Monday, April 29, 2013

By the power of ink, I banish thee

"We interrupt your regularly scheduled writing session for a bit of personal drama."

This message has been running through my mind for the past two weeks. Usually when there’s drama that interrupts and/or postpones my WIP it’s something that has happened to someone else and because I care about that person, I feel obliged to help. I don’t mind helping out and I never resent them for it. It’s not their fault that a monkey was thrown into their plans. However, when the drama is mine and it’s caused by a personal demon, I take exception.

I’m not going to go into specifics since the persons involved have no idea that their words and actions raised an old demon – and I don’t want them to know. The issue is mine and since our paths rarely cross it’s unlikely that something like this will happen again. Besides, I thought I’d banished this particular demon a long time ago.

Fortunately, re-banishing this demon is a simple matter. It involves some cathartic writing. The first time I tried this method I had mixed feelings about it. The cathartic story succeeded in helping me work through the anger and angst that attracted the demon in the first place, but the story itself ended up in the trash because it was too emo to see the light of day.

That was several years ago. I’m a better writer than I was then and I’m hoping that when I’ve worked through this that the end result will be something respectable. I don’t care if it’s publishable. While that would be nice, that’s not what I’m aiming for in this regard. What I’m aiming for is a return to normalcy so I can resume work on the Cyberfunk. The strong emotions this drama has affected make it hard for me to concentrate on anything else. Even though I really should be working on the Cyberfunk today (I have two weeks to finish it) I need to take a short break from it so I can clear my head. If I don’t the negative emotions running around my skull will sour the story and that’s the last thing I want. By channeling it into a random short story that I don’t particularly care about, I can exorcise my psyche and move on.

As I said earlier, I am a better writer now, so I have a small hope that the cathartic story will be something worthy of submission. If it’s not, it will have served it’s purpose so it’s still a win in the end. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Memories of Light

It's been long enough that I feel comfortable sharing my spoilerific thoughts on A Memory of Light. If you haven't finished reading it, feel free to bookmark the page and come back to this post.


This is your last warning.

I took my sweet time reading it -- you don't rush the end of the world -- and I have no regrets and no complaints. I can't even complain about the 190 page chapter. This book lived up to the definition of Epic Fantasy. There were times when I had to stop reading and hug the book for a while because of how a passage or a chapter moved me. Likewise, there were parts like Rand and Matt's bickering in the garden, that made me laugh out loud. Though, I couldn't laugh too loud. I didn't want to spoil it for my mom (who still hasn't finished it) (Grr!).

I know some have criticized the series in general for being so battle heavy and so laden with tactics that it bogs the book down. I've never been one of those people. In fact, they're among my favorite scenes. The battle tactics used in the many assaults of the last battle made me squee. No, really. It did. I'm such an ancient battle nerd (it's one of the many hazards of being a fantasy writer) that I recognized strategy X as being one used at the battle of _______ by General So-and-so.

Ok, I have to take a moment to gush about the new passages from The Cycle of the Dragon and other prophesies. It was as if everything quoted before now was a warm up for these. They read like scripture. I want to frame each one and hang them on my wall. If I was any good at calligraphy, I would. 

I was upset that Egwene, Gawyn, Bela, and many others didn't live through the last battle but allowing everyone to live would have cheapened the moment and the battle. As much as I hate to say it, we needed to lose a few near and dear ones. Like all long time fans, I was as emotionally invested in the outcome of the battle as the characters. Seeing their lives come to an end in both glorious and terrible ways, made the battle more real. Their loss was my loss. When the time came for their part in the tale to end, I was ready to let them go. As for those who had near brushes with death, I'm so freaking happy that they were saved in time. Some people need to live for the happiness of all. Even Moridin.

Overall, I'm pleased with the end and the journey to it. In the end, everything made sense and everything had a purpose. No, I don't think Rand's fate was a cheat. It's only right that he get the chance to live a normal life, to be anonymous for a change. He's more than earned it. If he had died in the way the prophesies implied, the end would have been too dark. The forces of light won the battle, after all. A conclusion full of sadness and woe wouldn't have conveyed that. Not in the way that a man with a heart full of hope and an impossible spark does. Besides, there were still a couple of Min's prophesies that still needed to come to pass and we all know that her viewings are never wrong.

Oh, if any of you were wondering, I didn't need to rescue my copy from the land of lost things. I bought my mom her own copy. My copy is tucked away on the shelf with its brethren and that is where it will stay until it is time to let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The "Aargh!" Catalyst

A few weeks ago a friend and I were talking about a short story manuscript I asked him to look over. The draft was flawed, which I already knew, I just wasn’t sure why or how to fix it. After we worked out both problems the conversation turned to my writing in general because I was frustrated that this story gave me so much trouble. The idea behind the story was good – none of my alphas disputed that – the execution was where it failed and to be frank, I’m better than that.

He told me that the problem wasn’t that I couldn’t write the damn story; my daily writing regimen and the manuscript in his hands were proof enough of that. Instead, my problem was that I needed to write the right story, damn it.

Once again, he was right.

This particular short story was a tricky one to tackle but I didn’t want to let that stop me from writing it. I like a challenge and while it wasn’t beyond my abilities, it was at the edge of them. Because this type of story was in territory I hadn’t ventured in before my bag of tricks didn’t work. I was also trying to finish it on a severely truncated timetable so I wouldn’t fall behind on the Cyberfunk. As a result the short story started at the wrong point, I took too long getting to the action, and worst of all I didn’t work from an outline (gasp!). All of this added up to one deeply flawed draft and one frustrated writer.

Do I regret plowing through? Sort of.

If I took more time with it I would have a better first draft, but I wouldn’t have learned as much either. Perhaps I’m thick headed but for me writing seems to be one of those things where I have to make the mistake first in order to 1) understand why it’s a mistake, and 2) learn how to avoid and/or remedy it. The frustration of the moment drives home the lesson and makes it much easier to remember. Hmm…maybe it’s not so much thick headedness but the power of the “Aargh!” that makes the difference. If that is the case, I hope I never stop having “Aargh!” moments because I never want to become complacent in my abilities. There is always room for improvement, always another genre to try. It’s one of the reasons why I love this business. It’s never boring.

Monday, April 8, 2013

A writer's cone of shame

In college I took a couple of courses that left me wanting. One was a required computer skills class and the other was a creative writing class. They weren't bad classes, although the writing class came close, they were just really hard to get through.

The computer skills class was so rudimentary that I had trouble staying awake. I'm not a tech wizard by any means, but the assignments were so simple that I had them done by the time the instructor finished giving directions. In the writing class I had the opposite problem. It wasn't an easy class because I absolutely hated it! What I didn't know and the course catalogue didn't indicate was that the course alternated between novel writing and poetry writing. This particular term turned out to be poetry. I don't mind reading poetry, I simply hate writing it. Don't get me wrong, I'm actually pretty darn good, but it is something that I'll never enjoy doing because of a pushy English teacher I had years before. Plus the instructor didn't actually instruct. She gave us the defining characteristics for the various styles and let us go. Most of the class time was spent listening to each other's work being read aloud. Let me tell you, after three months of bad unicorn and fruit feallacio poems (don't ask) you stop wondering why Poe committed suicide.

In both cases, I didn't expect to ever use those skills again. When would I need to know how to make a spreadsheet or write Fushigi Yuugi fanfic haiku? Never. I'm a writer and an actor. That's two thirds of the humanities triple crown for crying out loud. All I need is a history degree and I win.

Well, guess what? I was wrong. (Not about the humanities triple crown. That thing is legit.)

I like keeping track of how many words I write each day. Usually I write it on the calendar, but I can't do that on Lee's pin-up calendar because it's too pretty. So I started doing something that Mary Robinette Kowal talked about in an episode of Storyboard. I made a spreadsheet.

Go ahead, cue the sad trombone music and say "I knew it!" I deserve it. I will don the cone of shame and wear it in shame.

Truthfully, I don't regret doing the spreadsheet. I've learned a lot about what various conditions and time constraints do for me. It turns out that I can do more in 30 - 60 minutes than I can typically do in big blocks of time. If I do a big 3 - 4 hour writing binge, I can get a lot accomplished but I'm so wiped out afterward that it takes me a couple days to recover.

As for the poetry class, I hate to say it but that came in handy too. A while back I needed a gothic poem for a short story I was working on. The poem had to be in the style of Lord Byron and rather than waste a couple days searching for something in the public domain that would work, I wrote one. In two hours...and I went a little overboard. I only needed two quatrains for the story but I ended up writing five.


If I knew then what I know now, I might have payed a little more attention in those classes. Who knows what else may have become useful?

If you're still considering what writing workshop or seminar to attend this year, please take a look at the Superstars Writing Seminar. Prices go up at the end of the month and the seminar itself is May 14 - 16 so you don't have much time to think it over. It's well worth every penny.
Last week the son of my teacher and mentor, Dave Farland (AKA Dave Wolverton), was in a terrible longboarding accident. His injuries are severe and the cost of his care is going to be astronomical. If you can, please donate to Ben's Recovery Fund or buy one of Dave's books. Dave and his family are among the nicest people I know and even the smallest amount will be greatly appreciated.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Tired writer is tired

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter. Mine was exhausting. I don't recommend working two jobs and performing in an Easter cantata over a holiday weekend. Because I did it anyway, I'm taking today off to get caught up on a few tasks (like napping). However, since I don't want to leave you without a blog post, here's the direct link to the one I wrote for the Fictorian Era (in case you missed it).

James Bond and Kitchen Fires