Calibrating the writing process

watchmakers-lathe

A couple points I need to remind myself of when things are flying everywhere and I bog down trying to cram too much in too little space/ time.

  1. I have three modes to my writing process: Strip Mining, Assembly, and Polishing. It’s all “Writing”, but they are very different from each other and require different parts of my brain.
  2. I can’t do two simultaneously. Stop trying.
  3. Accept what mode I’m in. Embrace it even. At this point, the only deadlines I have are the ones I set. They can be extended.
  4. Remember that adage about the right word versus almost the right word? Very important, that.  Word Count can be a trap. Go for time spent instead. Why? Because WC varies by mode. Strip Mining = lots. Assembly = less. Polish = even less.
  5. That said, Busy-ness is NOT Productivity. It all comes down to finished pages.
  6. It’s OK to work on more than one project at a time. The background process still run. Focusing on something else might just let them work easier.
  7. Finish the piece to the best of my ability, kick it out the door, then move on. The Learning Curve  is just that – and the only way to learn is to do the work.
  8. It’s not what I can’t do but what I can do that counts. Life is a gift not a chore. Adjust attitude accordingly.

 

Some people have greatness thrust upon them. Few have excellence thrust upon them…. They achieve it. They do not achieve it unwittingly by doing what comes naturally and they don’t stumble into it in the course of amusing themselves. All excellence involves discipline and tenacity of purpose.

We pay a heavy price for our fear of failure. It is a powerful obstacle to growth. It assures the progressive narrowing of the personality and prevents exploration and experimentation. There is no learning without some difficulty and fumbling. If you want to keep on learning, you must keep on risking failure all your life.
John William Gardner

The Mindkiller

The power of fear

Fear will push you to avert your eyes.

Fear will make you think you have nothing to say.

It will create a buzz that makes it impossible to meditate…

or it will create a fog that makes it so you can do nothing but meditate.

Fear seduces us into losing our temper.

and fear belittles us into accepting unfairness.

Fear doesn’t like strangers, people who don’t look or act like us, and most of all, the unknown.

It causes us to carelessly make typos, or obsessively look for them.

Fear pushes us to fit in, so we won’t be noticed, but it also pushes us to rebel and to not be trustworthy, so we won’t be on the hook to produce.

It is subtle enough to trick us into thinking it isn’t pulling the strings, that it doesn’t exist, that it’s not the cause of, “I don’t feel like it.”

When in doubt, look for the fear.

*actually from Seth Godin

Thoughts on the Conventions of Genre and Faith

 

” Those French have a different word for everything.”

– Steve Martin as huffy ‘Merican tourist

 

***

I’ve come to accept the fact – but not really comprehend – there are people who don’t read. Like, at all. It’s an exertion, painful on the same level as a marathon or a colonoscopy. And of those who do read as a past-time, there are some who don’t read fiction, especially speculative fiction. My brother for example sees no value in the Lord of the Rings, which to him is a bunch of short people and pretend creatures running around a make-believe land after a stupid piece of jewelry.

So… yeah.

(we are related – I checked.)

Sure you’ve got those dark suit, bowl-cut, body odor, Bible-quoters who hold any entertainment to be vain, carnal, and worldly.  “It’s all going to burn, brother.”  (real-life quote example, that)  Like the poor, they will always be with you, so leave them alone to mutter and scowl in the corner. In general though, I think fiction like poetry has lots of folk who don’t ‘get it’. Lack of or poor prior experience, too intellectually lazy, or some other reason. Other folks simply aren’t wired that way. They’re eminently practical. Fiction is just not their thing, and I’m OK with that too.

Not so for me. I remember walking into the Big Hall at GenCon 2000 and realizing I was part of a huge, weird, cool secret society. The Cult of Geek. It was as much a relief as revelation. Since then, transitioning from genre reader to genre writer, I’ve come to understand even more that Sci Fi, Fantasy, Horror… Spec-Fiction Genres are languages. They are distinctly different vocabularies from Normal; the jargon of real, day-to-day, life. In fact, I’ll go further and say Genres are separate countries, entire worlds even. Speak at length with a Hard Core Star Wars or Warhammer 40K Nerd and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Genres have evolution, histories, archetypes, symbols,  idioms, nuance…it’s incredible, and implicit to good genre-writing is a deft handling of those dynamics in manners that satisfy, even stretch and exceed the audience’s expectations. It’s hard to pull off, to be fluent, and not everyone will understand, but those that do, appreciate it. That is the mystery and magic of allegory, of parables. I think my first point here is that Discrimination – in the sense of a select audience – is perfectly OK.  Not everyone is going to enjoy, understand, or accept my work. It’s high time to stop being surprised.

The next hurdle I see is the challenge of approaching creative endeavor with an ideology, in my case a theological one. Don’t kid yourself: all art makes a statement  – overt or otherwise, religious or not –  because it springs from the mulch of the artist’s life. Having a defined worldview makes the challenge that much stranger because it either forms a strong foundation or  reduces it to propaganda. So not only does the fiction writer have to hone craft but they have to avoid capture. Sort of sculpting smoke while waltzing through a minefield. The wisps of imagination have to form an entertaining, yet credible make-believe world (a ‘lie that tells the truth’) without  shrinking or spoiling the medium.

I get that some people will scorn or be hostile to my faith. Getting your worldview shat on is part of the package. (part of Life, actually) The last thing I want though is my stories to be Terrariums for Pet Rocks: painfully, obviously contrived, tiny, artificial environments for my cherished doctrines.

So as I hammer away at my next novel, consider October’s Viable Paradise workshop, and view the recent Hugo dust-up in light of my own faith and artistic struggles, I’ve still of a mind to sink my roots deeper while growing wings. For me, it’s not an ‘Either/Or’ dilemma – it’s translation problem. God help me to learn the language and be an effective communicator.  An oracle, even.

 

 

 

Slapped by your grandmother

Ursula Le Guin laying the smack down.

Art or Profit: I have to ask myself which is the ultimate engine that drives my work? Does it need a tune-up, an overhaul, or to be re-ignited?

Down to Two

TheBarrowLover 2 eyesTwo Days remaining for a chance to win one of three Celtic Stained Glass Panels. The Fine Print is HERE, but the simple version is leave a review  for my Celtic-flavored ghost story The Barrow Lover at Amazon.com before midnight 30 April, EST, and you’ll be entered to win. One entry per person please.

A thousand thanks.

Foil-wrap construction, the panel measures 20.25" x 20.25"
Foil-wrap construction, the panel measures 20.25″ x 20.25″
12"x 12" Foil wrap construction.
12″x 12″ Foil wrap construction.
12" x 12" with 18" chain for hanging.
12″ x 12″ with 18″ chain for hanging.

And then there were Nine

Days left for the Celtic Stained Glass Giveaway.

Foil-wrap construction, the panel measures 20.25" x 20.25"
Foil-wrap construction, the panel measures 20.25″ x 20.25″

To Enter, simply leave a review of The Barrow Lover at Amazon.com before 30 April and you will be eligible to win one of three Celtic-theme stained glass panels. No sock puppets please. One entry per review.

On May 1, I will draw three names from the list of reviewers and post them here at the blog. Winners then have seven days to contact me with their mailing specifics. Failure to do so by 7 May will result in their entry being void and another name selected for the prize.

Any questions? Ask.

Thanks,
patrick t.

TheBarrowLover 2 eyes

New Deus Ex? Yes, please.

It isn’t the end of the world, but you can see it from here.

 

 

My otaku is raging. Deus Ex: one of the slickest, coolest FPS/RPG game franchises ever made, and IMO, the latest iteration of cyberpunk. Makes me want to buy a new pair of mirrorshades.

Can’t come soon enough.

Celtic stained glass Giveaway

TheBarrowLover 2 preview-1If you recall back to Oct. 2014, part of The Barrow Lover’s release was a Celtic stained glass giveaway. The idea was to combine my part-time and full-time  vocations, generate Amazon reviews, and say thank you to you folks who are gracious enough to buy and read my work.

Well, the review count is currently at 17, which isn’t bad after five months. I was aiming for 50, but as I’m not what you’d call an ‘aggressive marketer’, it might be while before I hit that.

I need clear window space in my shop for some of the new ideas stewing in my mind though. So…I have decided to set a deadline of the end of this month and draw names from whatever the pool stands as of midnight on April 30. Winners will be announced here on HSSJ the next day.

To reiterate, I am giving away three Celtic-themed stained glass panels. (Yes, I’ll ship them at no cost.) To enter, all you need do is leave an honest review at Amazon for my little Celtic-flavored ghost novella. It’s that simple.

No sock puppets please – one entry per person.

Winners will be announced May 1, 2015, and must contact me within seven days of the drawing to confirm their shipping specifics. Failure to do so will result in your entry being null and void, and another name drawn.

Sorry, but this is only open to folks in the ConUS. (Overseas shipping is too expensive)

The Panels:

First Place.

Beveled Triquetra centerpiece, with rough-rolled wine and deep green halo. Secondary halo of 3/16″ beveled clear float glass. Perimeter body is mossy sage green with 1/8″ ribbed architectural glass arms. Corner accents are translucent stipple glass with hand-beveled 3/4″ thick green dalle de verre glass. Outer thin perimeter is a Kokomo heavy textured clear glass.

Foil-wrap construction, the panel measures 20.25" x 20.25"
Foil-wrap construction, the panel measures 20.25″ x 20.25″

Second Place.
12″ x 12″ small hanger with beveled Triquetra Center, Kelly Green Artique halo, Kokomo Wavolite secondary halo, Wissmach translucent white arms and rough-rolled medium gray body.

12"x 12" Foil wrap construction.
12″x 12″ Foil wrap construction.


Third Place.

Another 12″ x 12″ hanger, this same as above save the centerpiece is a negative-blast Celtic knot pattern on pale gray antique glass.

12" x 12" Foil wrap construction.  Picture taken form angle to catch etched pattern.
12″ x 12″ Foil wrap construction.
Picture taken form angle to catch etched pattern.

So, if you like stained glass, Celtic stuff, ghost stories, quick reads, and have an opinion, this might be for you.

Thanks and have a great day.

Three colorful movie recommendations

Been a long cold winter with too many hours spent in front of my computer monitor seeking distraction and entertainment. However, I did find a few items worth mentioning and figured I’d pass them on.

1. The Green Prince

The incredible true story of Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of a Hamas founder, and top secret informant for Israeli intelligence for more than ten years. The movie also features his main handler, Gonen Ben Yitzhak, and chronicles their unlikely alliance and friendship during the violence of the first Intifada. I won’t spoil it, but it is a gripping, well-produced and fascinating documentary well worth your time.

2. Blue Ruin

Free on Netflix, this smoldering, stripped down revenge flick was actually Kickstarted to life on the screen. To describe it as a straightforward revenge-type flick doesn’t do justice to the realistic portrayals, the lean, taut writing, the rock solid characterizations. No glamor, snarky one-liners, or trite rationalizations, this is a bloody straight-edge razor of tragedy, confusion, and the mess of vindictiveness and retribution. Worth it but be prepared.

3. Black Mirror

Called the Twilight Zone for the Facebook and Twitter generation, this is another Netflix find. Essentially a ’15 minutes into the future,’ kind of sci-fi, Black Mirror extrapolates and toys with the effects of rapidly advancing technology on the social media generation. The title is apt; it does indeed reflect the darker side of human nature. After watching several episodes, I was both jealous and horrified at the brilliant and terribly plausible scenarios. British-produced, it has the usual deliciously understated acting and polished script. Be warned however, this show is blunt and handles mature themes. It somehow manages to be explicit without being graphic, but there are some very difficult moments.

And there you go. Have an excellent weekend.

High Crimes and Misdemeanors?

A fellow Christian and author was asked recently how he could like (and write) science fiction and still be a Christian. So assuming the questioner wasn’t adversarial to science, (a whole other discussion) that query strikes me on the same level as demanding how someone ‘could like Thai food (Chinese, Indian, sushi…) and still call themselves an American?’

Seems to me the unspoken assumption of this non sequitur morsel of Stalinist logic is treason; a person’s faith and salvation are precarious if they enjoy spec-fiction, suspect if they write it. As during the Inquisition, thou art guilty until proven innocent.

Hyperbole and harsh comparisons, you say? Maybe, but how about a little blunt-force trauma against sloppy religious-think?

C.S. Lewis said ‘Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.’ Not only does fiction exercise God-given creativity and imagination, it flavors what otherwise might be bland, banal, indigestible transmission of ideas and experiences. Don’t confuse content with medium, or knowledge with understanding. Has fiction (the arts in general) been misused and misunderstood? Sure. So has the Bible and Christianity – more so, with greater ramifications.

It’s beyond time for believers to employ their talents and convictions with passion, clarity, and courage in any and every facet of life, including the arts.

End of the Day, God will  be the one who makes the final call on our work. No one else.