Writing

I really need to Save The Cat

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 Oh, how time flies.  I want to participate in National Novel Writing Month, but as usual, I lost track of time and have absolutely nothing ready to write.

Faint images flutter around the corners of my mind, but nothing concrete enough to move forward on.  I  need to hunker down and trust the story will form.

No bias.  No preconceived notions.  Just me and a cat that need saving.  If my muse is gentle and kind, then I'll find the story by the first.

If you have any suggestions,  I'm open to hear them.

Bitten by a Martian Spider

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Ever had one of those days when you had a song stuck in your head? 

I really wish it was as simple as just having a song stuck in there...  instead, David Bowie, Pete Steele, Rozz Williams, and Bruce Dickinson are competing in a Pitch Perfect style Riff Off.

Did your eyes cross?  Imagine how my brain feels. 

Each one presents a song with images that would make for an amazing story, but just as I get to the point I think I know what I could write, the next story takes over. 

I really want to allow myself more freedom to work, and I want writing to be fun again, but this is ridiculous.   I don't know when I put my business hat back on, but I need to take it off and burn it.

I need to let myself love the fiction, and stop trying to force myself to "do the right thing for the business."  The right thing is for me to be a fan of my own fiction.  I don't know why I keep forgetting that. 

It is almost like every time something makes me happy, an alarm goes off and tells me to stop.  I would laugh if it wasn't for the frustration. 

Roadrunner United's Roads just came on my Slacker Radio.

A soaring hope is reeling in my head

I can’t remember this

But it must be what I miss

Suddenly I find I’m standing still

Staring at the ground

Waiting for your sound

— "Roads," Roadrunner United

That's it.  That is the feeling exactly.  I am not waiting for inspiration, I am looking for the perfect sound.  The tones that work together just right.  A killer riff that will drive forward.  I am looking for a "fresh sound for the new album" as it were...

Maybe there is a way to bring harmony to the cacophony, but I don't see it quite yet. 

Lord Mammon and the Muse: An Artist's Manifesto

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Hesiod and the Muse

I struggle a lot with my Muse.  Whether she is a disembodied genius, a demon in the back of my mind, or function of my own imagination matters little.  I hear her sing.  She gives me more stories than I have time to write.  She shows me many worlds, many lives, and many dreams.

I have tried to discipline her.  Over the years, I have introduced rules and structures to funnel her inspiration where I feel it should go.  She just laughs at me.

I am not sure I would care as much if I had not allowed myself to be distracted by the idea of money.  Lord Mammon snarls.  He is the tormentor of all artists.  He tells us all the simple truth, "You have to make money to support yourself."  How sweet is a lie wrapped in the truth?

Yes, every writer needs to make money if they are going to continue working.  We read countless books and blogs on how to monetize our work.  Could there ever be a bigger waste of time?

A writer needs to focus on their craft.  We lie to ourselves and say that we are all publishers now.  Why can't we see that the publishing industry was a discrete phenomenon?  It arose for its time, served its purpose, and now it is time to let it die.  It was the business of Lord Mammon, not the Muse.

Let us rediscover some foundational truths:

There is no such thing as a writer, there is only the storyteller.

There is no such thing as the musician, there is only the performer.

There is no such thing as the painter, there is only the artist.

There is no such thing as the storyteller, there is only the artist.

There is no such thing as the performer, there is only the artist.

The artist is the servant and the master of the imagination.

I am an artist who tell stories.  No more, no less.  I work to perfect my craft in hopes that the stories I tell are not just my stories.  I hope they are your stories too.  I have to trust that our stories are good enough, compelling enough for you to want more.

We have to stop wanting the instant gratification of the quick buck, and try to build something that will last.  A good story will always outlive its teller.  The moment a good story enters another person's mind and finds its way into their heart, it has done what it was meant to do.

I need to trust my Muse.  I need to trust my readers.  I need to trust you all to do the same.

Revealing Unseen Wonder

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wonder by Petras Gagilas

I've gone through many stages as a blogger. It's difficult to admit to myself how many years I've been doing this. And it's not the easiest thing to keep doing.

In many ways, it's the same as my other job as a novelist. I'm constantly looking for ideas, things to share and talk about that I hope you all enjoy as much as I do. For a while there, I even tried being a news commentator. While I moved all that over to my other blog it Project: Shadow.com, and decided to use dashPunk as a more personal blog, I found it hard to open up.

I gave this site the tagline, "revealing unseen wonder," because I really felt that was my duty. After all this and that the duty of every writer?

As a writer, I see the world differently. I see characters, through lines, and symbolism in even the most mundane events. I have a habit of finding symbolism in things that most people don't. But most of the time, I just sit in my house and write.

On the first of the year, we make resolutions. If we were honest with ourselves, we would admit that most of them are unrealistic. But I want to make a resolution to be more open, sharing what few and precious glimpses of wisdom and wonder that I find in my life with you guys. Over the years, you all have shared so many with me. It is time that I paid back the favor.

So let us all resolve that in this year 2013, we will not be afraid to share our gifts and talents with the world. I will be sharing more stories this year than I ever have before. I have a plan.

What we share?

The big new year for the Dragons of Night

Again, I want to thank everyone who made 2012 my best year yet for fiction sales.  I took a pretty big gamble switching genres, but thanks to your love, help, and support, it was well worth it.

2013 is going to be a very big year for us.  Wand and Weaver: The Chain is out of exclusivity, which means it should be available on your Nook and other favorite bookstores soon.  We are even working on an audio version that will be available from Audible.com and as a podcast.

Work on book 2 proceeds on schedule, and I can't wait to get it into your hands to see what you all think of it.  For those of you who have asked, it will pick up right at the end of The Chain and go on to explore the relationship between Daniel and Lady Oban.

We have also decided to release a serial, to be called Our Solemn Hour, that will show events taking place in the wider world.  I'm very excited about the series, and hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy working on it.

In addition to all that, I have started publishing prose poems and flash fiction, as well as original artwork, in the Dragons of Night setting over at medium.com.  These are part of my daily warm-up routine, and I thought it would be fun to share them with you all.

As always, I love getting feedback from everyone.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to hit me up on my various social media profiles, or use the contact page to get in touch with me directly.

I hope you are as excited as I am for all of the new things coming to Dragons of Night this year.  And since I can't say it enough, thank you so much for your love, care, and support

Thank you for a great 2012

I wanted to take a quick minute to thank everyone who picked up a copy of Wand and Weaver: The Chain this year.

Thanks to you, for the first time in my writing career I've hit my book sale goal for the year. I set a rather high target and through your generosity we hit it.

I also want to thank everyone who has written a review of the book, and everyone who has contacted me to share how much the story meant to you.

As you know, the story is very near and dear to my heart. It pains me as a writer to say this, but I really and truly have no words to express how grateful I am to all of you for your kindness, love, and support.

I look forward to the new year, and all of the new things that it will bring for me to share for you all to read.

Love isn't money

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It's not something you buy
Let me fill myself with tears you cry

You know I am in a fun mood when I open a post with a quote from Black Sabbath. I've had Wishing Well stuck in my head all week.

As a writer, I want to entertain people, but I also want to share something intensely person. Something that con only be shared through stories.

I love it when I hear from you all. You make all the soul searching worth it. But, I feel a strong urge to be original. To tell stories that are different from the ones I read, watch, and listen to.

The problem with originality is getting other people into it. I read the reviews and so often they make me smile.

As I work on this story, I wanted to return to the things I love. You can really see that in Wand and Weaver: The Chain.

The other problem with my struggle for originality is that it fills my head with more stories than I know what to do with.

So, I think I have seen a way forward. Wand and Weaver is a bigger story than I can easily tell, but I think I have found a way to do it.

I have changed my focus for the serial. I am going to tell a story that parallels the main story so I can give you all a fuller image of what is going in in the world.

I'm still not sure what I am going to do with the story if Amazon Serials doesn't take it. I am looking for options if you know about any.

What other stories in the Dragons of Night world do you want to read? Let me know.

To Steampunk or not to steampunk

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Evelyn Nesbit Thaw by Bain News Service, 1913

While working in this new serial, I find myself adding a lot of steampunk elements, but I am not sure if I should call the story steampunk or not.

There are a lot of Steampunk purists who would instantly tell me that what I am working on is not Steampunk.  The story takes place in a secondary world.  It is not a Victorian era setting in most ways.  The plot is a mix of supernatural horror, epic fantasy, and steampunk.  So what is it?

I hate genre titles.  I've posted about that on numerous occasion.  The problem is one of constraint.  Oddly, that is also what I love about genre.  It gives you conventions to play with and constraints on the types of stories you can tell.

In fact, I am almost more concerned about calling the serial an epic fantasy than a steampunk story.  To be honest, it is somewhere between an epic fantasy and a sword and sorcery story.

I suppose, what I am most concerned about is more how readers react to the terms.  I will probably use all the above as keywords for the serial.  I just hope people know I am doing it in good faith.

What do you think?  How flexible is the term steampunk?  Let me know.

Writing from the Heart

When Ray Bradbury died, I decided to spend a year with his book Zen and the art of writing. A part of that, for me, meant that I would write one short story a week like he suggests. I knew these stories would be personal. I would have to dig deep to find something to write about every week. This week was all too easy.

My beloved Smokey JoeMy dog died on Monday. I've never been much of a dog person. He originally belonged to my mother. When he was diagnosed with epilepsy, I adopted him so that I could make sure that he got his medicine on schedule.

I have a lot of pets in my life. I've had numerous dogs, cats, fish, hermit crabs, and hamsters… But he was different. He was special. I think because he had spells every now and then, and that I would hold him while his poor little body shook, and listen to him cry, as I work to get the medicine in him the doctor recommended, I became more protective of him than any other pet I ever had.

His last couple days were really hard. He started having seizures on Thursday night, and at first, nothing was different. But this time they just didn't stop. The vet told us to keep giving him the medicine, until he got back to normal. Eventually Thursday night, the seizures stopped, and he fell asleep. I won't go into detail about everything that happened those last few days. I will say that I have rarely ever felt that helpless in my life.

So this week when it was time to write a story, I use that as the inspiration. I wrote a story in my new setting about the character losing a beloved pet. Since it's me, it of course became a little bit more complicated. Now, I sincerely don't know what to do with it.

I don't know how long it'll be before I can even edit the story. It is so personal, that I feel like I would be publishing pages from a secret diary if I put it out somewhere. Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe that means I wrote something so honest that if I shared it with the world, the world would see a piece, a part of my soul.

I know that sounds flighty, even airy fairy, but one of the things I've been wanting to do more and more, is find a way to make my fiction more honest.

Fiction is the arts of the well-crafted lie. The more honest that lie, the more likely a reader will be able to believe it long enough to enjoy the story. I don't find a lot of honesty in fantasy books. I don't find a lots of honesty in science fiction. And why should we? These are the genre of the imagination. But if that imagination isn't rooted in something so true you can feel it in your bones, then why should anyone bother to read, to love it, or let it infiltrate their dreams?

I suppose, that is the quest I am currently on. I am trying to find the meeting place between my imagination and my truth. There has to be a bridge somewhere that will allow me to bring these two things together in a pure and honest way. I feel like I did that with The Chain, and I know I did that with my new short. Once, I grow the courage to not only tell these stories, but to share them and live them, I will at least have done something meaningful with my life.

I wish you all luck on finding something that gives you as much meaning and purpose as my writing gives me. I would love to know what that is for you. Why don't you leave your purpose or what you find meaning in within the comments below. Thank you ahead of time for your continued inspiration.

Monday Wordlist: Beyond the Wall of Sleep

Zen and the Art of Writing is to make a list of nouns, start writing a prose poem inspired by the word or words that catch your eye, and see where it goes.

Bradbury used lists of nouns.  I thought it would be more interesting to get these lists from another work that I I love.  So I chose Beyond the Wall of Sleep by H P Lovecraft.  It is a story that inspired a lot of my writing.

I tossed the story into WordSift, and here is the list that popped out:

body brain certain come cosmic day decadent dr dream ethereal eye face family form head high hour indeed institution joe know language life light like lip little man manner mental message mind mountain night own perhaps said saw seemed slater sleep space thing thought time two upon waking way year

These are the most common words in the story.  The ones in bold are the ones that caught my eye.

cosmic decadent dream ethereal eye

The words for me clumped a bit and made the image clearer and more interesting.

cosmic decadent, dream, ethereal eye

That is a good seed for a story.  I know what I am going to write this week.  What are you working on?

A Year with Ray Bradbury

Zen and the Art of Writing for the first time, and saw him saying the same thing.  I wasn't alone.  Here was another person who felt the burden to write, not just the drive or interest.

"I have learned, on my journeys, that if I let a day go by without writing, I grow uneasy.  Two days and I am in tremor.  Three and I suspect lunacy.  Four and I might as well be a hog, suffering the flux in a wallow.  An hour's writing is tonic.  I'm on my feet, running in circles, and yelling for a clean pair of spats (Zen and the Art of Writing)."

Wow, I am not alone.  He goes on to compare himself to a landmine that he jumps out of bed and steps on it, then spend the day putting the pieces back together after the explosion.  He invites us to jump, and I am going to.

It is time to step on a landmine.

Practicing Zen and the Art of Writing

I have decided to spend a year with Ray Bradbury, writing every day with the goal of finishing a short story a week.  I am going to use the principles and exercises in the book to perfect my craft, and hopefully pay homage to Ray Bradbury in the process.

I will chronicle my process here with the tag Zen and the Art of Writing, and I will post the stories that come out of the process.

I invite you to join me in the journey.  I will start Monday, June 11th to make my first short.  I will spend the weekend rereading Zen and the Art of Writing, maybe get a couple lists ready.

Are you in?  Writing for no less than 1 hour a day with the goal of finishing 1 short story a week.

The Author and the Founders of Discursivity

I don't want to spend any time on Foucalt or Barthes' theories that the author is merely a function of the text who melts into the many other functions of the text.  I am more curious about the idea of the Author as a Founder of discursivity.

Genre and Fields of Discourse

While in mainstream literature, we don't often name a style of text after the founder or primary evangelist of that type of writing, the same is not true within Genre fiction.

In Genre fiction, we talk about the Agatha Christie and the Doyle types of mystery.  We refer to Tolkienesque, Lovecraftian, and Roddenberry-like stories and settings.  Genre writers often have a pedigree, for example, Lovecraft is said to be a Dunsanian because of the similarity of his early works to those of Lord Dunsany.

Why is this true in genre fiction, while it is not true in mainstream literature?

Genre and Symbolic Schemes

One of the things that differentiates Genre from Mainstream fiction is the conventions of story necessary to fit within in its parameters, and the lens the genre overlays on reality.

Science Fiction, for example, is defined as a story in which the plot would not be possible without the science at its core.  Speculative Fiction requires the story be built around the question: "What if realty functioned in a certain way?" or "What if X happened?"  The Speculation take the stories out of our mundane world and into a different reality.

More over, Tolkienesque fiction requires a large amount of world building, large powers struggling against each other with a high contrast between good and evil.

Lovecraftian fiction exhibits the problem with genre more than any other.  Most fiction in this style has monsters, a strangeness or alienation in the world, and the defeat of the protagonist.  What they miss is the cosmosism and general misanthropy of the original, and thus look like poor knock offs.

The point is, these styles of fiction carry with them a world view that colors the nature of story that can be told, the manner in with we expect to discover the world and story, and certain conventions that highlight aspect of the real world through a mythologized lens.

Authors and Creativity

A big part of me feel like the difference between an author and a writer is a combination of whether or not they try to subvert conventions or expand their genre and the amount of success they have in doing it.

I am not sure the appellation can be adopted by the writer.  It is more of a title they earn, often posthumously.

Why care?

I have spent most of my life working on my craft as a writer, and I feel like it is important to understand what all the elements of the craft are, so I know what I should be working of.

It is pretentious to think I could ever start a genre or subgenre, but I love to mashup genres to see what will happen.

While thinking about what elements I as a writer bring to the fiction contrasts with what a reader brings to the story, hopefully, I will be able to craft a better story.

I think every writer should dissect their contribution to the work, and really focus on the elements they can improve.  We also need to understand that once the story enters the world, we loose control over how the story will be perceived and experienced.

Social Media and the Idea of the Author

I can't wait to see how social media and the internet will change the nature, effect, and perception of the author.

I have read many books because I met the writer on Twitter or Facebook.  I know more about many of the writers I read because of these sites.  I am sure it has affected the way I perceive their work, but I cannot quantify how much or in what way yet.

In the past, it was easy to forget the writer when reading a book.  Some people will choose to do that, but it will not continue to be that easy to do.

It way seem strange to think that Twitter and Facebook will have an effect of Literary Theory, but it inevitably will.

Origin of the Dragons of Night

On Tuesday, February 23, 2010, I struggled all day to come up with a new idea to write.  I had written three Space Operas, and I felt a little burned out.  I wanted to do something special, but every idea that I came up with I could match to another Book, Series, or Movie that came before.

I was frustrated beyond words.  My last book had made a splash with Horror Fans, and I couldn't get the cult success of Phara-un out of my head.  It was a limited run, and it is no longer available anywhere, but people constantly asked me about it.  I wanted to continue it.  Words wouldn't flow.  I was blocked.

That night, Brian and I went out shopping.  About half way through the store, I had an strange image pop in my head.  I sat in one of the benches in the back of the store, and opened EverNote, and added a strange note.

I could feel my skin crawling. Something strange lingered in the air. A musky bouquet wafted down from somewhere, muscling out the odors of the city.

He looked up, knowing what he would see, and there it was atop the Redd-Bishop building- an enormous black dragon perched on the pinnacle with its wings out stretched. He doubted anyone would see it. Its scales blended perfectly into the skyline. In a moment it was gone.

Relieved, he took several steps towards the restaurant before he paused and looked again at the night sky. What is a dragon doing in the city? He thought, then realized he probably didn't want to know the answer.

Hmm, there might be something there.  I titled the note "Dragon Knight- Nathan".  I rushed out to the car and tried to capture more of the idea.  It didn't work.  I ended up just reading these three odd paragraphs over and over again.

The next day, I remembered a note I had in one of my notebooks for my Space Opera Setting:

I am not going to say that it was necessarily an original idea, but it awakened a new idea in me.  The idea had merit, whether it had a future or not.

I started playing with the idea, and experimenting with new formats.

My biggest hurdle has been getting beyond the structures of the novel and the short story. I agree with H P Lovecraft that the best fiction is pulled off with the same craft as a well devised hoax. So I started playing around with ways to tell a story directly and from oblique angles. I would love to share some of these stories, but they may be included in the final project, so I don’t want to release them early.
Testing a Setting

I wrote that post March 5, 2010, and explored the idea of a Epistolary Novel, crossed with a blog and a magazine until November 29, 2010.  I still like the idea, but it felt forced and unnatural.  I even explored doing an ARG (Alternate Reality Game) for a while, but again it felt strange and wrong.

During this period, I asked myself a very important question:

To Wainscot or not to Wainscot– that is the question:

Whether ‘tis nobler in the tale to create

The beings and world out of nothing but my page,

Or to take with some of its history

And, creatively change them. To write, to make...
To Wainscot or Not to Wainscot, that is the question

Writing, NaNoWriMo, and Copyright Crazy?

"Work continues on my writing project, which despite my best effort looks like I am going to be writing it in November, so maybe I should turn it into a NaNoWriMo project. Marathon writing is fun, but at any rate it looks like I will have a new book out next year.

It has engendered a new debate in me about about how much to share about my creative process. As usual, I have a lot of inspirations feeding into this project, and I feel like they will be obscured in the final version so that the story and its elements are uniquely mine, but with some of the more recent copyright claims going around, I am seriously waiting for someone to claim a right to inspiration.

You might think that I am being overly cautious about this, but after the recent Rhianna S&M case, I don't think that is too far fetched. I might share them, just because that is my instinct, but I'm curious to see how it will all play out.

The Wand and Weaver mini-series is in editing, so hopefully you will all get to see it soon. If you are interested in beta-reading it, let me know. I am really looking for notes on the stories. I like them, but they are very different from the kind of stories I already write."

This Transmedia Storytelling stuff?

What is Random House up to?

"Random House has a team that already does "bible" development for hire. If, for instance, a video game company has an idea for a game -- but hasn't fully broadened out the storyline or storylines -- it can hire Random House to develop an entire world for the game." (Blacklight Transmedia partners with Random House - Yahoo! News)

That's interesting work if you can get it. Their new partnership will help them translate their novels into other media. Does this mean that they see the death of the novel coming? Or are they just hedging their bets to try to find a way to make more money.

I have always set my goal to do more "Transmedia Story Telling," or simply to tell the same story in various media types, but to see a major publishing company going this way makes me feel like the end is nigh for the traditional publishers as we know them.

Good riddance to unnecessary companies. You are out! Auf wiedersehen.

 

 

Well, I am not coughing as much, and my voice...

"Well, I am not coughing as much, and my voice is mostly back. The turn of season always brings out the strongest allergic reactions in me. There is a bright side to living in an antihistamine/decongestant haze for weeks: I dreamed a lot.

Weaving in and out of consciousness, I thought a lot about those boring things that interest me, like narrative theory, story structure, and what I want to work on in my heart of hearts; and honestly, not a lot has changed.

I've had some insights into Blake Snyder's ideas, but I need to build those up a little more before I share, but the benefit is, I think I figured out how to move forward with my own projects.

I've got a bit of writing to do today, and hopefully, that will be followed by a squeal of joy this evening. If this doesn't get me my groove back, then maybe I need to visit an island."

Ebook Library from Amazon?

Ebook Library from Amazon?

A part of me is horrified by the idea of this.  Amazon offering a subscription service which would allow readers access to a number of digital books at a time. This move raises many concerns.  (Amazon in Talks to Launch Digital-Book Library - WSJ.com)

Will writers get enough compensation so they can afford to keep writing?

It makes me think about the infographic about how much musicians make from online streaming services.

How Much Do Music Artists Earn Online?

Breaking The Free Model

I give away most of my fiction for free off the idea that people who love it will pay for it, but this model will make them feel like they already did pay for the book.

The beauty of the current model is that I don't need to be a mass market success to make a living from writing, and this will seriously jeopardize that. I suppose that means I will have to do something special to encourage my readers to help me out, but it will break the emerging model even more than it already is.

The only benefit I can see is that I would be compensated for the reads that would have been free.  Kind of like putting several pennies in one hand while taking the dollars out of the other. 

Not sure what to think about this.