Thursday, December 9, 2010

Time for a Change

First change: new template for the blog. Yeah, it's still rather boring looking. No loud bells and whistles here. Just books. Because that's what this is supposed to be all about now isn't it?

Second change: Apparently I've got a new focus for my writing. This is actually work-related, and by work-related I mean having to do with the day job and not the work that I do for little to no pay in my spare time. But that's cool. Writing is writing and without the luxury of that solid reputation some writers have acquired, allowing the option to write about pretty much anything that strikes their fancy even if it's a detailed analysis of how many gold rings one might fit on a monkeys wiener, I will gladly take whatever opportunities float my way.

No, it's not writing sappy little notes for a greeting card company if that's what you're thinking. And even if it was, is there really anything wrong with that? In fact, that might be a pretty sweet gig.

In case you aren't aware, I'm a small player in a very well-respected, highly effective research center here at Indiana University, and research around major universities like IU, place high on the academic respect chart.

Strike one!

But the research that goes on around here - here being the office I cheerfully drag my ass to every day - while interesting and worthy of huge accolades, is barely within the grasp of my tiny little artist's brain. My good fortune to be part of the Workshop in Political Theory is only eclipsed by the miracle that six years into this gig I haven't been tossed out on my ear (or rear depending on how fast you read that last sentence). But that's the way this place is. Very understanding, encouraging, and forgiving, and thankfully that's probably that mindset that won the professor who started this gig a Nobel prize. Let me tell you, aside from having a winning football team, a Nobel prize attracts a lot of the right kind of attention in a college town.

At any rate, one of the Workshop's current projects of which we're seeking funding is to develop a "Consumer-driven Health Information Website Based on Hot-to-Cold Empathy Gaps." Huh? What the heck does that mean? you may ask. I'll let you know when I figure it out myself. But apparently the writing part of this needs to be dumbed-down to a non-academic level. In other words, it needs to be made simple enough for someone with minimal education. Now perhaps I should have felt a little put-off when they thought of me as a possible writer for this project. I don't know about that. In fact, who cares? I could lay claim to the argument that it takes a unique skill set to write in a manner that's understandable to those lacking the capacity or attention span needed to comprehend anything more taxing than one line sentences containing words bigger than cat. But if that's the case, I will embrace the role fully and I will own my reputation as a simple story teller.

Especially if it means mo money, mo money, mo money...

Hee Haw

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Where to?

So here's the results of my little foray into the nanowrimo. I finished. Yep, at just before 10:00 pm on November 30, I submitted my 50,063 word completed manuscript to the nanowrimo website for verification and apparently their jacked up system disagreed with the almighty Bill Gates and Microsoft. 49,933 words is what they claimed I had copied and pasted into their little program. "Okay," I thought, "that's not a problem. It's not even 11:00 yet." I figured I had plenty of time to write 67 words.

Did that and more. Now I had a completed manuscript of 50,250 words and it was only 11:01. Select all. Copy. Got back to the nano site. Nanowrimo 2010 is closed!

Huh? "But it's not midnight yet," I exclaimed. "Since when does the day end at 11:00?"
"Dad, it's time for bed." My boy Danny apparently doesn't understand his father's need to set the Universe in order.
"Not now, son. I think I just got screwed."
"Turn the computer off, Dad, and step away. It is what it is."
I stopped myself from randomly clicking things on the nano website that obviously weren't going to solve my dilemma. He was right. I knew from the get go this whole venture was going to end badly. This was just the icing on the cake. A 50k word meandering exhibition of how NOT to write a book. Lesson learned...I guess. It was time to move on.

So what did I get out of my experiment. Well, I have what some would consider an accomplishment to be proud of. I have completed a novel. Big deal. I now have several completed novels and I'm sure before I leave this rock and move on to the next stage of existence, I'll have completed several more. That wasn't the point. I guess if anything I might have polished some skills in the stream of consciousness area. Let it flow, don't look back, just write, baby, write. Over the course of the month I averaged over 1500 words a day, bumping my average up considerably from my normal, pounding out of a first draft, pace. I also added more hours per day to my writing schedule than my usual hour in the morning before I have to get my ass over to the job that pays the bills (or at least some of them). So I guess I could say now I know I can do it. Terrific. I'll be sure to put that in my memoirs that will probably never get written because I've certainly got a lot of rewriting and editing to do.

Which brings me to the big question that I started the month of December off with. Where do I go now? Surprisingly a writing project has presented itself that, while not something I would have ever thought of on my own, has the potential to not only make me some money, but also broaden the scope of my skill set. I'll divulge more on this as it unfolds, but for right now I'll just say the timing is perfect. I have two first drafts to work on rewriting and as we all know, rewriting and writing aren't the same creatures. I always hate getting into rewrites because I feel that as a writer I should be writing something new at all times. But once I start writing something new, the older stuff that needs work usually gets pushed aside. For example, the rough draft I have of my book "Paramount," which has been sitting for almost exactly a year waiting for me to get back to it. It's become somewhat of an elephant in the room when it comes to my file folder where I stick my work. This morning I opened that folder and, for the first time in a year, went through the first couple of pages. Yeah, maybe it has potential.

As for my Nanowrimo novel "Auto Focus" (working title only), it will be there. It's not going anywhere, and neither am I. I already wrote about distractions, well, I'm certainly not lacking any of those. Maybe I'll get back to "Auto Focus" (again, that' just a working title only) before 2012 rears its ominous head.

Hee Haw

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Diversions, Distractions, and Other Words that Start with D

Diversions are such occurrences, either created intentionally or encountered by accident, that sidetrack and/or otherwise delay completion of the task at hand.

Distractions are of a smaller scale, although sometimes a distraction can grow to become a full on diversion.

Really, I'm just talking out of my ass right now. I haven't actually looked up any definitions for either of these words (definition being another word that starts with the letter 'd'), so feel free to disagree with my interpretations.

In case you haven't guessed already, today's topic is inspired by my continual need to plow forward on my current project--that being this silly novel I'm trying to write in a month's time. Regarding this, I've checked out a few of the sites floating around the internet where writers talk about writer stuff, to see if anyone really succeeds in this task. I assumed that, like myself, I would find all sorts of folks commiserating on their lack of progress and the feeling that they're churning out nothing but stinky piles of crap, and I would feel okay about being just under where I should be at this point in the game. Instead I find just the opposite. People who have already surpassed the 50k word goal and are working on the sequel to their nano-novel. What? You're going to write a series of books in a month? Plus, some of these people get very offended when it's suggested that what they're writing may not be quite the quality you would find in a work that...well...let's just say some people are convinced that they can write an epic novel in a month and it will come out publishable.

Good for them.

Given this, I can only assume that in these people's lives, they are not plagued with the diversions and distractions I seem to run across every day.

But here's the thing...Isn't that what life is? A series of diversions and distractions to fill the days until you die? I know that sounds pretty fatalistic. But even in the pursuit of higher meaning, aren't you just looking for a way to keep from being bored? I say this with a bit of my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, but still, I can't help but allow that idea to creep in, out, and around my brain from time to time. Is there such a thing as a worthwhile diversion, or a legitimate distraction? Or, when it all comes down to it, is one time-waster just the same as another. If that is true, then maybe it's best to pick a pursuit that truly motivates you and stick to it. You like watching TV? Go for it with all the gusto of Kobe Bryant practicing his jump shot. Do you enjoy crafts? Perfect! Make the most beautiful string of beads or paper mache donkey imaginable. Focus your energy on one thing and one thing only with your goal being sheer perfection. And if that makes sense (and I suppose that's fine if it does), as long as whatever pursuit you obsess over is something that truly inspires you, brings you joy, and positively affects others in the same way, then diversion and distraction lose their negative connotations.

Now perhaps it's just me, but if I try to spread myself around too thin, then the quality of everything I'm doing suffers. I quit writing music to write words. I can't imagine doing both very well at the same time. Maybe some people can, but I can't. That's just me being honest with myself.

Then again, maybe it all comes down to desire. Another "D" word, as is Defeat.

Hee Haw

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Numbers update

Only time enough for the numbers...

Okay, okay, maybe I'll post another excerpt as well.

As of 2:23 pm on the 10th day of Nano, here's where I stand.

Cumulative word count = 14,870
Average words per day = 1,487
Suggested daily word count = 1,667
Days remaining = 20
Words remaining = 35,130
Words per Day to Finish on Time = 1,757

Okay, so I'm lagging behind a little, but the day isn't over yet. Still, I went to the nano forum over at Absolute Write and found the thread where people post their nano word count. I tell you, this thing is insane. There are people already over the 50k word mark. How in all that is holy does anyone write that fast without it being complete gibberish?

Okay, here's the excerpt I promised.

Something about the mornings these days seems darker than mornings are supposed to be. I take that as a bad sign—a sign that the world is actually growing darker, and if I were to guess, I’m the only one on the whole entire planet who’s noticing.
Not to sound like a parrot, but again, this comes back to the camera. Through the lens of this device, I can see things. Things no one else can. Things, like those old Chinese people trying to imagine the internet, no one could ever wrap their heads around. And if you’re reading this, then you won’t be able to wrap your head around it either unless I go into some big old long explanation.
So here goes.
As long as I can remember, I’ve never been what most people would call normal. Yeah, I know everyone thinks they’re something different, or special, or weird. People, I’ve figured out from reading books on psychology and junk, have a need to think of themselves as individuals. But when it all comes down to it, most people are all pretty much alike. Take the kids at my school. They all try to dress the same, watch the same TV shows, eat the same food, listen to the same kind of music. And sure, I try to do all those things too. But I’m a victim of circumstances. I mean how many kids do I know who are piano prodigies?
If you guessed zero, then you’d win something. Except I’ve got nothing to give you, unless you want me to play a Chopin etude, or a Bach fugue. Or maybe you’d like to take a shot at keeping the world safe from the powers of darkness.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


So I've been telling you all about this Nanowrimo thing I've been doing and questioning why in god's name I picked this year to jump into it. I had a light bulb moment last night where I realized that events currently dragging on my life have created a need for me to look for distractions. This is a survival mechanism, one I developed at a very young age, and which I can attribute to all those hours I would spend at the piano perfecting what I now consider to be a mediocre but serviceable talent. Believe me, I would like nothing more than to live in reality but honestly, sometimes it's just too damn hard.

Anyway, before I expend any more words, I thought for today I'd give anyone interested a peek at what will certainly be the world's worst novel. Keep in mind this is raw, unedited material that has none of the benefits of thought and or care as to quality or redeeming value. So here you go. I can feel myself getting dumber every day.

BTW, this is intended to be a middle grade paranormal piece. Something of which I'm sure is over-saturated in today's book market.

Chapter 1

For me it all started with that stupid camera. Now I know that’s being a little self-absorbed and all, since the fate of humanity is hinging on the brink of extinction, but since I somehow seem to be at the center of this whole mess I think I have every right to allow myself a little me time every once in awhile, in between trying to save the world.
Now before you get lost in all this cryptic talk about the end of all things as we know it and some strange camera thing, maybe I’d better back up because I want to make this as clear as possible. None of this is my fault. I swear. I’m not just saying that because in the past I’ve notoriously tried to shift blame for my actions in any direction but the one that leads directly to me, but because it is the honest to god’s truth. I mean how can I be blamed for something I had no control over? As in apparently this was my destiny from before I was born, which sounds a little egotistical, but I swear it’s true. If this was like a movie there’d probably be some sort of Oracle or something who could verify this after a lot of misdirection and life-tests and guidance by a wise older master leading me along my chosen path and all that other righteous nonsense. Believe me it’s not like this story hasn’t been told over and over before because it has. Just not with me as the main character.
So since this isn’t a movie, and as far as I know there isn’t an oracle, at least not that I’ve met, how, you might ask, do I know I’m so special. Well, the thing that iced it for me was the dreams. Sure, everyone has dreams, and for the most part mine had never been all that extraordinary. Just the usual fare, like giant spiders, and trying to run with feet that feel like they were made of concrete. Maybe at some point even those will end up coming into play when the time is right. But this, like all things in my life lately, comes back to the camera. The one I inherited from my grandpa. The one given to him by an old Chinese guy back when cameras didn’t fit in your pocket and Facebook and Twitter and all that other internet stuff was way beyond anyone’s imagination. No, this device doesn’t produce pictures of all those fun things going on in my life that I can put on the internet to impress my friends. Friends, by the way, of which in my case are admittedly few and far between. Oh, there’s Jimbo, and Cleo…
I can’t really talk about them right now. It’s just too hard. Maybe later.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Update - Day 8

That's right folks, day eight and I'm hanging in there. From here on out I'm not going to waste a lot of words on these pages because God knows I need them for my nano novel (and to write scathing letters that I will probably never send to people who have crossed me). So here's the numbers as of right now.

Cumulative word count = 11,355
Total words remaining - 38,645
Current day = 8
Days remaining - 22
Average words per day = 1420
Words per day to finish on time = 1757

So it looks like I've got to pick it up a little bit, but not much considering my average page-per-day count when I'm writing a real novel is between 500-700.

Back to it.
Hee Haw

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Numbers

First off you all have to know how silly I feel doing this. As in, how much more of a dork can I be to participate in this Nanowrimo thing and then, even worse, use it as a jumping off point for my blog? But here's the deal. I'm in it, and as long as I'm in it I may as well play it up for all the dorkiness this process affords. I will say this. Even now as I type away, I've already developed this mindset of stretching sentences out to include superfluous verbiage in the quest to run up the word count in as expedient a manner as possible. The thought has crossed my mind that perhaps this is a dangerous precedent, as the craft of novel writing is to make every word count (okay, I see you rolling your eyes). Keep the reader hungry for more, not fleeing for the nearest exit to avoid a bombardment of excessive letter bombs being flung their way. I'm sure everyone who is a reader has run across a book they simply couldn't finish because they had to stop every three seconds to clear a path through the weeds simply to comprehend what that fifty word sentence was really trying to say. In fact, one of the areas in which I've trained myself to be painfully cognizant of, is that it's very easy for me to overwrite. If there was a support group for this addiction--something along the lines of "Overwriters Anonymous" I would be the first one to jump up, coffee in hand, and introduce myself to the group.

But this "Nano" thing pushes the writer to do exactly the opposite. When you're trying to crank out close to two thousand words a day on a novel, you can't be afraid of adverbs and purple prose. Long, rambling paragraphs that do nothing to move the plot forward should be embraced. Telling, not showing is admired. As their website says, "Thirty days and nights of literary abandon," the operative word in that being 'abandon'. Abandon every thing you've ever read on how to write that bestseller. Write sentences that you would very, very, very much never allow in a final draft. As you may have notice, I'm doing it right now.

So here are my numbers as of day five: Total words written so far = 6,730. Total words written today = 1,404. Total words required today = 1,667. Words until today's goal is met = 263. Current trend - 2 days behind schedule. Words per day to finish on time = 1731. Total words needed to finish = 43,270.

Again, if I was reading this on someone else's blog I'd be rolling my eyes in disdain. This whole thing goes against every principle I've established in my philosophy of artistic expression. I've always been a quality over quantity guy and this...well...this ain't that. But like I said, I'm in it, and if there's one principle I place over all others, it's that commitments should not be made lightly and I've committed to do this because shying away from new experience and alternative lifestyle methods is like poison for the soul.

Hee Haw

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why Nanowrimo? Why now?

That's right, folks. It's November and guess what? Everything I've ever said about they say, never say never. In the past I've poo poo'd the whole nature of the beast. As in, why do I need to take a month out of my serious pursuit of being a novelist to crank out so many words of crap just because some stupid website arbitrarily declared this as a valid use of a writer's creative energy? I mean really. I don't need the good people at Nanowrimo to kick me in the butt to get me writing regularly. I'm pretty much always working on something new. As someone who stands firm in the belief that I have a "calling" to string together words in a coherent fashion so as to tell stories that are entertaining, meaningful, and relevant, I'm also convinced I must discipline myself to practice my craft each and every day, otherwise I'll fail. So why should November be any different than any other month?

Maybe it's just because Nanowrimo is cool sounding.

Now here's the thing. All other pursuits aside, my current workload looks like this: One novel out for submissions, meaning I've got one book (Matthew Newman) I feel is complete enough that I want to throw it against the wall and see if it sticks. Another book (Paramount) is completed in first draft, meaning I wrote a 100k-plus word "outline" that's waiting patiently for me to gather the courage to go back and face the reality of how terrible it might be. Such is the nature of first drafts. Finally, I've started another project (Piano Lessons) of which I'm at the mid-point in the construction process; as in, it's 45k words of drivel with no clue as to how I'm going to finish it up. Sounds promising. Hmmm...seems like I'm forgetting something. Oh yeah, there's this blogging thing I've gotten back into, and facebook, and the NBA season's just getting started (go Lakers), and the job I go to everyday that keeps me from living under a bridge. You'd think that would be about all my senile old brain could handle without putting me into catatonia.

So now, for whatever reason, I've decided to jump on this Nanowrimo band wagon. I've become one of "those people" I previously scoffed at as not being dedicated enough to do it on their own. For this I've decided to take on a re-imagining of my first attempt at novel writing. It's a middle grade book that started off basically as a memoir of my childhood and, of course, ended up with a paranormal bent to it. Why I've decided to revive this old chestnut is one of those questions of what do you do when you hear the Universe speaking. In my vast experience with life on this planet (ha), I may have finally learned that the answer to that question is: you listen. Besides, at this particular junction, I need all the distractions I can get my hands on as the rest of my life at the moment is...well...let's just not go there.

So I can do this. It's a challenge. It's going to push me to pick up the pace and write in a different style than I'm used to. And perhaps, at the end of the month I'll have another unfinished manuscript to keep my other projects company while I get my shite together. Like I've always said, you can't edit something that hasn't been written. At least I won't have that to worry about that anytime soon.

Hee Haw

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

So What If...

What if our entire universe is no more than a microbe on the ass of some being so big it's beyond our comprehension. Now right at this very second I would bet my last wooden nickel that when you read that sentence you tried to imagine the illusion I created, and that, perhaps, is my goal. To help people, through the use of words and thought, think about aspects of existence that perhaps they wouldn't have otherwise. If that's the case--if you tried to imagine the unimaginable--then good deal. Maybe I'm on the right track.

But here's the thing. The illusion I just created is unimaginable. Like I said: beyond our comprehension. So why even try? The only answer I have for that is it must be something in our nature to want to understand the bigger picture; the one that eludes even the most brilliant of minds on the planet. Will a time ever come when we, as human beings, ever understand the bigger picture? Does anyone really care? Will we ever know it if we do? And what's in those cup o' noodles things that look like vegetables?

No wonder I don't sleep at night.

Hee Haw

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Follow up.

So it's all about human nature and our purpose. Perhaps that's what I was implying in my last post. Nothing so much as a howdy doo from the great beyond. Yeah, this one we'll have to figure out on our own.

What's this got to do with the main function of this vessel of communication? Yeah, this blogging bullshit I started with the idea in mind that it would chronicle my journey as a writer. At this moment in time, I'm finding that journey is a lot longer and more treacherous than I had originally imagined. Cats scratching, dogs barking, bears grizzling, and several humans on the inside of the bubble laughing at the silly fools on the outside who are trying to penetrate their private club. Why, dear god, didn't I decide to become an electrician, or an HVAC specialist? Those guys are set. They don't have the angst us creative types live with every millisecond of every day wondering when the superiority of their intellect and their genius will finally pay off, and they get a pretty good paycheck to boot. It's enough to drive someone even more insane than they already are. Accurate to the point that insanity is certainly a prerequisite for an artist of any type - at least one that considers that what they do, they do because they have no choice. How many times have I told myself that my work is something valid and worthwhile whether or not its got any sort of mass appeal? I'll tell you: a whole bunch. Has it progressed my work any? Am I respected? Do I have a sense of purpose? You know what? Yeah, fuck it! Nobody likes me, nobody cares that I suffer for this shit, and probably will until I kick this flesh and bone shell to the curb and move on. Hopefully in the next life I'll come back as a plumber.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Hello it's Me...

I don't know why, then again there are a lot of things I don't know, but something brewing inside me spoke and told me to blog once again. Let's see here, it's's been a long damn time since I posted a blog. It's a chore keeping this up, and I for one have enough chores on my table already. But when it comes down to it, if there's anything I feel essential to manage, among all the other trivial bullshit functioning humans are required to do on this god forsaken rock we're stuck on, it's my words. Words are king. I treat them like precious gems to be taken out and displayed with pride. Without words, we might as well be plants.

Okay. Enough said. Here's what's on my mind. Thanks to a co-worker of mine for bringing this up in discussion, the topic of people who feel entitled when it comes to wealth and authority. What separates those who are insanely successful from the larger segment of the population who are just as competent, but never seem to crack that bubble of prosperity? Is it a personality trait? Is it sheer drive and determination? Is it better organization (or organisation if you're from fucking England)? I've seen several examples that prove that people at the top of the game (notice I said 'the' game, not 'their game) are no more skilled, experienced, or intelligent than many others wallowing near the bottom of life's prosperity ladder. Managers running companies who don't have a freaking clue how to do their jobs, but who, for some reason, get the breaks when it comes to raises and promotions. Musicians, artists, and writers who have no more talent than the guy busking for spare change on the street with a beat up guitar. What creates this imbalance? Perhaps this is a question for the Universe, that this is some mystical plan that keeps the world spinning on its axis, a process that is simply too complex for the tiny pea-brained humanoid to comprehend.

Yeah, that's as good an explanation as any. Let's go with that. Thanks, I'll be sure to take that with me into the next life.

Hee Haw