I just wanted to toss up a quick post about something really cool the author Michael J. Sullivan is doing with his new series. He’ll be documenting (some, lots, all?) his creative process as he writes his new three book series, and I’m pretty excited about it. Not only am I a fan of Mr. Sullivan, but I’m also excited to see what he has to say as he goes along. One of the things I’m hoping for is to get a good picture of his “highs” and “lows” while writing. It’s always interesting to hear what another writer does when the words just aren’t coming on any given day.
Book one will be off to the editor soon, which means its time to really go to work on Book two. Making notes, drawing maps, and laying down the book’s foundation on this cold night.
Latro in the Mist combines two books—Soldier in the Mist and Soldier of Arete—both wonderful reads about an injured soldier named Latro who suddenly finds himself without the use of his short term memory, but blessed with the ability to communicate with gods. In my very limited experience with the author, Gene Wolfe, I would say that his books must come with a strict caveat: Only serious readers need apply. His books are not those a reader can simply sit down with and leisurely turn through. They are, for lack of a better term, and undertaking.
In my own experience with this book, I had to dedicate myself to reading it every day or risk losing track of who everyone was, where they all were, and what they were doing. Perhaps a reader who is better versed in ancient Greek/Roman history and mythology wouldn’t have such a hard time, but for me, stepping away from this book proved to be a problem. The other challenging element to this book was how often I found myself stopping, grabbing my computer, and spending a half hour to an hour on Wikipedia reading about certain mythological or historical references.
This is not a book to read on vacation. It is not a book to read for liesure. But, if you’re willing to put in the effort, it is one of the most rewarding books you will ever come across. This is a book for true lovers of fiction, and I would personally suggest that anyone who fancies themselves a writer should read this book, to see what a true mastery of the craft looks like.
All others need not apply.
I woke up this morning to discover that, at 92 years of age, a wonderful musician passed away last night. I’m not an enormous Ravi Shankar fan—I only own two Shankar collections—but I’ve found his style of music quite beautiful since I first discovered it, and it has been great inspiration while writing some of my dreamier scenes and sequences.
When I heard the news I wanted to write a blog post about the man, but I quickly realized I don’t have too much to say about him other than I’ve enjoyed his music. Writing a glowing review of the man’s life, or exclaiming my adoration for him, would have been insincere and kind of gross.
So instead, I decided to write just a little bit about discovering new things in life.
I’ve noticed, in my own life, there’s a certain stigma that goes along with discovering an artist right after they’ve passed. It’s a kind of condemning that goes along with not knowing someone, or something, you obviously should have. “You don’t know who Ravi Shankar was? He taught The Beatles? He’s Norah Jones’ father? He wrote some of the best Sitar music of the 20th century?” Things along those lines.
But no one person knows everything, and happening upon something you’ve never experienced before is one of life’s most delightful treats. It makes me think of a wonderful XKCD Comic about helping people discover new things.
The world is a vast and wonderful place. No two people are alike, and no one stone, it would seem, has gone unturned. So, if you’ve never heard of Ravi Shankar, take a part of your day to listen to some of his music. And if you have heard of him, take some time to discover something new today. Here’s a list of just a few:
Ever since I was a boy I’ve loved waking up to white mounds of pillowy snow hung from the branches of dense evergreens. I can’t imagine a winter without it.
It’s both refreshing and invigorating to wake up in a world that is vastly different from the one you left before drifting off to the Land of Nod. Looking out the window and seeing a new world upon waking makes you lay in bed longer than normal, listening to the almost silent footsteps of snowflakes finding their final resting place.
After a while, you pull yourself out from under the heavy comforter and make your way out to the kitchen while your slippers roughly scrape against the floor beneath you. Everything in that falling silence is somehow refreshed, just like the world outside. You find that coffee becomes bolder, bacon sizzles a bit louder, and as you sit down in your creaky kitchen chair you begin to contemplate what you’ll do with your snow day.
You’re snowed in, and surely you’ll make a hearty meal that’ll need to slowly cook all day. Maybe soup, or a roast, but what will you do with your afternoon as your feast slowly simmers? Perhaps you’ll read a book, or do nothing but watch movies all day. Maybe you’ll take the dogs out for a long walk in the snow and then drift helplessly in and out of sleep as the TV carries on without you.
At some point you’ll have to get up to shovel the walk or driveway, but it’s all part of the experience. You’ll wave at neighbors, smile at kids playing in the street, and as you get a bit of exercise you’ll think fondly of your feast warmly roasting inside.
Winter storms aren’t for everyone, and by February they can get a bit tired, but those first ones of the year always have the potential to be magic. For me personally, blizzards help to revive my childhood spirit, and make me wish I was on some grand adventure with wizards and dragons.
I hope you all enjoyed our storm, and I wish you all the best, dear readers. May you have a perfectly wonderful winter 🙂
Earlier today I showed a friend of mine a post I wrote a while ago, but never put up. I didn’t put it up because once I had written it, I realized what I had written was for myself. It was a way for me to examine my own personal feelings and see them more clearly. After my friend had read it he urged me to post it for several reasons, none of which I’ll bore you with here.
I’ve re-read the post several times today, and I’ve decided to post it. I was going to apologize for the inflammatory language at the beginning, calling people bigots and what not, but it’s how I feel, honestly. That’s all this post is. Raw emotion. I’m not arguing for anyone to change their minds. In the end all I can ask of anyone I suppose is for them to do what they honestly and wholly feel is right in their heart.
Today, the love of my life and I went to get our marriage license so that we could legally be married. It should have been nothing less than exhilarating, but we were forced to partake in other people’s bigotry. It was—to me—a disgusting sensation, and although I had done nothing wrong, I felt I was on the wrong side of something. My simple desire to exclaim to the world who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with was being done in a fashion that excluded others from doing so, and I was forced to proclaim someone else’s need for superiority and separation as my own.
We were asked to raise our right hand, swear that we were not already married, swear that we were of a capable mind, and that one of us was a man and the other was a woman. I paused for a moment, struck with the sudden realization that I was fortunate to be born the “right” way. Fortunate in that I could decide to spend my life with someone and be protected in doing so.
And my heart broke for those who cannot.
Looking back on American history it seems one of our virtues has been our ability to protect the minority, which lives in the shadow of the majority. To ensure that the masses do not trample the few. There have been countless times in which history has shown us how the majority can stampede across the minority grinding them—quite literally at times—to dust.
Someday, hopefully, we’ll look back on this oppression and tell our children those were different times, and we’ll regale them with the story of how we had to swear that we were not same-sex partners in order to be wed. It will seem nothing short of archaic and barbaric in the eyes of a people who are wiser because of our mistakes.
I know there are many other injustices out in the world much worse than this, but experiencing this one really struck home. I’m simply upset that today a moment was stolen from me and the person I love. A moment that we, and any other couples in love, deserves to hold close to their heart.
– – – – – –
“You want to fix the Pledge of Allegiance? Put a disclaimer at the end: ‘With liberty and justice for all…must be 18, void where prohibited, some restrictions may apply, not available in all states.”
Time certainly does fly, doesn’t it? I’m sorry I’ve abandoned you for so long, dear reader. I wish I had some wonderful excuse that I could craft into an entertaining story for you, but alas I have little more reason than being easily distracted.
The road to becoming an author (and much like the road of life I suppose) can be tricky. There isn’t a map that anyone has designed for us, and with the advent of eReaders and the recent boom in independent publishing, finding your way to being an author has become even more blurry.
The other day I watched a a commencement speech given by one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman. I found it on another author’s blog I’ve been visiting quite a bit lately, and I’d like to give that author a quick shout out if I may. His name is Michael J. Sullivan, and while I’ve never read any of Mr. Sullivan’s books, his blog is a wonderful resource for aspiring authors like myself.
Back to Neil’s speech.
In his commencement address, Mr. Gaiman talks about his road to becoming an author, and he touched on an idea that I keep hearing from successful people I admire.
That idea is to follow what’s fun.
In my life I’ve had a lot of people tell me what I needed to do if I wanted to be an author. Many of them have absolutely had my best interest in mind when giving me advice, and others…well the others I’m not too sure about. I think some people just like the sound of their own voice and we’ll leave it at that.
The point is I’m not sure how often I was advised to follow what was fun. My passion maybe, or the old stand by “do what you love,” but I don’t really recall anyone telling me to just do the things that were fun.
What I have heard a lot of (and what my brain is screaming at me as I write this) are those old, proud American standbys about putting in your work or how nothing comes easy, and whatever other cliched pull yourself up by your bootstraps phrase you may be able to conjure up.
I was told to use my “natural talents” and success would find me in any field or industry. It quickly became my misunderstanding that as long as I was writing I should’ve been happy. I had a belief that any writing I did, no matter how boring or pointless I found it, should have been making me overcome with joy simply because it was writing.
So I tried to get real good at all sorts of things I had no fun doing, and I spent lots of time trying to get places I had no business being. Journalism, editing, or technical writing just to name a few.
It never occured to me to stop and say to my self, “It’s true that I love writing and I love words, but what I really enjoy is making shit up. What I have the most fun doing is using the music of language to paint a picture of what I see in my mind”
Now before I start sounding like a crazy person who’s saying, “Just do what’s fun and everything will be awesome forever!” I want to clarify that I’m not saying that.
To quote one of my favorite episodes of Scrubs, “Nothing in this world that’s worth having comes easy,” and if it did, well…life would be really fucking boring. The struggle to achieve something is a part of what you’ll look back on fondly once you’ve achieved it.
What I am saying is that I wish I hadn’t spent so much time persuing things that didn’t interest me. Or rather, I shouldn’t have persued things others told me I needed to because there isn’t really one set way to become an author.
Those people who gave me advice didn’t do it to be mean or spiteful. Like I’ve already said, the majority of them were trying to help me. But neither one of us understood what it was I truly loved about writing, what motivated me to do it. And so I ended up spending a lot of time doing things I really didn’t like in an attempt to get places I didn’t want to be, because I was confused. I was looking for direction in the wrong places.
You’ll never be able to avoid doing things that aren’t fun or that you don’t want to do, but you certainly can minimize them. Find the things that you think would be fun and try them. And if they aren’t fun stop doing them. When you’re doing something because it’s fun, if the end result isn’t worth what you have to put into it, why do it?
We will work our shitty jobs because we have to, but we should always find time to purse what we find fun. Wake up early if you have to. Wake up early and write, or draw, or paint, or sing, or dance, or write code, or solve puzzles, or do math. Whatever’s fun to you.
And if anyone asks you why you’d go through all that trouble, why you’d get up at five-thirty in the morning to do it, don’t tell them because it’s your dream and you have to work hard if want to achieve it. Tell them you do it because it’s fun.
If you’d like to watch Neil Gaiman’s speech you can do so here.
April is over. I didn’t accomplish everything I set out to do in this last month (the lack of 15 blog posts should make that more than obvious), but I do still find myself beaming with happiness.
Let’s get the things I didn’t accomplish out of the way real quick. I didn’t blog fifteen times. I didn’t cook five new recipes. And I didn’t workout every day in the month.
But that’s okay (I’ll be coming back to these things in later posts).
One of the most important things I did do was finished the first round of edits on my novel. I can’t tell you how good it feels. There is a lot of work to be done, but as of Monday, I started writing the 2nd draft. It’s the first time working on a second draft (of a novel) and it is very, very exciting.
Getting to go through and put everything in order is lots of fun. Making it all make sense and connect where it should. It’s wonderful.
More on the 2nd draft process to come in some later posts.
My other great success from the month of April has been the Keto diet. Initially I started this diet to challenge myself, but in the end it turned out to be a whole lot more.
At roughly six feet tall and 203lbs I didn’t feel that I needed to lose a lot of weight. I was pudgy and soft, but not fat. The fact that I went from 203lbs down to 190lbs in 29 days with minimal exercise is quite wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but it is on the less exciting end of this diet for me.
What is really wonderful is the way that I feel.
After starting the diet I hadn’t really been paying attention to the changes in my body until I stumbled upon this article. Give it a read. It’s not about Keto, but it is about the author’s life after cutting sugar from his diet.
In his article, Rick Foster talks about all the benefits of cutting sugar from his diet. As I read through his piece I began to see how I was experiencing many of the same things in my own life.
Until I started this diet I used to take an ant-acid nearly every night of my life. Now, I never need one. This is perhaps the best part of changing my eating habits. I don’t know what the side effects of taking those are (I’ve never worked up the courage to find out), but I’m sure taking them as often as I did wasn’t something a 26 year old man should be doing.
Another great thing about my life after Keto has been the ease with which I fall asleep. I no longer lay in bed for an hour or more trying to visit the land of nod. Now, I simply lay my head on my pillow and drift off into a peaceful, uninterrupted slumber.
Uninterrupted being the important word there. I used to wake up 3-5 times during the night, sometimes because of painful charlie horses in my feet. Now, I sleep soundly through the night.
And the most awesomely-delicious part of this entire diet is my new found energy levels. From the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep I have found myself with a consistent — not to mention large — amount of energy every day.
I could go on and on about how great I feel, but I won’t.
In the beginning my plan was to do this diet for one month and be done with it. But now it’s become the way I live. I’m not going back. Not with how good I feel.
I don’t know if this way of eating is for everyone, but I can absolutely tell you it’s for me. I won’t be as strict as I was during April, I’ll allow myself some beer and other things, but not in the capacity I used to.
I think my problem before was that I didn’t pay enough attention to what I ate. I thought I ate healthy for the most part, but I never considered the four bite size snickers that I ate while at work or the beer or the whatever.
I only ever thought about my three big meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – but never bothered to remember all the little things in between them.
The first week of this diet sucked, and I had to be really strict with myself. Now I can’t imagine eating any other way.
So while I didn’t acomplish all of my April goals, I think it’s okay. In the end I’d still say it was a very successful month.
And besides, I’ve got plenty of time to get through the rest, as you’ll soon see my dear reader.
Until next time, long days and pleasant nights.
I read an interesting post the other day about indie publishing over at learntolive.com. The article in question, How Indie Publishing Could Revolutionize Expression But Often Doesn’t, had a title that intrigued me.
It’s a good read, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. So I figured I’d write something of my own.
In his post, author André Klein talks about the ease of modern day “publishing” and whether or not to publish.
To (unfairly) sum up, Klein seems to be saying that a writer’s ability to self publish hasn’t necessarily increased the amount of good books available, but has mainly succeeded in producing “more of the same, less of something else.”
In the end I wasn’t sure if Klein was for or against self publishing, but he did sum up nicely by saying,
The fact that I can publish something quickly doesn’t mean that it gets easier to publish something great, but it certainly allows for experimentation and creative development beyond my wildest dreams.
Makes me think he’s mostly for it.
As a writer, and an avid reader, I am absolutely for self publishing.
I’ll address it first as a reader. The ease with which new authors can put their work out thrills and excites me. There are certainly more than a few great manuscripts that were never published because someone didn’t think the book would sell.
Imagine if someone had passed up Gene Wolf because his writing was far too inaccessible for a large audience. Or if someone had passed on House of Leaves (which many did) because of its complexity.
Of course there are going to be people publishing books that attempt to copy Twilight or Hunger Games’ success, and really, who am I to look down on them. I want to say that those people, the ones that write a book for money, aren’t writers in their heart…but I don’t think that’s necessarily true.
If you write a book and someone enjoys reading it, well, I believe that’s enough right there.
Self publishing (especially in digital format) is still so new. I can’t wait to see what some writers eventually put out when they don’t need some entity to print and distribute their book for them.
In case you didn’t go out and read Klein’s post, I don’t necessarily think he’d disagree with any of this, but I’d be interested to hear his or your thoughts.
As a writer (and a bit of a stubborn individual) self publishing is just about the greatest thing I can think of. The idea that I can write a book, edit it, polish it up, then pay for someone else to edit it, and finally give it to you, without anyone else ever getting in the way, is like a dream come true. It’s like…it’s like magic that has made my oldest dream a reality.
No one is standing in the way of me giving my writing to the world.
Publishers and agents have always seemed like a nuisance to me. They’re something that I had to get in order to have my books go out to the world, which is really all I want. Of course I’d love to make millions of dollars, but that has never been the point.
In a recent interview conducted by Neil Gaiman, Stephen King said,
They pay me absurd amounts of money, for something I would do for free.
And isn’t that the truth for a genuine writer? It’s something we’d all do for free, not because we want to, but because we have to. Because there are stories that need to be told.
I need to write. I’m unhappy if I don’t. I can’t stop thinking of things to write. And with the advent of self publishing, I can directly publish all of my own work, interact directly with my readers, and give them my content in whatever form they want.
Moving on, here is my last point, the point I thought Klein was going to make when I read his title.
When are we going to see an a big name author, a King or a Gaiman, put out a book without a publisher? When will a best-selling author take a page out of Radiohead or Louis C.K.’s book?
These authors could set a new standard for the entire writing community. They could put out their books by themselves, set their own costs, and give their books to their readers in a multitude of formats.
There is no one more important to a writer than you, dear reader, and I can’t imagine why any writer wouldn’t want to do this for you.
To be completely honest, there may very well be reasons that these authors haven’t chose to self publish, but I don’t know what they are. So, if you do, please let me know.
To me it seems that the question becomes, am I writing to make money or am I writing for the love of the art? I do believe the two can be mutually exclusive, and I don’t believe that one is better than the other.
The appeal of a major publisher to me is their ability to market myself and my book better than I can on my own. To get my face and name out there, which would get me more readers and more money.
But I then have to ask myself, what is the trade off? Where do I, and all of the authors of the world, want to compromise? Potentially reaching a smaller audience, but being in direct control of how you reach them. Or reaching a bigger audience, but at the whim of something other than yourself.
For me the right answer is the former. Self publishing doesn’t necessarily mean a smaller audience, but going with a major publisher does mean someone else can control my content.
I’m just wondering who the first best-selling author will be to stop fighting the inevitable and embrase what writing and reading is becoming. Who will embrace the digital revolution that is sweeping the earth?
As always, I’d love to hear any and all thoughts, especially why I’m wrong. So shoot me an email or leave me a comment with any of your notes or thoughts.