Sunday, December 4, 2011

Setting some goals for myself

A shout out to fellow blogger Krista at itakethepen.blogspot.com.

I was reading her blog recently about setting goals and the importance about being flexible, because life has a funny way of distracting writers who are trying to write a story. Like who really wants to go to the grocery store? Or pump gas into the car?  Isn't there an app for that? No? There should be... :)

So, here's to setting some goals.

Goal 1: Writing is fun.

Goal 2: 1,000 words a night.

Phew! Now that I've got my goals etched in pixels, that short story doesn't seem such a daunting task after all!

Now... *taps chin* what adventures should these characters take?

*grins*

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Having trouble developing characters in your story? Try this tip

I hit a stumbling block the other day as I was developing characters for my current WIP. As I started to flesh them out I began to realize something in my process that I hadn't noticed before. Maybe it was subconscious. Maybe it's because I lean toward a specific character type. I don't know why exactly but a light came on.

Most characters we create start out as a concept, in some form or another, and as we mold them with ideas and opinions and dialogue and all the other cultural nuances, they start to develop personalities, and start to make choices. I don't know about you, but I'll write a scene of dialogue for a character to familiarize myself with his or her voice. It helps to read it out loud too. :)

The other night I was crafting my WIP, and like I said, I stumbled onto something. There's no name for it. Just polarities, I suppose. I guess I could call it Four Square, but isn't that taken?

I digress...

Imagine a square split up into four quadrants. Quadrant I, or the upper right hand corner, is the character's Spirituality. To the left, in that upper corner, is the character's Leadership. Below that, in the lower left corner, is the character's Impulse (now opposite the character's Spirituality). And to the right, in that corner, is the character's Destiny (now opposite the character's Leadership). Draw a line between opposites. Cool, huh?

So what does all this have to do with a character in your story? It's just a reminder that whenever your character does something impulsive it pulls him away from his spirituality, and vice versa. The same is true of the character when he moves toward his destiny. He moves away from leadership. Because following one's destiny means following one's own path, not ahead of the path of others, although often a leader is made along the way... Aragorn, for example. It's also important to note that Spirituality and Destiny, share a side, as they face the outside world together. And, also, the same is true, as you move around the square. Spirituality + Leadership; Leadership + Impulse; Impulse + Destiny. See what I mean? You can start to see your character's struggles in these areas; your character's ability to cope or not cope.

Is your character not coping? Perhaps he's trying to lead his impulses. A lot of villains stay in this area if they never leave it. Remember, too, that this isn't some hard and fast categorization. It's just a tool to help you visualize how your character is moving through the story. It also doesn't mean that a character can't jump around between them in a single chapter. It can happen. This tool is just to give you some perspective on where the character might be in a conversation, or in his thoughts. If he's always spiritual, and moving toward his destiny, then he's far from his impulse and leadership. Also, a leader can be leading people toward destiny. But is it a safe voyage? That's all for you, er, the characters to decide.

Hope this helps. :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

World building from the map up...

A long time table-top RPG player and game master, I like me a good setting as much as I enjoy creating 'em. I would spend hours over a table with dozens of pencils and a stack of paper -- early on I used square-grid or hexagon-grid sheets, and then moved onto blank sheets.

It's important to say that world building from the map up is always a map in progress because at any given time you can draw a tighter map, focusing on a very specific area with fully-detailed roads, villages, towns, farms -- even that oak tree where young love blossoms.

My world building rarely begins with a coastline. Most of the time it starts as a few letters. An "M" to represent a mountain. See it? Two snowy white peaks... Then as I draw them I change up their size. The larger the M, the bigger the mountain. If I think of a name for the mountain range, I just jot it down somewhere nearby. Then, as I cluster them together I start to think about who would live there. Dwarves? Ogres? Bears? Snow leopards? Wolves? The list starts to form. Keep in mind they're just lists. This is world building, not an enemy list for your heroes. It's all in progress so at any time you can draw a line through any of those creatures, but never erase them. Ideas shouldn't be erased. They should be edited. Modified. Edited into a final draft, much like your story.

And as I would overlap those letter M's some of them get sent into the background. And as I did that I would jot down other enemies. You see the trigger here is what inhabitants and what creatures co-exist and which ones don't.

Eventually, I'll move into other geography. Rivers get the squiggle and bend, just like a letter S, snaking through the world. What might those rivers be like? Roaring, calm, shallow, deep, murky, a gate to the elemental plane of water? You see the goal of a map isn't to immediately define its function. It's to give you seeds...

A map is the place(s) in which your characters live and thrive. Civilizations build and fall over time. Within them are people busy in their routines, hopes and dreams. They have troubles, near and far, some visible, while others search for power.

The important thing to remember here is geography becomes a foundation, not a limitation.

Your characters might feel trapped by the conditions of their life--but that's human nature, not the order of the natural world. Think about why people live in a forest, a mountain, along a river or coastline. Do these people need resources? That's a given. More importantly, what are these people like? Peaceful? Warriors? Farmers? Builders? Or, are they refugees, driven out of their homeland there by some tyrant? Where they exiled as punishment? Or, have they always lived there, perennially, able to trace traditions to their first ancestors? And if they can, how do they? A town square? A monument?

As these details emerge in the map, so will the societies in which your characters live, their political views, cultural expressions, and ultimately the place that gives birth to the heroes that will shape the world as they journey through that map.

Seeds...

Pencils at the ready...

... and...

M...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Duck season. No, rabbit season... No, bird season

It's official.

I'm officially, unconditionally, anatomically, diabolically, irreverently, enslaved to twitter.

That is all.

Or, should I say, does nanonomicon want a cracker?

Stuff it, beakie!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Music for the evening: Explosions in the Sky

... Listening to Explosions in the Sky while following the characters I've created for the Splintered Lands on some adventures. I've got a few plots in mind. Hopefully the SL Board will bite them.

I've got a three-parter that opens up opportunities for some slowing down. Although the first story was fast-paced in areas and slow in others, I left myself plenty of room to expand on them.

Back to the plotting board, or as our group once did, logged on to the Plot Barn.

Happy writing...

Adventures await!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I'm getting published!

Yesterday was like a good-vibe overload.

It started early in the day after getting breakfast together for everyone. Scrambled the usual eggs and cooked the usual cut-up potatoes in oil, garlic, and chili powder. (I think I even grabbed coffee, too.)

But honestly, since I opened the e-mail, the last (nearly) two days have been a total blur. A good-vibe sensation. I sent the final draft out to the pub last week and hadn't immediately heard anything. From my experience in this digital correspondence world not hearing right away doesn't mean much, but when a story gets rejected, it gets rejected almost immediately. Who knows why... But so far that's been my experience.

So, for the last week, I checked e-mail. Looking. Wondering. Laughing ay myself for chewing fingernails in my head. But, hey, that's the risk... right?

An artist isn't an artist until he's critiqued...

The story idea started a few months back when a long-time friend of mine tipped me off to The Splintered Lands. Part social-networking, part shared world, part open reserve for unpublished authors to sink their teeth into a post-apocolyptic fantasy setting.

Something about this group piqued my interest. Not sure what. Well, after a few weeks of going back and forth I decided to pitch an idea.

They looked at it, replied with suggestions to make the story fit better; gladly adjusted them, and then sent it back. It was like this for a few e-mails...

Then the writing began.

From the get go I knew that I wanted to try a different convention than I've ever attempted. In the end, I think--at least I hope--the characters and the story benefitted from it. Early on I typed away like a fiend. The first words I typed were: I am.

But as with life things come up. I got distracted. I left the story. Came back to it. Thought about it. Put myself in it. Turned away to focus on the things happening in my life, and for many months didn't touch it.

It's been in the back of my thoughts the whole time.

So, a few weeks ago, I came back to it, and within a few sessions I finished it... phew...!

But I didn't send it. I held it back. And looked at it again a few days later. I'm glad I didn't send it. Needed a polish? Yup. Needed fresh eyes? Yup. (That's my years of journalism talking, BTW.) When newsrooms use the word edit, what they often mean is the reporter is too close to the story to see the (facets of the) story. So the extra eyes accomplish many things. Mainly for accuracy, chiefly for context. Readers are often around longer then the journalists and might be able to nimbly recall historical details the reporter may not.

I gave it another crafting round.

And sent that.

A week later I got the news every author wants to hear: We would like to publish your work.

Cloud 9.

Or, as we say around here: 88-13.

It's an old phrase my girlfriend's daughter--the Twilight fan (remember?)--said when she was a little girl. For her, it meant the ultimate joy. The impossible, possible. The best day ever. Ever. 88-13.

And, guess what. The SL Board wants to see more stories. Oh, what a day.

Can't wait to see it published.

Published. Did I just say that out loud? Really?

REALLY?

88-13!

Friday, November 18, 2011

A month of well-mannnered frivolity... NaNoWriMo style :)

I'm going to try to say it three times fast.

Babbling
Bumbling
Band of
Baboons


Babbling
Bumbling
Band of
Baboons

Babbling
Bumbling
Band of
Baboons

Yeah, I got nothing on the Weasley twins.



But on NaNoWriMo... I am laying the smack down.

NaNoWriMo, you ask. Let's get a few things clear: it's not haiku for little people, or poetry written by the Space Time Continuum. Although that would be interesting. For me it's about the little things.

I feel a chant coming...

All the small things. Truth care and truth brings... hmm-mmm-hmmm--

My mind is all over the place today.

Got some good news. Some great news... and still waiting to hear about a short story I submitted. Over all a great month. My friends have talked about NaNoWriMo for years. And they've all encouraged me to give it a shot. Why not? It's a month of absolute writing bliss. Well, it's supposed to be that way. One month. That's all. I can do it--

But I'm a very slow writer. My usual daily word count is somewhere around 300 words. Sometimes I can hit 500. On a very rare occasion I can dart passed 1,000. But if you've got kids. You know what I mean when I say that by the end of the day you're exhausted. I have two toddlers. Not so easy. Breakfast by 9:30. First nap at 11:30. Lunch at 1:30. Second Nap at 2:30. Break, for, oh, maybe 45 minutes. By this time I've got either West Wing, Start Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Smallville, or Heroes playing in my computer. Then its dinner prep and cooking. By the time I sit down to write it's close to 8:30.

So, I knew that going into this National Novel Writing Month the obstacles were great. There was no way in hell that I would even approach half of that number, until I put my mind to it.

I said screw it. I'm doing this cerebral triatholon.

Well, it's week three and I've clocked in more than 30,000 words. Not bad for 18 days. Not bad at all. But there have been some effects. I'm tired more throughout the day. Some of my writing rambles. I drink way much more coffee than normal. But really, in the end, what have I done?

Seriously?

What I have accomplished?

For starters. I attempted it.

That's not that huge, but it's huge for me. I don't like starting something and then quitting. Cuz once I'm invested I want to push myself. And learn from that experience. But more than anything, I like writing. I enjoy storytelling. For me storytelling is very much like cooking. How many recipes are there? How many ways are there to tell a story? You get the drift...

So, here I am. Pleased with myself. Wondering if I cane ver go back to writing only 300 words a day. By the way, the word count up to here is 492. (And I haven't even started working on my fiction yet.)

Ahhh. Feels wonderful.

I can't say that enough. Feels absolutely wonderful.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

There's a hole in my fantasy TV time slot...

I miss Legend of the Seeker, the television adaptation of Terry Goodkind's The Sword of Truth novels.

To get my viewing fix I've been watching it again on Netflix Instant, and I gotta say, I'm still bummed out the show was cancelled, but darn it if I didn't try to help the peeps at saveourseeker.com with some graphic design to get the powers that be to think about it one last time before dumping it.

There were a bunch of rumors floating around last year as to why the show got the axe, only after two seasons--and of course a ton of fans leaped at the opportunity to support the show and to convince the leadership to either bring the series back or sell it off to a network so that it might continue.

Rumors of a possible courtship between Scifi Channel and a few others (although these few others as far as I know weren't legitimate. I think I even heard Disney whispered in there, but who are we to actually know. These things are hush-hush until they're public. Like James Bond. MGM was getting cut up and so there was fear the greatest spy of movie history might be a 00 without his downturned pistol, that missing number 7).

It's too bad, really. Seeker was an awesome show.

Helmed by Spiderman director Sam Raimi, it featured a great cast of actors and those heroic characters that followed the journey of a hero learning the values of service in order to lead his people out from under the clutches of the villain, Darken Rahl.

Every episode had something memorable.

Sometimes it was a character, like the Listener (the boy who could read minds), the meddling witch Shota (who switched the Seeker with a groom on his wedding day) as well as a revolving cast of Mord'Sith, those treacherous assassin women sworn to serve Rahl.

Ah, it was just good fantasy storytelling. Deep. Rich. Funny. Sordid. Swashbuckling. You name it. the show had it. At least Seeker got to Season Two. The Charlie's Angels reboot didn't even get that far. It's getting harder to keep a good show on the air it seems.

Well, that's not entirely true.

The Walking Dead is doing just fine.

That might be because it's not competing in its time slot. It's on AMC, plus all the other issues affecting programming, advertising, audiences, local station buy-in, the list goes on. I'm no expert on television management but hey, if the show is good, I'll watch it. And buy the box sets.

And watch it again... and again.

Any other Seeker fans out there?

p.s. Its got 4/5 stars on Netflix. Don't know about Hulu, but I've heard good things there.

Friday, November 4, 2011

I don't suffer from short-term commitment loss. I'm a graphic artist!

For the past, oh, six months or so I've been balancing -- and when I say balancing I mean juggling, and why I say juggling what I really mean to say is working on several short stories (one a candidate for an anthology) and a few others an ongoing project with a few friends of mine, an iPhone video game app (with all the art done by yours truly), and an RPG game setting that if all goes well on that front will be publishing sometime next year.

But as will all projects, a deadline isn't a deadline until it's broken.

Good thing I don't have newsroom editors anymore, cuz crazy talk like that is just asking for trouble.

I was a newspaper designer for many years, so juggling projects even on deadline isn't really stressful.

Right now, it's finding the time to concentrate.

Designing A1s, Section covers, doubletrucks, you name it, for me like being a flowing river. I can work slowly, gently and find the idea, and then blitz over rocks, and then roar around bends. Design has always been easy to do. Problem is when I'm in the zone, everyone around me notices.

It just happens.

I start by warming myself up. Could be anything from checking Facebook or e-mail to calling a friend I haven't heard from in a while. And if it takes an hour to catch up, so what. Work can wait, because in the end, when I start designing my fingers are flying across the keyboard and holding down those hot keys.

A few hours later, I've got a mock-up, or a shell, as its referred to on the inside. A few rounds of does it work, does it flow, does it make sense, is it the right vision, the right message, the right art, and then its off to the finishing touches--unless its ripped because the news changed. Happens. I've designed an A1 twice in twenty minutes. Sounds monumental, but not really. Only some story packages get reworked.

That's the nature of the biz.

So, with all this experience is it any wonder that I'm always juggling a few projects simultaneously?

Nope.

The goal is to balance them and complete them.

So, here's to completing them, while doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, finding time for a shower and brushing my teeth, oh, and going to grocery store.

Hot keys, my friends and readers. It's all about the hot keys!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sounds Like Theme Spirit

For the past few months I've been huddled over my computer crafting a modern-day supernatural storyline, with a huge cast of characters, that, well, has taken me into a direction I was not expecting to tread.

I'm pulling out all the stops.

It's nothing I've ever attempted before. I'm pushing myself. Hard. Thanks to a few professionals in their respected fields I won't come off (crosses fingers) like an amateur...

Just for fun I decided to create a playlist for the main character cast featured in this first installment. I wasn't looking to compile a soundtrack, just something to listen to, something I could rely on for some occasional inspiration.

So, I dug around.

I'm still digging.

It's a different exercise for me, to consider a musical component as characterization, but can you honestly tell me you can't instantly recognize the theme song or a featured artist of your favorite sitcom or drama, or movie trailer?

Yeah, I can name about fifty off the top of my head... starting with Remy Zero, then The All American Rejects, and very close after that One Republic; the list goes on to include many artists my friends didn't know rotated in my playlist...

Oh, like Filo and Peri, or Eva Cassidy, or Face to Face, or Metallica.

Do any of these sound familiar?... (:

See you guys around.

It's back to the story...

Friday, July 15, 2011

It was inevitable. Life sucks.

Baring fangs...

I have turned this crappy string of luck into a deep well of emotional resource material for a storyline I have been developing. I'm broadening my genre writing. Most of the time I craft high fantasy stories. I've decided to dabble into the paranormal.

Oh, not just any paranormal.

A spectrum of it.

Can't tell you anything of course.

It would ruin the surprise.

But just think of it as my way of branching out, while still keeping to my fantasy roots, because in the end isn't paranormal just fantasy anyway, but with a different stereotype? I'm not talking vampiric elves here... I'm talking about zombies and werewolves.

But--thumbs twiddling--which to choose, and why?

This'll be the shortest blog I've written so far because I can't turn away from developing the setting for too long. There's just so much in my head...

I'll keep everyone posted on when the first installment will be released, and where you can pick up a copy, or e-copy... (:

Monday, July 11, 2011

My boy could win a shatter glass contest with his screech

If you've spent even an hour with us you'll know what I mean when I say JJ can sing.

He can belt out those high notes like Mariah Carey.

He can scream bloody murder better than the bimbo running for her life in a horror flick.

I think we can it and send it to a movie exec as a gag gift, complete with resume and glamour shot. Who knows, right? JJ might get noticed and be on his way to a wonderful career in scream acting.

Did I mention that the other day he screamed so loud my ears were ringing for about a half hour afterward? Yeah, it was that bad. Too bad we weren't cruising through an elven forest. They could have shot him in the dark.

Or better yet, send him to the School for the Gifted where Professor X can help him control his vocal chords, cuz the boy can put Banshee to shame.

Oh, yeah, I'm bragging. Because I can.

When I get around to it, I'll record him, and put it up on the blog. Maybe then, you'll have an appreciation for the absolute ear shattering screech he can produce. Then again, it's probably a precursor to some musical talent.

We have an old guitar lying around the house. First day he found it, he flexed his fingers gently, strumming the guitar with practiced ease. Not plucking at it like he was trying to snap the strings. No. Gentle, dancing, from his fingertips. Everyone who stops by comments. He's only 15 months old. Amazing.

I'm hoping to find him a good music teacher. Hopefully a teacher with ear plugs.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A new beginning and Moby Dick

Feels good to be hitting the keyboard again.

The click, click--

The tap, no wait, erase that--that's what I want! Yeah...

Most nights I'm working on a short story, novella or some form of writing.

Over the last few weeks I've been Facebook chatting with a good friend of mine. He's going through final edits for his sci-fi story. He's almost done. He's got cover art (and a cover design thanks to yours truly), some marketing ideas, and as we were talking about our respective heroes: his in a sci-fi world, and mine in a high fantasy world, we both realized how invaluable this experience has been. I'd say so far, but so far it isn't even close to being far from anything. Really, it's closer to a beginning.

A new beginning.

Oh, there's no cash flow yet. We may never make enough money to sustain rent or mortgage, but we can't say we haven't tried.

Most importantly we're having fun along the way.

In this e-publishing experience we've realized how important writing is to us. How reading... books period are important to us.

Reminds me of a conversation we had a few days ago when he said everyone is so busy trying to write the next big novel that they aren't writing something people want to read.

Might as well have handed out three for one coupons to Hometown Buffet. The next few hours were a blur. We talked about Melville, Dickens, King, and I think somewhere in there Hughes and Asimov and Sagan.

We talked about what is popular. Why it's popular. The changes in the industry. The push for independent artists. The publishing world in general. The economy and how it effects decisions, and then people, which if I remember correctly semi-coloned into Marx.

The road maps that publishers and authors have used for the last few decades are not so reliable anymore. Blame it on e-readers, blame it on book markets, blame it on genres, blame it on whatever you want to blame it on. There is no absolute to this constant disorientation in publishing.

Hours I tell you... just flew by. Not much writing got done, but it felt good that for those hours, huddled over the computer, coffee beside me, the whip-click-whip of the kitchen fan I felt like a university student again arguing virtues.

Someday we'll be adding our stories to the Kindle market. Someday we'll be adding our stories to the market after that. It's best to just keep a weather eye open because we're not just staring down Moby Dick from the bow, harpoon ready, fighting for our souls; we're trying to balance ourselves on swells, at the same time.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Team Edward or Team Jacob? Yeah, I'm surrounded. Switzerland!

Laugh all you want.

I had to pull out the Switzerland card.

My 12-year-old stepdaughter is a dedicated Twihard fan. She's not a crazy mess--take that back, she's all about Team Edward. She's got the posters, shirts, bags, calendars, (I think ringtones, but I haven't creeped her phone, because that's just not cool). Twihard? Yeah, she doesn't have to try that hard at all. She read the books like they were pasta.

Invariably, every few weeks we'll get dragged into a discussion about the series. As a dad I'm interested in talking about her interests with her, and I like to talk mad crap about the series.

But then she brings up Smallville, and we're having a go-around about the virtues of storytelling, my man-soaps, her girl-soaps, her like for Edward, I like Chloe... So round and round we go.

The other day, she caught me watching Eclipse without her.

Oops. Busted.

She let me have it.

I suppose I deserved it. Her mom just gave me a look that basically said, "You're on your own on this one."

In my defense, I like Victoria. Well, her new cast, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ron Howard's daughter. I grew up with Mayberry, with Happy Days, with Ron's list of movies, and one of his recent directions, Da Vinci Code, as well as Angels & Demons.

My favorite Bryce movie was an M. Knight film: The Village. Can't watch this movie enough. It's my second favorite M. Knight film, right after Sixth Sense, followed by the other M. Knight/Bryce team up, Lady in the Water.

You see where this is going?

I like Bryce. She can play innocent, sinister, and now Bryce is in another film slated for this year: The Help. Heard about it after my girlfriend and her daughter came back from the latest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Penelope Cruz is in that flick, too. She's steamy. Her accent? Just keep talking...

I don't have to try that hard at all either. I like me a hottie in a film just like my stepdaughter likes her hotties.

There's a gender divide, but hey, we get to talk about Twilight for a while. We get to talk about cool things (but I'm too old for cool. Drool? Not yet. I've got some decades in me still) and fill our day with some stepdad/stepdaughter time, which as any parent knows is like trying to pin down a zephyr. She's growing up so fast. I'm just trying hard to keep up with her. Best way to do that is to stay in the middle, somewhere in Switzerland.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

James Frey co-wrote I am Number Four?

At first I thought the pseudonym he used was intentional, as a way to get around the criticism he'd gotten for A Million Little Pieces. It's not.

But then again, I didn't have an issue with that book.

My issue was with the publisher for marketing A Million Little Pieces as non-fiction, rather than fiction. Oh, wait, not non-fiction, I later discovered, faction: the blending of reality and fantasy based in reality. Whatever. Whoever came up with that name dismissed James Frey's claim he intended the book to be fiction. It wasn't an intersection of factual research and his imagination.

It was fiction. Fiction is super-altered reality, fantastical. Ever seen a few drunk people at a bar? Yeah, the drunker they are the funnier they can be. Behavior doesn't border on crazy, it's down right fantastical. Same with drugs. The drug scene. Recreational drug use. My opinions on drugs are for another post. Don't infer anything. If you care to read, I'll write it.

James Frey had to go on Oprah and apologize. Timbaland feat. One Republic put it nicely: It's too late to apologize. That was intended for the publisher.

A Million Little Pieces shouldn't even count as faction. Ask anyone who's been drunk or blazed and they'll tell you. They don't remember facts, only images and feelings. So how could James Frey be held accountable for his drug-induced experience, or getting himself admitted to a drug clinic? How much of his recollection could be counted as true to fact? Can't. Too many facts couldn't be corroborated. Therefore it's fiction. Like the man said.

Got me thinking after I watched I Am Number Four on DVD the other day.

James Frey co-wrote Four under a pseudonym. At first I thought this was intentional after the backlash. A picture I found online shows him sporting a Civil War beard. I wondered if he was trying to misdirect viewers from remembering him or that he'd gotten to a point in his life where a clean shaven face just didn't matter. Did he really give a flying million pieces of shit?

Probably not.

I wouldn't. Especially after being told that his break-out novel was a complete piece of crap. Nearly ruined him. And while on Oprah, he had to apologize for the publisher. Total crap. But Oprah's praise can bring about unwanted scrutiny. I think that's what go the attempted discredit ball rolling. James Frey bounced back, but under a pseudonym.

Is that what authors have to do to keep writing? It's not we don't know he co-wrote Four. A simple Google search pulls it up. That's how the discredit ball got momentum: a few people searching the Internet to fact check James Frey. Not sure why they had to, but Oprah is a powerful woman. Someone wanted to see her fall down a little bit. Didn't work. James Frey got a lot of publicity for his appearance. Got humiliated too.

What originally drew me to Four was its screenwriters, the duo behind Smallville's first seven seasons, Gough and Millar. Any fan of the series can instantly recognize their stamp. They helped Sam Raimi bring Spider-man to the big screen.

Many viewers complained Four just took too long to get into the action. Which is true. But that's Gough and Millar for you. The humanity in Four builds until it reaches superhumanity. The adaptation seems simplified and typical comic book fair but the script is so well grounded the dialogue and controlled action feel natural, on the verge of greatness. And that's Gough's and Millar's talent. Super heroes develop. They're not instantly born.

The film follows the book very closely. Slow to build and then everything comes together.

It wasn't hard to see why Gough and Millar joined the project. They like struggling young heroes. 

Too bad the movie wasn't a hit. It had a decent turnout, but not enough warm seats for a sequel. Maybe not. James Frey continues to write. Gough and Millar continue to adapt stories.

Kept me realizing James Frey had created an undeniable form of fiction.

Check that box; and put the eraser away. 

So, what now Patticus Lore? Where is Four headed?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Smallville sparked a YA story

Lately I've been crafting a story that's been approved for consideration for an anthology, and while I know exactly where the characters are headed, the good guys and the bad guys, I've been working this story for the past few weeks. Working it hard.

There's something to the setting that grabbed my attention. I think it's the humanity. The reduction of it. The absolute naked truth to the setting. I have yet to explore that richness. But it's a harsh world. And while I am fully enjoying the story I have to step away from it for a bit. There's no official date for the anthology's release but I know the date is looming.

While taking a break I was rummaging through some folders on my desktop and rediscovered a young adult story I was developing a few years back, about four years ago, I think. I got the idea while watching an episode of Smallville.

The story started out as notes, as most of my stories do. I had a main character. I had a few friends. A foil. A few villains. And the nemesis. And I had the setting, along with its magic system. But I shelved the story right around the time I was changing jobs. I cam back to it while working as a part-time newspaper designer for a citizen journalism model project and would have started it up again but was later hired as the art director for a different start-up newspaper. It's been a few years now, and I completely forgot about the series until the other night.

Man, why did I stop writing this? I was reading through my notes and some short stories I wrote about various characters and I gotta say I fell right back into that world. It's as though I never left.

It's got all the usual fantasy components, but with some modern worry in it.

I know that at some point I'm going to step back into this world and finish the stories. It's intended as a series of books. It's just a matter of time. There are just too many stories within the story I want to write. I really like these characters. Most importantly I really like the main character and his friends.

When things settle down a bit, I'm going to turn my eyes toward them and hopefully give them the ink they deserve.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ridding the bird's eye in my writing

I've been collaborating with a few friends over the past few weeks. And it's been loads of fun. What I like most about our collaboration is the maturity of our friendships. We haven't actually seen each other in years, but the bonds of fellowship we created more than a decade ago remain strong.

The setting we've been developing as backdrop for the stories we're hoping to collect into an anthology is nothing short than the best we want it to be.

There's something in it for each of us, and we're working hard at making it interesting for any fantasy reader.

The more we develop the setting the more I start to realize that what we've done is create a playground. There's so much to explore. Heroes. Villains. Myths. Legends. Artifacts. Geography. Culture. Quests. A boy. A girl. A fantasy setting... (:

As I craft my first story I also realize that I have spent so much time fleshing out the setting that my writer's eye needs glasses. I'm too far sighted. Writer peeps refer to this storytelling stigma in need of editor optometry as the voyeur.

I'm too busy telling the story. I'm not owning it, not showing it.

There is but one cure for this bird's eye view in my writing.

I have to be "in" the characters, in their mannerisms, their hopes, their motives, their actions; "in" the air, the storms, the trees, the flowers, the seeds; "in" every aspect of the story until the veil between my mind and my word is transparent.

I've been working on this everyday. In many ways blogging has helped me to erase that gap. Blogging is all about me. Me. Me... ME!

As egocentric as that sounds, its true for characters in a story. Keeping the characters always in the center of the story is what keeps a story from turning into checkers, moving pieces with no sense of identity or a will of their own, controlled by some invisible omnipotent hand.

There is one more thing. The most important lifeline. I have to care about the characters, whether morally just or vacant, trusting or cautious, altruistic or power hungry, philosopher or tyrant... If I'm not pumping my imagination into that character, he or she has to be reworked until the character means something more than a shell of words.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

We're moving. Yeah, again... But guess what I found?!

We're moving in a few weeks, again. North from the place we never thought we would leave.

If you've ever had a chance to hang out with us, we say that a lot. We've said that at least eight times in the last seven years. We've moved, oh, what six times in the last four years? I hate moving, but moving is like job hunting. We transplant across town to where living within our means is just another day.

We thought we'd never leave the apartment we've been renting since only January, but here we are, moving once more.

In the last five months a lot has changed. Some changes were expected. Some changes were not. Job changed. Interests changed. Diaper changes. Shan is almost finished with her undergrad courses. Then it's off to grad school. Her daughter changed schools. The toddlers are older. I've dived head first into app development and fiction writing. We've all changed with the changes in the economy...

But, we never thought we would be changing addresses, again, so soon.

We suspected we would at some point. Shan has career goals. She's been talking about what her options are for practicum hours and opportunities she would have after earning her master's degree. Plus the kids will be older. There's five of us. Lots of mouths to feed. Lots of room needed to play. Lots of challenges to undertake. Lots and lots more.

In the meantime, we're moving.

We're moving into the family house where her mom spent the last years of her life raising her three daughters, where we'll be responsible for our share of the utilities, some garden work (which I'm looking forward to, now that cooking is as natural to me as drawing), and some other TLC around the house.

That's it.

No more rent.

No more security deposits.

No more sleepless nights because someone is trying to break into the apartment for the fifth time this week!

But who knows. We'll probably uproot sometime down the road just when we think everything is going well. We'll pack just to unpack...again.

Over the last few weeks we've been taking inventory of our things. There isn't much room for our stuff. We'll be renting a garage for whatever can't fit into the house. Although Shan's sister made a really good point today at lunch: What's the point of storing it for a long time? You won't get any use out of it.

Duh--

We're so used to moving, the process has been engrained. We want to keep our stuff safe until we need it again. But when is that? In a few months? Years? Why not yard sale it? Well, that's when we realized we would need some storage in the rooms for our things. So, we started touring second hand stores.

Our first stop was Goodwill. We strolled around the store thinking about our plans for the bedroom, the living room, the kitchen, the kids room, the bathroom... the usual adventure in decorating, when we stumbled upon a few interesting items.

Shan's been in a French country mood lately. Anything that fits that design theme she wants to look at it and store a picture in her cell phone. She's got the bedroom mostly mapped out and now is starting to put together some of the visual details. I like her style choices. Now, it's just a matter of finding the right paint, creating the right mood, and finally settling down for a long time.

We want the kids to grow up in a house. Not an apartment. Apartment living has passed its expiration date. Our upstairs neighbors clean at 2 a.m. Can we complain? Sure. But why? We know the woman of the house works odd hours and the man of the house works even stranger hours.

The neighborhood isn't really all that bad. We're just home a lot. I've heard the conversations. Do they have money? They must. They never work. He never leaves. He's always home. The conversations are spoken in Spanish. I understand what they're saying. So, what? I work too. Just from home. I'm a graphic artist. I have a computer. Just because I'm not the typical worker bee, doesn't mean I don't work. But that's what started the rash of attempted break-ins. No, we're not rich. If we were would we be living in a densely populated city? Uh, no. It's time to move.

At the Goodwill, everything was color-coordinated. Clothes. Flatware. Shoes. Bowls. Candleholders. Shan noticed that and pointed it out. She also saw something that fit her French country motif and was set on buying it. It's a few bucks. Not a bank breaker. Meanwhile I was looking at some kitchen stuff. Most of it was used. I examined a few pieces not sure if I really wanted to add more cookery to the kitchen since what I'm really after is a server. But no luck on that front, so far.

My eyes suddenly fell onto a stack of trays. Hand-fashioned aluminum tea and serving trays. I lifted each one, admiring, examining the condition of each piece, and then I stumbled upon THE find.

I knew it wasn't aluminum. The plate was heavier. It was decorated with flowers in relief. My heart starts racing. I know vintage when I see it. I turn the plate over. Towle scrolled on the underside. 1967. The stock number... I look at the sticker price. I couldn't believe it. I felt transported. My imagination wrote an entire story with this plate as its centerpiece.

I know exactly what I'm going to do with this plate. Shan's mom enjoyed life the way few people do. When she went on her SoCal tag sales and flea market strolls she would often return home with some interesting piece of history. Sometimes that treasure held a lingering smile, like a tea pot or a blanket, the perfect conversation piece. Sometimes it was a pair of worn shoes that had some mileage on its heels. This plate would be used for holiday meals. It was vintage, just like her soul.

All because we were moving...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Writing a zombie short story is not so easy

I decided to try to write a short story about zombies.

Then I gave myself a word limit.

What the hell was I thinking?

It's not that easy to write a post-apoc story about a survivor struggling with life and death and humanity and a fractured mind in oh, I don't know, less than a few thousand words. There's so much to figure out. What was this person like before the end of the world? What kind of things did this person care about? Family? Friends? What shaped this person's life? Then there's the survivor story in itself. Then, there's the what happens next...

It was much more difficult than I thought.

But I like this challenge. I have to write the story tight.

No crap.

No long exposition.

Right to the heart of the story. Fast.

It's been a good exercise so far.

My girlfriend is a die-hard zombie fan. If she could take a minor in Zombie Lit she would. She knows a lot. Not just the stories. How they're constructed. The nuances. The metaphors.

I asked her to read the story.

She did.

The next two hours were spent talking about the human condition under crisis.

She's a psych major.

We had an amazing conversation about what makes the mind tick. What makes the mind splinter. What shapes personality. What readers expect to see in a zombie movie and what they expect to read in a zombie story.

So, I have to rewrite. I have to throw the story out entirely.

She made a great point: A zombie movie isn't so much about the zombies. It's about the survivors and how they cope. That's where a zombie plot really begins. What carries the story is a survivor meeting another survivor. Without that meeting there's no zombie story.

Well there you have it.

I'm starting over.

Have to.

The story I wrote was a zombie fairytale. There where parts of the story that were decent. But just parts. I was just trying too hard to make the story fit to a word count. This happens sometimes. I was cutting corners, essentially. I wasn't focusing on showing the protagonist's struggle. Well, that's being too harsh a critic. I was. Just not enough.

I know I can do it.

I'm going to crunch the story until I get it down to its bare bones and then add just a little bit more... Not much more. Can't put too much life back into a zombie plot. Humanity's been wiped out. What's left? I have the protagonist. I have to think about him some more. I rushed it.... Time to slow him down.

Tick...

Tock...

... tick...

...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sometimes I journal in character

A friend asked me how I come up with ideas for roleplaying campaigns. The honest answer is that I don't create a plot line, encounters and maps to populate until I have the entire villain cast firmly in my head. Without him or her and those menacing, power-hungry underlings, the plot would have little, if any, triumph.

Sure, the players could roll dice from dawn to dusk. And, yes, one of the players undoubtedly would have either made, bought, traded, stole, or just outright inherited some ridiculous ego-fueld bastard sword powered with the undeniable forces of sunlight and righteousness; but how often can he brandish that sword? CONSTANTLY...!

Whenever he entered a tavern, a temple, a den... every time.

I can see the group throwing up their arms and groaning--again!--as I'm typing this blog post, smirking. Some real funny shit came out of those sessions. We still talk about the player who said, with his thief, "I motion to the dragon to come over here." The audacity. Everyone roared with laughter. Well, you can imagine what happened next. No, fire didn't race around the dragon's teeth and over its outstretched tongue to incinerate the fop. The damned thing was bored. It hadn't laughed so hard in ages...

But I knew this ahead of time, and was playing around with various concepts of dragon personalities. Not types, like the classic metallic or chromatic breeds of AD&D dragons. I was toying around ideas like do dragons have a funny bone? Are they always jaded lizards ready and willing to kill for sport? Some, perhaps, but then they'd just be bull sharks with wings and furnaces. If they're intelligent might as well go the distance, right?

So, I did.

In the end, the dragon perished, sort of. If I remember correctly, the ranger and the archer fired a stream of arrows at the dragon's neck. He swung his neck back, too high, enraged with the shift in civility. The dragon smacks the cavern roof with his head and loosens stalactites, which come crashing down around the players. The mage-thief among the group predicted this possibility. It was epic. The rumbling cavern. Towering cones of earth. Sweeping gouts of fire. The players were hard pressed and barely escaped...

But in order to role-play the dragon properly, I had to journal the old creaky lizard, in character.

I was so engrained with the traditional concept of the RPG dragon, I wasn't sure where to begin. So, the journaling began.

What was the red death like in his prime? Did he venture far? Did he forge alliances, and if so, with who? He recalled an unfortunate experience with a dragon hunter. He grappled with his own imperfections among his fellow kin. He was embarrassed by his flatulence, which caused him great belly pains and produced even more breaths of fire.

He discovered a farming village and preyed upon them. They grew something that soothed his belly aches. Yup, you guessed it, ginger.

All of this I journaled. So that when the time came I knew exactly how the dragon would think, what his mannerisms were, and most importantly, how he would respond to the players' characters.

Journaling helped me free the dragon from the trappings of stereotypes. And, it gave me a character I have enjoyed thinking about from time to time. I may reconstruct his journals someday. They're long gone, somewhere in a landfill, buried among other adventurous tales. Who knows, I may fully resurrect him. I did, in the campaign, though. He swore to hunt the players down, and finish what they had started...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Three storytellers sharing ideas? Oh, the possibilities!

Over the last few weeks two of my good friends have been blogging about world settings.

How to create them.

How to map them out.

Regions and their inhabitants, all as building blocks for storytelling.

Well, now its gone into a whole new area, and we're creating settings together.

We're seasoned RPG players enough to know what each wants to see, what each wants to develop. Each brings his own flare for storytelling and for characterization, naming conventions and style.

We've been roleplaying for so long now it seems only natural that we're sharing ideas. Chris, I think, has been roleplaying the longest. He was playing with his older brother and father, dungeon crawling and temple toppling long before I cracked open my first D&D Red Box.

Chris has an amazing collection of RPG settings and rule books. If he wanted to he could write a grant to house his books for rental in some office space. He organizes an annual RPG convention in San Diego, HyphenCon, a few years in the running now.

Tom is knee deep in anything that suits his fancy.

Just the other day we set up a Facebook group.

Now, from the one group, there are two groups.

After reading the first setting Tom created, originally a Sword & Sorcery realm ruled by desert kings and dueling nomads, the mystical, magical, and mighty elements just blossomed in my head. My imagination kind of went supernova.

Sometimes it's difficult to rein in my imagination. Its provided a wealthy resource of distraction. As a kid I would often be found in my room, quiet, invested, building castles, robots, dragons, starships, whatever with my buckets of Legos could construct.

Guess nothing has really changed since then. I've just exchanged blocks for a keyboard.

I enjoy creating. I enjoy the process of creating. Then we talked about writing short stories.

Bam!

The floodgate broke like toothpicks buckling against a rushing river.

Over the course of two days I drafted five story summaries. They're basic. Just shells. One of them I'm crafting, gently, as always.

I'm a slow writer. Very slow. Very, very slow...

Writing doesn't come easy. I mold it, work it, edit it probably 10 or 15 times until the story is right.

Drives me crazy that my friends, especially my girlfriend, can crank out an essay in two hours. Me? I need a week to write a 5 pager. She can bang it out in an afternoon. She's been thinking about it, of course, for days. She's going about her days, like Hemingway swinging on his porch, letting his eyes wander from sunset to field, drinking iced tea.

Suddenly, the essay is due. She walks over to the laptop, awakens it, opens Word, and click, click, click. The essay just flows. Does she edit? No. Does she read it aloud? Yes. Just to make sure it flows. But of course it flows. That's her gift. Language comes naturally to her. Like breathing. Like a heart beating.

Me? Takes me a while. Like I'm running up hill. Inhale too fast and I've got to slow down, or even stop.

For me the words conjure the visuals. I'm an artist, remember. I see the words before I hear them. So, when I'm crafting my stories, the visual element is always there, in some form, first.

It's been fun letting my imagination just go hog wild. I have to careful, though. My enthusiasm can be zealous. And I know that zeal can lead to a sudden lack of sleep. It's just the creator in me. I know my limits. Kids, girlfriend, meals, bills... You know. All the things that matter. Some more than others. Daily scheds just can't get tossed out with the trash. But, again, it's about muse management.

Chris posted a flash fiction for the second, sci-fi setting. Great, tight, short short.

Can't wait to see what we cook up next.

I like to call this creative endeavor company fit for crafting.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Managing Muse: Rust and Roses in the New Marketplace

America is a different place since the Recession; the world is a different place.

Jobs. Money. The fact that we're communicating to each other more often on Facebook and on blogs should be an indication that the fundamental way we talk to each other is different.

Different how? Different why?

Who knows, really... I suspect it has to do with the Internet. In some ways its less personal, in other ways its more personal. We can Check-In through Yelp. We can sync all kinds of apps to our Facebook account. We can Tweet. We can Text. We can Blog. GPS is like Zeus reaching for a clay mold. It knows where to find our pulse and nudge us. Most importantly, friends, near and far, can locate us, where ever our feet may land.

I stumbled upon Amanda Hocking's blog a few months ago and learned that she's doing pretty good for herself. She's in her mid-20s. She's got a blog. She writes stories about supernatural heroes and villains. And she's made more than 2 million bucks because she managed her muse for the Kindle market.

A few years ago if someone would have asked me if I had a Kindle, I would have said, "No, I don't have a fireplace, so why would I need kindling."

Chuckle all you want. Like Apple when it open sourced its software and kickstarted iTunes into the money-making cow ranch that it is, the e-Reader market is going through a very similar growth, thanks to artists like Amanda Hocking.

The artist must create, I wrote on a Facebook post.

So, what is she doing that I'm not?

Managing the muse.

She worked some random job before reaching her acclaim. She typed as often as she wanted to, as often as she could stand to write. Between parties. Between visits with friends. After paying her bills, rent, cell phone, a quick bite somewhere, and getting ready for work all over again...

She's proven that if you don't manage your muse, the artist inside rusts. It remains restless and without expression fades. She's managed her muse so well she's nurtured a dedicated following of readers and also the recent eye of St. Martin's Press. She got a book deal.

Damn good for a writer published on the Kindle.

I have no illusions about her success either.

She has incredible timing.

The Twilight Saga isn't over. The series has two more movies left in its franchise. That's two more years.

If Amanda manages her muse and her talent right she could land a movie deal. That could go either way. On the film scale she could receive acceptance or dismissal. Viewers are harsher critics, I think, than book readers. Reading is patience, is personal, is investment of more than a few hours in a darkened room.

What I've learned from Amanda is the same thing I've learned from every other artist out there. If I don't continue developing my artist talent, my craft will rust.

And I have been developing that craft. For many years I designed newspaper layouts, advertising, magazine covers, mailers... just about anything that can be printed I have experience with.

But jobs in America have changed. I can't design web sites. Can't code. Can't re-code. Can't make the thing tick likes it running on fuel. I can, however, make it sparkle like a Hollywood starlet.

So, here I am, talented...

Almost rusting.

Until I stumbled across Amanda Hocking.

In this new marketplace, Apple and Kindle have thrived. An app can cost $1.99. An e-book can cost $4.99. Most are the product of entrepreneurs, small business peeps turned artists in a short amount of time.

In this new marketplace, though, the expectations can be high, especially if I compare myself to Amanda. But I won't. And I shouldn't. That's just plain hubris.

What I am interested in doing is writing for the Kindle market. A few novellas a year. Maybe even a compilation of short stories. A full-lengthed novel? I don't have time to write something of that length. I'm developing apps too. Got one in the cooker. Two more in the hopper.

Perhaps my efforts will turn into a rose garden. Who knows, really?

Only time will tell.

Here's to managing muse.

I wish all of you success.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A day with a Mexican (Buzz Lightyear)

OMG!

The funniest scene in a movie I have ever seen. Sure, I'm way behind the curve on this one, but hey, better late than never, right?

Barbie grabs the screwdriver DIY-style and spins the tool at blinding speed.

Screws fly...

The lid pops off.

Hampton rifles through the instruction manual searching for the How To Reset.

He finds it.

Suddenly he's warning Rex not to hold his finger inside the hole for more than 5 seconds because--

Zzzzt!

Jiggle-jiggle. Ping...

Buzz reawakens. Hecho en Mexico!

OMG, again!

I laughed so hard I near pissed myself. But that's just the beginning.

The machismo starts flying, Buzz starts twirling, whirling, laser-pointing on tiptoe, speaking in Spanish.

Seriously, I thought Star Trek with Spanish dub was the highlight of my multicultural geekdom. You know what I'm talking about. Hearing Kirk speaking in Spanish is just money.

Until that moment.

I haven't laughed quite like that in a long time -- since the Princess Bride. And that's saying something because hearing Wallace Shawn (Vizzini ) also the voice of Rex, blurting out, "The cliffs of insanity" with that lisp of his is priceless. He played a Ferengi, too, on Deep Space 9. All the more reason to add this talented actor to the list of my favorite artists.

I'm not talking to myself, right?

You've all seen this movie?

Tell me you've seen this movie! Pixar created something magical. Alchemical, really.

After a series of near-death experiences, as though the Pixar team was channeling Armageddon with its series of impossible challenges under 12 minutes, the movie ends... with such grace and humility, the passing of a torch, the reminder that even in a coming of age story, Andy, like all of us, bridges two worlds, if we so choose to keep that torch alive.

Live life with childlike enthusiasm.

Ahhh... Moments like these remind me war and famine can be overcome with the human heart.

The credits begin to roll...

Newman sings.

Then, wait, what's this? A coda--the extra scene at the end of a movie? And, is that... Spanish guitar? Buzz's hips start swinging like Elvis.

I just lost it. The laughter, the tears; I was hysterical with mirth. Ah, what a day.

I recognized The Gypsy Kings immediately as they begin singing You Have a Friend in Me in Spanish.

That's it. That was totally it. My stomach hurt so hard.

I flew over to the computer and dove into a search for the song on iTunes...

The best shit ever...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Our beach ball is possessed!

True story...

A few weeks ago we noticed the smoky patterned purple ball rolling back and forth, over the patch of dirt in the backyard.

We had gathered around the sliding door, curious, pointing, muttering at the entertaining spectacle.

At first no one thought much of it.

But then it rolled back, striking the edge of the concrete, then back and forward again, deliberately with an unexpected, eerie determination.

The teenager immediately reached for her mother, tightly griping the loose folds of her flowing shirt, clinging to her bosom, muttering, "It's rolling... The purple beach ball is rolling--against the wind!"

That set our hairs on end.

Mind you, we're not a superstitious lot, but having nothing else to do in the kitchen, clutching each other tightly came very natural all the sudden.

The dark prose of Poe flashed across my mind.

Worried the beach ball might turn on us, we took a few steps back, seeking refuge deeper into the kitchen, toward the half wall.

The ball rolled back, again, attempting to mount concrete.

Someone squeaked.

"Oh my god!"

"Did you see that?--Did you see it?"

Gulp. Yeah...

"It's trying to roll over the lip!"

"--And onto the patio." 

Stunned, fixed on the pendulous ballet, we watched, wondering if this ominous orb was the servant of a terrifying thing waiting for nightfall.

"That's it. We're taking Paranormal Activity off the instant cue."

A few days later, on the way to the grocery store we discovered the ball securely lodged under the bumper of the minivan, inches from the garage door.

Later that week, the ball had relocated to the opposite corner, corralled with empty milk jugs and cardboard boxes, underneath the sliding glass door. How the ball managed to get inside that moat we would never know.

By Sunday afternoon, the next day, the ball was lingering near the back gate, bobbing, insisting, anxious. The portal was slightly ajar. We looked at each other. "Did you unlatch it?" No, each said in turn.

Then someone gasped, raising hand to mouth. "It's trying to break free. Look--"

"Oh, Jesus."

We leaned inward, huddling. The beach ball rolled forward, pushing the gate. The teenager screamed. There was no breeze that day.

"Seriously, it's trying to get out. It's trying to break free."

A few days ago, while collecting the trash for a dumpster run we noticed the ball had disappeared. Had it finally shed its patio shackle? Where did it roll away to, and in what direction? We were relieved and concerned all at once, worried for the family that would eventually cross paths with the purple orb.

Gone now, we dare few glimpses toward the patio, for if our luck holds, the accursed globe might return like a hellhound to pace our backyard once more...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dishes, roaches, and M. Night

Washing dishes sucks.

The last thing I want to do is spend time scraping and scrubbing under the faucet.

But it has to be done, or the roaches could swarm the kitchen.

Soldiers rushing across an ivory lawn, they are, coordinating a candlelit siege from afar. The few, brave frontrunners know I will show them no mercy, and will crush their advance swiftly, smashing their carapace hide into the mesa overlooking the sink, with the bottom of my fist. Yet onward they press. Sheer volume may turn the tide and success will prove that I may run and hide, fearing their near bulletproof vests.

I must show no mercy, or they may sense my irrational fear and overtake me instead.

Not with anger or vengeance seated in my heart, I simply despise these scrambling oval-shaped villains for they remind me that laziness is rewarded with finger-width insects lured by the scent of leftovers.

There I was, running plates under hot water, plunging a green and yellow rectangle into dish soap, when my girlfriend walks into the kitchen.

I suddenly hear the odd and chilly score of a familiar M. Night film. I wasn't sure, but could it be?

"Is that The Village," I ask.

"Yes," she says.

Inspiration, my many artist friends say comes and goes.

One friend among them says writers are like MMA fighters. They train constantly. They train for the fight; they train for the discipline; they train because at any given moment they can lose their focus. If you lose your focus as a writer, my friend goes on to explain, you can lose a lot of ground in the meantime. So writers have to train for the between time, when they're not writing, to make the time they have time to write, count.

Powerful stuff, if you listen closely.

So I listened. And tonight, following last night's M. Night flick, I cranked out 1,000 words in less than an hour.

Never have my hands scaled that wall before. As I sat there, gazing at the backlit screen of my iMac, a sense of accomplishment washed over me. A confidence I had known reassessed itself, and found a new tier of fulfillment.

So, to you, Oh blog follower, whenever you have the urge to create, to produce, to continue a project, heed his words: Train, for rain or for shine.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Adventures in fatherhood, Sunday morning

This morning has been interesting to say the least. I think I clocked in about three hours of Facebook time, and it's not even noon yet, which seems like a lot for an AM check-in, but I'm a night owl. Most of my Facebook hours are logged in between the hours of 7:30 p.m. and 2 a.m. when I'm plugging away at my side scroll app.

My pixie daughter decided to flutter around the house, as she always does, looking for activities because as every parent knows, toddlers are the most adventurous. Everything is new. Sights, sounds, smells, tastes, temperatures, surfaces, textures, everything. Meanwhile they're learning words, pronouncing everything, repeating all. No word is left unattempted. Every experience soaked up.

Sometime in the late morning my mom had called as well. She was rescheduling her visit from the previous night to stop by for a slice of freshly baked banana bread, and fresh coffee. So, I figured, what the heck. The tiny tot needed an activity. Why not give her crayons and paper to draw something for Ya-ya? Might as well have given my daughter fireworks to launch at a Hobbit Birthday Party celebrating someone's Elevendy-One years of age.

She plunged into the drawing and within a very short amount of time had scrolled the most beautiful twist of lines yet. I saw the magic flow through her hands, the intensely furrowed looks, tongue outstretched as she traced the crayon into swirls and curly-cues. A moment later, she handed me the drawing and said with great elation, "Ya-ya!"

Drawing completed, she immediately rode out on her next great big adventure, this time into the Land of Cheese and Spices.

Gathering the Pizza Hut packets of cheese and spices from last night's meal she set sail for uncharted land, tearing through the paper containers with the zeal of a treasure hunter searching for the Lost Treasure of Yore.

After mixing what seemed like four table spoons of crumbled cheese and cracked pepper into a bowl, she proceeded to add water. Naturally, every concoction needs some form of liquid, right? She dragged a chair over to the sink, turned on the tap, filled the bowl, climbed back down, carried the sloshing bowl to the table, returned for the chair and dragged it back to its point of origin. What else could I do but watch the calculated event with stunned eyes?

But one splash of water wasn't enough...

So, she poured some more water, and again, more water which she transported inside a second bowl, pouring its contents into the first until sea level was just right.

Then she grabbed a few spoons from the kiddie drawer. One for mixing, a second for stirring, and a third with which she used to offer taste tests to her little brother, himself entering toddlerhood. He was glad to offer his taste buds. He usually was oh so willing.

Suffice it to say, my love of fantasy genre came through, and all I could think about while watching the epic event unfold between these two wonderful little beings was Tasslehoff Burrfoot, the mischievous adorable Kender from the Dragonlance saga. Kender are no taller than a toddler, actually. Bright, cheerful, childlike beings with a love for all things adventure. They're always in a creative mood and have an uncanny ability to problem solve even though their journey through it seems illogical and ill-suited for earth-shattering adventurers; and they never miss an opportunity to open purses, backpacks, treasure chests, closets, pockets, cloaks, drawers... Their unchallenged curiosity is a wondrous exploration of everything within reach.

My kitchen was a Kender-home today.

And I loved every minute of it.

Sure, I could see the messes multiply, and at any moment I could have been transformed into a muggle. But I resisted that terrible urge. I was fascinated by my two kiddo-Kenders turn the kitchen on its head. Just as Tasslehoff made me laugh, my kids brought out the best smiles and belly rolling laughs I have had in quite a long time.

I love my kids. Today, I loved them even more.

Of course, with the Cheese and Pepper stew brewing nicely on the kitchen table, what else could I do but lean over the chemist and ask the most basic question? It seemed the polite thing to do.

And with that an explanation burst from my daughter's mouth as she sang along with Beauty and Beast  on the television in the background.

Four plates, three bowls, three spoons, ten packets, and one grand adventure to recall, the morning came to a gentle close.

My little boy went down for his morning nap. My daughter set up her spot on the living room floor and settled in for what seemed a long and glorious lounge to finish the tale of a spoiled young prince and his newfound love, Belle.

A few minutes later my daughter leaped off her Tinkerbell blanket and set her sights on yet another incredible adventure of mischief and curiosity, kender-style.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

My girlfriend REALLY LIKES zombies

She does.

She's nuts over them.

So enthralled by their frivolous, gratuitous gore fest and silly, at times political, dark humor her fanaticism has long passed the border of survivor to obsessed, crazed, flesh-rotting delight.

I never suspected. It's not as though she wraps herself with a decomposing pashmina to keep the other flesh-eaters at bay, or keeps a clip of zombie killer bullets in a drawer. Although--Hold on, let me check...

I wouldn't put it passed her to tease those unearthly stumblers with such a snubbing taunt.

This latent interest manifested itself when on a lark we decided to catch a late-night showing of George A. Romero's, Land of the Dead. We double-dated with some friends, and meeting at the theater, grabbed the usual rounds of popcorn, licorice and Mr. Pibb (when it was served and then replaced by that no good imposter, Dr. Pepper.)

Don't ge me wrong, I really enjoy Romero's slick, artsy, politically charged zombie films, but for me that's where the obsession with the creepy stumblers ends.

I like me a good slow marcher post-apoc horror flick just like the next guy, but her like for zombies is equal to my like of sci-fi/fantasy genres, she says.

Meh, I can relate on that level.

When Chewbacca hits that guttural roar you know he's about to tear some Stormtroopers apart.

Watching a zombie flick with Shan is like watching Sex In The City. She starts rooting for the zombies. Not the humans. The zombies.

If I was ever heard rooting for the Stormtroopers I might have a bounty on my head. Might be the only way I could ever meet Fett, but hey, who's complaining.

If I have to go out in the Star Wars Universe, getting offed by Boba is no where nearly as bad as getting shut out by Captain Needa, "preparing to ah," he gasps.

Gasping zombies on the other hand is just part of the endless noise. Like laser blasters, groaning zombies do the film make.

Over time, I learned to sympathize for the zombie. They're kind of helpless underdogs. I like rooting for the underdog, even if the underdog is crawling after my drumsticks.

Still, not all zombies are stumbling, likable, groaning buffoons. Some are downright mean beasts hellbent on world domination. All they want to do is eat. Like jocks after football practice. All they want to do is stuff their faces with pizza. Human pizza, in the zombie's case. The entire deadly lot is the evil twin of Pac-Man, chomping away at the nearest Person-Pill.

Does it surprise you to learn she proudly joined the millions of viewers who tuned into AMC's, The Walking Dead, last season, and that she downloaded the entire series from iTunes, which gobbled up something like a few gigabytes on her iPhone?

Wherever she goes she takes the zombie apoc TV show with her like a membership card into an elite group of fans who appreciate survivors teetering on the edge of sanity.

I just wish I could get her a promo poster or a copy of the graphic novel or even one of those posters. She would really like it, I think. I support her tame, geeky addiction of zombies. But, really, do I have any legs to stand on? I was the first one in the house to buy Zombieville for my iPod.

Yeah, I admit it, I'm a bandwagon zombie fan.

Around here, it's fright or fight.

Friday, April 8, 2011

I think about a story until it has a thunderous pulse.

I enjoy novellas.

I enjoy the plot urgency; intimate length; sometimes lack of chapters; optional titles and art; and the excitement of completing a story without facing the effort of a novel.

When it comes to story crafting, I like to think. A LOT. And think, and think some more, and continue to think until the setting is alive and thriving in my imagination and the characters are walking, talking, breathing, and whatever else may be pertinent to the time and place.

It's what I do. And then I think some more. I think about the characters: their feelings, wants, needs, sexuality, hobbies, lifestyles, hopes, fears, habits, and most importantly motives. Through these exercises I discover the story.

(It's kind of like squeezing oranges with a juicer.)

Through the characters I begin to see the conflict. Why the conflict exists. Its origin, and why the conflict continues to exist. The conflict may be as simple as a lover's quarrel over a misplaced shared treasure. The conflict may be as difficult as a son faced with watching his mother degenerate into a zombie.

I think about the characters as friends, family, neighbors, as random encounters at Costco or at Disneyland, at a red light, waiting in line on the way to work for a cup of coffee at the local coffee house, because, after all, a story without people is just sugarless gum. The first rush is pregnant with curiosity, then after a few chews the flavor wanes, replaced with boredom and disappointment: Sugarless gum.

Who cares about sugarless gum? Yuck! I certainly don't.

I want my readers to care about the characters I have created, to cheer them on, to wonder what's in store in the resolution.

In the first novella I'm crafting, the conflict is based on a true experience of life and death. Its sudden and imminent confirmation, the specter of death, the celebration of life, the horrors of pain. I am still unpacking the emotions. My kids will never truly experience their grandma. She was a powerful woman. Spicy, hot-headed, opinionated Italian. Flawed like all of us, yet a wonderful spirit who cared so deeply and passionately about her friends and family that she was an unwavering giant.

I have been unpacking the emotions for so long now that I know I may never finish unpacking them. Something will always remind me of her and remind me of the simple fact that my kids will not have a chance to grow up with her. Never paint Easter eggs with her. Never rush into her house on Christmas morning in their pajamas. Never hear her sing Happy Birthday. In these experiences, in these memories I found a story, and it's almost finished. She gave so much to so many people. In those final months she was surrounded by the people how cared about her most. The men in her life? Nowhere in sight.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

There's never a dull moment inside the mind of a creative person

It's been a few months since I last touched a piece of fiction writing and, I gotta say, I miss it.

Feels like an age between.

For a while now I've been talking to a close friend about getting back into a writing groove.

And while I have always enjoyed writing in some form: creating fantasy settings and sometimes whole worlds for my gaming groups, writing for myself, crafting stories... I never did break out beyond a very intimate space.

Well, that's not true, but it certainly feels true at times. I took a creative writing class in college and considered applying to the program where Sena Jeter Naslund teaches but that was a lifetime ago.

Transporting myself into the worlds I created for my gaming groups has been one of the most creative moments in my life. At times it was spontaneous. Other times I let the players shape the story. I'd create NPCs that they could interact with and challenge. Sometimes the players surprised me and offed the guy that should have been around for a little while longer but wasn't because I role-played him with just a little bit too much bravado. Silly me. Made for some interesting on-the-fly plot rewrites.

Still, they were some great times. I have all the maps, notes and monster sheets collected in binders  somewhere, and after recently getting in touch with some of the gaming group again realized that I wasn't the only one holding onto those memories. Some of my high school friends still have those character sheets tucked away in a drawer where a quick pull could release nostalgia into the room when called upon.

Indeed, those sessions were magical times.

With some free time suddenly in my lap I'm devoting some of those hours to crafting stories again and submitting them to the Kindle market. Check back when you can. Hope to hear from you. (: