Thursday, November 05, 2015

In the Beginning of Any Campaign of Conquest, Inventory Must Be Made First of Goals and Then of Resources

My goal is simple:
Sell books.
“Books” is a broad term. It includes comics, novels, movies, and whatever else I collaborate to produce. It includes books that I produce alone, books I produce in collaboration, and books in whose distribution I have a hand in any way.
My resources are as follows:
  1. My wit
  2. My mind
  3. Words
  4. The internet/new technologies in general, including blogging platforms, vlogging platforms, word processors, video and sound editing software, and other things that I understand or that I know I could easily learn; also, the content stored in the same
  5. My charms, natural and practiced
  6. My perspective, by which I understand that the tools on this list do not necessarily adhere to preordained patterns
  7. My memory, with which I compile information like this:
I once heard a good piece of advice, which I will rephrase for the sake of pithiness:
Avoid overestimating what you can accomplish in one year; never underestimate what you can accomplish in five years.
My goal is objective. My tools are incontrovertible and simple.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Verbosity of the Lamb: The Cyborg Anatomy of Stories

Kristen Lamb is an intelligent and eloquent writer and blogster. You can see her blog here.
She does this thing that many writers do, which is to describe the methods and means of storytelling and writing via metaphor. A sensible mode of instruction, of course. Tried and true as a thing that's been tried a lot and determined to be pretty true.
Thing is about metaphor, though, is it's like describing things with smells: when done aptly, has the power to reach into people and make them remember their childhood like the smell of vomited summer squash (a traumatic memory of mine, at least).
Her metaphors work well usually. She describes plot as the story's bones and she describes the antagonist as the story's engine. I like both of these ideas, not the least because they imply that stories are a kind of diesel-punk skeleton monster, tortured to action by the very thing that gives it life, which sounds cool (and I'll be logging it away as a thing to write about someday). There's a metaphor she uses that I don't think works, and that's something she says about character.
Characters, she says, are like your story's heart.
I don't think so, and this is why:
In modern, western culture, the heart does two things: it provides (figuratively) provides emotion, and (literally) maintains life. I agree that characters have a part in giving stories life and emotion, but I don't think that those are a character's primary functions.
I think that a better metaphor to describe characters in stories would be fingers. This is why: if the diesel-punk skeleton from above has a heart, but no fingers, then it's an interesting idea, but it doesn't do anything. With fingers, the diesel-punk skeleton has the ability to move around and change things.
In a reductionist practice of analysis, stories need to move around. They need to misdirect, conjure, scratch, play music, make signals, conduct, strike out...they need to move. Characters provide movement--they're interactive--they do things.
I do not disagree that the diesel-punk skeleton/Antagonized Plot requires some sort of emotional center and maintainer of life like a heart; I also don't think that the fingers/characters would be divorced from the emotive and living functions of the heart. The characters, I will forever contest, express ever significant part of stories--the "heart" included. I just think that the heart of stories is kept somewhere other than in its characters.
I think that the heart of stories is kept in the reader and the writer, but I'm not sure how to describe that, so I'm going to think about it for a while before I try to explain.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Clark Kent! Master at Flip Cup (special guest Within Temptation)

Do you know that moment when you've always suspected you had a skill but you've never had any evidence of it? Like when Harry Potter dscovered he could wiggle his ears, or when Clark Kent turned out to be a mean Flip Cup competitor, or that story we all know about the spider playing clarinet.... Or that could be a dream I had. Anyway, that moment occurs sometimes, and we discover ourselves to be a more complete human being than we had previously, dismally supposed.

Two days ago it happened to me. The art and literary magazine I was on the staff for at school was having its release. I was head of promotions so I was in charge of the party. I volunteered to be MC. I knew when I volunteered that it would be a small sort of nightmare. That never worried me, however. No matter what happened, the book had been printed on time and on budget, so any further success was gravy.

That knowledge relaxed me. Which turned out to be fortunate since at first it seemed that every possible thing went wrong. We wanted some of our poetry and prose contributors to read for us, also they needed to be introduced by the three editors of the different genres we had represented in the magazine; additionally we had a quite intelligent but also deaf art director who had prepared a statement to be interpreted by some very talented ASL interpreters; before all of them went on, we had two dudes in charge of explaining that this was the first year the magazine would have an online version, so the secondary online journal lady needed to get up and introduce the primary online journal viking dude; and prior to all of that our faculty advisor needed to get up and give a two minute spiel on the value of why we were gathered here today. All that needed to happen, and no one had prepared anything, and not everyone had expected to go on, and our contributors just trickled in, and I'd never met any of them before though they did, fortunately, all end up appearing...and I hadn't written any jokes.

It was a complete nightmare, theoretically. As it turned out, though, I have a pretty good head under that kind of pressure. I got everyone lined up, gave them a brief idea what was going to happen and where they stood in the arrangement. Then I kicked back and let it all roll out. I introduced the event, the book, and all the people. Under the circumstances, it seemed to go beautifully.

Quite encouraging, really.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Speech I'm about to Deliver

Three quotes:

Aristotle’s definition of man: “Man is a reasoning animal.”

Niccolo Machiavelli on the possession of power: “Some are born to power, some rise to it, while others have power thrust upon them.”

And the Dalai Lama on the voice of the universe: “The universe has no voice of its own. We are the voice of the universe.”

So if reasoning mankind is the voice of the universe, with our voice expressed in words, who is the voice of mankind? Nowhere is the devotion to expressing the breadth of humanity more masochistically obsessive than in the writer. This gives the writer a unique kind of power, not begotten, nor earned, nor bequeathed, but something different. The power most respected we reasoning animals is the intellectual heritage of our forebears, to which influence we bow more fiercely than to any living king. And it is said that history is written by the victor. This is not true. History is written by the guy with the pen, and he has the power to turn a fair and stately ruler into a conniving hunchback for all eternity.

A hefty power. And ironically an ill-respected one. The voice of the writer is always heard and his name oft forgot. In this soundbite world made of immediate colors and loud noises the writer is misunderstood. Writing is seen as esoteric and a luxury and in this heighth of literacy and age of easy publication everyone can write a book. And everyone does, desiring their voice in history they flood the market with half-conceived manuscripts. I have nothing bad to say about them. I believe everyone is entitled to not less than one pass at a book. But there are those who need to write as they need to breathe and now more than ever their voices are more difficult to hear above the crowd. Worse, the world, misunderstanding the need, tells the writer to stop--that they cannot succeed. A writer’s competition is more grisly than it has ever been. He must fight to be heard above those who would write because they feel like it and he must also fight against his own mind telling him that the world has predicted his failure.

Writing is necessarily, contrarily, and simultaneously a social and a lonesome endeavor. Its object is man so to be written of man must be observed, but to write of man a writer must find his voice in the silence. No one understands this contradiction better than other writers. The primary of humanity makes the writer feel himself alone, but the writer must have courage in order to succeed. Therefore, if you elect me to Office X of this fine body of individuals, I propose the invention of a statewide creative writing support program in which writers are given the opportunity to meet and talk and given tools to succeed. Writers cannot but write, and they will write about you. As it is, their climate of creation is bitter. We could improve it. Our great grandchildren will someday read what the writers of today have to say. So ask yourself: what review of the times would you have them leave behind? Are you destined to be a hunchback?

Monday, April 09, 2012

Do You Sing When You're Happy?

Anyone remember this song?

It might just be an idiosyncrasy of mine to say this, but sometimes objective clues tell me my mood better than my emotions. There are times when I feel neutral, but then I burst out singing. Usually I sing when I'm happy, although I sometimes sing when I'm sad, and sometimes when I'm vengeful. That I know more happy songs than sad ones prevents me from very often singing when I'm sad or otherwise unhappy. As a result, it's a good bet that a song from me is a happy one. Which has been good for me to know because at times I'll discover that I'm singing when I hadn't planned to and find that the mood-uncommitted-to-opinion of a moment earlier had a little bit more cheer in it than I thought.... Or I'm crazy.

Yegawds, I'm thinking in my public speaking teacher's voice, which is actually not good news. I shall go watch Neil Gaiman on Q TV. Sigh.

Okay, so yeah, am I alone in this weirdness? Or are there people out there who also use objective tells to judge their own emotions? It's weird.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

What Would You Write, with Opportunity to Do It?

What story would give you paroxysms of bliss to discover it coming from your imagination?

Yesterday I saw Christopher Moore give a talk to promote his new book, Sacre Bleu. He's a clever dude, and with Neil Gaiman I think one of the seventy people I aspire to be, or be very nearly similar to. Anyway, over the course of his talky talk, M. Moore had cause to explain some of his origin story, as it were. Most of M. Moore's origins--the explanations he gave for being how he was who he is--involved, essentially, dares. He wrote Practical Demon Keeping because Stephen King's literary agent said in the forward of some best-of-horror compilation that horror was great because it could be mixed with any theme...except whimsy. And M. Moore snickered at that and said "like hell!" and wrote Practical Demon Keeping, a whimsical horror novel. Since then he has written almost only whimsical horror, and been successful at it, if not successfully frightening all the time. But we take what is proffered. His air of accepting dares influenced all the stories of why he wrote, and I found that hilarious and I'm mulling it over. A different part of his attitude stuck with me, though; that being his joy in it.

M. Moore writes the stories he wants to read. That sounds reasonably intuitive. A writer is called to write that which he would be pleased reading. Many of my other influences share this sometimes childish glee in what they write. My buddy/mentore, Jenny, and our mutual demon-muse, Ali, take this sometimes creepy enjoyment in things like "jerkified corpses" and the general mayhem arising from unexpected monsters. The gore aside, they write stories that they want to read. They take pleasure in what they write. It's fun to see up close. And the pleasure they take in their stories is apparent in the reading of the stories themselves.

So my musing point: What do you like to read? As much as I do like stories and books, I'm having the devil's own time trying to figure out what I like reading. Like as not, I'm one of the few people like that. I'm trying to figure it out, however. I want to write what I like to read, but I'm not sure what I like to read. It's a peculiar predicament.

I'm going to stew on it, and no doubt produce some odd, ADD, obscure puzzle of a thing, pretty to its maker. In the meantime, just for discussing it, what story would you want to see produced? What weaving thing would you make with the time and energy, eh? Mine eyes are tearing with curiosity, dear heart.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Multi-Tasking, While Impossible, Still Sounds a Good Idea

Those two or three fans of my novel will be pleased to hear that it's going beautifully, after a fashion. I'm making progress upon it in leaps and zig-zagging bounds, which is possible it turns out. The writers reading this blog, however, will agree that working on the same project for too long all by itself can make imagination fester in stagnation, and I have been working on the same novel for a very long time. Lately I've been having the problem that I'm second guessing my novel. I'm ironing that out, righting wrongs and things. Anyone who's seen any of it knows there's a lot of imagination in the fantasy, and it will continue to need imagination. I'm too close to it and I'm missing things. The response many people have to this situation is a temporary abandonment of the project. That route is distasteful to me. To save it, however, I need to do something that aids in restoring my perspective. I think I've lighted on the solution.

Short stories. Lots of them. I'm going to remind myself of my novel daily, but I'm going to bring my study of creating short fiction to the forefront of my creative attention. That's it. Not too complicated. I seem to go on a kick like this every now and then, usually with more confidence than the last time. We'll see how this one goes.

Send me a message if you feel like your idea is the next big thing but you don't want to write it yourself. I might look at it.