so fantastic, nostalgia that is one of my favorite 80s movies, The Last Dragon:
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I swear, I was in SO much pain trying not to laugh out loud at my desk. I thought I was going to piss myself! The video is, naturally, tons more funny if you've seen even just a few minutes of the show. But even if you haven't, the humor is pretty straight-forward.
Heh, heh . . . damn, I'm still feeling the residule giggly effects of this. Adult Swim is AWESOME!
*EDIT* I removed the video because the sourcing was causing some buggy issues with the page. So if you want to see it, go directly to it by clicking here.
Seriously, all my friends out there with blogs of their own, show me some love and add yourself to my list of followers by clicking on the "Follow This Blog" link on the right sidebar. This way you'll be updated whenever I update. It's a win-win world!
And think of how appreciative I'll be! It goes without saying that I'll return the favor. Pay it forward. :)
1) I often read two books at a time (one at home before I go to sleep; the other on the subway); and
2) This latest book was just so good I couldn't put it down!
I started reading The Accidental Time Machine shortly after finishing John Scalzi's The Last Colony, and it has been a non-stop adventure ever since. This book is seriously fun, reminding me of Joe Haldeman's equally enjoyable and brief novel, Camouflage, which I'd read late last year.
The Accidental Time Machine is typical Haldeman wit and effortless prose. I mean, seriously, this man has an economy with plot and structure that simply makes me weep with envy. But enough gushing, let's get to the meat and potatoes of the book itself.
The Accidental Time Machine is a simple tale about a boy and his time machine. The boy in this case is Matt Fuller, failed grad student and mediocre lab assistant to a quantum physicist at MIT (where Haldeman himself teaches writing). One day, while working on a calibrator for a graviton generator, Matt inadvertently pushes the shoe-box sized machine's "reset" button and--poof! The calibrator vanishes. It returns 1 second later, none the worse for wear. Unable to believe his eyes, he pushes the button again. Just as before, the device vanishes, returning this time 12 seconds later. Some scientific extrapolation and simple math later, Matt determines that the machine is vanishing into the future and returning to the present at intervals increasing by the factor of 12. Each time he pushes the reset button, the machine disappears further and further into the future, but never the past (since this is theoretically impossible in today's physics).
After a series of calculated experiments, Matt finally musters the courage to take the trip himself by way of a Faraday Cage. When he arrives in the near future, however, he is mistakenly fingered for murder by the cops. What follows is a series of events by which Matt repeatedly travels to a more distant and stranger future than the previous to escape random mishaps, along the way getting into one scrape after another. His journeys eventually take him to a million years in the future, where reality is far stranger than any movie or book could have ever prepared him for. Can Matt eventually arrive at a time where the science and the means to send him back to the past exists?
The premise is intriguing enough to have you turning the page to read more, and you find yourself sucked into each new dilemma Matt encounters in the future. The inventiveness of each future scenario shows why Haldeman is such a master at the craft. His wit and knack for writing strong, believable scenarios only makes this book even easier to read. This is one super-slick adventure yarn!
At only 260 pages long, this was one of the shortest sci-fi novels I've read in a while. But do not mistake brevity for sparsity--the science in this book is seriously hardcore at times, delving into string theory and quantum mechanics with easy fluidity. Sometimes making you have to stop to re-read certain passages. But even then you'll find yourself quickly speeding along after Matt and his time exploits. The pace of this book simply does not allow one to tarry overlong in any one chapter. Or time period, for that matter.
I highly recommend this to sci-fi readers needing a quick and fun, yet intelligent, read. I also think this book would make a great starter novel for the beginner reader in the genre, or to one usually put-off by most other sci-fi offerings on the market.
Take my word for it: you WILL enjoy this book!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Hence why I immediately snatched up this game, Fallout 3, today. I try to keep ignorant of all the overhyped games that release in a given financial quarter, because I got tired of burning myself out on all the trailers, screencaps, and backstage vids months before the games are even released. So this came as a pleasant surprise when I found out a game dealing with both a post-nuclear fallout society AND mutated beasties with a jonesing need to go splat under heavy-ordinance artillery was coming out today. I mean, HELLO! Where do I sign up?
Fallout 3 is an action RPG game for the PC, Xbox 360, and the PlayStation 3. I play all my games on either the 360 or PS3, and I got this one on the former. I don't own a beefed-up enough gaming PC to support these types of games properly.
Anywho, Fallout 3 is about you, the player, who lives in a giant underground bunker metropolis called Vault 101. Because the good ol U.S. of A. ended up on the bad side of the nuclear arms race during the 1950s or 60s, most of society has been blowed up into one big irradiated mess. Told from birth that Vault 101 is your home for pretty much the rest of your life, it comes as a shock one day when you wake up to klaxons blaring and discover that your father has busted out of Dodge and left the vault door open. The Powers That Be are none too pleased about this, and task you with the job of retrieving your pops and dragging him back (for reasons unknown).
Once on the surface, the world is a shocking mess to someone who's been sheltered from the horrors of the nuke war. But you learn quickly that, although 90% of the country has gone to hell literally, there are still enough baddies and monsters running about to make you happy you're packing heat. As well, there are isolated pockets of human survivors trying to rebuild some of what's been lost.
Since this is an action Role Playing Game, you'll have to manage complex rosters of stats along with your gunnin, but I've been told the system in place to do all this is rather intuitive and much fun to finesse. That's a relief. There's nothing I hate more than an RPG that needs an encyclopedia of instructions just to learn how to place one foot in front of the other.
What I'm liking about this game so far is the 1950s feel to it. Just like with last year's excellent Bioshock, I'm in love with the 40s and 50s music to be found on the radio stations in this game. The setting is the future as imagined by the popular culture of the 50s and 60s. It makes for a rather unique level design, I must say. All the locations are gorgeously produced. Hell, just check out this trailer and see for yourself:
I've never played any of the previous Fallout games, but I've read that you don't need to in order to enjoy this current offering. Hooray! Unfortunately I'm not going to have much time to play over the next couple of weeks as I'm busy with writing odds and ends, but sometime around Thanksgiving I shall be ready to get my Mad Max jones on proper!
I'll keep ya'll updated when I do.
Well, it seems some studies bear my suspicions out, though through a different tangent than the one I had chosen to focus on in that post.
I scoped this article out on the LiveScience.com feed today. In it, the author talks about a study which links group pride with insecurity. Imagine that.
"The new study reveals how two types of pride are related to a person's good feelings about one social group or another to which they belong. These good feelings could come from being a Los Angeles Lakers fan (when they win), a war veteran, a member of a particular ethnic group or a sorority gal or fraternity brother. But while authentic pride is linked with real confidence in your group, hubristic pride is a false arrogance that belies insecurities about one's group."
I think there's some validity to the study, especially the delineation between authentic pride for one's team/ethnic group, and the more damaging boastful kind of pride that I'm against. Unfortunately, more people fall into the latter than the former category in my experience.
The angry Yankees fan screaming loudly that the "Red Sox SUCKS!" is really not so different from the black man screaming "Black power!" and "KILL WHITEY!" all the time. Both individuals have serious issues of self-doubt to work through. And when you lump them all together in a large group of similarly-minded individuals . . . well now you're just asking for trouble.
Like Gandhi, I believe in quiet humility and hard work to speak of one's actions, not boastful shouts.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
But the worst thing that ever happened to me, injury-wise, was a pretty harrowing street crash on my bike that I was lucky enough to escape alive, let alone walking.
I was 14 and over the summer had taken to riding the mean ol' streets of the Bronx on my mountain trail bike. It was usually the three of us: me, my brother, and our friend, Alex. Typical of teenagers, we never thought anything could ever happen to us. Even back in the early 90s when the Bronx was a far more dangerous, drug-infested den of iniquity than it is today.
Anyway, one day Alex and I decided to take a short cut down this extremely steep hill near my block. We’d done it many times before. Nothing to it. The trick was to wait at the crest for the traffic light to change green at the bottom of the hill. Or for the intersecting traffic light to turn yellow. Once either of the two occurred (depending on how adventurous we were feeling that day), we would lean forward on our handle bars and race as fast as we could down the hill.
Now this hill was AT LEAST at a 30-degree incline. Seriously steep. Even fit people needed to pause for breath when climbing it up to our street. So needless to say going down it on a two-wheeler with absolutely no breaks was nothing short of idiotic, all told.
This time, however, I got a little more adventurous that I should have been. On this day, I thought I was DA MAN! I thought: you know what? Forget caution. I didn't feel like stopping at the crest of the hill for the light to change. So when we arrived at the end of the block, I kept on going.
Down, down, down the hill of death.
I heard Alex gasp in surprise behind me, but he wisely stayed behind. Meanwhile, halfway down my short path to perdition, it dawned on me that I was not going to make the light. It was already turning red!
No sweat, I thought. The intersecting street rarely had traffic. And sure enough, I did not see the front end of a car waiting at the box. So I relaxed and enjoyed the roller coaster ride down.
Of course, there was a car. And it was going fast. Why wouldn't it? As a driver, you’d like to believe that there aren't crazy 14 year-olds barreling down steep hills towards you at close to mach 3 with no brakes. I mean, a kid so retarded wouldn't be let out of the house unsupervised, yes?
So I’m sure it came as a shock to poor Mr. Taxi Cab Driver--who innocently believed he had the green light and, therefore, did not slow down as he approached the intersection -- to find a blur of metal and blue jeans come slamming into his front right wheel assembly like a drug-addled bat out of hell. I’m sure to him, unlike the neighborhood kids playing touch football nearby, it was NOT a funny sight to see said blur go cartwheeling several turns over the hood of his Lincoln Continental to land half a block down the street, bounce a couple times on the hard concrete, and come scraping to a halt before the entrance of an abandoned parking lot.
“HOLY SHIT!!!” I remember one of the kids yelling. I swear, that still rings in my ears to this day. I can hear it clearly as if it just happened.
So I laid there as people came running over to me. It was like the world had come to a stop. I wasn't in any pain, oddly. I just lay there willing myself to believe everything was okay. The taxi cab driver was the first to reach me somehow. He was petrified, thinking he had killed me. Or, at the very least, turned me into a paraplegic. I remember trying to get up to assure him and everyone else that I was okay, but people started grabbing me and telling me to stay down while they called an ambulance.
Suddenly I thought of my grandmother, and how angry she would be that I disobeyed her by going down that hill in the first place. I immediately reiterated to everyone that I was okay and that an ambulance wasn't necessary. The cab driver offered to drive me to the hospital himself – he was so scared! I felt bad for him, so I said it was my fault and not to worry. I was fine. In retrospect, he was very kind in a city known for its hit-and-runs.
Eventually Alex showed up and just couldn't believe I was still breathing.
“Man, I thought you had died!” he yelled at me. I could see he was extremely relieved.
I was shaken up myself, no denying it. I went to the bushes where I had seen my bike land while I was still bouncing across the pavement (no joke). The bike was twisted into a pretzel. The front wheel was mangled and turned completely inward into the chassis itself. The handle bars had broken off.
So picture it: Me limping up the hill, numerous scrapes and open wounds across my face and palms, and holding the bashed-in remains of a mountain bike in both arms. The kids playing touch football stared at me the whole way up, with something halfway between fright and awe mixed on their open-mouthed faces.
When I came home, my grandmother made a big fuss over me. Shamelessly, I lied to her. Since I rarely did so, I was almost always believed. I told her I had crashed into a parked car while coming really fast out of the park to cross the street. I did not want to tell her the real cause.
And my war wounds? The only thing I came away with were the aforementioned scrapes and a bruised knee. The knee got swollen and made it hard to walk for the next three days, but I did so without assistance. And I still had to go to school. I never missed a day in my life.
So there you go, yet another incident where I almost died. I still see the hill every now and then when I take the long way home from work. It’s still ridiculously steep and terribly dangerous. I shake my head now, knowing I shouldn't have been able to walk away from that crash. Not going as fast as I was down that decline. To this day all my friends think I have bones made of titanium. It’s true I've never broken a bone before (knock on wood), but I’m more apt to think it was just blind luck.
Or perhaps there is such a thing as divine intervention after all?
Now *there’s* a thought!
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
But, as I mentioned before, I was cleaning out my grandma's house this weekend and came across some old pics I haven't seen in ages. So now I get to torture you with *gasp* MORE baby pics!
The one above was taken when I was just 1 years old. My mother was already pregnant with my brother, Jose (aka Joseph), but couldn't pass up the opportunity to take me to Woolworth's (remember that store?) and get this portrait taken. It's one of my grandma's favorites. She had this one framed, but something must have happened to it. I found it hidden in a dusty pile of books.
This was another Woolworth's portrait taken just before Easter when I was 5 years old. That's my brother, Jose, in the dark brown shirt. He's 4 here. There was a time when we would be mistaken for twins, but by this point our individual facial features had begun to take form.
This one is my personal favorite, although it is rather blurry. I'm on the left, my middle brother is on the far right, and my baby brother is in the middle. So from left to right it's: Me, Eric, and Jose. This was one of the last pics taken just before Eric passed away. I like it because he looks so happy here, hanging out with his bros. I miss him a lot, even all these many years later. He died tragically when he fell out of our 6th floor apartment window shortly after my 4th birthday. My mother was never the same after that night, and neither were me or my remaining brother.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
But I don't know, the older I get the more indignant I've become over the situation. Nowhere is it more frustrating than at the supermarket, where recently things have been getting way out of hand. It used to be that I would see someone use foodstamps at the grocery store twice maybe three times in a week. But lately, it's been EVERY SINGLE TIME I go to the checkout counter. It's getting to the point where *I'm* the one who gets funny looks now when I pull out cash. Like as if greenbacks are the new foodstamps. And of course, they no longer even use foodstamps anymore. Now it's an actual plastic card with the word "BENEFITS" embossed on the upper right corner. So now these people pretend like as if they have debit cards, and not what it actually is--a handout from the good ol' taxpayers of NYC. In other words, me!
God, I'm sounding like a Republican now. Listen to me go.
But why does this bother me so? Well because these people, for being poor, end up buying two to three shopping carts worth of food. Yikes! How 'bout you save some food for the rest of us poor hungry working stiffs here, huh? For someone who's supposed to be living a meager subsistence on the the government's generosity, some of these people sure do take full advantage of the situation.
At the cashier, this becomes a problem because the girl has to ring up and bag all these items herself, then spend an extra 5 minutes filling out a special form for BENEFITS cards and then waiting for the customer to swipe the card through and enter a code. Meanwhile I'm stuck there with my 6 or 7 items for like 15 minutes, just wanting to go home already. I swear, it happens every single time now. Some hugely obese woman is standing there arguing with the cashier over the sales price for the deluxe, gargantuan box of Fruit Loops. Argh!
The worst, however, is when an able-bodied man pulls out the card. I just want to smack the punk. Go get a job, you lazy bastard. Why the hell am I paying for you to live, and then to add insult to injury I have to wait in line behind you, too? Back when my mother was on welfare, she was never this arrogant with it. It was also with a quiet sense of shame that she pulled out the roll of "color money" as we used to call it. And the cashiers were always so rude to us back then. Not anymore. It's become such a common sight that no one even blinks now when the card comes out.
Nowadays, these people have such attitudes. I heard one woman even have the nerve to be talking to her friend and cursing out "the white man" and this country, meanwhile using taxpayer's money sanctioned by said government to stuff her fat face and those of her illegitimate brats. Nice going there, moms. Show that true patriotic spirit for the mean, bad country that feeds you and allows your family to live.
Gotta love it.
Anyway, let me stop now. Sorry I had to take you down this ugly road, folks. Just wanted to get it off my chest.
I promise to play nicer next time. :-)
Anyway, apparently Mark is in on the joke, too. For he showed up on this past weekend's SNL to set matters right. Check it out for yourself. I'm posting the original skit first, followed by the *real* Mark Wahlberg's reaction on the set of the show.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
So feel free to read on, my timid readers. I don't write these to exercise my fingers.
Friday, October 17, 2008
To be fair, I've never disliked McCain. Before this year, he was my favorite Republican. Actually, hell, even after this year he's still my favorite Republican. But back when he was running against Bush, I was *really* pulling for him (duh!) to win the GOP primary. I liked McCain back then because he was the more intelligent of the two, and because he was more likely to work across party lines than behind them. This is still true today. Unlike when Bush went up against Gore or Kerry, this election is different in that I honestly feel both candidates are intelligent and competent enough for the job. With Bush, it was frustrating because he was decidedly not.
I told Lisa a few months back that it was funny, but that I wouldn't be so upset if McCain did win the presidency. I mean, it would be a kick to the gut, but not nearly as bad as when Bush won (both times). If McCain were to win, I would be disappointed, but I wouldn't feel like exchanging my citizenship with Canada afterwards.
The problem with McCain is that I disagree with most of his policies. But at the same time, I'm also cynical enough to know that the president is really just the figurehead for other politicians' policies. So whether he's president or not, the country would still get run in pretty much the same way. Let's be real here.
But McCain is more level-headed than people give him credit for. I've been pretty impressed by his refusal to let his base dictate how to treat Obama. For better or for worse, a lesser politician would have gone for the jugular and made this a much bloodier campaign than it needed to be. It's true that the mudslinging from McCain's camp has been brutal, but I do get the sense that McCain himself has done a lot to mitigate the rabid lunacy of large portions of his base. He engages in fierce attacks of his own, to be sure, but only those he truly believes in. He doesn't let others browbeat him into a particular strategy, even when that strategy might be a winning one.
So, while this post isn't an announcement of my switching party sides, nor an endorsement of McCain's policies, I can admit that I do like the guy and think he could make a good president. In other words, I would feel safe with him in charge. And although it funny to poke fun of his age, I really don't believe he'd croak while in office. I mean, his mother is in her 90s and still coherent.
So, here's to a jolly good fellow in John McCain! He'd make a pretty cool Democrat, I think. Because, let's face it, he so wants to be one. :-)
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Let me explain.
I loathe the more formal machinations of writing. Outlines, note-taking, color-coded index cards -- these are not for me. In college, almost all of my research papers were done on the fly with hardly any advanced preparation. I cited stuff just because it was required, and manhandled the information into a reasonable discourse on paper because I knew what needed to be done to get the good grade. And it worked.
So when it comes to my fiction, I'm reluctant to whip out the plotline bullet points. Luckily for me I've been sticking to only short stories as I learn the ropes to crafting better narratives. Short stories have more leeway when it comes to formal research. Generally speaking, if you have to do too much book nosing to pull out your 5k - 7.5k short -- you're probably over thinking things a bit. I'm one to talk, though, since I still haven't mastered brevity (as evidenced by these blog entries!)
So, no outlines for me. It's simply too much effort for short stories, I'm afraid.
Okay, I'm lying. Sorry about that. I have done outlines for my stories before. Mostly thanks to several writing classes I signed up for last year. I learned how to do them and do them well. Only thing is, my stories sucked as much, if not worse, than they did before the classes. If anything, they were only more plotted now. Not a big improvement.
However, the experience did come in handy in teaching me a tool I'll most likely use in the future when I start my novel. I foresee that, when that time comes, I will have to resort to the outline or die writing the never-ending novel. I know the way I write; it would not be pretty. I need to be reigned in. In this light, I'm confident the outline will be my best friend when I start my novel. Heck, I'm already partially writing the outline in my head for the space-opera novel I'm envisioning.
But for now I'll wallow in my laziness when it comes to my short tales. I don't plan, I just dive into the stories using a general idea as my anchor. The thing is, once I start writing, a dogged determination takes over me. I don't stop until it's done. I don't get writer's block *knock on wood*, but I do encounter snags and whirls in the course of writing a typical short story that would have defeated the old me. Part of what I've been doing these past two years is disciplining myself to always work through these obstacles no matter what. To the benefit or detriment of my work.
Such are the trials of learning, eh?
However, the best time for me in the writing process is the beginning. I *love* staring at a blank screen. It's like pristine snow, or a virgin canvas. Just waiting to be imprinted. Sitting at the keyboard, my mind is awash with numerous possibilities on how to begin a given story. I'm usually giddy with anticipation.
As for the ideas themselves, there is no rhyme or reason as to where they come from. I take inspiration from anything and everything. All writers do. Dreams are not the most obvious place to get them, despite what you might think. Although I once did get a gnarly idea for a weird alien species when I was doped up on Vicodin after getting my wisdom teeth pulled. The dreams I had that night were wild and frightening. But when I woke up, I immediately went to the computer and started typing away. My story "Ascending the Sending Road" was the result.
Usually, though, I get the best ideas from watching tv or movies. It's not that I'm plagiarizing these shows and films, but that some remark or gesture will spur my mind off on a tangent that almost always has nothing to do with the source. And usually with a sci-fi or fantastical bent. Oddly enough, books don't always have this same effect on me. Yet video games do. Go figure.
Once I get an idea, I work out the logistics of the story in my head. The best time for this is either in the shower or on the subway on my way to and from work. I usually read on the train, but not when I'm working on a story. Once I'm in that mode, any book I'm reading is placed on hold so that I can use the spare time to worry away at my own creation. Once I work at it enough to smooth away the most obvious snags, I set to actually translating my thoughts onto paper.
Taking Stephen King's advice to heart, I lock myself away from the world when I write. No coffee shops or window nooks for me -- too many distractions! I work tirelessly and nonstop the minute my fingers hit the keys. I enter a trance mode where I neither hear nor see anything beyond the screen in front of me. 3 or 4 hours later I sit back and take a breather. That's literally how I write. It's crazy, but there's a saneness there for me that I just can't explain. If I could sit in the middle of a white-washed room with nothing but a chair, a desk, and my PC, this would be ideal. No windows, no music, no television, no phones. Just me and the world I'm creating.
I like my methods. They work for me. A more cynical David might say that it's clearly not working at all, because I have yet to write anything worth publishing. But luckily I give myself more of a break than that. You get enough chances to prove yourself an asshole in life to other people without convincing your own self of the fact, too.
No, I know I suck because of inexperience and lack of polish. But that's okay; I'm REAL stubborn. I don't give up easily, and I know that the only way to get better is to keep going at it.
That right there is probably the single best resource I have at my disposal:
Seriously, what's wrong with this picture? Or, another way of asking it: which one of these hugs doesn't look creepy and lifeless?
Anyway, as everyone knows, the 3rd and final (thank God!) of the presidential debates was last night. As I predicted, yet again no one candidate faltered much, although McCain is clearly the loser for not doing enough to stamp down the Obama express steamrolling through this nation.
Let me just make it clear, however, that just because Obama is leading by double-digits in the national polls doesn't mean that I honestly believe he has this election locked down. Never underestimate the conservative right. The magnitude of their Sith Lord-like brainwashing abilities is on the order of several hundred Palpatines. If Obama were a white man I would feel safe with this lead. The fact that he's not, and that people in general are notorious liars when it comes to polls, makes me still nervous as hell about November.
But, now that the debates are over, I think it's allowable to have at least some modicum of faith in the intelligence of the average American voter. Not a lot, but just a little.
Anyway, last night's debate was a fine one. Obama weathered a lot of McCain's rather obvious attempts to attack his character, so much so that I think the strategy backfired in McCain's face more than a few times. Obama was the candidate most interested in discussing the issues last night, and I think this is what many Americans took away from the debate.
And speaking of backfiring, I'll leave you with a rather humorous tidbit taken (and slightly edited) from last night's discourse. The snarkery on display in the edited comments is just your typical YouTube humor, but the source material is unaltered. Click to see the 1-minute clip for yourself, and pay particular attention to the thought bubbles and McCain's expression:
Heh, heh. McCain looks like a deer caught in the headlights. It must be offsetting to have someone actually defend himself against faulty accusations. Something McCain's probably not used to encountering from his base.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Holy crap! This man kicks ass!
Asked about the milestone, Foster replied: "I call it: Revenge of the Nerds."
How funny is that?
1) Once I start a story, I write consecutive days until it's done. Under no circumstances do I take a day off. Since these are short stories, we're only talking 4 to 10 days here.
2) I work around any obstacle preventing me from writing that day. If Lisa and I have a movie date planned that evening, I write in the morning and afternoon. If a family get-together is scheduled during the afternoon, I write when I get home later that night -- no matter how late.
3) Birthdays and major holidays are no excuse not to write. I've written on both occasions -- my latest birthday and last Christmas being the most recent example.
Other than this, I'm surprisingly fluid in my guidelines. As someone who works full-time, it's not a big revelation to say that the most difficult part is making the time to write. My typical daily schedule when I'm *not* in the middle of a story is this:
6:30 a.m -- Wake up.
8:30-4:30 -- At the office, doing the daily grind.
5:30 -- Come home from work.
5:45-7:00 -- Work out (4-mile jog and/or weight training)
7:00-8:00 -- Prepare and serve dinner.
8:00-9:00 -- Eat dinner and spend time with Lisa.
9:00-11:00 -- Either continue spending time with Lisa (watching tv), or surf the Internet.
11:00-12:00 -- Fall asleep reading.
When I *am* in the middle of writing, the only thing that changes from the above schedule is that the prime 2-hour block between 9 and 11 are used solely for writing. This is when I go into hermit mode and no one hears a peep out of me until I emerge from my den 2 (sometimes 3) hours later looking bleary-eyed and confused.
The rather late dinner time is due to the fact that I have to work out immediately after coming home from work. This is the only time in the day I have for this, otherwise I would have to quit working out. And that's never happening. The few times I've skipped a workout are when I'm in the middle of writing a particular thorny scene and *NEED* to get on it right away when I get home. So yes, my workouts are very important . . . but not more important than my writing.
I very rarely, if ever, get any video game time in during the week. Only the weekend, where it competes with my writing time. Usually, however, I put the games on hold until I finish a story and am in the process of mentally preparing the next one.
Weekends I tend to write/edit 4 - 5 hours a day, each day. Same on my days off. These sessions usually happen late at night; the later the better. Don't know why, but my creativity is severely limited in the morning and slightly less so in the afternoons. I've been known to start writing at 11 at night and continue until around 3 in the morning. Some of my best stories/scenes were written during this time frame, despite the fact that I like my sleep. But weekends are fluid, and usually I have two time periods within which to write. I try my best to write from 1 - 4 in the afternoon. If I miss out on this time, or if I use it to play video games instead, then my next bloc is the 11 - whenever bloc already mentioned.
However, I don't want to give the impression that I write ALL the time. If I did, using the aforementioned rules and schedule, I would have written several novels by this point. The thing is, I usually take anywhere from two weeks to two months off between stories. I'm certainly capable of writing more frequently than this -- I once wrote 4 stories in the month of February alone -- but I've learned that faster does not equate to better. So nowadays I try to pace myself and wait for the truly good story ideas to develop first before rushing off like a mad man to write them down.
In part 3 of this entry, I'll discuss how exactly I do just that (i.e., synopsis, outline, plotline -- or a lack thereof!)
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
As I mentioned once before, I've been fascinated with reading ever since I learned to read. In class, it was all I wanted to do. Forget math, forget history or science . . . I just wanted to read! I think I was attracted to the passiveness of the process. You simply sit back and immerse yourself in another world. No writing down answers to questions, no notes, no complex arithmetic. . . . just you and the words on the page. Simple.
It was natural for me, then, than I translated reading really great stories to wanting to write them myself. It's been my ambition ever since 1st grade to be a writer of entertaining fiction, although my life choices haven't always reflected this passion.
I scribbled the odd story here and there as a child, but it was in high school that I really got serious, dabbling in sci-fi and fantasy shorts. I wrote about 10 or 11 stories by the time graduation came around, then continued writing in college. My tales of alien races and mystical ninjas weren't always received well by the snobbish and too-serious instructors of the various writing workshops I attended while enrolled, and this probably did a lot to damper my enthusiasm.
I wrote 16 short stories during college--all of them trash. By the time I graduated, reality hit hard and I fell out of writing for a while. A full-time job took up all my time and energy, and every story I attempted in the 8 years since college always fell apart halfway through. After some time, I simply gave up on my dream.
But then a life-changing event three years ago turned things around for me. I don't feel like talking about it right now because, honestly, it's a long story. But suffice to say that I learned a toughness and determination about me that I had suspected was always there, but never really tested out. After this event (and getting married later that year) I started to take stock of my life. I mean real intense, navel-gazing stuff here. It became clear that I needed to stop the BS and follow what had always been my dream. To write!
But how? I had no formal training, and it had been years since I wrote anything creatively. Well, I thought, there was no better school than practice. I figured if I chained myself to a schedule and simply wrote something--anything--every day of every week, that I would get better simply through sheer determination. I've never been one who's short on ideas for stories, so the real struggle was the mechanical process of writing a good narrative. Outlining, world-building, plotting; these sorts of things.
And I'm still learning today. I suspect I'll keep on learning until the day my fingers die and break off.
But in the course of two years, I've gotten marginally better at it. I'm only just now starting to gain confidence in my finished work, polishing and tweaking here, yet still forcing myself to write new stuff along the way. I've written 21 whole short stories in this time; a few good ones, but most of them bad learning experiments. Although, I guess if I learned something, it can't be all that bad, huh?
I've sold one story, and got rejected on another. The sold short will see publication in the beginning of 2009. The rejected story--one I was extremely proud of, too!--was a casualty of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest this past summer. Unfortunately for me, these were the only two places I've sent anything to. I know that in order to be published, I need to do a lot better than that. And I am trying to change this, slow going as it may be. This year I've been carefully taking it one step at a time as I examine my weaknesses and shortcomings and try to figure out how to take my writing to the next level.
In part 2 of this entry, I'll discuss just what my process is for writing what I write, and of the daily regimen I keep. It promises to be boring, so be forewarned! This will probably only interest other struggling writers. :-)
Heh, heh, it's surprising how some people actually fall for that line. I mean, some of the winners are actually fooled into believing that they've accomplished something big, rather than taking it all with a huge grain of salt and appreciating their win for what it really is--a small baby step down the long, treacherous path of SF writerdom.
But what surprised me the most is when Mr. Brown went on to detail just how poorly SF writers are paid. Now, I wasn't there at the ceremony, but accounts reveal that some in attendance were horrified by the bleak but frank picture he painted. Some were downright crestfallen, and a few even expressed doubt they could ever make a living writing in this field.
And to that I say: good riddance! And also, who the hell are these people? What fantasy world do they live in where this *isn't* already common knowledge? I mean, who doesn't already know that a beginner sci-fi writer's earnings doesn't amount to a hill of beans in this day and age? Anyone in it to strike it rich better search elsewhere.
I guess it has to do with age. I'm of the age where, while I'm not quite long in the tooth, I'm at least old enough to not have unrealistic sensibilities about the state of the field I've chosen to try and break into. I don't set unreasonable goals like planning to quit my job and write full time, which is good. Because the less of such stupid notions I have inside my head the least likely I'll be disappointed later on when this dream never materializes.
The way I see it, I'm perfectly happy to pay my dues and scrape out a few novels and some short stories while still holding down a 9 to 5 job. Forcing myself to find the time in the day after work, and through the fatigue and gloom from a long day on the job, has taught me discipline I never knew I had. When I was younger, I thought being a full-time writer was the only way one could write.
Boy was I wrong!
While it would be great if one day I'm successful enough to afford to quit my job, I don't count on it. In the meantime I plan to work my normal job for the pay and benefits. And on the side, I will write and write as much as I can. Heck, I'm amazed at how prolific I am writing only an hour or two each night as it is. So how exactly is working a full-time job hampering this? If anything it makes me that more tenacious to get my writing career off the ground.
Point is, Mr. Brown's speech has no spell over me. When revealed that writers get paid pocket change (a typical short story in today's market can sell anywhere from $15 to $400), I laugh. Because, as of right now, I write for free. Any money I make off of sales will only be a bonus. That's how I choose to see it.
Put it this way: I write expecting nothing I complete will sale. This way, at best I'm proven wrong; at worst I'm proven right! It's a win-win situation in that light then, right?
And yes, in case it wasn't obvious, I'm being decidedly tongue-in-cheek here. Of course I would love to quit my job and live on a million-dollar Hollywood movie option buy-out (hello Richard Morgan!).
But until that day I live in the city of Realsburgh--population: one, apparently.
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