Why The Words?

I’m bad at updating this blog, for any number of reasons.  I don’t always like to talk about myself, I’m terrible at self-promoting, etc…

Lately, with the atrocities committed by the government in this country that I’m supposed to hold dear, I’ve been noisy on social media.  I feel like any long form commentary will devolve into angry ramblings at this point, lacking anything productive that other people haven’t said already.

Instead, I’ve been thinking about the authors I love, those whose words inspire me.  One of my current favorites, both for his fiction and opinions, would be Chuck Wendig.  Follow him on Twitter.  Read his blog, especially this piece here.  He speaks volumes.

The authors we grow up reading are the ones that influence us, whether we are cognizant of it at the time.  Our list of favorite books may grow over time, but the memories of the past linger.  One of my all-time favorite authors, Steven Brust, wrote a thing for Tor.com about another one of my all-time favorite authors, Roger Zelazny.  His thoughts about the quality of the writing and how inspiring it was, well, it inspired me to write about it.  Coincidentally, Brust and I share an opinion on Zelazny’s writing.  It’s complex layers, even when the story didn’t work fully.  The depth, the juxtaposition.  The ability to speak to a reader.  Brust’s work, inspired in part by Zelazny, has had a similar effect on me.

The list of authors whose back catalogue I seek out, who’s bibliography always has a place on my shelf, is not a long one.  They are more often than not fantasy writers, but ones that have attained a mythological aspect of their own.  They are writing fantastical stories, in our world or in another, that are most decidedly human.

Neil Gaiman

A household name for the nerd set, needing no introduction from myself.  His work with the Sandman series was not only the first comic book that bound my brain, but the first time I read something that fit into a spiritual mindset I had started to form.  My first encounter with the concept of consensual reality, that is, the idea that if enough people believe in it, it exists.

Roger Zelazny

I was introduced to Zelazny almost concurrently by my father and stepfather, in the form of The Chronicles of Amber.  A sweeping epic of philosophy, many worlds and the godlike beings from Amber that could walk between them.  There were politics, feuds, epic battles, fights against demons and otherworldly beings.  There was philosophy and poetry, and they were laden with intense layers that I wouldn’t even begin to comprehend until much later.  They showed me the importance of authorial voice, how well one could use an unreliable narrator and how to take a flawed protagonist to a deeper level.  Lord of LightJack of Shadows, and Damnation Alley are just a few others that hold root in my mind.

Charles De Lint

De Lint, both a prolific author and a very talented musician, was the first urban fantasy writer I discovered, or rather, was introduced to.  He wrote stories of myths, faerie tales and more, brought into our modern world.  The fictional city of Newford was vibrant and alive, with characters that formed a central core.  And yet, all of the short stories (of which there are a plethora) and the novels stood on their own.  There were familiar faces, that grew and evolved if you read them in the order they were written, but rarely were they the sole protagonists.  Someplace To Be Flying is still my go-to read when I need something comforting and familiar, and the book still reveals new details each time.  The body of work that Charles De Lint wrought serves as a constant reminder of the importance of Mystery and Grace in our world.

Steven Brust

My stepdad introduced me to Steven Brust’s Jhereg some time after I’d devoured the Amber series.  As a teenager, I was enamored of this sarcastic, witty assassin and his wisecracking familiar.  A crime story in a fantasy world unlike anything I’d seen before.  Each novel just the right pace.  The books did not come out in chronological order, but in a fashion that made sense to Vlad as he narrated.  Or to Steven as he wrote it.  Every time a new iteration in the series comes out, I reread them all.  I am never disappointed, even by a few of the weird ones in the middle.  Having read them chronologically, I find that I prefer the order they were published in.  With the newest one, Vallista, coming out shortly, I feel the series reread approaching.

And I love his other work, like The Gypsy (cowritten with Megan Lindholm), but then he had to go blow it all out of the water.  He wrote The Incrementalists with Skylar White, and it is a book that I am still processing, especially in light of current events.  The sequel, The Skill Of Our Hands, was just released and is proving as elegant and thought-provoking as one would expect.

The Others

The list of authors that I love is a long one, and most things I read impact the way I view stories, for good or for ill.  Sometimes I read something that leaves me stunned, wishing I had half the gumption to conjure such sorcery with fingers and keys.

One of my favorite series is Bordertown, from the brilliant minds of Terri Windling, Ellen Kushner and a whole slew of others.  A techno-magical dystopian city that exists on the border of Faerie and The World, where neither magic nor technology act as they should.  Where punk kids, outsiders and the Elven Lords intermingle, with motorcycles powered by spells and magical books inside magical books.  It steadied the rage within me, gave me a place to dream of and a thing I wanted to be a part of, not just as a reader but as a writer.

Coincidentally, Charles De Lint, Neil Gaiman and Steven Brust have also contributed to the Bordertown legacy, along with other favorites like Emma Bull, Will Shetterley, Midori Snyder, Delia Sherman, Holly Black, Cory Doctorow and Jane Yolen.  I keep working at a short story, an offering to the Border.  Maybe some day, my name will grace the table of contents of an anthology.

Writing, for me at least, is a part of a never-ending urge to create, to tell stories, to mutate perspective.  A way to filter truth, and to create something lasting that will find purpose for others beyond my original intentions.  I hope that in time my legacy will be as powerful as any of the authors listed above, that perhaps some 30 or 40 years from now (if reading hasn’t been outlawed), someone will include me in this list, even as a footnote.

Arrival

I have had three drafts of a review for Arrival.  WordPress ate one and I deleted the other two.  One was moony and fawning, the other was overly florid, pretentious swill.

I’m a writer, a book lover.  I’m terrible at languages other than English, but I know a smattering of a few Romance languages and a few more complicated, like Finnish or Gaelic.  Enough to fuck up the grammar if I put them in a book.  Or use a word out of context or inaccurately.  So after Arrival, I found myself looking up linguistic determinism and linguistic relativity.  After Arrival, I felt like I had been looking at the world through a pinhole.

I don’t always feel the need to be a critic.  I love peer review, beta reading and editing, but reviewing a final work always seems disingenuous.  I have to separate my Feeling and instead qualify and quantify.

Holy shit, I fucking loved Arrival.  It was beautiful and poetic, well filmed and well paced.  There were no dramatic scenes of military might repelling hostile invaders.  No dramatic presidential speeches.  What there was in plenty were questions, morals, ethics and a whole lot of science.  There were some cool aliens and some very nice visuals.

Arrival is a film about love, language, the nature of humanity and how we perceive the world.  It is almost an infinite loop.  There ought to be more films that are unafraid to be intelligent and to ask questions of the viewer rather than answer them.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that the film is based off “Story of your Life,” a short story by Ted Chiang.  The story is very well written and worth the read.  Go do that thing…

December (Aftermath)

December is for aftermath.  For an impossible election, for editing our NaNo drafts, for the first round of holiday over eating.

I didn’t get 50k in November.  I could come up with a bunch of reasons.  I lost my motivation.  Distracted by the US Election and its results.  Trying to understand the implications that it holds for people I care about.  

I had to reconsider what I  was writing, because I was trying to write a happier post-apocalypse.  I hadn’t been willing to take into account fear, and just how low humanity would go.  I was a victim of my own echo chamber.

My goal was always to wrap my head around this draft, to figure out pieces that were missing.  If I got 50k, I would be happy, but the priority was always problem solving.  So in that regard, I was wildly successful.

The secondary goal was to create the framework for the whole thing.  I figured out where I needed more characters and different perspective.  I found where I could tie threads together, to help support a larger narrative while still keeping the stories personal to the characters.

I may not have hit 50k, but I still count the month as a success.  Now to keep it up.  Writing is a balancing act.  Keeping your commitment to yourself is as important as the commitments elsewhere.

The next month will be just as mad.  My wife’s second novel is in final beta.  So editing and copy are on deck, as well as formatting.  And formatting the first book for a print run. And holidays.  And parenting.  And photography.  And that pesky nine to five.

Balancing act.

Insanity, Day One

Day one of National Novel Writing Month is a wrap for this guy.  I wrote a prologue and a first chapter and I already feel way better than I have about things that I have written in quite sometime.  So yay for that.

Word Count for Day One: 2475.

Opening line: The sky was clear of clouds, stars dotting the veil of black sky, the moon a red sliver.

How about you?  Did you make 1667?  Or whatever your goal was?

Don’t worry if you didn’t.  There’s time.  No pressure, just have fun.

Are you happy with what you wrote?  No, stop reading it.  You’re just going to get mad about it.  No edits until December.  Or January.

You are kick-ass.  You are a writer.  A Nanite.  A Wrimo.  I believe in you.

So You Want To NaNoWriMo

So you’ve decided to take the leap.  Is it your first year?  Your billionth?  Are you a professional writer?  You ARE?  WHY ARE YOU READING MY BLOG!?

 

Okay, so let’s get back to first timers.  Or repeat offenders.  What’s your plan?

STEP ONE:  MAKE A PLAN

My plan has been to half-ass an outline, of which I’ll maybe get half the month out of.  And then I’ll pants* the rest.  I’ve had the heart of this story in some iteration or another for years, so I’m confident.  I’ve got extensive notes about these characters.  I have oodles of witty dialogue involving a psionic direwolf.  I’m on this shit.

STEP TWO: WRITE THAT SHIT

Easier said than done, right?  Absolutely.

Make time for yourself to write.  Steal it.  Do what you have to.  I’m planning on writing at lunch, and then for at least a couple hours at home after work.  I’m lucky though, because my wife is also a writer.  She gets it.

You’re not writing a masterpiece… even if that’s the endgame.  You’re writing 1700 words a day, every day.

That means no editing, no rewrites.  Only go forward.  Frustrated?  Skip that section and write the next one.  Or drink.  Just kidding.  You can drink and write at the same time.  Don’t give up or give in to despair.  That’s what half-way through December is for.

STEP THREE: ?????

STEP FOUR: PROFIT

Okay, now we’re underpants gnomes.  Sorry about that.

You’re the only winner with NaNoWriMo.  Your whole plan was to write FIFTY THOUSAND WORDS IN THIRTY DAYS!  You didn’t give up!  You didn’t surrender!

THIS WAS A TERRIBLE PEP TALK, RIGHT?

I’d apologize, but let’s face it.  We’re in the same boat.  Work competes with the projects and no plan survives contact with the enemy.

You’re going to feel an intense pressure, as with any attempt to write. (Or not, in which, you’re awesome.  Go you.)  But if you keep writing, you keep working, you’ll get it done.

I’m just some guy writing on the internet, but I believe in you.  I know that if you want to do this insane thing, you will do it.  Maybe I’ll even read it when you’re done.

 

It’s Nearly Here

So it’s that time of year, that most magical time of year.  Leaves have turned colors and fallen off the trees.  The houses are decorated with spooky things and my daughter is asking when we’re going to carve her pumpkin nine million times an hour.

That magical time of year where I wonder just how long it will take before I cave and get into the Halloween stash.  Where I check the levels of beer, whiskey, coffee and other necessities.

In one week, it will be the first of November.  In Colorado that’s the first (and last) week of Fall.

It is the day in which a bunch of word-obsessed maniacs hurl themselves, heart and soul, into the masochistic craft of writing a novel.

It’s National Novel Writing Month!  50k words in 30 days.  1700 words a day, for 30 days.  If you break it down even more, 500 words at 12pt font is about a page.  So just over 3 pages a day.

Madness, lunacy!  What’s the point?

You mean, other than the stories themselves?  I have no clue.  The feeling of satisfaction?  Practice?  An opportunity to get a first draft done.  Learning to accept that sometimes you have to write a whole bunch of shit to figure out how a project works.

Its a contest.  So what do you win?  You win 50k words towards a finished novel.  And a cool sticker for your social media page.

In one week, this shit begins!  Don’t let the fuckery keep you down!

Echoes

He enters the room with a huff, practically kicking the door off its hinges.  It stinks of dust and age, mildew and forgotten plans.

Nothing a broom and a power washer can’t handle.

He hangs up a sign.  COMING SOON.  WORDS.