Saturday, June 30, 2012

Goodreads Review - The Hobbit

The HobbitThe Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I gave this book four stars based on when I read it as a teenager. Now that I've read it again, it gets to keep its stars, but some of that is through nostalgia. There's no question this is a classic in the way it is written. Of course, having read the Lord of The Rings Trilogy, some of the story lacks the novelty it had upon a first reading. In fact, I was amazed to see how much this story is a trial run for many of the adventures Tolkien chronicles in greater detail in the trilogy. One thing that struck me is how the ring of power (you know, precious) is treated almost as a gimmick and used primarily as a plot device that allows a small and weak character like a Hobbit to accomplish amazing things. The other striking thing from the book is the almost complete lack of emotional relationships. Tolkien's attention to geographic details is almost neurotic and seemingly at the expense of much emotional character interaction. I was also surprised to find how completely useless and unkind the thirteen dwarfs are portrayed until the very end of the story. For those interested in the movie coming out next year, I recommend a read or re-read. If you're excited about the movie, you have doubtless read this story already, and probably several times.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Goodreads Review - Before I Fall

Before I FallBefore I Fall by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazing, amazing. A truly moving story, beautifully written. The teenage experience and psyche are so realistically explored in this book. Wonderful and authentic voice. It's not meant to be a thriller, but one of the big takeaways of this story is that I really, really wanted to know where it was going. I was so anxious to see the character development, to see the MC learn from what was happening around her, and she did in a very natural and satisfying way. Not forced, not rushed, and not cliched. And the ending was exactly what it needed to be, though it was never obvious how it was all going to end. The book avoided being preachy about the main issue running through the subtext of the story. This manages to be an influential book without sacrificing any of its entertainment value. Looking forward to my next Lauren Oliver novel.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

The Liebster Blog Award

I was nominated for the Liebster Blog Award by Christina from Ensconced in YA.  I'm going to try and not screw this up too much.
Ensconced in YA

The Rules (as I understand them):

1.  Never talk about Liebster Blog Award (scratch that, wrong rule list)
2.  Post 11 facts about yourself.
3.  Answer the 11 questions that the bloggers give you.
4.  Tag 11 other bloggers that have under 200 followers.
5.  Tell these bloggers that you tagged them.

11 Facts About Myself

1.    I am a YA author who has written two books, The Buried Covenant and The Intern’s Tale.
2.    I am the husband of one, father of two, and whatever you call being the manservant of two dogs.
3.    I’ve owned five Ford Mustangs in a row, all different colors.
4.    I co-owned a teacher supply and toy store with my wife for five years.
5.    I forcefully borrowed (permanently) a frog made out of shells from a kid when I was about seven (this is turning into confessional).
6.    I buy dying plants on clearance at Lowes and nurse them back to health, so yeah, I’m kind of a hero.
7.    My third book is about sexting and I’m not sure my wife is up to the research that’s going to have to go into that.
8.    I’ve never chewed gum.
9.    I fell down running really fast as a kid and now I don’t run that hard anymore.
10.  I forgot that running lesson once as a teen and fell down with a girl on my back.  Sufficiently emotionally scarred, now I really don’t do that.
11.  I consider eleven item lists to be one item too long.

Ensconced in YA Questions:

1.  What is your favorite movie?  I signed something when I was four that requires me to always answer “Star Wars”.  It hooked me young and made a huge impression on me.  If I could get around the contract (close your ears, George), I think The Dark Knight is just about the most perfect movie made. 
2.  What is your favorite genre within YA?  I’ll throw dystopian out there.  It’s a good format for asking big questions.  You can also have elements of the other genres tucked into a good dystopian.
3.  Do you have any dogs?  What kinds?  Two dogs.  One is a dachshund.  The other one is result of a love orgy between a dachshund, a chihuahua, and maybe a terrier.  Whatever you want, he’s got it.
4.  What book are you currently reading?   I’m stuck under the shadow of the Lonely Mountain with thirteen worthless dwarfs and one overly accommodating Hobbit. 
5.  What is your current obsession?  I’m really excited about the new Spider-man movie coming out.  I’m as giddy as a school boy (what, school boys can’t get excited about stuff?)
6.  What is your favorite food?  I’m always up for Mexican, but you can actually lure me into a blacked-out van with sweet potato casserole.  I didn’t discover it until I was an adult and I’m making up for lost time!
7.  Who is your favorite Harry Potter Character?  I’ll go with Dumbledore.  I love it when characters have more information than the readers do.  I thought Dumbledore always played it so cool.  He also got to go to work in a robe.
8.  If you could have a superpower what would it be and why?  I want all of Spider-man’s powers.  How’s that for greedy?  I’ve already done all the heavy lifting of imagining I was Spider-man as a kid.  Just give me the powers, I’ll figure out the web-shooters and the costume on my own.  I’m ready!
9.  Who wins: Twilight vs. Hunger Games?  I imagine this would be a pretty dull fight, two stacks of books just sitting in a field, people waiting for something to happen.
10.   What do you like the most about blogging?  So far, I’m really entertained when I start a blog entry thinking it will be about one thing and then it totally goes another way.  I usually learn a lesson about myself from writing my own blog posts.
11.  Who is your favorite evil character?  The Wicked Witch of the West.  She struck fear into my heart at an impressionable age, so she gets the top billing.  “A little fire, scarecrow?”  What was she thinking?  He was made of straw!

Blogs I have tagged:

Bookerella Reviews
Now Is Gone
Mallory Heart Reviews
Wrathsqueen's Books
Sated Faery
Tsk, Tsk, What to Read?
Oh, For the Love of Books
Spirit of Books
Teeny Reader
Bound to Astound
Tracy Rozzlynn's Blog

Questions for the Tagged Blogs:

11 Questions

1.  What was the first book that made a lasting impression on you?
2.  What was the most recent book that made a lasting impression on you?
3.  Have you ever slammed a book closed and thrown it across the room like in The Never Ending Story?
4.  Do you think trees are secretly behind the growing popularity of e-books?
5.  What’s in my pocket?
6.  What author do you suspect is in the business just for the groupies?
7.  If Edward were tragically the Creature from the Black Lagoon instead of a vampire, do you think Jacob would have had a shot?
8.  Are you past the point of having to look words up in the dictionary when you’re reading a book?
9.  Why do bookmarks have tassels on them? 
10.  I have a really mean looking cat with your address here who wants to know “Are you a cat or dog person?”  Answer carefully.
11.  What’s your favorite time of day for curling up with a good book?

I really enjoyed participating in this little contest.  Hope my tagged blogsters get in on the fun!

Friday, June 22, 2012

How Authors Are Like Lord Voldemort

The fresh-baked bread is ready, he just doesn't know it.

When you’re writing, do you know that part of the process where things start to feel like a chore?  You’re editing and checking for inconsistencies, and you know these characters better than most real people.  You’re closing plot holes and falling into new ones, and you feel like you haven’t created anything new in fourteen hundred years.

Of course you know this part, it takes up a majority of the time that you spend writing.  It’s called ‘The Rewrite’ or, more appropriately ‘The Rewrites’, because they are self-multiplying and one always begets another.  Eventually you just pull the plug and accept that rewriting is a never ending process, and you basically just have to stop when you’re only changing things for the sake of changing them, or worse still, you’re changing them back to the way they were seven rewrites ago (been there).

Well, guess what.  I’m not in that phase right now.  I’m in ‘Creation’!  Yes, that perfect place in the life of a book where you’ve gotten off the starting line (also a miserable place) and you’ve taken the first, strong, confident strides down the glorious track of writing that eventually becomes an exhausting loop of rewriting. 

But right now, it’s new!  There are characters to create.  There are places to describe.  There are worlds to imagine.  There are plots to ravel (your readers do the unraveling, I guess).  You can do no wrong!  (Please refer back to a previous post about beer-goggled writing).

I’ve brought four new friends into my world this week.  Mila, Rup, Blake, and Maggie.   These are their names today, perhaps not tomorrow.  These friends are so flexible and understanding, they will let me find and replace their names with a key stroke if it tickles my fancy.

I really like this phase.  My favorite part of a story is discovering who these characters are.  Ultimately, I learn these characters are me.  Some of them are who I think I am, others who I hope I’m not.  Some have a little piece of me here, some have another piece there. 

They are my horocruxes.  Once created, I don’t think I could survive without them.

What other endeavor allows you split off a piece of your soul and share it with the world and still keep it for yourself at the same time?

Not dark wizarding.  Just ask Voldemort.

I think this picture is just going to confuse people.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Glass Cases: The Test

Glass Cases: The Test: After a writing contest gave him a prompt of "giving something up," today's featured author, Shawn Keenan, produced The Test . Shawn is a writer from Florida who's also written two YA novels, The Intern's Tale and The Buried Covenant. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Whose Side Is Time On Anyway?

This picture is bad for my blood pressure.

So I’m stuck in traffic getting nowhere fast.  This happens on occasion, even though I don’t live in a big metropolis.  Along comes this guy running on the sidewalk next to the road where I’m stuck, getting nowhere fast.  This guy has his shirt off and is running along at a good clip.  His silver hair is shining in the sun and so is his incredibly toned and muscular chest.  If I had to estimate, I’d put him in his late fifties.  He was at a spot in the city where it was clear he must have been running for a while.  It’s not like he just started a few minutes ago, so I’m guessing he’s already run multiple miles.

Where is this story going, you ask?  What does it have to do with writing, or books, or much of anything?  Well, here’s what it got me thinking.  I’ve been exercising and running and working out for twenty years now.  I started around age seventeen and have been mostly consistent about it.  This guy (who knows how long he’s been at, maybe started last week) is twenty years my senior and has gotten the kind of results I’m about twenty (impossible) pounds away from even beginning to achieve.  I wonder sometimes if my chances of achieving my fitness goals are slipping away with time, but then I see this guy who hasn’t let age or anything else get in his way of doing what he wants to do and has gotten great results. 

So does this mean I should never make excuses, always press forward toward my goals, fight back discouragement with this stranger’s unwitting example of excellence?

No, it means, even in twenty years, there’s always going to be some jerk doing it better than I am.  Is that inspirational?  Maybe not to you, but for me, it was a little.  It reminds me that I can’t measure my success by the yardstick of other peoples’ accomplishments.  I can succeed even if I’m not succeeding in the same way others are. 

If you’re writing and feeling like every other writer in the world is running past you on the sidewalk with their tanned, muscular chest heaving with pride, just remember - that’s never going to change.  Even at the pinnacle of your own personal success, someone else is going to be doing better. 

The key is to just turn away from the sidewalk and keep your eyes on your own road.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Movie in a Bottle

A Nicholas Sparks Production

My wife and I watched the movie The Vow last night. It stars Channing Tatum (or Tatum Channing as I always think of him, just seems to make more sense) from Dear John, a movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, and Rachel McAdams, from The Notebook, a movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel.

I went through the whole movie thinking I was watching an adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks book. I was so happy.

I’ve wanted to read something by Sparks for a while but haven’t gotten around to it. I thought this would be a nice little test. If I enjoyed the movie, the logic went, I would probably enjoy his books and would pick one up soon. I know, I know, they take liberties with movies and they are rarely as good as the books. But this is how I was turned onto the Twilight series, which I quite enjoyed reading. And Harry Potter, as well.

Let’s get the suspense out of the way. I liked the movie. More confounding, I liked Tatum Channing in it (sorry, that’s just what his name is to me). I’ve now seen him in G.I. Joe, 21 Jump St., and this. And the second and third times I saw him were enough to make me forget about the first time. He’s now done funny and he’s done sweet. What can’t this guy do? (I will not be seeing Magic Mike. Whatever he’s going to do in that movie, I’m not too interested in seeing actually. And even more uninterested in having my wife see.)

But back to books. As I watched the movie, I couldn’t help but think of it in terms of a written story. I wondered if certain parts were in the book. I wondered if the actors were being true to the characters in the book. How was that scene written? Was that look actually written out, or was that added for the movie? How did Leo say “fiercely” with so much passion in print? More points to Tatum.

After the movie finished, I decided I liked Nicholas Sparks books and I would choose one to read next. As it turns out, upon further research, I like movies that star people who have starred in other Nicholas Spark book adaptations.

So now I must reach out to my imaginary blog followers and ask for your input. Who’s read Nicholas Sparks? Would you recommend his works, and if so, which one first?

I will recommend The Vow as a sweet movie that avoids certain obvious plot twists in favor of more realistic outcomes. It got me thinking, about writing and about life, and that’s always a good thing. If you have someone you’re deeply in love with that you can watch it with like I did, all the better.

If you happen to have forgotten who you’re deeply in love with, don’t worry, you will totally get this movie!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


MALLORY HEART REVIEWS: THE BURIED COVENANT by Shawn Keenan_Review: The Buried Covenant by Shawn Keenan 25 Stars! How I loved this novel! I was enraptured with the lyricism from the first page, then captivated by the characterizations. The author has a special perspective, a divergent point of view, such that we see deeper into his characters than is often the case-this type of deeper characterization is found only in the best YA books-and I just kept wishing the story could go on and on and on, neverending! Jayke Wolff, the protagonist, hero, and narrator, is the kind of individual we all ought to befriend, or better yet, to be. I am reminded of the protagonists of two of Michael Marshall Smith’s novels (“Bad Things” and “The Intruders”). It’s unfortunately too seldom that readers encounter characters with this much depth, this much integrity, this much “righteousness.” I am just amazed at Jayke-and I reveled in this novel. If you haven’t read it, DO NOT WAIT!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Goodreads Review - Unwind

Unwind (Unwind, #1)Unwind by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great book. Takes a very divisive issue (more than one, actually) and presents some different thoughts on it. I think it's clear the author falls to one side of the issue, but that shouldn't discourage people from reading the story and thinking through their own beliefs. The story is very engrossing. Just as things seem to settle down, something happens that puts the characters back into peril. The characters are very interesting. I thought the ending was very climactic and suited the book quite well. I recommend this story for anyone who wants to think outside their comfort zone and spend a little time in self reflection on what it means to be "a person" and to have a soul. The line that came to my mind several times during the book was, "I am more than the sum of my parts!"

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Never Judge a Book by It's Cover

Who can say they've never fallen victim to judging a book by it's cover?  You can all clearly see my hands are tucked into my pockets, right?  I've picked up books based on cool covers without doing the due diligence of finding out what people thought of the book.  The most memorable example was Cassandra Clare's CITY OF BONES.  There's some guy with markings all over himself giving off some kind of green light, and there's a really cool cityscape below, and what is going on here?  That doesn't look like a city made of bones?  Where are the bones?  Are they under the city?  Are they that dude's bones?  What's going on here?  I finally got the book and lucked out.  The book is good, and I'll probably get to the sequels at some point. 

So now I'm working on a new cover for my rewritten, second edition of the book formerly known as ERRANT INTERN (see previous blog entry for explanations on why the name changed).  As you can see from the cover below, the book is now called THE INTERN'S TALE (see also previously referenced blog post).

On the first edition, I'd stuck a picture of a castle on the cover.  Lazy.  No other way around it.  There aren't actually castles in the story, there are castle skyscrapers.  Very different structures, and none of them are on a cliff like in the picture you see on this blog.  (I still like the picture, would love to visit that castle, it's just not terribly relevant to my book).

I knew I had some drawing to do.  Had a few ideas, thought about painting something.  But first I had to figure out what, exactly, a mechomare was going to look like.  With all of the unusual things in THE INTERN'S TALE, I think mechomares are what people will be most interested in seeing.  Now, for the uninitiated, a mecomare is a mechanical horse that rides much like a motorcycle: a steel horse, to borrow a phrase from the great bard, Jon Bon Jovi.  I knew what one looked like in my head, but I needed to get it down in picture form.  Treadfoot, Kip's mechomare in the story is a Vlaamperd-Excelsior model, a fine mechomare by any measure.  It's moniker  is a combination of the horse breed known as the Vlaamperd and one of several motorcycle models called Excelsiors. 

And those two real life examples are what the picture is based on.  I drew it up and then started playing with the picture in an online editor.  My wife had an inspired idea before I'd started that had stuck with me.  She had suggested doing something that looked like blueprints.  My idea had been to do something in a simple, fine-lined, medieval style of art.  The cover is a blending of those two ideas and I think it's kind of a fun looking shot.

I imagine the picture represents Kip as he was at the Ferrisborough Squash Festival and Jousting Tournament, matching wits against the pompous Jex Halfmoon, Esquire.

I know we aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover, but I hope this cover does a better job of getting someone interested in judging the inside.   

Friday, June 8, 2012

Good Reads Review - The Flamingo Rising

The Flamingo Rising (Ballantine Reader's Circle)The Flamingo Rising by Larry Baker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book really pulled me in and kept me engaged until the end. The two things that stood out to me in this book were the characters and timeline and its use as a heavy-handed foreshadowing device. Having gotten to the end of the book and the pivotal scene that most of the foreshadowing was leading up to, I felt the unusual device was warranted and lent to the emotional impact of the scene in a needful way. All of the characters were fleshed out with deep backgrounds and personal motivations that were mostly hinted at but few were completely revealed. As this was written from a first person perspective, it makes sense that the reader could only really know the narrator's mind, but the author set the conditions that you really wanted to know everyone's motivations. By the end, you were left with only a hint of the source of most of the character's defining personality traits and flaws, but much of what you understand about them comes only from your own intuition about small hints and seemingly unimportant moments glimpsed throughout the book. The book left me wondering about many of these characters' continuing lives but also satisfied with what I knew.

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

There Ain't Enough Correction Tape in the World

IBM - Before they made computers (yes, they still make computers)
 they made these.
 How on earth did Shakespeare do it?  Or Poe?  Or Bronte? 

They didn't even have the benefit of one of these 14 ton beauties.  This is what I first learned to type on (no, I'm not that old, but it shows how underfunded schools were when I was growing up.  Ok, I'm a little old).  My inspirations didn't even have ballpoint pens.  I guess they used quills?  Now I'm really impressed. 

But even with a 1960's state-of-the-art IBM Selectric typewriter, how did prolific authors compose their masterpieces in such a linear fashion?

I was thinking about the way I build my stories today while I was writing something (probably should have been concentrating more on what I was doing).  I was working my way through a chapter, knowing that every brilliant idea for a certain scene just wasn't in my brain yet.  But I'd grown tired of waiting for the creative bolt of lightning to come down from the sky and meld my fingertips to the keyboard.  I needed to get some ideas down.  I knew I could always come back later and chop out stuff, squeeze in new lines and cut and paste dialogue.  There is truly no limit to the ways we can manipulate our written word these days.

Now imagine doing that using a typewriter.  Let me save you young people some time.  You can't do it.  Can't even come close.  You can change your mind about something if you're still on that line, are willing to eliminate completely everything you typed since the offending word or letter, and have a nice, full cartridge of correction tape installed on your Selectric.

Can you think of a better way to stifle creativity? 

Man, have we got it good.  I doubt twenty percent of what I type out in a first draft goes untouched in subsequent rewrites.  How did the greats do it?  Were our author forefathers and foremothers so talented and focused that the words just poured from their minds in the perfect, orderly sequence we find them in today in masterpieces such as ROMEO AND JULIET, THE RAVEN, and JANE EYRE?

Or is the truth that it probably took even the greats about fifty times longer to crank out these beauties than it would have taken them today with a laptop at their writing desks?  And how much better could they have been?  Well, probably not any better.  But we might have gotten even more works out of them if they'd had the time-saving tools we have.  That's assuming the struggle wasn't a component of the greatness.  But compared to modern day writers, their whole lives were more struggle than most of ours will ever be.  So they probably could have handled a little convenience and still been brilliant, fighting off scarlet fever and stuff.

I guess the point of all this is, I've taken a minute to appreciate that while writing can be trying, thankless, lonely, and frustrating at times, it's no where near the trial it would be without our modern conveniences.  I read that George Lucas still writes all of his movie screenplays down on a yellow notepad.  I love the original Star Wars, but if you've seen any of his movies since then, do I need to say more?  Maybe his spelling and grammar are fine, but the guy could benefit from a 'dialogue checker' feature.

Computers don't make writers more creative, more in tune with their readers, or more insightful about the world around them.

But they sure do help shuffle all those words around (or shuffle those words all around.  I'll decide later).

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Happy Endings

I recently read a famous YA novel called THE GIVER by Lois Lowry.  I'd known for a while that this was an important book to read, and when I finally got around to it, I wasn't disappointed.  The story gets you thinking about the big issues.  And I don't mean which of the Kardashian girls spends the most time cleaning out her razor after shaving her legs (I think we all know the answer to that one anyway).  I was left thinking about things like "What makes me more than just an animal living on this planet like all the other animals?"  And "How much individuality and freedom would I be willing to give up for comfort and security?"  This question was especially topical during the decade after 9/11, and may still feel very relevant to people in our country today.

So the book is a great read and has a wonderfully simply quality to it that allows complicated issues to be addressed with grace.

So how does it end?  Well, I'm not much for spoilers and too lazy to do a ***SPOILER ALERT**** thing, so I'm just going to say, it ends the way it must.  And it got me thinking about how books need to end (the one I'm writing, in particular) to satisfy the reader.  I think, as a reader, the most important part of a book is the ending.  Everything boils down to those last few moments.  If it's ended well (and by well, I don't necessarily mean happily) then the writer has validated everything that came before it and has cemented your impression of the book in the closing pages. 

A lighthearted book should have a neat ending that leaves everything tidy and polished. 

A suspenseful book should solve the immediate mystery, if not the full mystery, in a satisfying way without relying on gimmicks stuck in at the last minute. 

An adventure should conclude the current episode without ending the main character's career. 

And so on, and so on.

A book like THE GIVER which asks questions that can't be answered, only contemplated, needed an ending that doesn't completely conclude or wrap everything up.  And without giving too much away, that's what it did.  It left things open to interpretation.  Throughout the book, the position of the author is pretty well understood, but the reader is still given room to think for themselves.  I liked this ending.

Then I found out the book has sequels.

I haven't read the sequels, don't really intend to read them.  I think it was brave of the author to end the story the way she did.  I'm not totally sure what characteristic I can attribute to her writing a second and third.  This happened to another great book I read, LIFE AS WE KNEW IT by Susan Beth Pfeffer.  Another great book that I don't believe for a minute was ever intended to be a series.
Each of these books had complete endings for their stories and I wasn't left wondering anymore about the characters.  I was left thinking and pondering and even puzzling (these books made me a Seuss character apparently).  I didn't need a continuation of the story.  I wanted a different story that was as well written as these, but I was satisfied with what I'd experienced, and that's a good ending. 

When I wrote THE BURIED COVENANT, I went in knowing I intended the storyline to lend itself to a series.  As the book took shape I was jotting down ideas for subsequent volumes.  The first book was an origin story.  Jayke's story was just getting started.  The ending was easy for me.  Doors wide open and lots of adventure ahead.

I wrote THE INTERN'S TALE with the intention of it being a stand alone work.  I thought I could tell Kip and Abbey's, and even Will and Alabaster's, stories in one volume, wrap it up, pretty little bow in place.  But the original ending didn't resonate with my beta readers.  I had failed to follow my own rule.  I'd written an adventure (at its core).  Readers don't want to see these characters come to an end.  They want to feel that their lives continue on, with more adventures just over the horizon.  So I'm revamping the ending, and the shiny polished ending will live on only in my mind and on my hard drive.

Sometimes, as the writer, it's our burden to bear the knowledge that our characters' adventures do end at some point.  The excitement that was prevalent in the story we got down on the page has to fade over time.  Just not right now for the readers. 

The Harry Potter Series had had a shiny, polished ending, vanquishing the villain, passing the torch to the next generation.  But it had six books that ended leaving you wanting more.  More adventures, more character development, more secrets revealed.  But after seven robust volumes in the series, who could argue that J.K. hadn't earned the right to a happy ending for the Boy Who Lived?

All good things must come to an end. 

It's just the timing that has to be worked out.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Beer Goggled Writing

Am I the only one who seems to have beer goggles on when looking at my first draft of something I've written?

I'm always like, "Hey, baby, I just saw you from across the desk and thought you looked really prosed and everything.  Do you indent here often?"

Then, after a month apart, I go back and pull up what looked so hot after first typing it out.

Where did that sweat piece of art go?

I blame my parents (and all parents in general that encourage and boost their kids' confidence).  Did you ever take some unidentifiable piece of mauled construction paper teepee looking thing to your mom and get this reaction?

"Oh, Shawn, (your mom probably addressed you by your name, not mine), this is amazing.  Did you do this all by yourself?  I've never seen anything so wonderful.  This ... thing ... has me reevaluating the post-modern aesthetic.  You clearly don't need to go to college with such a lucrative art career in front of you, but could you go anyway?  Just to humor me?"

My young impressionable mind was warped by many similar encounters just like this.  And I was eighteen when this one happened.

So, in my humble opinion (which ain't too humble at times, thanks again, mom) over supportive parents have blinded me to my own falliblility.  Only the passage of time can remove the fog of self-congratulatory impulse my post-adolescent ego spreads like a shiny lacquer over everything I produce.  (This is really turning out to be a nice post, isn't it?  I wonder if anyone else has ever done a post this nice ... wait, stop that!)

But before as writers we dare to peel the steamed up gogg's away from our red-rimmed peepers, could there be a useful purpose to this phenomenon?  What if we could actually see our first drafts initially the way we see them after a bit of time and perspective.  You know how you feel when you come back to a chapter, read what was your favorite line when you first wrote it and immediately turn over all the mirrors in your house in shame?  How could we ever get a first draft out experiencing that disgust at ourselves so early in the process?  Who would keep writing?  They say writing is rewriting (they being Stephen King, I believe.  He says most of the smart things about writing.)  And that's so true.  That's where the real work starts, where you focus the story, flesh out the characters, tie together the plot, finally come up with the wonderful twist that was stubbornly a straight line to the finish in your first draft.

But the first draft is where you get to be the kid that loved to create something.  You can't create something from nothing without crapping it up initially.  Just look at the platypus.  Even God throws some stuff against the wall to see what sticks.  And that's good.  It's necessary, and it's how you find the pony in that initial pile.  And if you're lucky enough to have people in your life who have built you up and handed you a nice, thick-lensed pair of beer goggles, you'll get through the crap and be sitting pretty on that pony before you know it.



Friday, June 1, 2012

Blog Title Origins

Ok, so my blog was at a demonstration on radiation when it noticed this little, glowing spider gliding down toward its hand...

No, wait, wrong origin story.

My current project was called Errant Intern until it wasn't.  Working title is now The Intern's Tale.  I try to please the ghost of Chaucer in as many of my endeavours as possible. 

There was a bit of confusion about the meaning of the word "Errant".  Here's what the internets say about it.

1.  Deviating from the regular or proper course.  (That's me all over.  Total rebel.)

2.  Journeying or traveling, as a medieval knight in quest of adventure; roving adventurously.  (This is totally what I meant for my main character.  That's so Kip).

3. Moving in an aimless or lightly changing manner. (I don't think anyone would be happy to be described this way, maybe a butterfly).

For me, the title captured the blended story elements of a modern-medieval world and was oh-so-clever.  I also googled it and nothing came up.  No one had named a book that yet.

There's probably a good reason for that.

When you're at the stage of a book that only your good friends and family members are reading it, it's difficult to get unbiased, critical feedback on it.  And that's fine, understandable, and I wouldn't really want that to change.  But sometimes silence is as loud as a scream, an no one has ever said anything about the title.  Oh, now that I'm changing it I'm hearing a few things.  Stuff like, "That's great.  I can take that off my prayer list now."

So it'll probably be The Intern's Tale, until no one says anything about it for a while.

In summary, my blog will be about a rebellious, adventurous and slightly butterfly-like writer trying to make his way in the cruel, cruel world of publishing.  So in a nod to my former title, which annoyed so few, but all that encountered it, my blog will be called Errant Author.

Until it isn't.

Delusions of Grandeur

First off, I spelled the title to this post without the aid of spell check.  Yes, I've spell checked it since, but I got it right the first (fine, third) time.  I've impressed myself, which is clearly easy to do, but if you understood the depth of my deficiencies in spelling, you'd be equally impressed.  No you wouldn't, but give me my little moment, please.

I've come to the realization, that when you start off blogging, you have to be delusional.  I've postponed putting much effort into a blog due to the fact that I know no one is going to be reading it to start out.  You can't promote something that doesn't exist but it seems weird to produce something that doesn't have a ready audience.  I think the only solution to this dichotomy (misspelled that one) is to embrace delusion.  I have followers.  I have a media platform.  I have ... wait for it ... fans of my work. 

No you don't, you say. 

Hey, someone read this and put me in my place!  Oh, wait, that was just me.  Now I'm delusional and schizophrenic (missed that one by a lot, but who's really surprised).  Well, that's fine.  I'm going to count additional personalities as followers.  I'm not alone in this.

Yes you are.

Crap, one of my personalities is a tool.

I haven't decided what exactly this blog's purpose will be.  My personalities and I will hash out a mission statement soon.  Basically, I'm writing books and no one is reading them.  Ok, a few really cool people are reading them.  Don't you want to be cool too?

I'll wrap up this second post with words of wisdom.  "You never get a second chance to make a second impression ...  or a third impression, or a fourth."

Bottom line, you're always making impressions, so make them memorable. 

For a bit of inspiration, I'll share what I imagine popular author E.L James thought when facing the prospect that her book might go unnoticed and never achieve success.  "If you write it, they will come."

Think about that for a minute. 

Ok, now get your mind out of the gutter and do something productive with your day.