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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

A Return and a Resolution

Pardon me as I clear the dust away… it’s been a long time since I’ve been here and it just accumulates like the dickens.

For those of you who didn’t give up on me, thank you for being patient. It’s been a chaotic, crazy, insane five months or so. The quick recap is that we closed on a house, had to prep said house for moving into, had to move into it, and had to set it up for living in, and much of this was done by myself because my wife was very pregnant. Then she delivered the baby in August, so we’ve had that to keep us busy.

The bottom line is that I haven’t really been able to write. At all. And it sucks, because I really want to. And I know that I’m always the big advocate of “you can find time to write if you really try”, but even if I could find the time – which has been nigh-impossible – I just haven’t been in the headspace to be able to do it with all the major changes in my life.

But one of the big changes, that being my son going into kindergarten for a full day, will hopefully lead me back into the swing of things. I will be finding myself with a good amount of time by myself during the day, a chunk of which I will be devoting to my writing. So we’ll see how that all works out.

In the meantime, I will be trying to write here in my blog. I’d like to start using it to talk about things that I’m thinking about, serious and funny, as well as the craft of writing. That way I’m at least writing something once in a while.

Wish me luck.

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As a writer and an artist, I sometimes feel that I’m failure in that I’m not completely depressed and/or write depressing things. It’s a stupid thing to think about, but when many great artists and writers line up with that, it’s hard to believe that someone as generally happy and content as I am could ever be a good artist or writer, or even a great one.

At a writers Q&A panel that I participated in recently, I was surprised to hear devastating stories from the other three authors that I was with, and how those events shaped their creative lives. I sat off to the side thinking that I had never had to deal with anything like that, and I questioned if I was even a legitimate creative because of it. Should I have been damaged in some way in order to draw inspiration from and to give inspiration to others?

The answer is a resounding no. It’s always a momentary thing when I start walking that line of thought, but I always come back to the fact that it’s not a requirement to have to deal with an extreme tragedy in order to be creative. It’s a requirement to deal with life, the good and bad, to be able to draw on both when the creative product needs it.

It’s a similar debate that I have with myself when I’m writing and I feel that I’m not using enough conflict in the story. But I absolutely hate when I’m reading or watching something wherein terrible things frequently happen to a character or characters. Yes, I get that sometimes it’s a cliffhanger, and yes, I get that it’s supposed to keep readers/viewers engaged. But I do like to see good things happen to people more than just once amidst a sea of awful events. Experiencing too much negativity through a story as a reader or viewer just exhausts me emotionally, and it ends up costing me enjoyment of the creative product.

But this is all personal opinion. I know there are people out there that like to read the dark, depressing things, and there are people out there that want to read the fluffy, happy things. I like a good mixture. And that’s why there NEEDS to be creatives who have all experienced different things, good and bad, joyful and ugly. That way there’s a book or a TV show for each person who needs it.

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What to Do…?

Another almost two months until this post appears. But I actually do sort of have an excuse now. We finally closed on our house, and I’ve been going crazy trying to prep it for moving into. I’m pretty much tackling it alone, since Katie has been knee-deep in work. So amidst the house prepping I’ve still been taking care of my son, keeping up with my webcomic, and trying to write when I have time. But the blog posts take a back seat.

In addition, I’m still not sure what I want to do with this blog. Really, there are a multitude of writing blogs out there, and by people who have had much more success than I. So what do I do? Do I write about my life as if it were LiveJournal? Do I pick a theme and stick with that? Didn’t seem as if my music posts really went over that well, but I could find something else I guess. Maybe I could just use it as a portal for ALL of my projects. I don’t know, but expect it to evolve in the near future.

I hope you haven’t given up on me yet…

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Work on Blood of the Father continues to move along, if a little slower than I would wish it, but that’s par for the course.  And for the most part, I’m pretty happy with how it’s turning out.  However, I still do have those momentary doubts that nip at me and distract me with their sharp, pointy teeth.

One of the doubts I keep having is that I’m using far too much exposition.  And, really, it’s less of a doubt and more knowledge; I know that I’m adding too much exposition.  And I keep telling myself that it’s still the first draft, that I’ll be going back and trimming the fat when all is said and done.  Still, though, thinking about all that word vomit makes me think that the real action doesn’t start until too late in the book.  And then, if I remove that exposition, the book will be too short.  Then I’ll have to add stuff.  Then… then… then…

Do you see the unending line of thought here?  This is what goes on in my head, and I’m sure it – or a version of it – happens to many writers.  The best thing I can do is to keep writing, even if it is exposition.  The story is in there, in that giant block of stone.  I just have to carve it out and put the fine details on it.

Although sometimes it seems to me that carving a statue from a stone would be far easier than writing.

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Lately I’ve been watching a bunch of videos on YouTube dealing with video games, whether it be top ten lists, historical looks at the industry, or rare collections. In the midst of watching many of the videos, I find myself sort of wishing that I was more of a gamer. I’m a retro gamer; I love my old Nintendo consoles and the older games will always be more of a draw for me. But some of the more modern games look amazing to me, not as necessarily just as a gamer, but as a writer.

There was a time when video games were simple, yet still had crazy stories attached to them. I mean, Yars Revenge for Atari – which is one of my favorite Atari games – is repetitive and really doesn’t make any sense, but it actually has a story! Obviously, as technology advanced and allowed games more room to grow, the stories actually fit in with what was happening on the screen. Then, at some point, the majority of games became the story.

ff6For me, my all time favorite video game story is Final Fantasy VI (which was released as Final Fantasy III on the SNES when I was younger and first played it). This was my first real interaction with a game that was mostly story, and a great one at that. It had a fantastic setting that meshed magic and technology (a premise that I stole for my first serious story), it had characters that were fleshed out and believable, and it grew in scale as the story progressed and became absolutely epic. Yet, at the same time, it was still fun and lighthearted in many aspects, echoing some of my favorite fantasy authors like David Eddings.  I may be biased and it may be because I’m so far removed from the game at this point (haven’t played it in way too long), but I don’t recall having any problems with the writing in that game. The same could not be said for the next few installments in the franchise, however.

Nowadays, the stories combined with the exceptional graphics capabilities available make games more or less interactive movies. I know I’m behind the times in writing about this now, but my life and circumstances haven’t allowed me to shell out for new consoles or powerful gaming PCs in order to play the newest of the new games.  I typically don’t get to play games until long after they’ve been released.  In any case, it does amaze me to think that at some point, jumping into the video game industry as a writer would have been a very lucrative career move as well as a satisfying creative life.

Perhaps someday when I have a little more time to do so, I can actually start playing some of these games and immerse myself into the stories. By then, though, who knows how far video games will have advanced? Perhaps we’ll have reached the peak of the visual works and then people will be forced to up the ante on the writing, making even more amazing video games to play.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to kill a half-hour here and there by playing The Simpsons: Hit & Run.

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I swore that I had written a post about this subject a while ago, but I combed through my archives and couldn’t find one. Maybe I’m going crazy…

Anyway, I’ve been plugging away at my current writing projects, one of which is Blood of the Father. However, my productivity level seems to be down. And I know it’s for a number of reasons, but I believe one of the big reasons is that I haven’t had a “writing area” for a long time now.

Because of life circumstances, we have been renting space from my father-in-law for a while now. While it has been a huge help to us, it does carry with it some certain inconveniences, such as utilizing his furniture instead of our own and not being able to set up rooms the way we would like. And Katie has taken over the extra bedroom to use for her sewing room (and rightfully so; she does have the job that brings in a steady income). So I’m left with only a few spots in the house to write, and none of them are very conducive to a good writing experience.

To be fair, I’ve never had a “perfect” writing area. The closest was when in a rental house we lived in from 2010 to 2011. There was a bedroom that was big enough for us to use as a half sewing room and half writing office. It was rather pleasant. Otherwise, it’s always been a pain to make a little corner of an apartment an “office”. Occasionally I’ll find a coffee house or something to call home for a little bit, but I haven’t been able to do that much since my son was born.

So I push on, moving from room to room with my laptop whenever I get a chance to write. We’re at the beginning of the long journey of finding a house of our own, and on the wish list is an extra bedroom or spot in the house that I can use for writing. Hopefully that wish will materialize. Until then, the couch will have to suffice.

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Like many writers, I have my little routines and habits that I have to adhere to when I write. For example, just as I was about to write this entry, I realized that I didn’t have a hot cup of coffee next to me. I like to drink coffee while I’m writing, not because of the caffeine or anything, but because it’s something that puts me in the writing mood. Occasionally at night I’ll swap the joe with a glass of bourbon or scotch, but that’s neither here nor there.

One of the major things I need to have while writing, though, is music. I like to have something playing in the background while I dig into a story or a blog post or whatever. Music has been a passion of mine for a long, long time. My taste in music changes from time to time, but my acceptance of different genres is extremely broad. I listen to everything from classic rock to 90s alternative to punk to progressive metal to jazz to new age to… well, I could keep going on and on.

I used to listen to just about anything when I’d write. Sometimes I can still get into that zone. More often these days, though, I have to listen to stuff that doesn’t have lyrics. And I prefer something with complex or experimental melodies. For a long time I’d listen to Orbital (and I still do) because their music is mellow and rhythmic with a lot of complexity to it. And after learning about him through the animated series The Venture Brothers, I would rotate in J.G. Thirwell’s experimental music.

Recently, however, I’ve discovered a slew of musicians that do lyric-less metal in a variety of sub-genres – progressive metal, djent*, jazz metal, and stuff that kind of defies labeling. I like stuff like this because it’s heavy enough to keep my juices flowing, but complex enough to keep the wheels in my head turning.

I know the word “metal” makes a lot of people turn away, thinking of things like screaming bearded guys and screeching guitars.  That’s not what this stuff is, I assure you.  If you’re interested in checking any of it out for your own writing needs (or whatever), here’s a list of stuff available on YouTube for you to listen to. Many of these musicians are also on Bandcamp, so if you like their music, please consider actually purchasing their albums (I’ve purchased a handful already and have plans to binge a little bit more).

Sithu Aye: A musician from Scotland whose metal is “happy”. Seriously, it’s amazing – and, at times, heavy – music that doesn’t sound dark or ominous. I suggest starting with Invent the Universe, one of my personal favorites.

Wide Eyes: These guys put out an amazing amount of music in each album. Much more metal than Sithu Aye, but with great complex riffs and solos. Their album Volume is great if you like a little bit of electronic mixed in with your metal, and Samsara is great if you like a slightly softer edge.

Plini: Less metal, more progressive rock, but awesome nonetheless. Superb guitar playing and songs that you’ll be happy to have stuck in your head. Took me a little bit to get into them, but the album Sweet Nothings is one of my staples now.

Anup Sastry: The drummer from the band Intervals (which is another great band with lyric-less music) has a sound that I’ve never heard anywhere else. It’s heavy, it’s fast, and it’s great if you need an adrenaline rush while you’re writing. The album Titan is amazing (though far too short).

Modern Day Babylon: Heavy, ambient, driving, and melodic all at once. Travelers is one of my favorite albums to put on when I’m not sure which sub-genre to listen to.

God Is An Astronaut: A recent find for me, these guys are not metal at all. They’re labeled as post-rock, but I just consider them ambient rock. It’s… ethereal I guess would be the best way to put it. I love it, and the more I listen to them, the more I love it. Start with the album All is Violent, All is Bright.

Deathmole: Anyone who has read the webcomic Questionable Content should at least have a passing familiarity with this “band”. In reality, it’s just one person – QC artist Jeph Jacques. His death metal/post-rock sound is perfect background music (as well as great music to listen to in the car). I suggest the album Permanence (not available on YouTube, but you can listen to it on Bandcamp).

*I am aware from hearing many metalheads argue the point that “djent” is not an actual genre, but more of a style of playing.  For the sake of my post, though, I am leaving my statement as is.

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