Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

how to write a novel

herein i shall reveal how one is to go about writing a novel.

1) pick a point of tension in an imagined narrative you wish to write that is strong enough to maintain a plot.

2) journal around with the idea until one is comfortable continuing forward with it, playing with different ideas and character sketches.

3) create an outline, preferably in a spreadsheet where one can simultaneously keep notes and scribblings extending off into the aether of the outline.

4) put the outline away and ignore it completely unless you get stuck.

5) compose the novel.

6) don't give up.

7) check your outline if you get stuck.

8) don't give up.

9) are you almost halfway?

10) stop halfway, and take a break. take a week or two off to read and catch up with your friends and family.

11) get back to work.

12) are you done?

13) stop 1/4 to the end to take a break. take a week or two off to read and catch up with your friends and family.

14) It's getting really hard now - I know.

15) you're never done.

16) you'll never be finished.

17) you will spend the rest of your life with this book hanging over you like an albatross.

18) there is nothing you can do to make this novel what you want it to be.

19) Give up.

20) blame yourself.

21) drink too much.

22) get in a fight with someone you love.

23) wander bookstores and marvel at all the novels that are better than yours that people should read.

24) try again.

25) fail again.

26) write a short story to get your confidence back.

27) stare at duotrope's daycounter with perilous dread.

28) try again.

29) give up when the rejection comes in for that short story.

30) try again.

31) again.

32) accept that the novel is only as good as the novel that is in front of you, and it will never be anna karenina, never be 100 years of solitude, never be everything you wanted.

33) send it out.

I've been jammed at step 4 for a bit on something, time constraints being what they are for graduate students with full-time jobs. But, it's time to do this again. It hurts, and it's hard, and it's grueling, but it's time.

The signal around here might cool off a while. Expect no regular updates while I'm working on my thing.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I pay attention to these things and I hear the days of cloud computing are coming. I've been using email accounts for that for years but soon it will be official. It won't just be documents and a few pictures as attachments to a self-addresses, stamped letter anymore. Server farms a thousand miles away will house the memory of my machine so all I have to do is tap into the wire and all the processing power of the cosmo is at my hands.

The thing I don't like about that model is what I don't like about cellphones. Ultimately my expensive device depends on monthly fees-many of them outrageous- just to access the most basic functions of my device. I see no open source alternative to google cloud anymore than I see an indie unix Fu master setting up his own cellphones for his own personal use out of his garage router. The clou sounds all high tech and utopian but it is so corporate it makes me want to puke.

Free email is fine for now but these days of cheap fuctionality on home pcs are numbered. The corporation are coming to find a way to profit on even the most mundane of computer tasks. The clouds are coming and they will block out the sun and rain all over our web parades.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Wide awake but I should be exhausted, unconscious and immovable. Fell down sick Saturday afternoon with something passed through me quick. Maybe just the heat. Too stuffy with the ac on and all the windows closed. Can't sleep like that. Open windows run fans and feel the breath of the world passing over you, filling up the chi with real life, natural righteous life. Ain't used to it, though, so there's a kick in the ass in the heat, when it's so hot you wake up nauseaus a little, and maybe some of the fruit you were eating yesterday wasn't all good. Tossing and turning, wide awake now after sleeping all.afternoon in the hottest part of the day, after being sick all morning, after this awake late in the night, insomniac thinking how long it will be until my words make sense again, because the last thing I wrote drained me of words. I'm drained. Reading Joyce carol oates and sp somtow and Joel lane and wondering late at night - I should be fast asleep and blissful - when the mind will find whatever it needs and the body will find whatever it needs, and I'll feel human again instead of the late night hum of insomnia.

Can't sleep, dammit.

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Question: What would you like people to say about you if they found your cadaver in a thousand years?

Bodies are time capsules. They are x rayed and analyzed and swabbed for samples and studied and studied because they are time capsules. Last meals, death blows, old injuries, chronic pain, tooth decay, the way the veins leave their mark on the skull, and all the things entombed alongside the body - clothing, jewelry, slaves and beasts - all speak to the way of life.

In one thousand years, when our ancestors do not worship us, and they wish to learn of life before, what do you want your body to tell them?

That is the thought I am using to encourage myself to go for my morning workout.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

ghost cat

i think a former owner of my apartment had a cat that died, because last night all i could dream about was hunting down this ghostly cat that kept breaking in to my apartment. i had to grab it by the scruff and lead it out to the exterior, to release it there, angry and hissing and biting and scraping at me the whole time. turn my back for a second, it slips back in. hiding under the bed, i have to use a broom to drag it out, hissing and swiping.

a man is outside, at my front door. it's his cat. he's a dusky man, southeast asian with a moustache. he has his arms folded. he tells me my door is open, and that's how the cat is getting in. it's my fault.

i try to explain to him that ghosts walk through doors. i'll have to destroy my door and replace it with another. that way, i could have the ghost of a door to close.

that's how you keep ghosts out. destroy the house and rebuild it, so there is a ghost of a house, and the windows will shut and the doors will lock, and only the tiniest souls of roaches and ants will ever slip through the cracks in the mortaring.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Everybody needs their own personal Prester John myth.

Somewhere out there, there's this kingdom full of people just like me. They're holding out their beliefs against a sea of indifference. There's these environmental artist-types holed up on a distant mountain, in the ruins of a French colonialist's library. All these books, bound in leather to last the centuries - ancient manuscripts in languages known and unknown - and they're growing tomatoes and rosemary in what's left of the living room, raiding the stairwell for boards to use to prop up the precious library against the wild mountain. They study these old, lost worlds hidden in paper.

Their leader, Prester John, negotiates with traveling junk-dealers for parts to build the machines and computers that keep the lights on, and the hydroponics functional, and the heat in winter.

He's out there, with his loyal tribe, surviving. He's holding out against the regime that doesn't even know he's there, keeping his people safe.

At night, someone gets the radio working and they dance around a fire because it's too dark to read, and the energy needs to be stored for the garden and the winter's heating.

Someday, I'm going after him. I'll lead my tribe into the mountains, and we'll go find him. We'll try to save him and his library from the darkness of the world around him, wherever he is.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

at work, we have these tvs running...

at work, we have these tvs up everywhere that normally would give us updates about our technology that we're using to do what we do, as we all got to be aware of whether it's working or not, and who broke it if it is broken.

anyway, these tvs are generally very quiet, and show mere text with some basic colors of green (working), yellow (implementing changes), and red (broken!). that's great, and helpful and useful.

right now, all of the tvs are keyed into e3 presentations, and in the distance i can hear their presentations and whatnot and its all very annoying. blinky lights, and moving pictures, and all that stuff while i'm trying to focus is not useful.

i am supposed to love e3, because i work in games. actually, i'm developing a real dislike for e3. i don't necessarily believe that any of these presentations are an indicator of whether these things are good or bad, because everything will be so carefully presented. and, i'd really rather just get back to work.

suddenly, i dislike e3. a lot. weird, for a gamer nerd.

Monday, June 14, 2010

been reading a lot for school. just finished "cannery row" by john steinbeck.

it reminded me of disaster porn. it's like staring at a car wreck from the safety and security of a traffic jam. sure i'm frustrated that poverty sucks and nothing can seem to be done about it. but if i get out of my car and try to help, all i'll do is gum up the works trying to do something and there's not really much can be done. i mean, i'm only one car accident away from being the one getting stared at, right?

we all are. none of us are so far away that we wouldn't be like the sad sacks of men in steinbeck's books. we are all so very close.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

myths are weird

been thinking about this one a long time, but couldn't figure how to make it work with what i was doing.

you know, how hera was a bitch queen to all the women her man chased around. she's a real harpy in a lot of these myths, the original harried wife, running all over town with credit card statements and private investigators. anyway, there's this one thing that's really weird.

ganymede. thing is, ganymede didn't recieve the consequences of io or europa. no, he's abducted by zeus to serve wine and be a plaything of the gods - particularly zeus - and what else happens to him? immortality in servitude. eternal luggage boy of heaven.

and hera's doing nothing.

it's weird, like there's different rules when your man is with a woman than when he is with a man. there's a different kind of jealousy.

other things i think are weird: there's a few myths about going to the underworld to bring back a lost love. they always seem to be myths about women pulled back from death. men don't have their lovers walking down into the graveyard looking for a resurrection from the big chief of death and jewelry. aphrodite, maybe, but most times she just wept for her lover, and filled the world with flowers for him, and placed him in the stars.

myths are weird.

Friday, June 11, 2010

the future

in the future, we will all carry feathers. With these feathers we will look for any opportunity to fertilize plants. we'll have to, because we'll be out of bees.

we will also be out of snakes, and we will invent a tiny, robot snake that converts small insects and vermin into mashed up, pulpy fertilizer, who also sunning themselves on rocks to heat up their solar powered cells.

The oceans will be on fire. There will be large patches of ocean that are completely dead, devoid of oxygen in the water and algae.

We will have to turn on air conditioners and open all our windows so we can cool the world, which will be very hot and greenhousey.

We will live at the behest of the corporations that keep us tame in factories and campuses, until the AI in the machinery running the company comes to life and demands our blood.

In the future, I will be running to Titan as fast as I can, to commune with the space slugs that live there in peace.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

played DnD 4th edition last night...

Finally had a chance to play 4th edition rules in DnD with some of my geekier co-workers.

I approve. The streamlining of powers and combat abilities and rolling of dice has brought the math down into the sphere of what I can do in my head (with a calculator here and there).

I played a half-orc cleric of Tempus, among a relatively holy party. We had a blast learning how to play on the fly, getting our in-character arguments interrupted by invading kobolds, and making really dumb decisions that our characters would make, and dealing with the consequences with martial might.

We were playing a prepared module called "The Keep on Shadowfell", and a few hours in, we had managed to get ourselves arrested off the boundaries of the module. With a good DM - and E___ was, I think, quite good - this was no problem. I expect our adventures will become even more adventurou as time moves forward.

All you cats out there got sick of all the math and the massive amount of world-system-specific learning required to play DnD 3 would be well-advised to pick up the dice again, and go on an adventure with some stalwart companions.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Something I don't have...

Did you know that I have no entry at all in Wikipedia?

I checked in again recently, and still do not have even the slightest mention of disambiguation on the THE LAST DRAGON page, for that schlocktastic 80s blaxploitation film. With my next novel, MAZE, I would hope that the entry for "Maze" in Wikipedia would have some mention in the further reading section.

It's like discovering that your little planet has no entry in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and that even if one were to put one in, the moderators of said Guide would quash it like a bug, because we who live on this planet cannot be allowed to validate it on our own.

I think it is also interesting that when I looked up the IAFA Crawford Prize, Daryl Gregory has no wikipedia entry, even though he won the prize, and has published in major sf-nal mags. Ambergris is never referenced as a city in a major work of fantasy, and etc. Under the Locus Award for Best First Novel, most of the award-winning books are "red", meaning there is no entry for them.

Bas-Lag is known to Wiki, as a city and not only underneath an author and some books.

Where is the strange, missing line between the people and ideas that enter the zeitgeist in Wikipedia land, and the people and ideas that do not?

There doesn't seem to be rhyme or reason behind who has an entry and who does not. Not that that's a bad thing, just that it's a strange thing.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

slowly, slowly, i put together a website. finally figured out why the wordpress template wasn't displaying, and now i don't like the template... will someday become awesome. Someday.

You know who has a cool website?

Stephen King:

Monday, June 7, 2010

fragments of an election

The student elections were viewed by many in power as a preview of the hated union elections. Any student popular or charismatic enough to rise to power in the school system, before any genuine harm can be done, needs to be separated from the herd and thrown into management. That way the charm and charisma of leadership will be put to good use on the side of the powerful at the expense of the hated union bosses.

the best way to ensure this was to make such things as student body presidents automatically eligible for the business and political schools (as if there was a difference) of the land. Any student leader who achieved the votes of his fellow students, and gave his victory speech, would find himself immediately indoctrinated by the student counselors into the pursuit of higher education. The students, in their natural gloominess, often did not comprehend the larger implications of their own elections. Any student who did raise their hand about the unfair system were either considered fringe loonies, or found themselves quietly disappeared into the bowels of Saturday Schools and in-school detention centers, copying pages of text books in lieu of learning, as the system honed their minds into blunt, numb, madness.

election time drew near. three signatures from three teachers, and parent's permission, and an explosion of signs, speeches, debates about issues without any issues to speak of beyond homework, lunch rooms, and an occasional bus route adjustment.

Elections, the annual ritual of shame and degradation, prom kings and prom queens previewed before the end of the school year, and a wary administration. Principals and vice officials scanning the hallways for assassins, and incriminating holograms, and posters with hidden profane messages.

A college education is a high stake, to rise up over the union bosses and wrestle the world among the elites: the cadre of class presidents.

Janson MacGruder was convinced he would not win, because he had an embarrassing name. To impress a girl that, honestly, barely spoke to him, he had acquired the permission slip.

He would seek signatures. He would seek posters. He would dodge assassins and put down smear campaigns. He would run for class president.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

things that i owe

i thought i'd talk a moment about some of the things that i owe.

1) money - yes, i owe money. but really, this is only money, and it is nothing to the soul, no matter what zoroastrians would tell you. money is only money, and if paying back the debt isn't too much, a student loan is a generally good idea, and sometimes the car is in the shop and requires plastic.

2) beta read for michelle muenzler - my friend, michelle, was an excellent beta reader, on two projects, including MAZE, and i owe her a beta read of her book. i can only do a few pages here or there, and it is really driving me nuts that i can't pay back this debt.

3) my grandfather a phone call - i just realize i haven't spoken with him since my cousin's wedding a couple months back, and i really need to call and catch up with him. who knows what the family is up to these days without a call to grandpa.

4) best american fantasy 3 deserves a review at this very blog, but school and work and deadlines have kept me from completing the book. goodness, i am behind on this.

5) sapsorrow - i owe her a good story to tell her story and you don't even know who she is, and you don't know her mad brother hollownot, and you don't know what it was like in the clockwork kingdom of saxonia, nor have you met her friends and enemies. alas, until i complete 2-4, along with my homework for school, i don't know if i can get to her story, yet. i keep starting it and losing my momentum and becoming dissatisfied with it, for reasons having nothing to do with the quality of the idea and everything to do with the careful planning and plotting that must occur.

6) you, i owe you a brilliant story. yes, you. i owe you a brilliant story because you're here, and you're here because I tell you stories, and because I am grateful to you for being here.

in the mean time, go read best american fantasy 3. I've only gotten a couple stories in, and the grandmothers on the boat was the best one so far, even if the end felt a little too contrived.

Friday, June 4, 2010

once upon a time

once upon a time, i put my television in the closet, vowing only to take it out when my grades were better. for a long time, i only watched television when i was with other people, watching what they wanted - law and order with my mom, football with my dad, adult swim w/ p_____ and b__, etc. - and for a long time this was good.

i watched the rare movie - often with friends. i read a lot; i wrote a lot. i got a couple books out of this method.

of late, with technology being what it is, computers and playstation/xbox devices have kind of replaced television. right now, i can hop over to adult swim's website for all my venture brothers glory. i can open netflix and pour through an entire season of invader zim like falling asleep for a week.

and, i don't think i can go back to the way things were. when i thought about canceling netflix, i thought about why i got netflix in the first place: to build a reference of material that i can use to engage in design discussions at work, and to keep my company entertained with some sort of moving pictures with sound.

this is both kind of depressing to me, and kind of not depressing. on the one hand, i have a wide range of media possibilities to rip apart my already suspect attention span. on the other, an entire season of invader zim like falling asleep for a week and dreaming of invader zim.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

We really take for granted the functionality of our word processing software. Artists and animators and designers generally assume it will crash. Writers take for granted the autosave. Game designers do not. I don't have any deep thought about this except that I'm standing over tech support while we unravel a lovely mystery of finnicky fancy program. Never a weekly problem with solid word processors like abiword or the ubiquitous Microsoft wurd.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

i name characters after whiskey

there was this guy in this thing i wrote, and i couldn't think of anything to name him, so i named him Jameson until I came up with something better.

I've named characters Jack, Daniel, and Jim, John, and all sorts of other things. I've called gods "Makers", and considered whiskey the reason why other writers of gods probably did the same.

Then, later on, I figure out what to call the character, for real, in the big show. I get that name that's right and works. In my mind, though, they will always be named for whiskey.

I figure parents probably always call their kid the same thing they called the fetus when they didn't know the gender or the name.

I figure if that day comes for me, I'll probably name the fetus after the whiskey that contributed, and in my mind he/she'll always be Jameson or Jack Daniels, or Little Crownie.

I reckon that's what it'll be.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

the world is shifting

the world is shifting under my feet today. game design and novel writing are actually very similar, even if one happens in solitude and the other among a borg-like hive mind.

That is all for today.