Tuesday, April 29, 2008

One of Those Posts...

I sent out an old story, Interlude, to No Record press, a company that puts out an anthology once a year of short fiction by first time authors. Crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.

We had our class reading at Twilight Tales, and it felt like a real success! More to come on that when I return to the land of non inebriation.

And now I'm off to bed for an early day tomorrow...

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Real Deal

Skipped a couple hours of work today to sit in on Mort Castle's Story in Graphic Form class to listen to a speaker from Kunoichi Press, a smaller comic publisher out of Chicago. Their Creative Manager, Brian Torney , was a recent graduate of Columbia and came in and talked to the class and exuded lots of really useful information to actually going out doing this writing thing we're all so interested in. And even more so doing it from a comic angle, which is something I am VERY interested in. He talked heavily about hitting the beat, and going to cons and doing the intense grunt work of getting on a first name basis with the big guns in the industry, and made everything seem very accessible, while being true to the intensity needed to "make it."

It got me thinking very heavily about the fact that I am sitting only on the production side of everything, so busy writing stories, and not busy enough going out and trying to get what I do have done out and circulating.

In that respect I'm going to run another draft on my short story, I'm Just A Boatman, and send that off to Doorways within a week, via Mort. I'm going to repackage and try submitting Interlude to someplace, and I'm thinking of taking it to the publishing lab some time and getting their advice on what I should do with it. If I work this right I should be able to get three short stories out and circulating by the end of the month (which is coming quickly).

I feel all inspired.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The ADD Of My Writing Life

So I'm reading Silver: My Own Tale As Written By Me With A Goodly Amount Of Murder, a novel by first-time author, Edward Chupack. You can visit the site for the novel here. I wrote him this afternoon about how much I'm enjoying his novel, and I got a response back a few hours later. Which brings me to my first point: I love first time novelists and their books. Maybe being unpublished makes me partial. Last fall I read first time novelist, Mark Ferrari's novel The Book of Joby, and when I finished it I emailed him and said thank you, and a few hours later I got a very happy response back. I had mentioned it a couple times earlier in this blog, and was happy to discover that Mark Ferrari, noticing the link in my email signature, checked out my blog, and thanked me for mentioning his book there (so if you're still reading, thank you! that meant a lot to me).

The other thing this raucous swash-buckling adventure did for me was get me thinking about pirates again. I spent the morning thinking about how you never hear about modern day pirates even though it is still happening. So I got to thinking about how interesting a swash-buckling modern day adventure with ruthless pirates would be, but the fear of getting myself stuck in another novel start gave me pause. And then, while reading on train home and listening to rollicking pirate-ee music on my dying iPod, it hit me.

I've been trying to figure out what the story about the Peanuts narrator is. I talk about him here. I workshopped one of the chapters in my Fiction Seminar class and the narrator was a resounding success. His wit, his snark, his situation with girls. The problem was that it was this rather unfocused explosion of emotion and really excessive description of his apartment. Is his now ex-girlfriend important? Is the British girl he likes important? I had to make up my mind about what the story is about. And while the ex is able to offer an amusing couple of scenes the real story is about the British girl, and his attempts to get her, which result in a plane crash and the establishment of his own oil-platform-like country, Myland. So his plane crashes in the Atlantic and then he is floating until he happens upon this platform, and he has to get rescued. And I had no idea how. And then today it hit me. Pirates. I can make this novel into something of a picaresque absurdist adventure that plays by its own rules. He gets saved by pirates who agree to carry him to shore on the condition that Myland will be cool with piracy.

This way I'll be able to buckle some swashes and not get preoccupied with another half finished novel.

And I'm thinking now of calling the book "Finding Myland: Or Why I No Longer Date British Girls" or something close to that.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Another Day Goes By

The FIT test was easy and really dumb. It just seems antiproductive that we are still taking examinations on crap like this. We are part of a generation inundated with technology, and brought up on technology, but we're still being tested on how to copy and paste a document, save it, highlight text, etc. The test was easy, but the program that ran the test was really picky and allowed no room for error in your clicking. One thing I think that the test fails to take into account is that a smart student will access help in order to solve a situation, or will fiddle with the program till he or she figures it out. It's called being autodidactic.

I also met with Gina, my teacher. She was very cool and understanding with everything, and left me with some very interesting ideas surrounding my final revision for Fiction Seminar. As for the primary critique papers I hadn't typed up she was understanding about those, and is giving me the break needed to get them in, as long as the grade was there. I dig that.

Tomorrow I meet with my adviser to confirm the fact that, yes, I can graduate, and, no, they aren't going to screw me over, or I have screwed myself over... So we'll see how that goes.

I worked a bit on the rider today. I'm working on a chapter placing his westward ride into the context of a larger world, populated with characters from other work. It's very slow going. Figuring out exactly what stories I want to tell and how much of them need to be told before trucking along with the rider's story.

And the beat goes on...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Surrounded By Nothingness

I just saw my mom off, and it was kinda depressing to know that I was returning t a now barren apartment. I no longer feel like I live in this place, just instead I occupy these rooms for a few more days until the lease is up.

It's leaving me with a lot of barren space to think, and of course a lot of space and time to worry about graduation, and my GPA and getting into the University of Michigan, and just everything in general. It makes things very unnerving. I meet with my teacher tomorrow about the class that I feel is posing the worst threat to my grades, and then I take the FIT exam, which is supposedly the class that I need to test out of in order to graduate. Then Tuesday I meet with my councilor and have her take a gander at my transcript and all that other fun stuff to make sure that I am all ready to go to graduate in 24 days. It's all just waiting and hoping and praying, and then when it inevitably pays off (that's the positive thinking) it's going to be a lot of easy breathing, beer drinking celebrating.

Now because I have nothing else to really get nervous about I'm going to go do homework and try to bury my mind there for a few hours...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Packed Weekend

I've been a little on the quiet side the past few days. So here is a quicky...

My mom came into town yesterday, and she's spending the weekend with me while I pack. Packing is a lot like moving in. Except instead of taking things out of boxes and pushing them around in circles over and over and over again, I'm taking things off shelves and pushing them around in circles over and over and over again, occasionally gathering groups of them together to stuff haphazardly into a box to be sent off home with my mom when she leaves tomorrow afternoon.

When she does finally disappear I'm going to be reduced to a few books, changes of clothes, my laptop, and some crossword puzzles. That spread between a hiking backpack and an overstuffed satchel. And when, at last, April comes to an end, so too does my lease and I'll be on the road like some modern day hippy beat fellow, sleeping on people's couches while writing fiction and trying to become a college graduate. It all sounds so romantic and beat like some expatriate in France. Except in Chicago and I'm not an alcoholic (most days).

It's starting to make everything more and more realistic, which still leaves me with the sneaking suspicion that this is going to turn into one large and very expensive candid camera with my councilor telling me that, "oh, by the way, you've got another semester and six grand to go. Sorry." I meet with her on Tuesday so we'll see how that goes down.

And suddenly I'm far more tired than I anticipated, and my urge to continue updating dropped to just below nil.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

American Censorship is Subtle but Rocks!!

So the previous article got deleted! I love America's censorship...

This is a reposting of it from another site.

German Boy is fixing NASA math...

Keep an eye on this one, eh.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Couple of Fun Websites

Here are a few places I kill my time when I get bored of Wikipedia...

Anthony Daniels': The Wonder Column

The Mighty God King's Parody of Marvel Civil War

The Kingdom of Loathing

The Name Game

I changed the name of this blog again... See it's different. It's different because I can't decide.

I had a lot of fun writing the story of Charon (pronounced as far as i can tell Kai-ron (like the bad guy from Robotech)). It makes me want to try again. I noticed on my hard drive that I have a collection of these sort of first person "this is my life" stories. Little first person ditties musing about existence or their lot in life. Maybe I'll do another this week. I know I'm going to run a draft on Just A Boatman in the next couple of days, maybe write it out again in longhand (a craft which I feel I need to be doing more of).

I had to write a cover/query/pitch letter for my Advanced Fiction class about the full movement we're turning in today. It's chapter two of the currently stalled Jack novel. It was interesting spelling out exactly what I had in mind for it, and I feel like I've got a good grip on it.

Now I'm going to dive back into the Rider's story while i'm at work. Tally-ho!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Title? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Titles

It's funny seeing how my routine has taken shape, and the variations and permutations of it each semester. It's sort of a refining process leading down to the "ultimate" schedule routine. This semester is more of one of those "learning experience" semesters I think.

What I mean by that is that come monday-wednesday night the apartment goes to hell. Rooms get messy, dishes pile up and by the weekend I'm far too exhausted to really care about cleaning it up. And then cleaning becomes competitive with doing homework. One gets done. The other doesn't. Or neither get done and I end up writing a ton for something not for class (namely the rider's first novel).

Lately I've not been doing much. Watching a really only ok TV show, Jericho, or playing minigames included with NCAA Football 2007 (I'm a master of the option play). I seem to be a broken record now about how I should be taking that time doing homework or getting in shape or something more worth my time. And the broken record goes round and round and round.

I'm being way too lazy at work too. Today I worked on my novel a little bit. I've got it in my mind how to restructure the beginning of part 2. It was kind of a messy start. I've got so many other stories I want to tell, getting all the pieces moving and setting up the future conflicts. So I'm starting part 2 with stepping back. With showing the big picture. A bunch of snippets getting all the other pieces moving again. I think it will be interesting trying to capture the magnitude of the conflict. What I wrote didn't exactly feel good, but the idea was there, so what is to come may be interesting.

Now I'm off to make another rum and coke and watch more Jericho...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Wikipedia Is Swallowing My Soul

Found this article on the front page of Wikipedia. All you need to do is read the first couple sentences of the Politics section. There has to be story potential there. Could probably fit it into my story about Myland.

I got "I'm Just A Boatman" back from my fantasy teacher, Tina Jens. She really liked it and offered me a stack of suggestions about how to make it better. Most of it were minor logistical issues that I cleared up, one was a major issue I'm hoping she can get a chance to look at again about structure. I'll probably run a further line edit on draft 2 tomorrow once its had time to settle. I'm really happy this story went over so well.

30 days till the semester is done.

This Is Sunday

This is senioritis in a nutshell:

I got 10 hours of sleep last night, and I'm starting to get a blister on my left thumb from playing too much NCAA Football 07 on my Xbox 360. There's this great minigame called Option Dash where you have two minutes to run the option play over and over, and it scores you on how well you do, touchdowns, yards gained, tackles missed, etc. It's far more addicting than it should be.

I typed up "I'm Just A Boatman" on Friday and passed it off to a bunch of friends to read over and edit. I'm at that point in my writing, and probably will be for a few more years that the best I can do in editing right now is line editing syntax and word choice and spell check. Actual content is not something I'm good at yet. It's a hard thing to look entirely neutral at your own piece of work, and then to say, yep it's good, or my god what is this shit? Mort said that it would take upwards of 6-10 years to reach that point. For my sake I hope I can scoot through it quicker.

I've also decided that I need to stop ordering take out. Nuff said. I'm just eating out waaaaaaay too much and it's costly and it's unhealthy. I can't wait for this weather to stabilize and for this semester to get over with so I can be at home and be exercising every day and writing every day and seeing my friends more often. So Monday (because I'm going to breakfast with a friend I haven't seen in months and months today) I'm done with the eating out. Take out. Delivery. Doesn't matter I'm gonna make my own. And while we're at it, no more soda (or pop or whatever you want to call it). So there. That's my weekend resolutions.

Now I'm off to breakfast, and then back to clean house. Then I've got to type up chapter two of the Jack novel for my advanced class, and I probably have a stack of other work to be doing too, but we'll see.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Nice Follow Through

I wrote an entire story in just over one sitting.

It's called "I'm Just A Boatman" and it's about Charon, the ferryman who takes the dead across the river Styx to Hades. He has a Cockney accent. It's fun. And it was really nice to get something so fully realized and torn out so quickly.

Working on large projects can be daunting because you want nothing more than that satisfying follow through, but it's always elusive, so far in the distance that all you can do is chip away and hope.

Finishing this so quickly gives me hoe and that satisfaction of knowing that I'm really getting something done. I sent it off to my teacher, Tina Jens, and my mentor, Mort Castle, to have them take a look at it, see if it is as good as I think, or if I'm just being pretentious.

I started it as a class exercise. Tina brought in a pile of random reference books about fantasy. Said, find an article and write a story about it. And I got the first two pages hammered out in class, and the rest just worked on it throughout yesterday and finished it this morning while I was sitting on the reference desk. Maybe I can have it ready to go in a couple weeks and start shopping it around.

Now I'm off to get Pho with my roommate and some of his friends.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Webistes To Check Out

This is just a placeholder for websites for me to explore in more detail.

http://www.jonathanlethem.com (he hasn't updated his tour schedule in over a year, but his Promiscuous Materials Project looks interesting)

Keywords to keep searching:
Hardboiled, Noir, Pulp, Crime Fiction, Archetypes/Tropes/Cliches of those previous words, Humphrey Bogart Films

Basically in a nutshell I'm beginning to do some research for what I'm thinking is going to be my next novel once I finish the rider's first story. I started working on a couple period pieces set during the 20s and 30s in the vein of pulp and hardboiled, and they were unrelated and I got to thinking that maybe I should cut them together. And in my journal it's grown to a cast of like a dozen characters all representing diferent archetypes of those genres. It draws from the storytelling structure of Stephen King's "The Stand" with each chapter taking a different character as its centerpiece and following as they slowly roll together.

I'm thinking of titling the story "7 Days In Paradise." I'm having my friend, Anna, who is a visual arts major and was playing with map design early this semester (or was it last fall? I can't remember) and I'm thinking of wooing her to design for me the city of Paradise, giving me a large playground to play in.

I'm also starting to do some reading on the subject to create a wide basis on the topic. I'm starting with Raymond Chandler's "The Long Goodbye"

I didn't get to do any writing on the rider last night. Instead I made a beasty fried rice with what few ingredients were laying around the house and I pretended to do homework.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Change Is A'Comin'

Spring is here. (technically if we're going with the solstice it's been here for 19 days)

And with it, for me at least is coming the end of things, and the beginnings of others. School has less than 40 days (37 if my calendar in my head is correct. You can see the official count on my facebook profile). It's going to be a grueling month and a half to finish without going mad. It's that senioritis point where my brain is telling me that everything worth learning has been learned, and all the homework worth doing has been done. While at the same time my teachers are telling me the converse. And my good sense, knowing that I am only accepted into UofM's School of Information on a conditional basis until I graduate and give them my final and complete transcript, agrees with my teachers.

I had a conference with my Advanced Fiction teacher, Patty McNair, and we talked about where I was at in terms of writing. She was very insistent about digging out the deeper meaning in my work. What's it about? What revelation on life is in there. And I couldn't help but grow more and more defensive of the fact that, where I am at right now in my writing process and in the material I'm trying to finish, I'm not concerned with the "deeper meaning" and that I'm more concerned with just telling entertaining stories. She pushed that really that's not a great mindset to have and that we should leave the "entertainment" for people like Tom Clancy. I wanted to, but didn't say that in truth I wouldn't mind being Tom Clancy, having Tom Clancy's salary or comfortable lifestyle, and knowing that around the world millions of people each year are reading my book, and that yes, it might not make canon 100 years from now, might not be revealing of deeper meanings on life, but it's an entertaining page turner.

That night I was reading a column by Stephen King (one of my favorite authors) talking about the misuse of the acclaimed 4-star rating by film critics. In it he said something that resonated with me, and had I had this quote memorized I would've gladly pulled it out.

There's nothing wrong with having fun, and I sneer at people who sneer at summer movies -- in fact, I sneer at people who sneer at entertainment for entertainment's sake. I feel sorry for them, too. Riding that high horse has got to be uncomfortable, especially with a stick up your butt.

That article can be read here.

Our conversation went on to cover my process and how I have this frustrating tendency to work on a project, get bored with it, get excited about another new project, or just happen to glance at an older project and find myself interested in that once again. And then I drop the first project, move onto the new (or old) project and riff on it until it becomes not new and shiny, shove it aside and repeat the same process over again.

Patty asked me how anything gets done. And then I, trying to find a good response, realized that things don't, in fact, get done. Ever. That I, now finishing my second year at Columbia, with well over 500 pages of material, have only a few minor short stories to my name.

It bugged me. It wore on my mind. And then this weekend, pulling out the rider's story once more and sitting down to work on it, on a whim, cranked out 10,000 words. Today at work I formatted my novel with the correct margins, and page numbers and page breaks. It's over 40,000 words and 200 pages. This beauty puts me further along than I've ever been in a story, and it's a sweet thing indeed. I now have the idea that it's going to be close to 80-100,000 words by the time I'm finished. And that end has never looked so attainable as it does now. I find myself wanting to do nothing but sit and write. Lose six hours, like I did yesterday. Crank until my brain hurts as bad as it did last night, and then go to the bar, get a pint to celebrate, crash, and repeat the process the next morning.

I've also started running again. I'm out of shape, but I'm getting back into shape. It's a good thing.

With this fresh weather and the need to just DO boiling and burning in my mind I have a feeling that I've reached a new stage. The Nathan Enters The Real World (after 2 more years at grad school) Stage. Of course all this writing has put me behind in homework. Very far behind...

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Holy Word Count Batman!!!

I think it's safe to call today a victory.

After spending a majority of the day sitting around wondering what I should be doing, and then going to Clarke's for pancakes and omelets (Oh my, you should eat!). I came home and on a whim of inspiration, after dinking around for some time, decided that I should write.

Now here I am, 6 hours later. A fresh 5,000+ words added and another 4,000 previously written and then spliced in today, I'm teetering right near the 200 page mark. I'm within 100 words of breaking 40,000 words, and if my brain wasn't a nice shade of crispy brown I would add them in.

Now I'm waiting for my roommate to call me back and come celebrate my evening of awesome productivity with a nice tall pint of crisp wonderful beer.

Too bad not a single word of this counts towards any homework, so I am now a day further behind on what I was supposed to be doing... Oh well.