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Category Archives: writing

In the Interest of Not Being a Sarcastic Jackass All the Time part 2

I’ve done this before. It’s inspired by the great folks on Pop Culture Happy hour. It’s nice to take stock and look at the good things that are happening once in a while, so here are 5 things that are making me happy right now.

1. Stupid Summer TV is here! Summer is traditionally seen as a a dumping ground for all the shows the networks didn’t feel strongly enough about to show during the actual TV season, and for the large part, that is true. But the good news is that I like stupid stuff. I like goofball ideas and experimentation. So bring on Primeval New World, Under the Dome, Siberia, Sinbad, and all the rest.

And oh, Sinbad. This is the platonic ideal of a silly summer show. Just in the first episode Sinbad: won a street fight, stole an artifact from a mysterious father-daughter duo, got chased by guards, got captured by Sayid from Lost, got his brother killed, broke out of prison,was cursed by his grandma, got chased by guards again, stole away on a ship, discovered a perky thief, was thrown in the brig, sailed into the middle of a storm, battled water demons, saved perky thief from drowning, guided the ship through a tidal wave, found himself and his companions lost on the high seas.

Again, this was just the first episode. It wasn’t even double size or anything, just an hour in length. It’s new on the Syfy channel, but it probably first aired in Canada or something.

2I finally replaced my laptop. My old laptop was five years old, and though it was mostly working it had this annoying habit of turning itself off for no reason while I was in the middle of doing something. At first I thought it was overheating, so I bought it a cooling pad, but this didn’t seem to help. Recently, I became able to afford it so I replaced it.

My new laptop has 8 gigs of ram and a terabyte hard drive. Do I need 8 gigs of ram and a terabyte hard drive? Not really, but it’s nice to know it’s there. It runs on Windows 8, which is a mixed bag because windows 8 has a habit of forgetting it has things like, oh, say, wifi, but this is a minor annoyance and doesn’t happen very often. Beside, there are time it would be very good for me to have a computer that doesn’t have wifi. And it doesn’t turn itself off for no reason.

3. I have a couple of days this week to get caught up. The kids are home from school now, which means my writing time has been curtailed to say the least. I have a short story that needs editing, and a novel that needs an updated outline and a new start. So when my wife had to go to a conference in Santa Cruz, I decided to go with her, which would leave me a couple of days in a hotel room with nothing to do but write (and yes, watch TV and surf the internet, but I’m really trying to avoid those things). This blog post is the first result of that time, so so far I am doing ok.

4. My wife and I are taking an actual vacation. And no, I am not counting the Santa Cruz trip. It’s our fifteenth wedding anniversary in August, but she’ll be working, training teachers at a conference in San Diego, But the kids are going away to camp in July and we decided to take that time for an early anniversary trip. We are going back to Seattle, which is where we spent our honeymoon. Hopefully this will be a better trip since on our honeymoon we both got the stomach flu and spent two days retching in our hotel room. It was not very romantic.

My wife, the travel planning expert, has a lot of stuff planned. It should be a lot of fun.

5. Perry. I finally broke down and gave into the begging and let my daughter get a new puppy. She wanted something small that could live in the house with us with a minimum of fuss (we have a bigger dog who stays mostly outside because every time he comes in he pees on something). She selected a Yorkshire terrier and we found a breeder who didn’t want to charge $1000 for one. We brought it home last Thursday and the thing breaks the cuteness scale. The best part is I get to play with the dog, enjoy hanging out with it, bask in its adorability, and hand it over to my daughter to train and clean up its messes. I imagine it’s something like having a grandchild. We named it Perry, mostly so that we could look at each other and say “Hey, where’s Perry?” (yes we are big fans of Phineas and Ferb)

anyway, here’s a pic: Image

And that’s five things that are making me happy right now. I’d love to hear about yours.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2013 in culture, life, writing

 

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Grimdark Fatigue, or Why I Broke Up with The Walking Dead

Spoilers for The Walking Dead comic and TV series, Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire.

When I was younger I really like horror movies. Every Halloween I would have a group of friends over and we would watch movies all night long. My favorites were The Nightmare on Elm Street movies, but I liked them all. Start out with a group of characters, whittle them down until only one or two are left, then beat the bad guy.

Pop culture commentator Tara Ariano says that what you get out of these movies is catharsis, and she’s right. You deal with fear, anger, work through it and feel better at the end. That was certainly true for me.

As I got older my tastes in these things grew more selective. I liked the Alien movies, then came Pitch Black which I thought was absolutely astounding.

From here I moved on to other things, my favorite of which was The Walking Dead comic. I loved the revolving cast of characters, the situation, the sense that anyone could die (and did!)  at any moment.

However, as time went along, instead of developing a high tolerance for horror, I started to lose my ability to deal with it a little bit, lost the ability to shut out the grimness and enjoy the story. Instead of becoming desensitized, my triggers got a little more sensitive.

And one of those triggers was violence against children. I made it though a mother and a baby being shot to death, an eight-year-old twin murdering his other twin and then being shot in the head by another eight-year-old. What finally did me in was when a little boy who was running from zombies pissed himself, then was eaten while his mother tried to save herself.

That was it for me, I couldn’t deal with the grimness anymore and dropped the series.

Before this, however, came the tv series. At the start I loved it for all the same reasons I’d loved the comic series. All the death didn’t get to me. And then came the plotline where a little girl ran away, was turned into a zombie, and had to be shot in the head. I couldn’t deal with the tv series anymore and dropped it too.

In an ongoing story like this, there is no catharsis, no sense that we’ve pulled through and everything will be ok soon. It’s just one more grim situation after another.

From this, death in stories itself started to bug me more and more.

I love the Song of Ice and Fire series, but all the death there is starting to get to me too. Martin has killed off all the interesting, noble characters and replaced them with those that are much less compelling. I wanted this series to be about the triumph of the Stark family, and now the Starks are (mostly) dead. I understand that good stories don’t necessarily give readers what they think they want, but it would be nice if the good guys could get a win sometime. Then Martin goes and kills who I thought was the main character, the only one left who was fighting the good fight that needed to be fought. Just kills him dead with no warning. And I don’t know if I can deal with this series anymore. Too grim.

From here comes the Game of Thrones TV Series, based on the books. Now I haven’t seen any season 3 episodes because I don’t have HBO and am watching on Blue-Ray a year later. This series has been even more grim than the books, and talk about violence against children. They’ve slaughtered a baby, among others. In many ways the TV series has gone beyond the books in the violence they are willing to portray, but maybe it’s just the difference between reading it and seeing it.

Come this last week’s episode and the red wedding. Like I said, I haven’t seen the episode, but I knew it was coming, and I wondered how they would deal with it. If anything it seems like it goes beyond what happened in the books. They gut a pregnant lady. That did not happen in A Storm of Swords.

So now I don’t know if I can go on with this series either. Too grim. I don’t need more grim in my life. I have enough issues with mental stability as it is.

I know death is necessary in fiction. I killed off a little kid in my first published story. But there needs to be some hope in there, some catharsis, or it just overwhelms. And I don’t need to be overwhelmed by that any more.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2013 in culture, writing

 

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What’s Happening (now)

It has been so long since I posted that I was afraid that I had forgotten the password to log in and was going to have to start a new blog entirely. But I remembered, obviously, which means I am reusing passwords and will soon be hacked at all sites I log into.

I probably shouldn’t have typed that out loud. Just…a…sec…Never mind, I have changed all of my passwords.

The last year has been a strange one, lots of standing in place while events move around me, like I’m the main character in a badly plotted novel.

I put my writing on hold for a while, not on purpose but because I just wasn’t in the headspace to do it. The novel is still there, between drafts, waiting for me to come back to it. I have the characters and the setting, but the plot needs work. And the plot is kind of an important element here.

I have worked on a couple of short stories. I actually have three of them sitting around right now, and one that’s almost ready. Two of these have been sent out and rejected once without being sent out again. I am bad at submitting and that’s kind of an important step in all of this, I know. It’s not that I’m afraid of rejection, per se. I know I’m going to get rejected. lots. It’s more like I have trouble letting the stories be what they are and go out there into the world without feeling the need to tweak them just one more time. 

My mental state has been mixed. I’ve had no major mixed episodes, a few minor ones. I had a few days last week where all I wanted to do was sleep and brood, and the brooding was related to nothing that was actually going on. But there’s been nothing like the incident two years ago when I had to be babysat to avoid being hospitalized.

This year has been really hard financially, but things are looking up in that department, freeing me to treat writing like it’s an actual job, which is what I intend to do going forward.

But that’s what’s happening now. I plan to blog more, aiming for two posts a week, depending on if I have something to say or not. I imagine I will, if twitter is any indication.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in life, writing

 

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Quick Update

Still alive. Most days, at least.

I have started the novel over. yes, again. This means I have thrown out a 120,000 word draft of this thing, and then thrown out another 15,000 words (or not, depending.) I think I don’t know if I hate the book or not, at this point, but it clearly hates me.

I am taking a breather and working on some short stories. Some of these aren’t going any better, but at least the drafts aren’t so long.

I did not even pretend to do NaNo this year. At some point in the last couple of months I started getting really concerned about my writing, which then made me afraid of it a little bit, so the thought of writing 50,000 words in one month, or trying to, sent me into convulsions. It may be that I need to adjust my meds. I didn’t used to be this much of a pussy.

I’m declaring December a get shit done month so I can finally make some headway on all these projects, and wrestle the opening of the novel to the ground. Once done; I’ll feel much better.

It gets better after you break through the wall, right?

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2011 in life, writing

 

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“It’s time for a few small repairs,” he said.

It’s been a strange month.

I got about halfway into revising the book and discovered that the plot makes no sense. I’m sure it made sense at the time, but when I really thought some things out it all fell apart. I mean, I know what I meant, but it just didn’t work. There were a lot of things I liked about it. Some wordbuilding details, some of the big ideas. I came to the conclusion that I liked these things and loved the characters, but thought they needed to be in a better story. So I decided to set fire to it and just start over.

It’s liberating, really, when you make that decision. It allowed me to incorporate about a hundred new things that had occured to me as I slogged my way through version 1. It also allowed me to cut a whole lot of clumsy exposition and focus on what happens and who does it. My beta readers (saints as they are) will have to let me know if it’s working or not.

I blame Julia Cameron. I’ve been reading my way through The Artist’s Way, her twelve week course on higher creativity. I say reading it because I haven’t actually been doing it as completing every exercise would mean doing nothing else for twelve weeks. But I’ve been doing the morning pages, which consist of three pages of freewriting every day. They’re supposed to be done in the morning, per the name, but I’ve been cheating and usually doing them around lunchtime. It’s by freewriting about that book that I discovered my problems with it, and the ways to fix them in version 2.

The Artists Way popped up on my radar because of Mur Lafferty and I should be Writing. It sounded interesting and I made a mental note to seek it out. Then I was shelf-reading during my volunteer hours at our local library and there it was. Synchronicity, Cameron would call it.

One of the things she talks about is all the excuses we make for ourselves to not be creative. We decide we can only be creative if we have certain things, i.e. alcohol, or chaos, or, in my case, Mania.

I had tracked down my most creative periods of my life and found that Bipolar hypomania was a factor in all of them. My recent hypomanic episode had left me with an entire novel (yes, another one) loaded in my head. I had begun to despair of being able to be creative when I wasn’t having a manic episode. And mania, for me, always starts off just fine. There are a pleasant few days, an increase in energy, I don’t need to sleep, etc. But then it goes toxic and I end up in a mixed episode where I’m nothing but angry and stressed and tense twenty-four hours a day. So you can see why I’d like to opt out of mania entirely and not rely on it for my creativity.

And I can’t say it’s been a magic bullet, but reading the book and doing some of the exercises, and doing the morning pages did help me recreate the book in my head and get started on rewriting it. I can’t say I’ve been mania-free during that period, but it’s helped me show up on the page no matter how I was feeling otherwise. I’m no longer waiting to ride out the neurochemical storms.

Someday, probably when I’m done with this book and am waiting to start on the next, I will return to the Artists Way and do it the right way. In the mean time, I’m jazzed about the book again and think I can really do it right this time.

We’ll see what happens.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2011 in life, writing

 

At the risk of oversharing …

Wow, two blog posts in the same month. I KNOW!

Despite that, it hasn’t been a very productive couple of weeks. My Three hour writing day hasn’t had a chance to happen because of schduling and doctor’s appointments, and all that stuff but also my own complete lack of energy and focus. But these are all just excuses … bad writer! Bad!

I did manage to get a chapter edited and out to first readers, so that’s something. And this week is not totally non-crazy but isn’t totally crazy either, so it looks better. When talking about this schedule and my new determination to light a fire under my own ass and get things done, I was expressing my concern about doing it all and my wife had this little nugget of simple wisdom … you’re just going to have to get better at managing your time. You think?

Sometimes you just need the people you love to see through your bullshit.

One thing that was holding me back (at the risk of layering on more excuses) was the fact that I was having a lot of sleep issues, which meant I was just dead during the day. I had a couple of sleep studies done and at first they diagnosed me with sleep apnea (which made zero sense) and then they took it back and told me I was grinding my teeth in my sleep and had an acid reflux problem, both of which were waking me up for forgotten micro-seconds and keeping me from getting really deep sleep. So now I wear a mouthguard and take acid reducers. Yes, I am now the type of person who needs gear to sleep, but it’s better than that CPAP mask they tried to convince me I was going to have to wear. It took me a while to get used to the mouthguard, but it does seem to be helping.

This is all separate to my other sleep issue, which was week-long bouts of insomnia. This, I’ve learned, is a result of hypo-mania and I started taking one of my meds at bedtime so that all seems to be going better.

So this week my goal is to, yes, manage my time better: get another chapter edited, keep snowflaking the new thing, and get one of my stories out to another market (to get rejected again, probably, but still).

If someone wants to come over and clean my house for me, I wouldn’t turn it down …

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2011 in life, writing

 

You can stun a mugger with it, that’s got to count for something.

Yes, yes, it’s been a long time. It’s not you, it’s me.

Not much to report except for writing writing writing, at least this past couple of weeks. I did a half0hearted attaempt at Nanowrimo, hoping to complete a novella in that month, even if I didn’t write an entire 50,000 novel. I even started it, got out my little moleskine notebook and everything. I can’t really explain why it never went anywhere but there except to say that I just didn’t have it in me this November, so I gave myself a break and moved on. I still have the novella rattling around in the back of my head, but it’s not ready yet. I’ll write in when it is.

So I spent November and December pretty bummed out and finding myself not able to write anything. I made some edits on the novel but didn’t really get anything done at all, and I wasn’t really sure why. I was just in a funk, I guess. It happens.

Then the new Year hit and things still weren’t happening and I was getting more and more bummed out about it. I started doing a little better, got some more chapters edited and out to first readers (shout-out to Mel and Jon).

There’s a post in here somewhere about Bipolar disorder and how it relates to the creative process, but that’ll be another aside later.

At the end of January I joined my wife in her “great activity challenge.” Now, in the past sixth months she has been on a fitness and weight loss journey that so far has resulted in the loss of 70 lbs. Knowing the exercise was getting a little challenging for her, she created a facebook group and challenged all of her friends to do 30 minutes of activity every day, and keep each other accountable. There’s even a cash prize involved. I joined the challenge with the goal of training to run a 5k. I know that seems like a ridiculously small goal to anybody who runs at all regularly, but it’s my goal. I want to be able to run with my daughter at her next 5k event.

To keep myself motivated through long, boring hours on the treadmill, I (my wife, actually) set up a laptop stand so I can watch movies while I run and do incline hikes. Currently I am alternating disks rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Farscape (I didn’t say I was proud of it). My running capacity, though still embarrassing, has been improving and I’ve kept the asthma attacks to a minimum.

And as I did that, I started writing more. I finally finished the two short stories I’ve had half-completed since September and started sending them out (Lightspeed magazine rejects REAL fast, people). I got back to work on the novel, and as I got my butt back in the seat things started happening again.

Last week I had an idea dump, fully-formed, into my head (see, mania can be fun sometimes). I’ve been looking for my next project, thought the novella was going to be it, but then this happened. It’s a YA concept, which I’m especially excited about because I used to teach middle school and I would love to write for that audience.

But wait, you say. If I start working on something new and exciting doesn’t that mean I’ll abandon the novel? I can’t abandon the novel mostly because my wife will kill me if I show myself, once again, unable to finish something. And I don’t want to. So what I’ve done is set myself up with a real writing schedule. I try to write three hours a day. One hour is on novel edits. One hour on snowflake outlining the new thing, one hour on short stories and other projects (like blogging). I can’t always do three hours a day, but almost always I can get at least one in. I have no day job so I really have no excuse. It’s been a week and a half of this and I’ve gotten four chapters edited, and a good start on having the YA project completely mapped out. I also started a new short story to go out there and bounce around with the others.

Tonight I realized I now have the first third of my novel edited, so I printed it all out and put it in a nice binder under the book cover I geekily designed. That’s over 200 pages of work done now. I needed it all printed out so I can refer to it as I continue to revise, but it’s nice to know that it’s hefty enough to be used in self defense if it should come to that (those rabbits can get pretty uppity sometimes).

So that’s the state of the Chad as it is right now. I plan to update this blog more often. I have it on the schedule and everything.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2011 in life, writing