Archive for July, 2012

Overtures on MVM

In honor of three birthdays from yesterday (Geddy Lee, my sister, and Wil Wheaton), here’s the opening Overture from the R30 concert…

When I went to the show, I ended up getting there late – about thirty minutes into the show – so I missed the Stiller piece of the opening and didn’t see it until watching the concert on DVD. For those not familiar with it, there’s about two minutes of animation referencing all of there albums (up to that point), then about another minute of Stiller before the band hits the stage.

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Random Post

[Originally written 6/14/2007]

Brian thought back to their first date. He was attracted to her, and he always remembered her smile and the way her eyes seemed to dance in the candlelight, but it was something that she had said late in the conversation that stuck him. Now, two years later, he realized she had warned him, but he was to smitten to care.

 “I’m going to disappoint you,” Jamie had said. “But you knew that already.” She said it so matter-of-factly, like the recounting a box score – Celts beat the Lakers, Cubs over the A’s, Barbaro by a nose, and I’m going to disappoint you.

 Brian remembered starting at her for a moment after that, caught in the awkward moment that the statement commanded. She smiled back, tilting her head slightly to her right. Her soft blonde hair shifted more onto her shoulder, a tuft of locks falling around her face. Brian couldn’t help but tell her how beautiful she looked, the comment momentarily forgotten.

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Space…

I have always had a thing for space – not as pronounced as some friends of mine, but it’s there. Maybe it comes from playing with Star Trek action figures as a kid, or watching too many SF themes cartoons as a kid… Needless to say, when I saw this (over at Tor.com) I just had to share…

Along with that, there was reference to the “Earth Art Gallery” (follow the link and you’ll see three galleries available). As an example, the picture below is of the Himalayas.

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Break Out Your Cups… on MVM

MC and I first heard this song while we were driving through part of Virginia last summer, and we both laughed when within the next week it was used in an episode of Glee. Since we are in peak summer party & concert season, I’m sure there are lots of people making new “friends,” so be sure you enjoy the parties responsibly.

One of the things I like about this version are all of the cameos…

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Forget Big Brother, Twitter is Listening

The world is ripe with ideas for a writer. Have you ever been in a public place and privy to some couple’s “private” drama – the loud voices, the “making a scene” kinds of moments? The trainwrecks that you can’t help but listen to or watch (only to get the “What are you looking at?” response)?

In this day and age, the daily concern shouldn’t be so much if Big Brother is watching, but whether someone around you is tweeting the explosion of ass-itude that is being displayed in a public space. (Note: you want a private conversation, have it at home.)

With that in mind, something I found earlier today that struck me (and, as I was writing this post my mind started bubbling with ideas for turning the concept into a story), and thought was almost too (painfully) funny to not share.

Go over here, and read the story (and the Trail of Tweets).

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Rising to a New Low?

I am all for specatacle at movie premires. Not my thing but if people want to cosplay because they are so stoked about the movie world they are about to experience then more power to them. What I do have a problem with is someone deciding to use a movie premiere for “evil.”

MC and I were listening to the radio this morning, between dropping off the baby dragon and getting to work, and part of the show’s conversation was about this.

For those not interested in following the link:

A heavily armed man entered a movie theater in suburban Denver early Friday and opened fire, killing at least 12 people and injuring 50 others. The incident, which took place about 12:30 a.m. at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colo., occurred during midnight screenings of the new Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.”

And I am at a loss for words… at least any clear, logical ones.  The events are still too shielded for much substance to be available (aka – motive, ID and info of the shooter, etc.).

All I can say is movies are supposed to be fun times, adventures, escapes… they are meant as entertainment. Going to the movies is supposed to be fun, let’s try to keep it that way.

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Penn State Fallout

By no means can I be classified as a Penn State fan – even before the Sandusky events, anytime I might land on a game while flipping channels I might watch a couple of plays, then keep flipping. So when I saw reference to this while fiddling with a news feed on my phone, I had a few thoughts.

The relevant text, for those not wanting to disappear down the rabbit hole:

 Penn State said it will respond within days to the NCAA’s demand for information as the governing body decides whether the university should face penalties — including a possible shutdown of its storied football program — in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Penn State president Rodney Erickson said Tuesday he doesn’t want to “jump to conclusions” about possible sanctions after the head of the NCAA declared the so-called death penalty has not been ruled out.

My read: Erickson’s statement translates as, “Hold on, we make too much money from the football program, let’s be reasonable…”

It’s not really an issue of “should the university face penalties”, it’s “how severe will the penalties be?”

Honestly, I would be surprised if the football program isn’t suspended in some fashion. There’s an ethics and accountability that is expected of of universities in general, and when the school is regularly in the national spotlight in some fashion (without scandal being involved), the line that must be towed becomes even finer.

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More Writerly Goodies…

While writing yesterday’s “writing” posts, I found a couple of other links that I felt like sharing (aka – having accessible for my future reference). Both of them actually were linked from Neil Gaiman’s blog (from 2004-ish)…

First, a link to Making Light, a post entry written by Teresa Neilsen Hayden discussing how to rethink rejection from the slushpile. Key thing to consider – “you” don’t matter*, it’s what’s on the page, and how clearly the story comes through. I like the 14-point list (under “Context of Rejection”) that I am snipping to here, just to keep it available.

Manuscripts are unwieldy, but the real reason for that time ratio is that most of them are a fast reject. Herewith, the rough breakdown of manuscript characteristics, from most to least obvious rejections:

    1. Author is functionally illiterate.
    2. Author has submitted some variety of literature we don’t publish: poetry, religious revelation, political rant, illustrated fanfic, etc.
    3. Author has a serious neurochemical disorder, puts all important words into capital letters, and would type out to the margins if MSWord would let him.
    4. Author is on bad terms with the Muse of Language. Parts of speech are not what they should be. Confusion-of-motion problems inadvertently generate hideous images. Words are supplanted by their similar-sounding cousins: towed the line, deep-seeded, dire straights, nearly penultimate, incentiary, reeking havoc, hare’s breath escape, plaintiff melody, viscous/vicious, causal/casual, clamoured to her feet, a shutter went through her body, his body went ridged, empirical storm troopers, ex-patriot Englishmen, et cetera.
    5. Author can write basic sentences, but not string them together in any way that adds up to paragraphs.
    6. Author has a moderate neurochemical disorder and can’t tell when he or she has changed the subject. This greatly facilitates composition, but is hard on comprehension.
    7. Author can write passable paragraphs, and has a sufficiently functional plot that readers would notice if you shuffled the chapters into a different order. However, the story and the manner of its telling are alike hackneyed, dull, and pointless.

(At this point, you have eliminated 60-75% of your submissions. Almost all the reading-and-thinking time will be spent on the remaining fraction.)

    1. It’s nice that the author is working on his/her problems, but the process would be better served by seeing a shrink than by writing novels.
    2. Nobody but the author is ever going to care about this dull, flaccid, underperforming book.
    3. The book has an engaging plot. Trouble is, it’s not the author’s, and everybody’s already seen that movie/read that book/collected that comic.

(You have now eliminated 95-99% of the submissions.)

  1. Someone could publish this book, but we don’t see why it should be us.
  2. Author is talented, but has written the wrong book.
  3. It’s a good book, but the house isn’t going to get behind it, so if you buy it, it’ll just get lost in the shuffle.
  4. Buy this book.

Aspiring writers are forever asking what the odds are that they’ll wind up in category #14. That’s the wrong question. If you’ve written a book that surprises, amuses, and delights the readers, and gives them a strong incentive to read all the pages in order, your chances are very good indeed. If not, your chances are poor.

The second is Neil’s own thoughts on being a writer (as of 2004)…

If you want to be a writer, write. You may have to get a day job to keep body and soul together (I cheated, and got a writing job, or lots of them, to feed me and pay the rent). If you aren’t going to be a writer, then go and be something else. It’s not a god-given calling. There’s nothing holy or magic about it. It’s a craft that mostly involves a lot of work, most of it spent sitting making stuff up and writing it down, and trying to make what you have made up and written down somehow better.

It does help, to be a writer, to have the sort of crazed ego that doesn’t allow for failure. The best reaction to a rejection slip is a sort of wild-eyed madness, an evil grin, and sitting yourself in front of the keyboard muttering “Okay, you bastards. Try rejecting this!” and then writing something so unbelievably brilliant that all other writers will disembowel themselves with their pens upon reading it, because there’s nothing left to write. Because the rejection slips will arrive. And, if the books are published, then you can pretty much guarantee that bad reviews will be as well. And you’ll need to learn how to shrug and keep going. Or you stop, and get a real job.

*The abstract, generalized “you.” Good workshops work the same way. It’s not about ticking demographic boxes or violently gatekeeping. It really is all about the story and how well it’s told.

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Continuing the Thought: Writing Process

I mentioned last post about my reaction to Wendig’s post. One of the things that post got me thinking about was Neil Gaiman’s process as an example of something I’ve learned from.  I may have mentioned it here before (but it’s ben so long ago I’ve forgotten if I have), but Gaiman suggests here and here part of his process.

The second link is one I’ve only recently found (while searching for the first). The relevant take-away there is:

…Novels I write in longhand. For novels, I like the whole first and second draft feeling, and the act of making paper dirty… Working in fountain pen is good because it slows me down just enough to keep my handwriting legible.

He also mentions using two pens – with different inks – to track each day (when writing in a journal).

Which leads to the first link. I had gotten into a funk where attempts at writing while staring at a computer screen wasn’t working for me (something that’s reared it’s head recently that I can only describe as “editor at work”). Somewhere around the time I saw the post above, I was looking for something… something to get me out of my head and rekindle the joy of writing that was there but just wasn’t finding its way out of my head.

Along came Neil with his fountain pens.

So I tried it. And it started working. I could scribble my way down the page and still have enough flexibilty to scribble notes in the margin as I went  (“add this” or “look this up”). I can scratch out a line quicker than I can click and drag to highlight and delete. There was some psychological tipping point of actually seeing physical pages stacking up as I went, not just a counter at the bottom of a screen. By going longhand, I found myself less focused on how it looked and more on getting words down.

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More Penmonkey…

I’ve shared Penmonky wisdom before… for those just tuning in, hop over the Chuck Wendig’s site to drink from the source. This is no different, some things that I’ve heard before but it’s only recently starting to sink in.

Lesson for life:  You must be ready to receive the information and advice from others before you actually hear it.

As in life, so with writing… at least in my case. I am an info junkie – if you’re familiar with the “True Colors” test, I ping Green (with a score of 17). That suggests I’m analytical (sometimes to a fault). In jobs, it means I look for systems to build a process, then look for ways to improve that process.  With regards to writing, however, it means I have read a lot of reference or “How To” books looking for a system. An elusive quest, pure myth quest, since each project grows differently, and a general process can only grow from doing the work. But even knowing that doesn’t stop me from still looking.

One of the areas I enjoy looking into are other writer’s approaches. On the one hand, it gives a wide array of options to experiment with while still figuring out what works for me. On the other hand, seeing how so many different writers do things helps to destroy the myth of “you must do things this way if you want to be a writer” (the reverse of this is validation – that approach you’re considering? Yes, probably a very viable one.)   (Only exception, “To be a writer, you must write.” Can’t really get around that one.)

Which gets me here, and this is turning out to be a little more than the straight Penmonkey post I started out writing… Hmm…

What started this post was Wendig’s entry here: I’m at the point where I am working on a project, novel length, and must finish* (the sooner the better). Recently converting to the “Plotter/Outliner” ethic, I’m still trying to figure out how deep of an outline – how thorough in my advanced, pre-writing plotting – I want to go. In his post, Wendig mentions part of his process as:

I figure out my major story turns, broken out into acts.

Then I start jotting down plot beats — this happens, then this happen, then that, then this. Maria dies. The unicorn ascends to the Aluminum Throne. John steals the Camero. The end. How many of these beats I outline isn’t preset; I just keep going until the thing is done. The beats are generally large and sequence-shaped rather than small and scene-flavored. The key thing is to make sure I hit all my tentpoles — meaning, those plot events that are needed for the story to stand up and not collapse upon itself.

I think this is kind of where I’ve finally stumbled, at least for now, for this project.

Something else he mentions: “I often outline a number of novels far ahead of the writing” is something I’ve been struggling with as well. Lot’s of things I want to develop/write, and I know outlining (way) in advance will help with jumping to the next project after finishing one. So, validation for me that I can thwack the inner critic with.

The rest of the post is good stuff as well, but I’m just not there yet. Not quite in the right mental position for it to make my mental writing-centric tuning fork hum.

*Requirement for the MFA… consider it the uber-deadline, where I personally would like to have a draft done long before getting anywhere near having to defend it.

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