Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The key to the geekdom.

Posted: January 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

After having a long, involved conversation the other day with a coworker about the advantages of shield-and-sword versus two-weapon combat and the sometimes-infuriating mechanics of rover-based planetary exploration, the pleasure I derived from this particularly geeky chat made me very aware that I have an extraordinary dearth of nerdy friends which share my interests.

Sure, in college I knew a few bonafide nerds, but they were of the more scholarly sort – the underground audiophile, the emotionally conflicted and incohesive poet/anarchist, the manic, cheerfully artistic Casanova. But now that I’m out in the “real world”, I find myself wishing that I knew more people who thought of fighting with foam swords as a fun time, who think that making a fool of yourself with Guitar Hero is a heroic endeavor, people that can define “woot” and who think think arguing the virtues of Star Wars against Star Trek is not an unworthy pursuit. I want to know people who think dressing up and going to conventions is *fun*.

Because the truth is, I’m sort of a closeted geek. I think all of these things – Dungeons and Dragons, cosplay, LARPing, etc… – look like a ridiculously good time, but as a writer the friends I’ve attracted over the years have been pretty weighty in their pursuits, which is okay until your entire life becomes a neverending stream of cynicism and politically-aware snark. My one foray into true geek territory was a solo quest that I made into my local video gaming club a few years back, since I knew not a single soul who would be willing to go with me. I actually recognized several people I went to high school with, watched some anime (which I am on the fence about, depending on what the series is) and battled my way to victory in a vicious Mortal Kombat tournament, even managing to beat the club’s leader, who was flabbergasted to be laid low by a female gamer. I should have warned him that I never enter contests I don’t intend to win. I never went back, but I do remember the evening fondly.

Playstation like a boss.

I need to find more people like that. But in my current line of work, things tend to be on a much more serious bend, and as an extreme introvert it’s difficult for me to push myself into extracirricular activities which earn me the key to the geekdom.

Looks like I’ll have to try harder.

Anyone who has spent any time on any sort of fandom knows that there is a dark side to fans that emerges whenever people come around to try and breathe new life into any given genre or universe.

We’ll call one side of this fandom Ennui, also known as the “OMG-another-one-we’ve-seen-this-done-a-million-times!” faction. These are the people whose resounding battle cry is, “Let it DIE ALREADY.” They are the ones who say, “Ugh, another MMO? We already have WoW, why are you even trying to compete?” They bitch about tired character archetypes and recycled level design maps.

Lest I seem too scathing of this side of the house, let me be the first to say that as soul-sucking as some of this criticism can seem, it serves a valuable purpose in the creation of fictional worlds. Storytelling is a sort of enchantment, really one of the only spell bindings modern man has left (I’d nominate good cooking as a distant second).

One of the reasons that tired writing is dangerous and draws the attention of the Ennui hordes is because it destroys suspension of disbelief. On the one hand, character archetypes are extremely useful for writers – they touch something subconscious in our psyches, if you believe the likes of Jung and Joseph Campbell. Take, for example, the orphan/bastard king (think Alistair Theirin, Aragorn of Arathorn, and Luke Skywalker, to name a few). If it wasn’t a well-loved trope, the theme of everyman rising from obscurity to celebrity would never have survived as long as it has. But in order for it to work, any writer striving to use an archetype or an established setting/character must seek ways to make his character archetypes into real people.

Alistair, Aragorn, and Luke don’t resonate with people because they’re bastard kings – I mean, who can actually relate to that particular life experience? – but because they have been shaped into people who are as real to fans as many of the people who are walking around alive. Luke is the son of an Imperial overlord, but he’s also just a bored teenager who feels trapped in the boondocks of the galaxy – every too-smart kid from BFE, Montana or One-Horse-Town, Alabama can relate. Aragorn is afraid to turn into his father. This strikes a chord with anyone who has ever had a parent who failed them in some vital way, everyone from children of divorce to children of drug addicts. Alistair is afraid of the responsibility that is being asked of him, and doesn’t feel like he is good enough to shoulder the roles that he is expected to uptake. Speaking from personal experience, every English major who has spent years walking in the shadows of the likes of Hemingway and Faulkner and is then thrust into a world after graduation where they may or may not spend the next few years living in a cardboard box or working at Target to pay rent can relate to a heavy legacy that one may or may not be able to take on.

In short, the best antidote for fan ennui is realism. Your characters cannot feel like cardboard standups and your settings cannot feel like Hollywood sets. They must have backstory, historical significance, favorite foods, popular culture, and – most importantly – a universe-specific conflict which drives them to continue the hero’s journey through whatever landscape they happen to be traversing, preferably with some moral ambiguity thrown in for good measure. Every hero must have moments of weakness, every villain moments of grace. These are the things that turn good stories into legendary ones.

The other side of this fandom equation is the people who believe that the universe was just fine the way it was, thankyouverymuch, and any attempts to extrapolate are akin to heresy. We’ll call these folks Purists, for lack of a more politically correct term. For these people, every Star Wars movie past the first three are blasphemy, no Lord of the Rings movie should ever have been made without mention of Tom Bombadil, and heaven forbid you ever write a sentence which might be either scientifically unsound or unbacked by wheelbarrows of lore-based research, because if you publish that sentence you’re getting a letter about it, by-gods.

These people also have their purpose, because for better or worse, these are your Die Hard Fans(tm). The folks who will stand outside a theater for days to get tickets, the ones who can give you the planetary specs of every sky-ball Shepard ever visited in Mass Effect, and could give an hour lecture on the genealogy of Westeros nobility. These folks will be buying your story when Ennui kids have already gotten bored and went home to play Call of Duty.

Purists are the antidotes to your plot holes and your deux ex machinas. Purists will not let you cheat, you dirty bird, and in that regard, they will make your writing better if you let them. They force you to go back to your backstory, searching for ways that you can make it deeper, and as a result, bring even more emotional resonance and realism to your story. They are the driving force behind worldbuilding. And if you spellbind them, they will be reading your stories and preaching – at length – about the glories of the world you built long after those driven by novelty have forgotten what made your world so great in the first place.

1. When someone in Mexico asks you if you want some tequila, the answer is always a resounding, “Si.”
2. Iguanas are much better behaved as handbags.
3. Just because a buffet is “all you can eat” does not mean that you should do it. Americans, put down the fork, for the love of God.
4. If I could pick a superpower, it would be to have gills and live underwater.
5. The most introverted person in the room will always be the person singled out for entertainment of the masses in audience participation scenarios.
6. Just because gratuity is only “encouraged” doesn’t give you the license to be a cheapass motherf*cker .
7. Sunsets and sunrises are much more picturesque over the open sea.
8. An elevator that says it has an 18 person capacity is only talking about people from the land of Oz. Not your average great white American tourist. Of that sort, it will probably fit six.
9. All-inclusive beach resorts are the shit. As is any magical location where you can swim up to the bar and order free shots from hot Latin cabana boys.
10. It is always Halloween in the French Quarter. No exceptions.
11. NOPD will hand-deliver your lost wallet if you were smart enough to put your hotel key in it. Po-po, you’re A-OK in my book.
12. Some drunk people are incredibly fun. Some drunk people are incredibly annoying. As most of the people on a cruiseliner are somewhere on the line between buzzed and shellacked a majority of the time, you’ll run into a delightful mixture of both types.
13. Do not write fiction on a cruise ship unless you want several people coming up to you asking you why you’re doing your homework on vacation.
14. Milk + Malibu rum = the most delicious White Russian ever. Chocolate milk and Malibu? Devastatingly good.
15. Customs brings out everyone’s inner smuggler.
16. Doing the Cha Cha Slide on the dance floor in stiletto hooker boots is difficult, but impressive if you can manage to pull it off.
17. Ugly crossdressing men will always win Halloween costume contests. The more ridiculous looking the better. Always. And I support them, because that shit is hilarious.
18. Pack light. No, seriously. Like, 75% less than you would otherwise anticipate wearing.
19. If you are the brother of the president in Honduras, you can probably get your own village.
20. If you insist on haggling in Honduras, you must do so completely naked.*
21. The more fancy the food, the less of it you’re going to get.
22. Twenty people learning the dance moves from Thriller has the capacity to entertain an auditorium of two hundred people for an hour.
23. Always opt for a balcony – it’s the best part.
24. Talk of sinking ships, disappearing ships, or the Bermuda Triangle (especially if one finds oneself in the middle of said area) makes people on a ship uncomfortable, even when the talk is hypothetical.
25. Get up off of that thing, and dance ‘til you feel better. 

*  Note: Indecent exposure is a crime in Honduras.

Alrighty, I’m battening down the hatches and getting ready to leave the country, but I thought I’d leave a new chapter up on We are the Weapon first, seeing as I’m going to be incommunicado for the rest of the month. It’s an especially long one, so hopefully it’ll suck you in/hold you guys over until I get back.

Here’s the link to the new chapter, “glitterland”: We Are The Weapon, Chapter 4: glitterland

See you in November!

Yeah, sorry for the long time between posts, real life intruded and I’m a lazy attention-deficit bastard. My sincerest apologies. But here’s the updates that have gone down in my absence:

– I’m now publishing a serial horror novella called Everybody But Lazarus in the online literary magazine Tales of the Zombie War, which recently posted my intro to that story here: Everybody But Lazarus – Living Dead Girl. If you’re into horror, zombies, etc…you might want to check that one out. I’m in revisions on the second chapter, which I thought had been lost to hand-scribbled oblivion in the span of time it took TotZW to post the first chapter, but thankfully I DID end up typing the second chapter out and backing it up online. Yay for technology. And zombies.

– I’m going to be out of the country from 22 October through 2 November, so I’m about to drop off the face of the planet again, at least for a little while, so I can drink some mai tais and generally recover from life. Hopefully when I get back I will be able to get into some kind of a more regular weekly posting schedule. I’m thinking one Weapon post a week and at least one Salt over Shoulder post, probably an essay about the publication business or a movie review or whatever other rave du jour I can come up with.

That’s all I got for now folks. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a few more good posts up on here this week, as well as catch up on some of the writer/literary blogs I’ve been neglecting on my to-read list. ‘Til next time!


#1:
groves
genie
drunk
greedy
merrier
menthol
dream
roof

#2:
beanies
gentle
alienate
gauges
bohemian
fedora
raison
froze
dozer
wild
jibed
facet
antsy
saith
tweak
cup
tide
door
lope

#3:
divines
wrest
bagger
enable
intuit
falcon
healer
thunk
about
merry
joust
opposite
raze
oxen
towed 
add
ire
anime
abuse
qui
fled

#4:
crag
bray
punk
idle
thaw
howl
pates
petunia
daze
nieve
lait
fobs
pi
ole

qi
coaxes
brays
idle
jinxes
to

I could teach you, but I must levy a fee.

These are off of my Pandora music station “Brutus”, which I set up for music that reminds me of the protagonist of We Are The Weapon, Brutus Telfair. There’s some really good music for invoking dystopian California on there – I’ve been “training” that particular Pandora station pretty rigidly on my likes and dislikes so I always have an atmospherically appropriate playlist to turn to for writing practice.

“You Found Me” – The Fray
“Riptide” – Sick Puppies
“Headstrong” – Trapt
“The Ghost of You” – My Chemical Romance
“Capricorn (A Brand New Name)” – 30 Seconds to Mars
“Swing Life Away” – Rise Against
“Night of the Hunter” – 30 Seconds to Mars
“Shadow of the Day” – Linkin Park
“Your Guardian Angel” – Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
“Cleaning Apartment” – Clint Mansell and Chronos Quartet (Requiem for a Dream)
“21 Guns” – Green Day
“True Faith” – Anberlin
“Uprising” – Muse
“Apocalyptica” – Cult
“Famous Last Words” – My Chemical Romance

Silver screen.

Posted: July 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

I’ve decided one of the things I’m going to add to Salt Over Shoulder is movie reviews. Why movie reviews on what has effectively up to this point been some kind of aspiring-author-desiring-Horatio-Alger-ending-for-payment-of-general-car-repairs sort of blog? Here are a few reasons:

1. I love movies, and I watch a ton of them. I love discussing them with people. I’m just a big movie dork. My favorite movies are the ones that don’t suck. Some of this is due to the fact that I have an irrational bias about one of the actors or actresses. For example, I will watch anything with Johnny Depp in it without reservation. More likely, the movie didn’t suck because the screenwriting was good.

2. Analyzing movies is good practice for writers – movies are usually pretty good about following the classical fiction structure: opening action/setup, rising action, climax, and resolution. Any deviation of that structure shown in film can be imitated and reproduced in the form of a novel. Also, the success or failure of a film says a lot about their stories in general – what sells and what doesn’t? What sizzles and what falls flat?

3. Writing movie reviews/taking notes forces me to watch films with the mechanics of the writing in mind. Hopefully, this will improve my own analytical story-telling skills as well.

Music feeds your muse.

Posted: July 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

Good weekend for writing – I finished up the first chapter of my long serialized version of “Zombie Monkey”. It’s a gory little piece from the perspective of a FEMA agent called “Living Dead Girl”, and I also wrote about twenty-two pages (on a steno pad, don’t get excited) towards the second chapter, which is very tentatively titled “Machinehead” after the Bush song of the same name.

Speaking of songs, one of my absolute favorite writing tools is the website Pandora. (www.pandora.com). It’s like having a stable of pet radio stations that adjust the songs they play according to your likes and dislikes, and it’s like candy for my brain. It’s really cool if you depend on audio stimulation as a creative prompt. I typically do, and keep different playlists for different worlds/characters/stories.

Here’s a section of my current playlist for Everybody But Lazarus:

Coming Undone – Korn
Down with the Sickness – Disturbed
Living Dead Girl – Rob Zombie
Down and Out – Tantric
Time of Dying – Three Days Grace
Land of Confusion – Disturbed
Faint – Linkin Park
10,000 Days – Tool
Blood, Milk, and Sky – White Zombie
The Hand That Feeds – Nine Inch Nails

Witching hour.

Posted: July 16, 2010 in Uncategorized

I woke up last night at 2:30 in the morning and couldn’t go back to sleep because our air conditioning is broken. In most places, this isn’t really a big deal. But I live in Alabama, which during the month of July is kind of like living in Vietnam, if Vietnam existed on the surface of the sun.

So after groaning and sweating and tossing for a few minutes, I decided to just stay up until 5 writing on Everybody But Lazarus instead of wasting my time trying to go back to sleep. This decision actually resulted in the first draft of the first chapter getting completed sometime during the wee hours of the morning. For some reason, I tend to write more prolifically in the middle of the night.

Word count: 1,691