Sunday, October 21, 2012

This Is No Time to Talk About Time! We Don't Have the Time!

This is to say that I've been accepted into Martin Ingham's The Temporal Element anthology, to be published by Hall Bros Entertainment.  I'm quite pleased to say so, because this involved something that I rarely do, which is completely rewrite something I've previously written.  Sometimes I'll rewrite chapters or restart chapters or stories based on previous ideas about how to approach it, but a strict rewrite usually isn't something I'll do.  I nearly wrote the anthology off when the initial version was rejected, even though Ingham encouraged a rewrite.  I gave it some time and eventually decided that it was worth doing.  The story remained much the same, except for a perspective change.  And yet Ingham still wanted to make a few changes, which I decided was okay.

There seems to be a lot of controversy in the comics industry about accepting direction from editors, anger at rewriting or following a certain mandate.  I've always considered myself to be adaptable, but have rarely had the chance to demonstrate this as a writer.  As someone who would love to work in comics, I find it a little ungrateful to complain about certain things that ought to be understood when writing some of the most well-known fictional characters in modern fiction.  It's something fans of Star Trek have always had a hard time understanding as well.  They will sometimes have some pretty wild ideas about what should be possible.  Complicating this belief is the trend from Pocket Books to execute all of these ideas in its fiction, which has led to a splintering of the fanbase in the past.  I figure that there will always be certain things that should at least be reconsidered when generating stories for established characters.  It comes with writing something that a lot of people feel they have a certain amount of ownership of, a familiarity that negates some of the distance between an original vision and predetermined notions.

My short story is not Superman.  It isn't even Benjamin Sisko (much less Benny Russell).  Yet I think I had a personal breakthrough in my decision to rewrite it.  I was forced into a situation where the integrity of something I had written was called into question.  Over the summer I had a chance to examine how my fiction flies with a broad audience.  It didn't seem to connect so well.  This story was different.  Ingham simply requested another pass, and I decided to make that happen.  Usually when rewrites are necessary, it's to streamline and simplify a concept so that more people will be able to understand it.  In fiction this is a trickier deal. Ingham rightly suggested that it needed to be more relatable, which I suppose is similar to what I was just talking about, but different in a crucial way.  I didn't change too much.  I simply made it easier to identify with what was happening, which was Ingham's original point.

It should be noted that you should read the title of this post whilst poking something, preferably someone.  It's funnier that way.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Eating Plain Old Arby's Roast Beef

Over at Good Reads, I get John Marko's blogs fed into e-mail updates, and he recently talked about his opinion of Arby's.

I was intrigued, because I had previously made it a habit to eat at Arby's before seeing movies at one of my local theaters.  It's right next door, so the convenience alone was always a draw.  Truth is, growing up Arby's didn't impress me much.  I remember not being all that impressed by its signature roast beef sandwiches, in fact, so I never made it a point to go to Arby's.

The truth is, all that time I regularly went to Arby's before the movies I wasn't eating the roast beef sandwich, either.  I was eating one of their chicken sandwiches.  I love their curly fries, and the special Arby's sauce and horseradish sauce, too.  In fact, it was as much the fries and sauces that kept me going back.  But I also sampled the roast beef sandwiches again.  And I liked it better this time.

Sometimes we can be a little quick to judge, thinking we know exactly what we're doing when we say something, when sometimes we're only fooling ourselves, posturing and being, basically, a fool.  I will admit to that kind of behavior myself.  I wish everyone could.  Sometimes the ego won't allow it.

I still wish that writers weren't like that, but the truth is they are.  They may be some of the most egotistical bastards out there.  In some ways, they have all the reason to.  Writing can look pretty glamorous on the outside, but when you dig into it, it's anything but.  It's one of the dirtiest professions there are.  Yeah, jobs are pretty dirty on the whole (and thank Mike Rowe for adding new layers of grime), but few jobs are as dirty as writing.  People have a lot of expectations about writing.  Most people seem to think it happens spontaneously, as if there aren't even people involved.  It's the one job where the fantasy and reality of it have no relation at all.  Ironically, writing is all about fantasy.

How do you survive as a writer?   By compromise.  By admitting your ego probably isn't deserved.  That your elaborate defense only seems like it's helping you out.  Writers are like actors.  The more you pretend the more you'll lose yourself.  No wonder Pynchon has kept himself out of the public eye.  Of course, that's another pretension in itself.

I was just talking to my brother.  He was in a horrific car accident on Sunday, but he survived it, and with injuries that were not nearly as bad as they could have been.  The conversation still turned to me, because we hadn't talked in a while.  I found myself using my defenses.  It wasn't until we hung up that I realized what I'd been doing.  There are plenty of excuses writers can have, but none of them should conceal the truth from themselves.

It's a tough life, even if you're not a writer.  But as a writer, you have a certain amount of responsibility to the truth, even if you spend most of your time in fantasy.

Have an Arby's roast beef sandwich.  You may just be surprised.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Skippy Was Here

I recently finished reading the book Skippy Dies by Paul Murray.  It's a wonderful book.  The character Daniel Juster (nicknamed Skippy by his classmates) is an Irish lad attending a boarding school who finds himself caught in a perfect storm of emotional turmoil, eventually killing himself.

I can't help but wonder if I walked past Skippy a few nights ago.  This kid stopped me to ask directions.  It was pretty late on Tuesday.  In hindsight, so many things occurred to me that was wrong about the situation. Initially, I only kicked myself for the poor directions I gave.  But did I just abet Daniel Juster?

As a writer, I'm constantly wondering about these things.  I wonder about them in my head.  I wonder about them in my writing.  I wonder about them when I consider other people's writing.  I'm something of a Daniel Juster myself.  I'm not good at processing things that bother me.  And a lot of things bother me.

But I'm a writer.  Having a rough emotional life comes with the territory, right?  Except it's one thing to read about Hart Crane tossing himself off the side of a boat and quite another to be living the life yourself.  It sucks.  There's a whole group of writers I'm very loosely affiliated with who write about it.  But I don't feel like I'm connected to them.  I don't feel like I'm much connected to anyone, really.

I'm not asking for pity.  I'm simply explaining this writer's life.  I tried participating in some writing groups over the summer.  Well, got all the way through with one of them.  Quit the other.  This did not help me.  I cannot for the life of me figure out why I should be alienated from what seems to be my own kind.  This is some of what's bothered me in my writing career for many years.

But I get that not all writers write the same way, write the same things, have the same thoughts.  That would probably be more than a little boring.  But I keep thinking that it should be easier to find actual kindred spirits.  Maybe my kind really doesn't play well with others, even among our own kind.  Maybe that's it.

Murray wrote a 600+ page book about a bunch of characters who are experiencing very similar problems, and they all end up converging thanks to Skippy (well, I don't think anyone thanked him).  Maybe that's a little of what life's really like, even a writer's life, a life that seems predestined to misery.

Again, not looking for sympathy here.  This is what my journey is really like.  I figured it ought to be documented on the blog, is all.  This week I thought I would feel a little more triumphant.  I started writing my next book.  I got in my last book, which I had to order myself because of the way it was published.  I loved looking at it.  I loved holding it.  I loved starting to write the next book.

But the steps in the process are lonely, no matter where they might lead.  That's a little of what God (or whatever you might believe in) must experience, knowing how everything turns out but unable to change anything.  What happens happens.  It's not fun to experience.  The arc of it might work out better than the individual moments, but what can you do?  You're stuck in those moments.  Even God can't change that.

(A special assist to David Maine, whose Fallen I'm now reading.)

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Revolution Will Be Televised

One of the new shows I'm watching this fall TV season is Revolution, which posits a future where technology has been rendered worthless by the nullification of electricity.  Some commentators have suggested that it's a little silly to suggest that 1) electricity can be blocked like that and 2) people won't be able to work around that without going medieval.

For one thing, it's not uncommon for apocalyptic visions to view people having a hard time getting technology back up and running even when electricity hasn't been tampered with (see: The Stand).  For another, if society went to heck in a hand basket, who do you think would have a better chance of surviving the initial chaos, the big surly bullies or the puny little science geeks?  This week's episode had an anecdote about that very scenario, by the way.

Considering that the purpose of this update has nothing to do with Revolution, there's very little point in continuing to talk about it except to note that failure of the imagination can be catching.  As a writer, I come across this more often than I expect, in more ways than I'd like.  The world can be and in fact is very screwy like that.

If you'll recall, I put myself on a schedule for the end of September, hoping to round up some lingering projects before finally tackling a book I've been meaning to write since 1998.  I finished up "City of Tomorrow" at Sigild V as planned.  Tweeting a few of the chapters got me more readership than usual, so that was nice.  Overall, I think it was a more rewarding writing experience than other serialized stories I've blogged, because although I plotted the story, I let most of it develop as I wrote it.  That's nearly the opposite of what I hope to accomplish in the next three months as I write Seven Thunders.  Today I wrote the 5,000 word prologue (every chapter will be that length, half of what I eventually mastered writing in single-day marathons last year working on Yoshimi).  As I've mentioned, this is a story I've been developing for some time now, but even in recent weeks I've discovered new things that needed to be incorporated.  So although most of it is indeed planned out, I expect to have a few more surprises yet.

That's something of what's happened with my Top Cow/Ji Xi script sample.  I've known for weeks what I expected to do with it, but the original plan to have it written by yesterday didn't happen.  I wrote the captions today, however, as I continued to warm up for writing another book.  I only have dialogue and panel descriptions to go!  Normally I write all of that at once, but this is my second chance with a Top Cow talent search, and I don't want to foul it up again.  During my Digital Webbing days, I think I was more confident about my comic scripting abilities (this was several years after losing the first Top Cow contest), and I've been out of practice for a while.  I wrote two biography scripts for Bluewater early in the years, but there's been little word on progress in turning them into actual comics, and a graphic novel with an honest-to-god collaborator is still getting its sample pages illustrated.  (I know how this sounds like I'm almost a glimmer of a big shot!  But I don't feel like one, so don't worry about it.)  As I've mentioned, there's more Bluewater work I may hit this month in a Dr. Seuss biography, which I plan to do in Dr. Seuss style.  (But I've been dallying so long on that one, will someone else have been given this theoretical book?)

Anyway, the most important bit to take away from this is my excitement over finally beginning to write Seven Thunders!
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