Sunday, February 02, 2020

Animals! a personal moment.


Pets. Little bundles of fluff. Fur, feathers, scales. It doesn't matter. The first instinct is always to humanize them, to impart our own emotions, feelings, and behaviors on them. We always assume they love and appreciate us as much as we do them. Animals are not humans, they aren't us. Their thought process isn't ours, they don't formulate the same values, they can't relate. We do it for them. 

The cliches are as old as time, my pet is like my child! My family! My best friend! People buy them clothes, dote on them like spoiled tweens, they don't seem to mind. 

Deep down, we know, they aren't people. They don't process like we process, animals aren't people. Are you ready for the truth? 

They're better. 

There's no compunction with an animal, no pretense or pretension, if an animal loves you, or at the very least shows you affection in its way of doing, you know it's very much a genuine thing (if only in that fleeting moment). More special is that bond between man and animal that seems unbreakable. A million stories have been written about the quintessential 'boy and his dog', but dogs don't have a monopoly. We bond with our animal companions, our furry familiars, those of us fortunate enough to have that special kind of unshakable bond. I had a cat for 18 years that would not leave my side, had to constantly be touching me, and made no secret of his affection for me, or rampant jealousy of anyone else, man or beast, whom I paid attention to. His behaviors weren't human at all, he knew my schedule better than I did, but goddamn, did he ever make me feel loved, appreciated, and never alone. He could read my emotional state, it was unnerving sometimes how empathetic he seemed.

When Sid finally went after 18 loyal years, it wasn't surprising, or unexpected, but it still stung.

Today I lost Chewie. 

Chewie was a rabbit, a giant of a bun, with a heart to match. In my life I'd always thought of rabbits as 'cage critters', cute, but ultimately empty investments. Boy was I proven wrong. Every bit as intelligent and aware as a cat or a dog, and affectionate to the point of being pushy to get your attention. She really did an incredible job of making you feel appreciated, no, actually loved. She charged at you when you entered a room, ears flopping and legs going every which way. She demanded ALL of the petting (the side, in front of her ears, and the top of her head were her favorites) and she'd stay there all night, leaning all her weight on your hand if you let her. She was hilarious to watch on carpet, this giant goofball moving as fast as she could, doing what we'd call "zoomies". You could feel her excited energy. When she was left out for the night, she slept on the bed with us. Every time. She didn't trust everyone, but she was always at ease with us.

Chewie was 5, Bunbuns typically live to 12-15 years. Rabbits are prey animals. They dont show signs of weakness or illness until it's too late. She was fine when she went to her cage for the night on Wednesday. Yesterday, she wasn't. Today. She's gone. 

We could have had so much more life together.

I'm devastated. 

Hug your critters extra tight tonight folks. Give em a good squeeze, or a treat. Let them know you love them. 

They probably don't get it, but it doesn't matter.

Animals, in spite of what doting furparents say, aren't like members of the family, or like surrogate children, they're something  altogether different, but equally special; We imprint a piece of ourselves on the pets we love. A chunk of our soul is unconditionally split from within and gifted to them. A portion of our heart becomes theirs. It's not the same as the unconditional love of parenthood, it's something altogether different, it is the purest kind of inheritance of the soul. The animal selflessly, if unconsciously becomes an extension of your being by your own will. It is a piece of you, shaped by your psyche. It's precarious, it's fleeting, but that piece of you that you give, that you imprint, you will never, ever get back. 

Devastated. Miss you already ChuChu. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

2020 - Insert Vision related pun here.

Hey writers,

It's been quite a while since we last spoke. I shared a tale, no one bothered to read it, it's all good. I do apologize for not speaking with you on a more frequent basis, Fall was a bit of a shitshow; new jobs, moving house, excuses, real life, blah blah blah.

I've been keeping busy with writing as well, and there have been developments;

First and foremost, Click this link to head over to Engen Books for details

Someone actually wants to publish me. Wacky people.
More writers have been announced since, but being the first, on New Year's Eve, was kinda cool. My story, 'FOR THE CROWN' is the first effort in a series of shorts/novellas that may or may never see the light of day, depending on how this sucker is received. I've been tentatively calling the whole thing, THE IRON COSMOS. Until I get cease and desist letters.

 Super-stoked to be a part of the PULP SCI-FI FROM THE ROCK collection, look for more news as the release gets closer, including how to get your own copy.

Work also continues on VIRTUAL MACHINES, the end goal is to have a first draft completed for victims (er, beta readers) within the first half of the year.

I'm also far from done with BEN PARISH'S WAR, Go back and read that first short, I'm actually pretty proud of it.

My other two focuses right now are an untitled horror story featuring Templar Knights, set after the fall of Acre and the end of the Third Crusade. EXODUS, meanwhile, is a straight-up Western. Both are plotted out, some loose ideas have been cobbled together, and fragments have begun to appear. I'm gonna start sharing progress reports, just because:

Virtual Machines - 65%
Templar Horror - 12%
Exodus - 4%

What sort of projects do you have on the boilerplate for 2020? Tell me something cool!

What we do in life echoes in eternity!

Until next time,
STP

Monday, August 19, 2019

Sharing a story



        “Captain!” The Private called, “Captain Parish!”
The Jeep halted, bucking as it stalled, a foot came off the clutch pedal a little too fast. Ben glanced sidelong at the strange face in the driver’s seat, he'd never met the Private, but the driver definitely knew him. Ben knew the young guys told stories about him. Even in the downpour, covered in an olive drab raincoat, there was no missing his ice-blue eyes and the silver-white crucifix on his piss-pot. Ben had earned his reputation the hard way, fighting the Huns and the fascists. He'd held dying men and sent them off peaceful. He'd Killed three times as many evil men. The soldiers called him “The Saint”, yet he gave the youngsters the heebie-jeebies. He didn't mind.
Captain Ben Parish took another long inhale on his cigarette and tossed it as he re-slung his Thompson and started for the vehicle. 
Ben nodded and gave a quiet grunt as he stepped into the Jeep, water pouring from his long coat and helmet. The seat squealed in protest as he sat, his knees barely clearing the dash. Rain pounded the canvas top.
  “Morning Sir!” the Private called over the rain;
“Take me to the church, Private.”
Ben could tell he gave the Private the heebie-jeebies too.
        “What's your name, son?”
“Scott, sir. Private Jack Scott.” The Private fumbled with the keys and restarted the Jeep.
  No doubt the young Private Jack Scott had heard stories about how the Captain had fought in the big one, of how he found God while he was knee-deep in blood and mud in the trenches of the Somme. Soldiers loved to wag tongues. The scuttlebutt was that he'd rejoined as a Chaplain after Japan stuck a few swords into Uncle Sam’s back in Hawaii. 
  Something he saw in Africa made him change his mind. Since then he's been killing his way across Africa and Europe.
The Jeep stalled again, the Private was nervous.
       "Take your time Private.” Ben's voice was like cool crushed stone, “We're not in a hurry.”  
“Sorry, Sir! Um… Any church in particular… sir?” 
“The Cathedral of Maria SS Annunziata. You know it?” Ben's New England accent chewed awkwardly on the Italian.
“Think so, sir” 
The Private mumbled as he started wiggling the shifter.
“So… uh… feeling the urge… sir?” 
The Captain raised an eyebrow and dug for his tobacco pouch.
Private Scott fumbled with his keys and re-started the Jeep.
“Confession.” Parish said, “We’re all sinners, Private.” 
The gearbox howled as the Private found first and with a lurch they set off. Most of the hardly-men in the platoon knew that Ben had been a minister or a priest, a man of God. He still did a mass on holidays for the troops, for whoever wanted to show. He wandered the mob afterwards questioning those who didn't. 
One of the tall tales was that he personally thrashed any of his own squad who didn’t show, Jew or Christian, didn't matter. He liked that story. He eyed the private as he drove, the poor kid could barely keep the vehicle straight.
Parish struck a match off of the dash and lit a freshly rolled smoke. The private jerked his head, trying to make eye contact without taking his eyes off the road. 
“You think so, sir? I mean, we’re fighting evil. Nazi’s and fascists and stuff.”
        “Thou shalt not kill.”
Parish admired the boy’s naivete. The Private was all of eighteen if that, and Parish picked up on some country boy twang. 
“Arkansas?” Ben said. 
“Mississippi, Sir!” The Private answered.
“My second guess. Farming?”
“Fishin'”
“Kids in Mississippi know their way around a rifle?”
“Yes, Sir!” The private grinned.
“Ever shot anything other than a bird? Gator?”
“Yessir.” The Private's demeanour soured, “A few men what had it coming.”
       Probably carrying a picture of his girl, Ben thought, Usually a homely young thing with two first names.  Ben chuckled aloud. 
“What’s funny sir? Pardon my asking.” 
No doubt Private Scott had heard the Captain never smiles. He caught the boy looking out of the corner of his eye, it just made the Private more nervous.
Ben held his smoke with his left hand, he noticed that the Private's eyes had caught the set of Rosary beads and the wooden cross dangling at his wrist. The Private was quiet, contemplating the Captain’s rebuttal.
This boy is no killer.
“Alright son, let’s see her.” 
“See who, Sir?” The Private shifted, gears groaned their protest. 
“Your girl, I know you guys all carry pictures, probably in your left shirt pocket.”
Private Scott smiled as he took one hand from the shifter and fished around, producing a colourized portrait about four by six. 
Dark, styled hair, green eyes, rosy cheeks, Gorgeous; definitely not some homely farmgirl. Ben whistled. Handed the photo back. 
“You steal that from a magazine, Private?”
“No, Sir! That’s my Lori Jane.” 
        Two first names. Parish chuckled.
“This mud is shit. Thought these Gee-Pees were made for this stuff!”


↼⇀

The First Infantry had been in Sicily for about five weeks, and any visions of sun-drenched rolling vineyards and exotic Italian beauties were beaten down by four days of torrential rain and a countryside turned into ankle-deep mud. Everyone was wet, tired and drunk on foul-smelling wine. The locals were hardened, weary, and soulless.
Many of the troops had cried foul, this wasn’t what they’d signed on for. Ben had read Scott's service record, and Private Scott, whether demoralized at the misrepresentation of the US Army’s travel brochures or not, had kept his objections to himself until now.
Ben didn't like complainers. There was work to do. He'd decided to request the Private for his squad. Scott was a bit young, and couldn’t drive for shit, but that was fine, he'd march. 
The Jeep pulled up to an old cathedral, a beautifully designed building pockmarked by gunfire. Some sandbags were stacked, an old goat matted goat gnawed at discarded MRE tin, there was one else was in sight. A vibrant flash lit the grey, followed by the earth-shuddering clap of thunder, and the rain intensified. Scott wrapped his arms around his shoulders and shivered.
Ben tossed the inches of the cigarette he was puffing on out of the open side of the Jeep and stepped out into the mud, the wet squelch of the sludge was audible even over the rain. He turned to the Jeep and shouted, “This shouldn’t take too long.”
“I’ll be here Sir. Hope God’s in a listening mood.” 
“Me too, Private.” 
Captain Parish stopped at the foyer and took in the cathedral, he’d never seen anything like it. High, vaulted ceilings, a balcony overlooking the rest of the church, and intricate woodwork that was ancient and beautiful. Everything was polished to a mirrored shine. Gold relics lined the altar. 
After two or three loud clomps from combat boots, Parish looked down to his feet at the line of muddy footprints on the intricately handcrafted parquet. He knelt and untied the boots, removing them before continuing on to the confessionals. Sliding back the velvet curtain, Parish stepped inside the booth. A minute, maybe less. An eternity of waiting, finally a figure coughed on the other side.
“Mi Benedica Padre, perche ho peccato.” Ben said.
“Americano?” a voice from behind the screen answered.
“Si, Padre.” 
“English is fine, my son.”
“Father forgive me, for I have sinned.” Ben began, “I’ve never confessed before, I’m not Catholic you see, but I’m a fellow man of God. I was... I am a Preacher, Padre. I too had a flock, a church.”
Ben licked his lip, “You ever been to Massachusetts?” 
The Priest shifted a little, “No my son, I have not.”
“It’s beautiful country Padre; green hills, cool springs, white winters, beautiful autumns. If anyone was to put that in danger, well, I know how I’d feel. That’s why I came over here. I think. The thought of some vile creature taking that from me, knowing that you folks were suffering that fate. I couldn’t abide by that.” 
“I appreciate the gesture, my son. As I’m sure my people do. You are liberators? Heroes? Yet I sense conflict?”
Ben tapped his helmet as it sat next to him, he rubbed a finger over the crucifix and pondered before he spoke; 
“Padre, I feel as though I’ve strayed from his path, I’ve taken lives. I've taken so many lives that I’ve lost count. The first of God’s Commandments, I’ve killed.” 
“You have taken the lives of wicked men, evil men, no?” 
“Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
“No my son. Sometimes the shepherd must slay the wolf to protect the sheep.”
“I have slain wolves, Padre. Here. Just three days ago.” 
“Tell me.” The Priest clucked his tongue, “Tell me of these wolves.”
“We entered Troina on the fourth.” Ben began, “The damn Panzergrenadier and Aosta divisions were still lurking and had garrisoned a local hotel. About 25-30 troops left there who hadn’t caught wind of the retreat. We’d cut communication from Monte Basilio, and it was my squad that was clearing the neighbourhood. We went in quiet, stormed the inn. It was all over pretty quickly.”
Ben fished in his pocket and produced his tobacco pouch, he began rolling and continued to speak; 
“I shot seven men that night, Some were Italian, some German. It was over in 20 minutes or so. We swept every room.”
Ben struck a match and lit his cigarette. 
“It was in the basement we found them.”
“What did you find?” The priest leaned closer to the screen, Ben could see him in the shadows. 
“It was horrible, Padre.” Ben continued, “I was furious. I was delirious with anger.”
Ben closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, sweet smoke filled his lungs. 
“We’d captured a few stragglers, a German officer among them.” He continued, “I cornered the officer, he’d surrendered as soon as we kicked his door in. I guess he thought he was of some value. More than his men. Thought he was better. What I saw, the wickedness this bastard perpetrated, without a hint of grief or remorse. I questioned him.”
“Questioned?” The priest seemed uneasy.
“I hit him, Padre. I hit him twice, three times, I’m sure I felt ribs crack. It felt… It felt good, Padre. Every time my fists connected, I felt a wave of satisfaction.”
“But did you feel joy, my son? Did you take pleasure in the violence?”
Ben thought a moment. The thunder rolled.
“No. But as a man of God, this isn’t the way. I’m a man of peace. I fear that every step I walk in this bloody war, I stray further from his path. Or, what scares me more, is that I’m an instrument, and it’s his will that drives me. That all this hate, all this bloodshed is exactly what he wants, and I think I like that idea even less.”
“You’re a preacher, you say? Do you remember the book of the Ephesians, 6:10 to 13?”
“Yes, Padre.” Ben answered without hesitation, “Finally, let the mighty strength of the Lord make you strong. Put on all the armour that God gives, so you can defend yourself against the devil’s tricks. We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world. So put on all the armour that God gives. Then when that evil day comes, you will be able to defend yourself. And when the battle is over, you will still be standing firm.”
“It sounds less poetic in English.” The Priest smiled, “You’re fighting a righteous cause, against evil and wicked men. While these are indeed evil days, you fight in the name of the righteous. Keep your faith American, and you will stand firm. Put on all the armour that God gives.”
Ben grabbed his helmet and put it on. He reached for his Thompson. A flash of light illuminated the church, another jolt of thunder. The priest stirred. 
“This weather, American, this isn’t much of a summer. I wish you could have seen our home in a better light. It truly is a beautiful thing.” 
Ben rolled his tongue across his lips, licking moisture, and stood from the wooden bench.
“So do I, Padre. So do I.” 
“One last question, my son,” The Priest asked, “What did you find at the Inn?” 
“Girls, Padre. A dozen or so. Young girls sold off by a selfish town to a jack booting shitheel. The Alpha Wolf confided in me before I slid my knife between his ribs.”
Ben saw the flash of lightning again, he stepped from the booth. He walked three paces, turned, faced the confessional as the Priest’s curtain was opening. The thunder came, and the Thompson in Ben’s hand echoed its roar. All sound died, and all that was heard were spent brass casings rolling across the parquet floor. Ben spat. 
“He told me a shepherd sold his sheep to the wolves to save his own skin.“


↼⇀

Private Scott cranked over the Jeep as Captain Parish emerged from the church. Parish was pulling the magazine from his submachine gun as he puffed on his cigarette. Gears shrieked as the Private dug for first.
“Pretty quick, Sir. Do you think he was listening?” Private Scott asked.
Ben looked at the church a moment, his frown said it all, “No son, there’s no God here, only men.”


END

Thursday, July 25, 2019

I digress!

PICTURED: The grail-quest can wait, let me tell you about this wonderful robe I'm wearing! Egyptian Silk!


Hey Writers,

When last we spoke, I mentioned the fact that I'd taken the plunge in some vainglorious attempt to better my skills, and set up camp in an Intermediate Novel Writing Course. We talked about feedback, how invaluable it can be, and we'd all agreed and moved on. Right?

The coolest thing about finding something like this writing course is that, though somewhat limited on time, it's kinda like workshopping your stuff. I got some amazing notes back on the first (and second) chapters of VIRTUAL MACHINES (huge thanks to both Jons, Matt, Kim, and everyone else who gave feedback), notes that have spurred another round of massive edits/revisions/additions/subtractions/reshapings of the 10 chapters currently completed. One note, in particular, called me a "very good writer", which was very nice bullshit, and highlighted that there was much detail, a lot of detail, some would say maybe too much detail...

Let us skip back 15-16 months; I had an idea, I had a starting point, I had an end goal, and I had a vague shape. Somewhere between the germination of the seed of ideas, and my typing of the first sentence, VM shifted from a far-flung cyberpunk thing to something I was infinitely more interested in. It became a near future "real world" thing based on mostly existing technology and my own theories about how that tech (and how we use it) might evolve. The next step was to pour through dry technical and theoretical articles and journals, thousands of pages about AI development, theoretical uses for Augmented Reality, Google Glass, Smartglass, and about a half dozen other AR displays in development, learning machines, the social psychology of social media, mental health effects, and even theories on human extinction. 

So with all this stuff crammed in the brain, I meticulously crafted this near-future setting driven by augmented reality that I would dump my characters into. I thought about HOW everything worked, the process, the utilities, how people would interact, and somewhere along the line, the balance between plot, character, and world-building was skewered. I was so fascinated by the ideas behind the tech and how it could evolve, that the narrative became this bloated thing. I imagined characters setting up new cell phones that required them to take 3D spherical pictures to place their AR avatar into the digital reality layered over our own. Riveting stuff, especially when your protagonist is trying to track down a former client he'd believed was dead 4 years previous and had just survived a devastating terror attack. My biggest concern was that maybe you, dear reader, wouldn't understand what was happening if I didn't do a damn thorough job of explaining it. I assumed that I had kindred spirits out there who would want to know how everything worked. I'd forgotten why I always chose Star Wars over Star Trek. I don't care how stuff works, I want a story! I'd committed one of my own cardinal sins. Digressive exposition! *shakes fist!*

How often have you read a novel wherein the author takes the exit ramp into Digression City to dump some extraneous bullshit into your lap? Drugstore and mainstream fiction pushers are famous for it. Hardcore sci-fi is famous for it. Pulp adventure is famous for it. It's only now, a year into my own WIP that I understand it. 

Take Dan Brown; he dumps every ounce of his funded research trips into his novels, and honestly, I don't give a shit about the Louvre being one of four museums located on the four compass points of Paris. I care about why Robert Langdon has been escorted there by police after being told his dear friend, Jaques Sauniere was killed. I don't care about what sort of plane he and Sophie fly to England, or what sort of Rolls Royce engines it has, or whether or not the Pilot's grandfather served in World War II. It's superfluous, it's extraneous information that does ZERO to move the plot forward. Brown had digressed to drone about French history and Paris geography, and it was an occurrence that happens more times than I can count in that particular book. 
Outside of the fact that I was genuinely riveted by Brown's rather clever mystery (two cryptexes is one cryptex too many though), I'd have chucked The DaVinci Code into the bin after chapter 3. I almost did with the Sir Teabing chapter. We'll get to that another time. 

Earnest Cline was brutal for this in Ready Player One as well; He diverged from plot constantly to explain every "oh so clever" pop-culture homage like an excited teenager. I recall an early paragraph spending far too much time explaining that a poster was designed to resemble the first edition Dungeon Master's Guide, and that was far from the worst offender. All of these "micro-digressions" pump the brakes HARD on narrative push (and visual gags like that DnD poster are best explored in a visual medium. cut it out), and for a story so fast-paced as RPO, that's a huge detriment.

Clive Cussler is another bastard for this too; his Dirk Pitt adventure novels play out like edutainment trips through high adventure. Digressions are plenty. Every time a new element is introduced, he has to explain it at the molecular level, whether it's the inner workings of an AK-47 or a 1967 Ford Mustang.

What did I feel The Davinci Code, Ready Player One, and Sahara all have in common? They worked better as movies. Movies have that show thing down pat; Characters can spew exposition or show off a world with a few establishing shots. Remember the old adage, a picture is worth a thousand words. Except for that bloody Leo Teabing chapter... but I'll get to that some other day.  

So then, where is the balance? It's rough establishing a world that's right next door to our own without providing context to the reader. It's tough to world build something alien when you can't digress a touch to explain something. There are ways, the "show, don't tell" rule chief among them. Even that can be tricky. Frank Herbert's Dune often times leaves first-time readers scratching their heads in bewilderment. He doesn't digress for a second, he never stops to explain the Gom Jabbar, or the Seeker, or what the hell a Kwizatz Haderach is. He DOES, however, have an awesome appendix. Maybe that's what I'll wind up doing. 

I'm a dynamite fisher-person. I just can't put the wormy on the hooky.

Until next time!
STP

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Let's take this outside!

Pictured: Writer prepares to receive feedback... all part of THE PROCESS.


Hey Writers,

So I've taken it upon myself to start writing classes. Under instructor Matt LeDrew, self-proclaimed hack, and author of over 20 published thingies. I mean novels. My goals with the course were to see what I was doing right, and more importantly, what I was doing wrong with VIRTUAL MACHINES. 

Technically, we're all shit in our first drafts, that just a matter of having a good editor who's willing to catch the technical gaffes. Put a comma here, close quotations there, you used four incorrect methods of dialog attribution in that last paragraph. That's one thing, but structurally, narratively, things get much trickier. You're writing your magnum opus, you think it's really damn good. You've been spitting hot fire at the keyboard for 4 hours a day for the last three weeks, no breaks. You're underwater, man. The bay is your story. You're not drowning, you've got gills like Kevin Costner in Waterworld, but you can't see the surface anymore. That guy on the beach, he's told a tale or two, and he's read hundreds or thousands of em, he's Michael Douglas in Wonder Boys. Let's call him "insight". The guy in the fishing boat, puttering out to open water? He's Robert Shaw in Jaws, he knows the sea like the back of his hand, he knows the water you're standing in quite well, but his view is from across the bay or the deck of his boat, he sees the surface, the beach, and everything around it. Let's call him "perspective".

You see, so many of us are so lost to our current WIPs that we ignore two very important elements that have to come from outside; Insight, and perspective. I've never had a problem asking for (or offering) either. More to the contrary, I've had trouble finding captive audiences willing to offer either. Friends are amazing for encouragement, they'll tell you everything you're doing right, if only because they're friends and they don't want to kill your creative buzz. Or maybe they don't want to bruise your fragile ego, who knows. When asked to beta-read two pieces of finished work by a dear friend, I made it my mission to be both brutally honest, and unflinching in my delivery, and I was. Luckily both pieces were really fucking good, and that saved me being a total asshole. My reasoning was thus; If I wasn't brutally honest and unflinching, what purpose did it serve him to let me read his stories. What good was I doing him if I didn't offer two things he can't get when he dives under the surface to tell the tale; insight, and perspective. 

This is why taking your writing outside, soliciting beta readers, finding a group, joining a class, is so damn important. Even more important; check your damn ego. If you solicit for outside insight and perspective, listen to what they have to say, especially when they start throwing thoughts or comments about narrative structure or technical flaws at you. You don't always HAVE to take their advice, but don't just reach for the assumption that they don't get your tale, or that it's a matter of taste (unless it is, which is usually pretty evident in the feedback you get.) Secondly; make sure you give your work to people who can effectively offer you both. When I beta read, I feel obligated to give about a thousand words worth of notes, what I liked, what I didn't, what I felt was missing. They asked me to read, they asked for feedback, I owe them that. When VIRTUAL MACHINES is eventually finished, and I solicit for readers whom I feel can offer me insight and perspective that differs from my own, I'd like to think they'll be as extensive as I would be. 

"But Steve! Should I finish my work first!?" I hear you cry. 

My answer is; I have no idea. Steve is not qualified to give Writing Advice (TM). Also, stop yelling at me! I can tell you that VM is my first kick at the proverbial can, and the perspective and insight I gained through submitting the first chapter to the class was essential and invaluable. It spurred a week-long edit/revision marathon of the first 10 chapters. It helped me shape the first few chapters (written about 15 months ago) into something I'm a thousand times happier with. Is it perfect? I highly doubt it, is any first novel perfect? Is any novel perfect? 

I can also tell you to check your library, or Facebook for local writing groups, as they could prove indispensable in shaping your work. If you do so, just remember that many of the other members are likely there for the same reasons you are, and be prepared to do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. 


We are not put upon this world to GET IT!

Until next time,
STP





Wednesday, July 17, 2019

A quick word.

Hey Writers,

It's been a bit of a crazy week for me. Still alive, still here, but dealing with real-world nonsense.

Stay tuned!

Until next time,

STP

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Bleed on the page, dammit!

PICTURED: NOT a creepy author's house. no sir.


Hey Writers,

How much of yourself do you put into your projects? I don't mean your favorite influencers or genres, I mean yourself, your experiences, your psyche.

I had this thought a while back whilst neck deep in a collection of genre fiction; So much of the material, while strong in its own right, felt derivative. There were stories wherein you could taste the different flavors, you could distinguish between the different ingredients of the cake (A dash of Firefly here, a drop of Dr. Who there...) and, while entertaining, and technically sound, I couldn't shake that feeling that I'd been here before. It was an entertaining read, I'd go so far as to say it left me feeling pretty great, it was a delicious chocolate cheesecake, but it didn't linger, it was empty calories. There's not a thing wrong with empty calories, don't get me wrong, but...

After one story, in particular, the author's bio really struck me, and I thought, 'This person sounds ridiculously interesting. Yet their story didn't really carry any of that sense of self."

Highbrow pontification or crackpot philosophy? Maybe. Let me plead my case;

Stephen King - do you think he gives people the heebie-jeebies and lives in a creepy old haunted house in a small New England town to perpetuate the myth behind the storyteller? Or do you think he writes the material he does BECAUSE he's the sort of guy who gives people the heebie-jeebies and would want to live in a creepy old haunted house in a small New England town? He has no image or celebrity status to uphold, he's a damn author, not Marylin Manson. Evidence persists that as long as you buy his books, he doesn't give a rat's ass what you think of him.

Edgar Allen Poe - Have you ever seen a picture of this guy wherein he doesn't look other-worldly or nebulous? He wrestled with inner demons; paranoia, addiction, probably undiagnosed mental illness for his entire life, and he wrote disturbing inner monologues that have yet to be matched. Seriously. People have tried, and it's always forced, ridiculous, or completely over the top. Poe's works of fear, paranoia, and revenge were so goddamn effective because they came from some dark place in him, they were, they felt, real.

Robert E Howard - Howard was a paradoxical figure, an able-bodied Texas laborer, bare-knuckle boxer, adventurer, traveler, and yet, outsider, intellectual, and scholar. His most popular character was Conan. He was a detached loner who left the barbaric, insular world he knew at 15 years old, an attempt to satiate his own wanderlust and find a place. Conan never did, he wandered every corner of the Hyborian Age and mused on the pratfalls and quirks of 'civilization', much like Howard himself did. Neither of them ever found their place. Indeed, Conan's ennui as king of the most powerful nation of the civilized age could have been seen as Howard's own raging dissatisfaction with life. It came from his heart, ultimately evidenced by his dissatisfaction, depression, and an overwhelming sense of loss causing him to end it. Who's to say, given the chance, that Conan wouldn't have eventually fallen on his own sword.

JRR Tolkien - Here was a man obsessed with linguistics, genealogy, mythology, and ancient history; his impetus for Lord of the Rings was in the worldbuilding and the story told is secondary to the grand canvas on which it takes place. He cared more for the languages and the cultures that cultivated these languages than he did about Frodo and the ring. He was our first fantasy anthropologist. If you've ever gone beyond the core trilogy, you'll know how deeply his fascination with mythology and legend goes, and how very minuscule his greatest work is in the grander tapestry he'd woven.  Tolkien detractors have often derided Lord of the Rings for being dry and stuffy or full of description (it isn't, but it IS full of detail). I ask you this: What would you expect from an Oxford Professor of  Anglo-Saxon known for colorful lectures on Beowulf?

Am I getting my point across at all here? (probably not) Are this just ramblings? (yeah, most likely)

As writers, or more specifically, as GENRE writers, we all want to tell a story. And for many of us, that's more than enough. For many readers, that's also more than enough. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. But I'd like you to think back to those stories that really blew you away, those novels you couldn't put down, those movies you watched over and over, not just because they were deeply layered or cerebral, or literal masterworks, but you loved them. They could have been none of those things, they could have been all, but I guarantee you this; they were personal.

Here's an exercise, maybe when you're sitting down with a new concept, staring at Harmon's story circle, or Campbell's Hero Myth, or Save the Cat, or whatever; Think about your theme. Think about questions you might want to ask the reader. Think about how you would answer them. Put a bit of your own blood into your characters, maybe they share your aspirations, maybe they share your philosophies, or your injuries, or your insecurities. Write from a real place. Readers can tell.

Look, far be it for me (unpublished as I am) to tell YOU how to write a story (I've said it before, this is not an advice blog), but why bother if it's not a concept you're passionate about, if it's not a story that you'd like to tell in your voice. I love Neuromancer, and while I'd be flattered to have Virtual Machines compared to Gibson, I didn't set out to write "Steve T Power's Neuromancer". I also know It'll never be compared to Gibson. Ever. I also know that the themes interest me, my main protagonist inherits some of my own strengths, weaknesses, and philosophy, and while that doesn't make him easier to write (He's still an enigmatic bastard), it certainly makes him feel more real to me. I'm assuming that will show in the finished product. I could be totally out to lunch.

What day is it? What YEAR?

Until next time,
STP