Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Beating the Summer Slump

I love my children, but nothing kills my writing drive like school letting out for the summer. I go from being able to write on and off most of the day while taking care of the 1 year old, to squeaking in time between the two of them. If I'm not too burnt out by the end of the day, I try to write before collapsing in a drooling heap on the bed.

While I have the relief of a summer school session to look forward to, making sure my eldest gets out of the house regularly and with friends, I must find ways of getting over the hit to my writing the heat season brings.
So instead of simply relying on my own gusto in the hopes my 'go for it' attitude gets me going, I've signed up for Write-a-thons! Two to be exact.

Clarion, the excellent resource/support network of the sci-fi/fantasy community hosts their write-a-thon for the next six weeks through the month of July. This one is intense, it's goal is to raise money so they can keep running their yearly workshop, which I hope to apply for next year.
Here's my own personal jobbie:

I'm aiming high, setting myself some pretty hefty goals, a tri-fecta of editing, creating, and up-keep. It's a do or die summer, I'm finishing the edits on the novel, creating as many new chapters for the novel in progress as I can manage, and continuing posts for New Earth 6. Whew!

Aaaaaand once the Clarion Write-A-thon comes to a close, WeSeWriMo starts up immediately.

 Heard of NaNoWriMo? Same concept except this one focuses on Web Serial fiction, and it's a perfect kick in the pants commitment to keep me working through the blazing heat of August. This one is hosted by Epiguide, one of the heavily populated web forums for all things E-serialized.

I'm aiming to make this a productive summer, one way or another. If I can take the plunge and commit myself to these big projects now, hopefully it will string me along no matter how zany the kids drive me.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Nuttin' Left to Write? Bollox I say!

One of the bloggers I follow recently did a post about the stumbling block I think many up coming writer's hit. The terrible sensation there is nothing left to write.

Bollox, bollox I say.

Every generation has its vamps.
Sometimes it seems like everyone is writing about the same thing at once. Trends like to smash readers over the head with so many books on a subject it seems redundant. We see them in every genre, vampires is a good example, vampire fiction has a habit of cropping up every few years. People talk about how they are sick of vampires but it is the beast that never slumbers, in another decade someone will publish another Vampire novel that will upstart the trend all over again.

Supernatural creatures aside, there is always a story to tell. What writer's get caught up on, I think, is the feeling they must come up with something "original".

Ah, Originality, you mythical beast you, rarer than unicorns and natural tits in porn.

The 'original story' is an inflated myth. You get so caught up in the idea of trying to come up with something original you forget what storytelling is about, how it began. Storytelling was an oral tradition, it is how people kept their history, taught their children, and passed on their culture. And most important of all, it was entertainment through the long dark nights. Yes, entertainment is most important because ultimately, listening to stories is how humans used to relax, we took comfort from them, were inspired by them.

The beauty of this practice is with every generation of storytelling, with every storyteller, the story changes, new words are added, characters are embellished, change, built on over and over until the story is hardly recognizable from its 'original' version.

This is the heart of storytelling, something I think we lose sight of in a world of copyright infringement and publication rights. We want to own our words so badly but the truth is, once we put it out into the world, the story will change. It might not happen immediately, but if you are lucky, it will inspire people. Someone might write fan fiction, or adapt your story in a new form.

 As a writer, my goal is to support my family with my craft. But I know my greatest creative tool as a writer is not my originality, but my voice. My ability to spin the story and create my fictional world. Why do so many vampire novels exist? Not because these writers are lacking in originality, no, each lends their own unique voice, creating something entirely new from the 'original' idea. They create new characters, new rifts, new worlds.

We all pull our inspiration from somewhere, from myth, from life, from history. These are the foundations we build upon, the concrete beneath the dazzling skylines.

Want a better example of this process in motion? Look at Harry Potter. Here we have the incredible voice of J. K. Rowling, her characters have become iconic, her books continue to entertain the upcoming generations. The world of Harry Potter is heavily influenced by Arthurian legend, stories of witches and wizards that have been around for centuries, but Harry and his friends are all 'Original'.

As long as writer's are fueled by their imagination and have the courage and drive to spin their words, we will always see fantastic stories, no matter the form, be they traditional novels, or web fiction, or what have you, stories will always find a way to be told.

There is always a story to tell.

Friday, June 21, 2013


Scribbling down the latest installment of New Earth Six, I finally hit the back of the notebook. No really, I had to finish the chapter on the back cover.

Choosing to draft on actual paper was a perfect choice for me. Rather than spend hours drafting on the computer, while I constantly distract myself with the internet, I can curl up on the couch, cuddle my little ones, and scribble away.

It does have issues. My fingers cramp up and my wrist hates me, but the physical act of writing out my words is highly beneficial. It does take more time to lay out my ideas on paper, my hand can only write so fast, while I can type like demon, but being forced to slow also makes me think of what I am trying to say. I don't just string words together to look pretty, every word counts, I self edit my thoughts as I go. It seems like an extra step, writing it out, then typing it up for the blog, but for me, the process is definitely worth the time.

Now that I have filled one notebook cover to cover, I will keep up the process. I have a closet full of left over notebooks I have saved for years, likely for just this purpose.

I think I have always secretly preferred the side of my hand covered in ink.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Man of Steel, aka Plotsmash

The attempt to revamp Superman has left me with mixed feelings.

First: I did enjoy this movie, I love superhero flicks for the sheer pleasure of seeing the comics of my childhood up on the big screen. Pure visual candy. Not all superhero movies are created equal. Some come off as corny, some come off flat, Marvel's early years before the success of Spiderman and X-men were pretty appalling. Though I would say Marvel's Avengers Arc has nailed the Superhero franchise over Nolan's Batman trilogy. Don't hate me on this, I loved the new gritty Batman movies, but Marvel has threaded it's universe together a lot better from a comics standpoint.
I went into the theater interested to see what DC would have to offer me. Snyder's films, while not always succeeding on nailing the source material, are fucking beautiful in the graphics department. The man makes the prettiest violence you ever done seen. But Snyder films often suffer from Plotsmash, cramming too many elements into the movie running time and inevitably falling short in one huge element or another. It happens in just about ALL his movies.
It also left me wondering where the writers drew their source material for the extremely Non- superman moment at the films culmination. It's hard to talk about without spoiling it soooo

*Spoiler* Do NOT read the next paragraph if you haven't seen it yet. Or do, I'm not your mother.

Don't read the paragraph, just look at this beautiful man.

Superman kills the villain. If you are not familiar with this god-like DC figure, I can understand why your reaction would be "And your point is?" 
Well Superman is the one overpowered DC character who upholds life above all else. He would never just up and murder someone. He is the hero who goes out of his way to save even the nastiest Villain to the point it becomes a character flaw. Fucking Smallville got this through their crazy mixed up plot lines but maybe Man of Steel's writers missed it. Alan Moore, the fabulous mind behind Watchmen, wrote a Superman what if comic where he does murder a heinous bad-guy when left with no feasible option and it destroys him. 

Okay it's safe again

Movie's failings: After the intense action scenes, Man of Steel delivers no fallout. This is what Avengers Nailed with a capital N and why whatever failings it did have are easy to ignore when it did such a good job representing Aftermath, something way too many superhero movies gloss over. Hell, Marvel took it a step further with Iron Man 3 and brought to light the deep mental trauma a superhero would have to deal with, especially one as vulnerable as Tony Stark, in the aftermath of a violent battle.

Movie's Success: Zod as always is a cold bastard, an nonredeemable but understandable villain. I love those kind of villains. Superman has got great villains because the hero has such high morals, so they make up for it with the dastardly and the insane. The interweaving of Clark's childhood as he tries to find himself is well done, instead of following a series of chronological flashes, they tie in his memories to how he deals with people in the now.

Biggest Success for Me!
Whether you agreed with the casting of Amy Adams or not, Man of Steel finally gave me a Lois Lane I can get behind. Lois is supposed to be a SMART, intrepid reporter. This is something just about every incarnation has failed on. In Man of Steel, Lois is still the irrepressible snoop, immediately falling into danger as she tries to uncover secret government shenanigans and is saved by a dressed down Supe. When she can't convince her editor to print her close encounters story, she hands it over to the internet and proceeds to *I shit you not* track down Clark's cross country trail all the way to his fucking front door.
Finally a proactive Lois Lane who actually acts like a fucking reporter with a soul, because not only does she find the big guy, she actively chooses to conceal his identity, even when she is threatened by her editor and then abducted by the U.S. government. FINALLY, finally, a Lois with giant balls.

This is where I tie all this into writing and character development.

As I've stated above, Man of Steel does suffer from plotsmash, especially with it's ending. Endings are tricky, I struggle with endings all the time, whether the story is a stand alone or part of a series. It is too easy to fall into the danger zone of glossing over the trauma you have just put your characters through to reach an ending that won't leave your reader as traumatized. You want them to come back for book two, not cringe at the prospect of what hellish journey your will put them through. Unless you are a George R. Martin fan, that man is just brutal and he gets away with it because he's really up front about how much he is going to fuck with his characters. You know when you pick up a Martin book, not everybody gonna make it. 
For Superhero movies, this is an especially hard task, and not every movie in the Marvel franchise came through with aftermath. Avengers shows how the battle of New York devastates the population and heroes give them hope but in Thor  they destroy an entire town and nobody bats an eyelash. 

If you ever tackle larger than life events in your story, beware this mighty pitfall. With the influx of post apocalypse literature, showing the full spectrum of human reaction to trauma is vital to the success of these stories. This is where you make 'end of the world' real for the reader, not in the over the top action and destruction, but within the minds of the characters. Literature provides an added layer to characters which movies don't by way of  their thoughts, we can usually see exactly what our protagonist is experiencing as the world falls to pieces around him.
Want a piece of literature which nails the human perspective of super heroes?
It's amazing I promise.
I highly recommend Hero by Perry Moore for it's characters, it's characters are absolutely amazing. The plot is your typical 'hero must save the world' with a few excellent twists but where Hero really hits home is the complexity of it's main character Thom Creed, and the aspiring heroes in his squad.

On the subject of Superman: Big Blue is secretly one of my favorite characters but perhaps not for the best reasons.
Superman is my favorite because he is probably the most difficult character to write well and not come off as completely vanilla.
Superman is a God living among men, he is invulnerable, maybe immortal, and his sneeze could kill you. He also has the morals of a saint, as I said, Superman goes out of his way not to kill people, to the point where villains use this as a character flaw against him.
This is surprisingly hard to make interesting for the 60 plus years the character has been around, often falling on the knack of making him powerless in some way to see how he deals with it. Problem is most of the time writers fail me. When Superman loses his powers, he just stops being Super and tries to be normal. BAH ! The writer's who succeed with the Superman character, like Alan Moore, get into his psyche because that is where this man is interesting.
How does a person deal with being a God when raised as a human? How do you deal when you have all these powers but still can't save everyone? When it's so easy to just up and kill the villain rather that maintain a high regard for life? Is Superman immortal? Does he have perfect control over his abilities or is it truthfully a constant struggle not to crush the ever living fuck out of people with every hug and handshake?
Superman, in my mind, is the ultimate crash test in character development. Here, I'm going to give you a God, make him interesting, make him human, make him sympathetic. Not as easy as one would think.
Source: http://www.shootbus.com/movie/superman-fail-1

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Hunting for Crumbs

It seems I've been heading in about nine directions lately.
Maybe it's anxiety over finally finishing a project I've been working on so long, money worries, lack of sleep, whatever. It's a big blobby mass of Ugh.

Focus issues aside, I've been foolishly throwing around the idea of creating another serialized piece of fiction for Jukepop, which is an awesome platform for those who write serialized fiction since you have a chance to get paid to do it. BUT, there is always a but, it is kind of it's own entity, they usually pay for unpublished work rather than published, so while I might gain more audience points for New Earth 6, I might not get paid for it. Plus, call it a hang up, simultaneous submissions make me uncomfortable.

Throwing my work out there is hard. It's not like I'm a delicate flower who will wilt under criticism, it's just hard to put myself out there. I think I fear the idea of No Interest over Negative Interest.

See here I am losing focus again. Thinking of Jukepop and what I could do with it, I wondered if I could produce another story worth serializing. I have lots of ideas buzzing around the noggin, but I wasn't sure if I was up to spinning a whole new universe while trying to edit one book and write another.

This morning I found myself opening the closet to yank out my binders of old scribblings.
I have mixed feelings about writing I did years ago. These are stories I penned before I really understood things like plot points and world building. It's a bit like throwing a bucket of paint on the canvas rather than using defined strokes.

It's cringe worthy, there is stuff in these binders I don't remember writing, or hope I was in an alcohol fueled haze or something. High school angst haze? Anyway I save these shuddersome pieces for two reasons.

One: I like to occasionally pull them out when I'm feeling particularly unmotivated and say "See, look how far your writing has come! Now get back to the computer, you sloth, and type faster! *whip crack*"

Two: Times like this. Then I go hunting for Crumbs. Crumbs are ideas that flashed through the brain over the years but I lacked the time/skill/resources to fully realize them. I hold onto them because I know someday I will find a use for them. I found my Crumb after an hour of flipping through the deluge, a short novella I wrote freshman year or so of college.
The story is meh, but it's not about the writing. The writing will be stripped away, I'm after the bones of the piece, that's where my Crumbs are.

Now it' s a matter of balance and priority. I am teetering on the edge of taking on too much at once. There is just so much I want to do, but I must create an order to do things, or POOF, up in smoke I'll go. I may have unearthed my Crumb but it, and Jukepop, may be cast on the back burner until one project is off the table. Perhaps forcing myself to slow down will inspire my focus. If I complete something, I can reward myself with this.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends....

I'm wicked excited because as I pull up the heinous time devouring Facebook after dinner I see another writer friend, the fabulous S.M. Welles, has updated her status with: "Novel finished, I need test readers!"

Her First Novel

Without hesitation I signed on board for a first draft reading. Because the most important thing you need when you are trying to break into the writing world is support, especially from people as crazy about the craft as you are. The writing world these days isn't all about getting accepted into the big six, sometimes it comes down to the people you know. I don't necessary mean that in a 'know the publisher's daughter' kinda way, I mean this in the people you surround yourself with in the creation of your baby, the one's who cheer you on during your slumps, who not only act eager to read your new piece but will actually stay up until three in the morning because they couldn't put it down. Friends who will give you honest feed back, both positive and negative. They will tell you what works in your story and what doesn't, these people are vital.
I know whenever I critique someone's work I make a list of the good as well as the bad, you can't have all and not the other, gloss over mistakes for praise, or bad mouth a piece without reprieve. There is give and take.

I am excited to read this piece, not only because I've watched her progress over the past couple months writing it, but because I believe in the importance of the writing community. To quoteth those legendary Brits:" I get by with a little help from my friends." I know when I finish the second draft of the Novel I will be sending my own feelers out.

Off I go to immerse myself in a good read.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Mad Dash

My thoughts have been on pulp fiction all week, not the movie, I love me some Tarantino, but I'm talking about the writing style.
I plunged myself into a writing experiment, because I just didn't have enough writing to do between the edits and the sci-fi blog. Yup, I went and started on something I plan to pump out at max speed, pure pulp, tackling two sub genres I'm itching to tie together while the getting is good.
It was a slow start, I wrote the first few pages over the weekend while taking care of the boys and going to work. Needless to say, I managed five pages in two days. But school is still in session, so with just the one munchkin running around, snuggling, and napping, I wrote a solid fifteen pages.
It feels good, I'm pumped. If I can keep up this pace, then I will hit my goal and use this particular work to experiment with small press/ self publishing.
No big spoilers yet, it's still my secret baby, but now I need to think of a pen name.

W.P. Scriggins
M.E. Rathbone
A. M. Crillroy

Oh the possibilities are endless.
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